About Harvester's Wanted:

A Catholic priest's reflections along the path of Faith.

When this life is complete, I pray they say I lived for the Greater Glory of God +AMDG+

PRAYER REQUESTS through link on right side-bar.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Entering Into the Silence

Preaching for Adolescents:
Entering Into the Silence

Location: Abbey of Gethsemani
Age Group: Late High School / Early College
Event: Day of Silence (preaching for the beginning of the day) 
Scripture: 1Kings 19:11-13

            What do you hear? Most days the answer would be the TV, radio, traffic, teachers, parents, friends… noise; but not today. Today you will be listening to the sounds of silence. There is a saying here at the abbey, ‘silence is spoken here.’ This is more than just a catchy phrase, it is a way of life, and it is this way of life that you are being invited into today. But what, you may ask, is the point of being silent? Is it a chance to relax and take a break from all the stress of everyday life, stress that is characterized by an abundance of noise pollution? That sense of relaxation is part of the meaning behind a day of silence but if that were it these monks would soon get tired of their quiet lifestyle. No, there is much more depth to the silence than simply relaxing. Within the silence we hear the voice of God. That’s right; we are here to listen for the voice of God. This is not nearly as dramatic as it sounds because God does not typically speak to us in monumental ways like a voice from the sky or from a burning bush. God tends to speak to us in more subtle ways, ways that are easily missed underneath the noise of our daily lives. Just as in the case of Elijah: the great wind, the earthquake, and the fire effectively drowned out the voice of God which was only heard in the “sheer silence” that came last. Today we are going to try and listen beyond all of the chaos that fills our lives and listen for the voice of God.

We are not the only ones called to go off by ourselves and pray in the silence. Christ too often left the chaos of his everyday life of ministry to pray alone or with his closest followers. It was through this private prayer that he was able to remain in communion with the Father even when he was out amongst the people and the noise of daily life. God calls us to be Christ for others but to achieve that we must do as Christ did, and that is to pray. We all have high hopes for the future. Hope that our lives may make a difference for others, but here we are focusing on our own private prayer lives. The two are not disconnected. Strength and guidance in ministry comes from time spent in prayer and conversation with God.

            There may be those among us who have practiced prayer styles that challenge them to enter into periods of silence and within that silence hold conversations with God. At the same time there may be those who have experienced that kind of prayer in the past but have gotten out of the routine of entering into those moments of silence; and then there are those who have never had such an experience and may be thinking that the idea of talking to God is either impossible or crazy. No matter which group you would place yourself in you should know that there is always room for spiritual growth in your life because God is always inviting us to enter into deeper communion. You should, however, not expect huge movements in your spiritual life to take place in a single day. A spiritual breakthrough may take place today, but if you expect it you will try and force it, and if you force it God will have trouble being heard.

            So, we know that God is trying to communicate with us in the silence that soon awaits us, but does that mean we are to sit there and try and block any thoughts from our mind waiting for the voice of God to tune in? Not exactly, that would almost be like waiting for God to speak to you from a burning bush, not impossible but a bit more unlikely. A more productive use of your time here would be to develop a trust that God wants to talk to you. This means that instead of trying to force all thoughts from your head to make room for God you could trust that God can use those thoughts to communicate to you. Some thoughts, like ‘I wonder what’s for lunch’ may be less fertile ground for God to work compared with higher thoughts and concerns. Are you wondering what to do in a difficult situation with family or friends? Trust that God wants to talk to you about that. Do you have questions about where you life is headed? Trust that God wants to talk to you about that. Don’t worry about holding a conversation on God’s level… that’s impossible, instead ask what God would want to talk about on your level and trust will guide you from there.   

            What is the basis for this trust? It is an understanding that we are beloved daughters and sons of God. A trust in the fact that we are created, maintained, and desired by God; and all of that simply means that God not only wants to, but is capable of talking to you. As you practice this trust you will find that you can more easily recognize the voice of God and differentiate that voice from your own voice. For now, however, focus on entering into that trust and see where God takes you. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Our Lady of the Rosary

A Reflection for the Memorial of:
 Our Lady of the Rosary,
formally Our Lady of Victory,
celebrated October 7th

Blessed be the Lord, my rock
who trains my arms for battle,
who prepares my hands for war
from Psalm 118

            There they were, huddled masses of men, down in the deep musty hulls of all those ships of war. Ships that carried them across a sea dark and dangerous and yet somehow familiar, for it was this sea that their forefathers had once arrogantly named mare nostrum, “our sea.” They certainly had the privilege to name it so, for there were none then left to oppose such a name. There were no rivals then, but there were certainly rivals now. These rivals, these sworn enemies wanted nothing more than to drive their Christian foes before them, invade further into Europe, and even take Rome for themselves. They still held grievances, left from the crusades, fomenting hatred in their hearts. So, the Christian peoples bound themselves together, putting aside their differences, not to eliminate the opposition from the face of the earth, but to protect their own existence by the formation of a Holy League.

            These men of this Holy League gripped tightly to their oars, and also to their rosaries. They hopefully prayed, or prayed for hope; hope that they would make it through to the other side, and return home to safety and family. At least they were making this journey together encouraged by their collective pleas to the Virgin Mary for her intercession and protection. They also had her with them there in an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, continuously encouraging them to keep faith and have courage.        

            Were these men that different from the Israelites, a people similarly on a journey? This was a people who traveled through a sea just to come to a dessert, a dessert as dark and dangerous as any contested water ever could be. These people also had a guide chosen by God to lead them on to victory, a guide to intercede for them when the journey became difficult and the path looked lost. They traveled together, keeping close for the semblance of safety and comfort, looking to their captain for direction and assurance. These people also had to fight once they got to their destination; it was not enough to make the journey they had to see it through. They had to fight for their homeland, for their own land of milk and honey. The journey was a preparation, a time when the Lord trained their arms for battle, their hands for war; and when the time of preparation ended they were ready to face the opposition that stood before them. Yet their opponent was well protected behind a seemingly impenetrable wall, a daunting challenge to all their hopes and prayers. These immovable rocks would not hold however, for the Lord brought them down by the sound of a trumpet blast. With that sound, the sound of trumpets and tottering walls, the battle had begun.

            Were these men that different from us? We are a people similarly beset with a journey that may at times seem dark and dangerous and always with the assurance of a struggle not only at the end of the road, but all along the way. Are we not akin to these people huddling together in our ship like sanctuaries or out on the road going down the way together? We may no longer cling to our swords or oars, our guns and cannons but we have a weapon far greater - the weapon of prayer. Those men in those ships of war attributed their great victory to the intercession of Mary and their recitation of the rosary; we too can win a great victory against those menacing adversaries that stand along our way. We too must prevail, for all that we know to be true and good depend on us all! There may be shifting sand bottomless water deterring us, but we must go on. For as long as we live we must go on, for the Lord is our rock and he never fails in providing us a strong footing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

March for Life, Archdiocese of Louisville E-zine Article from last month

For the past several years the seminarian community of Saint Meinrad has made a pilgrimage to participate in the March for Life. It is always an honor to march beside people from all over the country, including people of diverse faith traditions and the countless youth who enthusiastically make their voices heard. Other than the opportunity to march for the sanctity of life, and spending time with my seminary brothers, the aspect of the pilgrimage that I enjoy the most is staying with a host family from Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac Maryland.

These families, many of whom have small children themselves, graciously invite us into their homes and lives for a few days which give us seminarians a chance to experience the hospitality of others in preparation for living a life of hospitality and ministry. I have often reflected and prayed with the distinct difference between staying with a family so willing to invite a complete stranger into their home, and the sad reality of the countless families that could have been, but are not. An outpouring of hospitality and recognition for the sanctity of life is starkly contracted by a culture that promotes saying no to hospitality and no to life. This tension has provided ample amounts of material for spiritual contemplation, and has helped me grow into a better seminarian and a better human being.

The call to hospitality is something that we all share and the ability to be open to everyone I meet is a virtue that I am working hard to cultivate while I am in seminary. By the Grace of God and the guidance of those entrusted with my formation I have faith that I can more and more affectively be a bridge for the conversion of others.

            Please pray for us and all of those who will soon be making this pilgrimage.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Unity

            We cannot help but form connections with other people. Through blood, sweat, and tears, through the good and the bad, we are connected to one another. Connected in ways that we cannot fully understand or appreciate until we reach for that unity, for that connection to the other, and it is sadly unavailable. We build these connections in our homes, our schools, our parishes, on the playground and by the water cooler. Unity is essential for true happiness in our families, amongst friends and coworkers, and dare I say it, in our presbyterate.

It is a part of the human condition, this desire to be connected. This is true for the simple fact that humanity was not originally created to be alone, by ourselves. No, we were created to live together, to live in community with each other and God and our miserable fall does not change that it just makes it harder. A few, however, are called to a life in apparent opposition to this unity, a life of an anchorite, but even these lone souls must spend years within a community, and afterwards retain a sense of unity with those who are not at hand. In these instances a unity without proximity. The kind of unity we can strive for in our own lives but never fully take in while we still walk on this earth. Image a unity with God and all humanity; the joy of being one.

God calls us to strive for this unity which can never be perfectly realized in our mortality. A perfection, like so many other perfections, which can only be recognized in the face of God after our dying day. We are called to be one in the Body of Christ, to take from Paul an understanding of our place in that Body and celebrate the way it works, always under the guidance of Christ. Called still to place ourselves in that fleeing band of Israelites, in the crowd before the temple sacrifice, and even at the foot of a cross that held what seemed to be an end to a prophetic life, but instead held the fulfillment of hope itself. We are called to find ourselves alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ at that moment that our salvation was made possible.

It is all too easy to desire separation from this unity. A desire to walk away from that column of smoke and out into the dessert of life on one’s own, to walk out of the temple repulsed by offerings to relive the sins of the entire chosen people, and even disheartened enough to flee that hill, that cross. All of these desires for individualism, whatever the reason, drive a nail into the heart of that Body of Christ, tearing its members apart.

            Instead let us hold fast to one another, uniting our prayers in a single voice. With this unity let us assemble a line that approaches the altar and receive the one thing that can truly allow us to grow in love for God. In this way unity can bring us closer to each other and closer to God who helps us realize that together we gain so much and apart, even if missing just one, we are weakened just as much as they are weakened.

Yes, I Believe

            We all say yes; sometimes dozens of times a day. ‘Yes I would like a piece of chocolate’ we may say to a guest walking past our office, ‘yes you may sit at this lunch table with us,’ ‘yes I’m going home for the weekend,’ ‘yes I have decided to pay my taxes this year!’ We say yes all the time. Even when we say no we are really just saying yes to the opposite.

We say yes so often to the little things that it may make saying yes to those big things, the big questions in life, a little less extraordinary. We all have to answer those big questions sometime in our lives. Questions like ‘do I really want to marry this person?’ ‘Do I stick with this job or search for something new?’ ‘Do I want to enter into a religious community?’ ‘Do I want to open myself up to formation towards priesthood?’ To further complicate life a little yes may sometimes make us waver on answering a big yes. We may be tempted into a small yes and shy away from committing to a life fulfilling big yes.

Abraham said yes to a covenant with God, a yes that almost cost him his son; Moses said yes to a burning bush telling him to lead his people; Mary said yes to an angel that told her she was to bear the Son of God; Joseph said yes to being the adoptive father of the Son of God. The disciples said yes and followed that child; that child, that Son of God, said yes to the cup of suffering his true Father offered Him.

They all have something important in common. All of these yes answers include ‘I believe’ after that big yes. Yes I believe, Amen, reveals the true nature of a big yes. One has to believe to say yes to the big questions in life, one must believe in the goodness of God, goodness that will see you through for all eternity. This belief in the goodness of God allows a person to look past any insignificant yes; any yes that could get in the way of God working in your life, any yes that may lead you astray. 


            Unfortunately there are times when even an Amen becomes routine. Yes, even a big yes can become routine, when we get so used to saying yes to certain big questions, it begins to lose its meaning. Lose its special place like all of those little every day yeses. We will say an Amen today, an Amen that can easily become routine. The Body of Christ, Amen… the Body of Christ… Amen, the Body of Christ… a blank stare, and what might as well be a grunt. We come and receive the Eucharist, the Body and the Blood of the One that helps us through our big questions; the One that if allowed into our hearts will guide us on our way back to Him. Let us keep in mind the importance of all our yeses, those that are small, those that are big, and those that maybe routine but are nonetheless infinite in importance.

On whom to lean?

I lean on money,
on power, influence,
on possessions and empty promises.
I lean into the world.
On whom do you lean?

I lean on myself,
on my potential, my intelligence,
on my wit and skill.
I lean into myself.
On whom do you lean?

I lean on others,
on family, on friends,
on those who truly care.
I lean into the burdened.
On whom do you lean?

I lean on You,
on Your vastness, Your strength,
on Your selfless gift and nearness.
I lean into You.
On whom do You lean?

You lean on Yourself,
on Your threefold form, Your family,
on Your Son and Your Spirit blessed.
You lean into love itself.

On whom do you lean?