The Liacs  of the Field. May 12, 2016

I’m visiting a friend in Lombard , a western suburb of Chicago, who lives one block from Lilacia Park, arrayed with thousands of lilacs. Yes, Lombard is the land of the lilacs, the official flower of this part of the world. They even have a parade in honor of this beautiful, but delicate,  flower. 

Jesus used the beautiful image of the lilies of the field to illustrate a powerful  truth: not even the magnificence and glory of King Solomon can possibly compare with the beauty of this simply flower. At the heart of this image of the lilies  is another beautiful truth: the lilies do nothing to achieve their beauty…they simply ARE beautiful because that’s how God made them. And so are WE: our beauty is a beauty that runs deep within, to the center of of our beings. Skin-deep beauty is fleeting, like lilies and lilacs, which last barely through Spring. 

Our bodies look less and less beautiful on the outside as we age, another simple, sobering truth. But our inner beauty never fades, it becomes  more vibrant and distinctive. And yet our physical bodies, not just our souls, are an eternal part of our identity and personhood. When souls  and bodies come together in the Resurrection of the Dead, we will be able to once again embrace and laugh and dance in a field of lilacs and lilies that never fade our die…What a glorious destiny we have. No need to worry about anything.

A soul without a transformed body is an angel, of sorts, not a human being. We  can’t dance or embrace without our bodies. Another glorious truth. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

Red Licorice . May 11,2016

As I was rushing down Michigan Avenue yesterday, I reached State street and turned. As I was briskly walking down State Street, umbrella in hand to keep me from getting drenched, I heard a tiny voice, “Could you help me.” I continued walking but that voice followed me. I stopped and reached in the front, right pocket of my jeans and pulled out two 20’s and a 10. What would you do, given that there were other people down that same street gently saying, “Help me?” Do I give to every person on the street who calls out in need or do I sheepishly walk by? And when should I just give that twenty dollar bill away?  “Well, we can’t help everyone,” is the voice of reason but is it the voice of the gospel? We all do whatever we can and must not judge the other who might respond differently. 

I did respond by remembering how much I love red licorice. I walked in the Walgreens at the corner of Michigan and State, purchased a little package of red licorice and then I had plenty of smaller bills, making it easier to respond to the voices of God reaching my ears. Paul says in today’s reading that it is more blessed to give than to receive. True, but we all receive something back every time we give. That little package of licorice was a sweet reminder of how much I receive when I give…when I am not deaf to the cries of the poor. 

God reached my heart through a package of licorice.  We connect with God in countless ways, simple unassuming ways, if only we become aware of the connection. God even uses licorice. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

Holy Spirit: O Comforter, O Disturber. May 10,2016

When we pray to the Holy Spirit we expect to be comforted, inspired and encouraged. But St. Paul says clearly in today’s reading from Acts that the Spirit led him to other towns and countries, and in these journeys, he frequently was met with rejection, beatings and imprisonment. We forget that the Spirit comforts us when needed and discomforts us when necessary. “I have come not to bring peace but the sword,” Jesus teaches, in a verse that certainly makes us very uncomfortable. 

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Peter of Molokai ( 1849-1889), the Hawaiian island that was a refuge for lepers. Yes, they were “refugees” finding in that island a place of security and refuge from societies rooted in Christianity that banished them out of fear. Peter Damien was quite comfortable in his religious community and in his priesthood. The Holy Spirit compelled him to volunteer to go to this dreaded place, knowing that he most likely would contract the disease. The Spirit disturbed his inner peace and led him to Molokai. He proclaimed the gospel not in words but by bandaging wounds and limbs that were rotting…by loving and not fearing these human beings…by being the face, the eyes, the hands, the heart of Christ. 

How might the Holy Spirit be making you uncomfortable? Let each of us NOT be afraid to ask this question,  and most importantly, to respond in action. This way of divine discomfort always leads to inner peace and new life. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

Loneliness. May 9,2016

One of the most difficult experiences walking the 500 miles to Santiago is loneliness, a feeling of being disconnected from life and human warmth. One can be lonely in a crowd, in a marriage or in a community, which is probably the worst kind of loneliness. Endlessly walking day after day on the Camino, frequently alone, it was easy for me to become lonely. Sometimes I would be walking, what felt like an eternity,  with someone who was a burden to be with. The conversation with these folks is usually one sided with little interest in what you have to say. The worst loneliness I felt was listening to others whose values and priorities were  so opposite to mine and there was no room for dialogue. And yet,  I walked with people whodidn’t believe  in God or in religion and I felt tremendously close to them because we LISTENED to each other and there was respect. 

In the gospel, Jesus reminds us we are never alone…the Spirit descended into our hearts at Baptism and dwells within our hearts forever. When “connected” to this Presence within , we are never alone, and hence, we are not lonely. May we LISTEN to what the Spirit is trying teach us. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

Ascending In Spirit. May 8, 2016

This Feast of the Ascension celebrates not only Jesus returning to the Father but our own spirits soaring in hope and joy. The disciples left the scene of the Ascension,after saying goodbye to Jesus, in joy not sadness. They had work that needed to be accomplished: continuing the ministry of Jesus using their own unique gifts, rooted in their own humanity. As Jesus ascended into heaven, he descended into YOUR hearts and is a constant Presence guiding you on your own journey.

A little piece of heaven breathes in all of us, empowering us to create a vision of the world and the church. This  vision is rooted in gospel Beatitude and selfless love. We give texture and color to this vision as we engage our creativity, allowing the Spirit to direct and redirect our energy, values and priorities. Our unique vision is always rooted in faith and community, so that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves.

What is the vision that guides you on your own journey through life?

Peace   Fr. Frank