Lighthouse Sept. 7, 2021

9/11 how that date is etched in our minds. Certain things you will never forget; where you were, what was happening, etc. when such monumental things occur. I was in the car heading for a meeting in Springfield listening to a radio station. Something I rarely do. For days we kept listening to the reactions of so many different people, especially those who lost loved ones in the buildings or in the rescue efforts. A major response we kept hearing was 'I will never forget. I will never forgive.' Those are powerful words. What traumatic events have happened in your life where you have said the same thing? If you live long enough there will be something. How are we supposed to deal with it? Every day Christians pray again and again: 'forgive me as I forgive those who trespass against me.' Of course, we tell ourselves: 'I have never done anything that serious.' We forget that the magnitude of an offense is based on the magnitude of the person being offended. Do we ever stop and think of how serious any sin is against almighty God. Yet, how does He forgive? 'Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing.' When Jesus died on the cross He made forgiveness available for everyone no matter who, no matter what. All we have to do is ask for it. The only sin Jesus said was unforgivable was 'blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.' And, what is that except a declaration on our part that we have no sin. We prevent the Holy Spirit from doing His job in us. 'He who says he is without sin is a liar.' so, 'forgive me as I forgive others.' even that? Yes, even that. Even if your spouse has cheated on you, even if one of the children denies you or destroys your heritage. We recall the story of the prodigal father who anxiously awaited his erring son's return. Now, why does Jesus demand that kind of forgiveness? Because He wants us to have a fullness of life. One cannot have a fullness of life if they are carrying unforgiveness in their heart. It will eat them up. Does that mean then we are to forget? Like 'forgive and forget.' Not at all. That would be pretty, let me use the expression, dumb. That's the danger of the woke culture. If we forget our history, personal or national, we are destined to experience something worse. No, in forgiving, justice demands that we seek to reestablish trust through a process of accountability. The Indians have a right to question treaties made with our government. Our government has a right to be a little skeptical of some nations. Yet, we must reach out to our one-time enemies like Japan or Germany or Italy and our current enemies who seek to do us harm and find ways to co-exist. On the personal level we also have to expect to take steps which lead to greater trust. We can't expect that to happen without effort. All things are forgivable and trust can be achieved. So, if you want peace, work for mercy.


Lighthouse August 31, 2021

What do you think of Labor? No, not that of having a baby; that's real labor. But the labor that allows one to use, grow, stretch their muscles, their mind, their abilities to make a difference. I know there may be many different thoughts about what it means to celebrate Labor Day but to tell you the truth I'm a little concerned where we are really going as a country. Maybe we've always celebrated seeing how much we can get with the least amount of sweat equity but it seems to be going to an extreme when it is more profitable to not work than to work. In the past I've known a number of women who found that by the time they paid for child care, for transportation, meals out they were much better off staying home and drawing some child support. Personally I think that we as a society should try to make it worthwhile for a parent to stay home and care for their own children. What I've been more concerned about is all the stimulus money which made it more enticing to stay on unemployment long after there was a need for them to be back at work. We seem to have developed a detest for the very notion of work. When we look at God's Word I think we find a very positive support for work. In the beginning God set Adam in charge of all things to share in His power of creation. He said 'that he and his progeny were to 'subdue the earth.'

You notice Genesis describes God as creating and then on the seventh day He rested. That seventh day rest is unique to the Judaeo heritage. Man, like God, was to also take time off from work to 'see that it is good'; To reflect on what he and God had done. When crossing the desert God had the head of the house to go and gather enough manna for the family. While they are in the desert God says that he gave different ones different talents to support the work of worship. We still use the word 'liturgy' today, a word which means 'public work'. The work of worship was a great thing. Then when we come to the New Testament we hear Paul say 'let him who does not work, not eat' as not only a way to stay busy and not meddle in other people's lives but also to realize everyone has something to offer. So, when we celebrate Labor Day today we are each called to first of all give thanks to God for the gifts and talents He has given us to care for self, family and also the good of all. We are also to realize that these very gifts and talents were something to be grateful for. Then, as we look beyond that, we hopefully realize that if everyone is using their gifts, everyone should have a right to share in the total of what they have made possible. One company I admired for that particular value was Ben & Jerry's, not just for the quality of their ice cream, but their work statute maintained that if the CEO was to get an increase in income then the lowest person in the company should receive a proportional share. In other words, if a person is caring for the maintenance of the company and that is what their skills allow then they should receive a living wage even if others who have greater demands do receive more. How we share in the product of a company is always going to be negotiable but it should never make one feel less for doing what they can do. All the different talents are needed. This Labor Day, take time to thank God for the gifts and talents He has given you and pray for the grace to use them well, for the good of all.   

Lighthouse August 24, 2021  
Habits: last week we looked at how to form good habits, how one keeps building on a desired action until it becomes automatic. But, what about habits we have already formed that may not be so good and we want to change. Sometimes these might just be annoying behaviors or they might be addictions. Sometimes we might discover that a habit we have which was cultural, acceptable in one setting no longer is seen as appropriate. I immediately think of the habit some have of having to spit when in public or the habit of physically closing one nostril while
expelling out the other. Or, as one guy in Africa said: “why do you eat with your right hand, we eat with the left hand, the right hand is used for something else.’ Use your imagination. These kinds of habits we normally break by simply wanting to belong and choosing to behave as
those around us. Granted, some of these may be morally bad such as showing someone how much you appreciate them by showing your middle finger. These can be broken by will. Other habits may have become addictions. They have imprinted themselves as some sort of pleasure stimuli. Such might be coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, even food, all of which might be seen as a good but are no longer controlled. Then there are such things as drugs, porn, illecit sex which will always be destructive. Sometimes good people will think they can eliminate these in their life by just willing it, by suppressing it. Some may succeed by going ‘cold turkey’. If so it might be that they recognize God is working in their life and they have had a conversion experience. Most generally though as the AA program points out it can not and will not be overcome
without turning to God and confessing that one cannot do it on one’s own. They need God, and often other’s for accountability. A great secret of AA in overcoming any of these addictions is recognizing that it’s only ‘one day at a time sweet Jesus’. One day at a time. Sometimes it’s
only one hour at a time, or even one minute at a time. Habits, even addictive ones can be changed. Sometimes I’m convinced God allows one to continue in their addiction until they are humble enough to really know they didn’t overcome it on their own. Otherwise they might be
prone to pride and look  down on others who still experience the addiction. In humility God will change everything. When Paul asked God that a thorn be taken from his side, we don’t know what it was, God said ‘my grace is sufficient for you.’ And, always remember, when
Jesus drove the demon out he cautioned him to fill that space with something good lest many demons return. Just an example: at one time I smoked more than two packs a day and quit a hundred times. Only when I said I could leave them alone as a fast for one person and then do
so again the next day for someone else and so on did I reach a point where I could say I had no desire for them. I still would not say 'I quit' even though it’s been over forty years. St. Paul says ‘never say never.’ Never say “I’ll never be like so and so.’ That may be a dangerous sign
you will fail, and fall to something worse. Hopefully this helps someone.

Lighthouse August 17, 2021

WHAT KIND OF HABITS DOYOU HAVE? Oh, I don't have any habits. So you think. Everyone has habits. Even before we are born we have habits. Some are automatic, such as the rhythm of the heart, or breathing after we're born. Maybe even the sucking of the thumb. Then when we come into the world we begin developing habits to respond to our environment and get what we want. Later parents and others will help us develop habits of conduct at the table; eventually the tying of shoes and getting dressed. As some habits develop we find we can perform more and more complex activities without even thinking. Just think of the recent Olympics where athletes do the seemingly impossible because they've spent years staying focused on the goal and making constant new adjustments as they progress. Then there are habits which make us more lovable, delightful, or uncouth, unfriendly, obnoxious, narcissistic. Each day we discover that we have choices to make. Choices which will make us better person or one not so good. Granted that many of the habits, or skills allow us to do more and more things well with less and less concentration, like driving a car. Many of these habits, while good and desirable may have no moral consequences. But as we grow to be a moral person, one who has accepted a standard of living by some moral code, we seek to become all that we can, the best version of ourselves. If one is of the Judaeo-Christian persuasion one certainly embraces the ten commandments. As one does so they discover that there is a struggle between the flesh, way of the world, and the spirit, the ways of God. Just as one who pursues the Olympics may at times, many times, feel their body saying I can't do any more and their mind saying I don't have to, they realize they have to push beyond those thresholds. As a Christian one may discover much the same thing. They may find themselves saying 'I'm going to take that because it isn't that much and really isn't hurting anyone.' Such reasoning shows that there is still a struggle going on within and one has not yet made being honest a real habit. Some commandments we may find very easy, we don't even think about it; such as the possibility of killing someone. But to the extent we do think about it, do entertain possibilities, such as towards adultery in its many manifestations, we've not yet made chaste thought a real habit. Our Lord said that anyone who looks at another with lust has already committed adultery. Anyone who covets what another has already transgressed against stealing. These little struggles are a reminder that we are not yet where we want to be. In order to get to a point where none of the commandments create any anxiety within we find that we need to do so by choosing to create habits towards those actions Jesus calls us to. He says they are blessed who work for peace and justice; blessed are those who mourn seeing the needs of others; blessed are those who give without counting the cost; tithe without neglecting the weightier demands of meeting the neighbor's need. This only happens by consistently, choosing to do good even in little things. As a Boy Scout I really appreciated their motto of doing a good deed each day. Those good deeds help a person truly become the best version of what they are called to be. What's one little habit you can begin right now to direct your life in a better direction? How about just 5 more minutes of prayer or 5 more minutes with the scriptures at a certain time.   

Lighthouse August 10, 2021

SAYING GOODBYES This past week has been an interesting one in a particular way as the discussion of death and burial came up several times. Maybe it's because of my being the oldest in the conversations, but in any case there were different takes on how each was going to handle final preparations. Then I attended a parish home-coming where the last three of my father's siblings made it a point to come this year. One was from Virginia, one from Oklahoma, one from St. Louis. When I had a chance for a private conversation with each of them, each made the comment 'this will be the last time I will be coming to this.' One of those was 89, another 87 but the other only 78. I know they weren't thinking of dying too soon, but you never know. The one thing for sure is the deterioration of the body reminds us that we are mortals and there will be a limit to all we can do. So, in any case I was also aware that this gathering might be my last goodbye. The good news though, for you and I as Christians, is that we do look forward to meeting again when there will be no more death or sorrow. I was reminded of that in a special way this past week when we celebrated what we call the Feast of the Transfiguration. That's the day Jesus 'took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.” Mk. 9:2 They were conversing with him. They did not yet have their resurrected body as Jesus gave a view of His body, but they were alive. It reminds us of another passage when Jesus said “Abraham has longed to see my day and he has seen it.” or as Jesus said, “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Once Jesus rose from the dead and overcame death itself we as Christians no longer had any doubt that the day would come when we would have resurrected bodies and live forever. Our life in the world is so very transitory. It cannot be measured, even in seconds, in any comparison to what eternal life will be like. And yet, how many live their lives as if this world is all there is. Or, if they believe there is an afterlife they continue to live as if it doesn't matter how they live this life. If this life is just a blip wouldn't you think they might consider it worthwhile to live as the Lord calls them to right now? The scriptures leave no doubt that we will be determining where to spend eternity by our faith and our actions. Let us live as the Lord calls us to so that our goodbyes are never our 'last goodbye'.  

Lighthouse July 25, 2021

Today I thought I would just share with you something you might find interesting and know little about. This past Sunday we had a celebration for Sr. Rose Mock celebrating 60 years as a consecrated sister and Sr. Carol Prenger celebrating 50 years. While some denominations use the term 'sister' as referring to any of the women in the congregation, Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians recognize women who have made vows to God that they will live poverty, celibacy, obedience for the rest of their lives. As such they own nothing as all belongs to the community they joined and they profess obedience to the superior of the house. Some want to know the difference between sisters and nuns. A nun is a sister who lives in a cloister (basically isolated from the world) to pray constantly as we spoke of last week. A sister is more involved in a ministry in the world such as teaching, or hospital work. Then a sister or nun may also be committed to living in a community or alone. This is to live in accord with Jesus' teaching in Mt. 19:12 'for there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.' in doing so they live out their lives as St. Paul who said he wished everyone could live as he does even though he recognized that there was no sin in marrying. Until Jesus the most important thing a man could want was to have children. In choosing to remain celibate a sister is making a profound declaration of faith in Jesus that there is something more, there is eternal life where there will be no more marriage; there will be no more male or female. This week I can't help but look back with joy when I invited these two to serve this area in 1983. Since then we have experienced 130 years of service by their order, School Sisters of Notre Dame. After Sr. Carol and Sr. Rose came to especially help in the church Sr. Rita came and established Whole Health Outreach and Casa, a shelter for abused women in Ellington and Sr. Anne began the Whole Kids Outreach in the area. Besides these we also received 20 years of ministry from the order of Ursulines and a couple from the Franciscans. The world, our country, our area owes a lot to the service and witness of these consecrated women through the ages. President Abraham Lincoln described the sisters in the Civil War as 'Veritable angels of mercy...of all the forms of charity and benevolence seen in the crowded wards those of the Catholic sisters were among the most efficient.'

June 29, 2021

Independence Day, July 4 How many will think of it as only one more national holiday? At least it is a holiday which is celebrated on a particular day and not just on a convenient Monday so we can have three day weekends. Some might remember their history, if it hasn't already been woked, and think of 'no taxation without representation' and the Boston Tea Party. But we know it was about much more than just taxation. Many had fled to this country because the religion they freely embraced was not so tolerated in England. As such they wanted a land where one could live by their conscience. That was certainly a driving force when our early fathers began crafting the possibility of starting a new, independent country. They wanted a system which would truly protect the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (free conscience). They saw these as inalienable rights, rights given by God and not created by man to be altered at the whim of man. Consequently we know they created a democratic republic, not just a democracy where a vast number in one area could inflict their will upon everyone else but to be as equitably as possible to protect these essential rights. Many throughout history have paid a great price in trying to be faithful to their conscience. This past week, ending with today, Catholics celebrated an international week of prayer for the protection of these rights. During this week we celebrated the feast of Thomas More on June 22. As you know, he was chancellor of England when Henry VIII decided he could take control of the church and decide what others had to believe. More could not support his divorcing the queen. The king not only wanted to do evil but wanted to force everyone else to support it. This cost More his life. We celebrated the birth of John the Baptist which comes six months before the birth of Jesus. He too was killed because he could not approve of King Herod taking his own brother's wife. Then today we celebrate Sts Peter and Paul, both of whom were not able to comply with the state. It seems, doesn't it, that the actions of political powers will always have a moral dimension which needs to be addressed while the moral life of its adherents need not necessarily have a political repercussion, unless those in politics want to control the moral life of others. In that case it may often be a matter, as in the examples above, where the state wants to make demands on the moral life of others. Scripture reminds us that there would be a time when some will say what is evil is good and conversely what is good is evil. That is the struggle people of faith always have to contend with. Such a struggle is being well played out in our own day when we have politicians saying they defy the church to deny them they sign that they are in communion with the church while at the same time they proclaim a list of many objections they have to what the church sees as divine revelation. Again and again we find that there are those who not only want the freedom to do what they want but the ability to demand everyone else approve of what they want. Is that the call for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness which our founding fathers envisioned? Happy Independence Day  

June 15, 2021

Mt. 19:19 Honor your father and your mother

Mt. 19:29 'and every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother...for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and eternal life.

1Cor. 4:15 'you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.'

Ep. 6:4 'fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.'

As we look to Father's Day this Sunday I know there will be many different feelings and memories that come to mind. We live in an age where less than half our children have a father living with them and really being the father figure they need. For many, their experience of father greatly determines the kind of relationship they have with God our Father. While there are many scripture passages which refer to a human father I chose the above hoping we can glean something we can apply to ourselves and enhance the role of father in our society. The first one is most fundamental in that it is the only commandment which carries with it a promise, 'that you may have a long life.' We are called to honor our father all their life. As children we are called to obedience knowing that we are totally dependent on parents. As such they have tremendous responsibility over our lives. Not only in providing for our physical needs but also our development as educated spiritual human beings. When Jesus said call no man 'father' he was saying that no one can replace 'our Father who are in heaven'. Our earthly father shares that honor to the degree he turns to the heavenly Father. So, yes, fathers do have a responsibility over our religious worship, our education, who we hang out with, in person, or on line. Fathers do need to be concerned about this responsibility first before succumbing to any notion that they are friends. When Jesus says that we are to leave 'father...for my name's sake' he is reminding us not only of the natural progression of things, 'leaving father to cleave to his wife.' but of how that progression must be for the sake of the kingdom. When one is ready to establish his own family unit he should be well prepared to lead and guide the next generation. Of course, here, he is also referring to those, who like Paul, have given up everything to shepherd others to Christ or to those who like St. Joseph are so willing to raise other people's children. Joseph raised Jesus. We need to also honor foster fathers and step fathers who have taken on this awesome task. And, if you are single, but like Paul have brought others to Christ then you, like him, can boast 'do I not have a right to be called your father, for it was I who begot you in Christ?' Being a father is not just to share in the giving of physical life but to share in the nurturing of the total life of another person. So, happy father's day to all you who are honorable in sharing their life for the fullness of life for others.