Letting Go. September 21, 2018

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew, gospel writer and evangelizer, called by Jesus from his post as tax collector, to leave everything and become a disciple. Matthew responded to Jesus in a bold and powerful way by “letting go” of the way he was living life, letting go of established ways of thinking , letting go of possessions and money that slowly took possession of his heart. This was one dramatic moment of conversion. Matthew completely and definitively broke with his life by letting it go, while at that moment of letting go, he embraced a whole new way of living.

The process of “letting go” is one in which we all are called to do if we are going to let our faith have any effect in our lives. But most of us do it slowly, gradually, inch by inch, not in one dramatic moment of dispossession. We let go of things around us as we simply our lives, as we start resisting the pressure to press “click it” for an Amazon purchase. We let go slowly, not only of possessions, but of inner attitudes. The grudges we are holding onto, the bitterness of regrets, the painful memories all need to be let go of if we want to grow and develop new ways of healthy living.

Jesus is pointing at each one of us, gazing into our hearts, piercing them in love…. calling us to follow. The vast majority of us respond with a bit of reluctance. That is just fine with this wonderful God of ours. As long as we respond.

Peace. Fr. Frank

A Woman Interrupts A Dinner. September 20, 2018

One of the most beautiful stories in the gospel was proclaimed in today’s Mass. Jesus is eating dinner in the home of Simon, a Pharisee, and an unnamed woman enters the gathering. She is only identified as being sinful. Those eating were actually reclined around the table, their feet facing away from the table, as this woman comes to Jesus with a jar of oil in her hands. She bends down and bathes the feet of Jesus with her tears and wipes them dry with her hair. Then she anoints them. Beautiful. Physical. Sensual.

Simon was not liking this at all and was thinking very judgmental thoughts about Jesus. Why wound he want to allow this sinful woman to do such provocative gestures? Didn’t He know what a horrible person she was? She was untouchable, one of the “les miserables,” the miserables of Victor Hugo’s great novel/play. But Jesus does something that surely stunned Simon, and the others: He forgave her and sent her away from the meal transformed by love. Shocking!! Jesus and women were a powerful combination, allowing God to be experienced in the most unlikely people we encounter.

The depth of Christ’s mercy toward this unnamed woman flowed from the depth of her love of Him. Simon, and the others, were isolated from experiences of transformation because their hearts were small, like the Grinch before the people of Whoville loved him out of isolation. How isolating we can be in our worlds, when we shut people out who are different, who don’t fit in, who have reputations. Simon was oh so safe in his world, with his heart hardened to new life and mercy. She left his home free; he remained a prisoner of his own judgements.

The unnamed woman can have a name, any name, YOUR name. In prayer, shower Jesus with your own tears, of past regrets, painful sins, fears and failed dreams. The joy that you will experience in this prayerful encounter with Jesus will change your life. Trust.

Peace. Fr. Frank.

Celebrating Mary’s Birth. August 8, 2018

In the Church’s Liturgy, only three individuals have a celebration of their birth: Jesus, John the Baptist and Mary. Today, we celebrate the gift of Mary’s birth and every human being who has ever lived, is living now, or will be living in the future can thank her. Mary, without help from any man, allowed the Holy Spirit to overshadow her, making the conception of Jesus a reality. Jesus received His DNA only from Mary, a descendant from King David’s ancestral line; Joseph, himself, surrendered to God’s plan in humility.

Many years ago, a nun at Holy Family hospital took me in her care while my mom visited my father who just had surgery. She brought me in the chapel and talked to me about Jesus in the tabernacle and Mary. She gave me a beautiful and powerful memory that continues to transform me. It doesn’t take a whole lot. Weekly prayers at a Parish novena in honor of Mary is also in the great storehouse of memory.

Mary, Mother of us all, continues to love us and care for us as any mother would do. She is weeping over what happens to children at the hands of those who abuse. But she must be very angry at us shepherds who let this tragedy continue, hidden in shame, but now being exposed. On this, the day we celebrate her birth, I thank Mary for giving the world its Savior, the One she nourished at her breasts, fed, taught to pray and walk. She stayed with Jesus, her Son, through His rejection, suffering, crucifixion and death on the Cross; she was with the Apostles in the Upper Room as the Spirit filled them at Pentecost; she was already Spirit filled.

During these times of pain and scandal, may the beads of the rosary guide us through the mysteries of the Lord and into His Kingdom where all children will be safe.

The Sound of Music. August 6, 2018

A young man is trying to change how people see themselves and the world through the sound of music, specifically the sound of the flute. James Brinkmann plays the flute on Michigan Ave and in the subways to try and change people’s perception of classical music and it’s beauty. As Dostoyevsky stated, if anything is going to change this world it is beauty. And I would add, the sound of music.

When James performs a particular piece from one of the great masters, he encourages people to write or draw on a felt board that stands next to him, in response to the music. In this way, the power of music frees the imagination of the listeners to express thoughts and emotions. Classical music will always be a part of our culture because it is timeless, like Gregorian chant.

I’ve always been a bit intimidated by classical music because it seems high brow and out of reach, until I simply listen, allowing myself to be moved. It usually has a calming and reflective affect upon my spirit. I learned of a high school in Chicago that used to play classical music through the intercom, very softly, it’s sounds filtering through the huge corridors. The students were noticeably more calm and focused. I wonder if they still do this?

In these difficult times, maybe all of us could benefit with listening to the sound of music that can change inner dispositions for the better. I think the power of beautiful music is its ability to help us respond to life in a reflective manner, rather than simply reacting in raw emotion.

Peace. Fr. Frank. Google James brinkmann to see/hear for yourself.