Ramblings from us as we strive to live a holy life in the world, not of the world.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It's Coming!



So Lent is less than a week away. Yikes! I mean I'm ready for it to begin. I just haven't thought about what we are doing for it. Looks like Sunday I will dig out the purple fabric, crosses, guides, and other assorted items that I use during the liturgical season and give some thought to how I will make it meaningful.

Cruz, Jesus, Christianity, Lent, ChurchThe kids know the drill, and all of them, even the adult ones, look forward to it. We try to prayerfully discern what acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that we will do. Sure, we give up stuff, but we also try to remember the reason is to ultimately grow closer to Christ.

For as many years as I can remember, I've made a lenten calendar for the children. I've also done that with my CCD students when I taught religious education. Catholic Icing has such a cute calendar that we've used for many years. Actually, Catholic Icing has many great ideas to make Lent come alive for little ones.

As I still try to discern what I'm planning to do, I've compiled a lists of blogs that have some suggestions. I'm listing them here for me as much as for anyone else. It will help when I cement my ideas this weekend. 😉


All of the above links come from wonderful, faith-filled bloggers. Check out their blogs which are chock-full of inspiration.

May you be filled with God's presence in your life this Lent!

Blessings,
Joanne

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Homily, 7th Sunday Ordinary Time, Matthew 5:38-48 by Deacon Joseph Basko

Some Gospels don’t require much explanation on the surface, often times the words of Our Lord are enough and it’s the job of the homilist to help find the deeper meaning.  That’s not today.  This Gospel, needs explanation, some exegesis or bible study if you will.  Let’s set the stage.  We are still in Matthew Chapter 5 which is…The Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus taking His rightful place as the new Moses.  These are the “new” commandments.  What Jesus is doing here, is moving from the law, “you have heard that it was said…”, and showing us how to love “…but I say to you.”  To understand this passage, we need to go back and understand the Israelite culture at that time.  The Israelite culture you just heard, was “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.”  When we stop for a minute to think about that, it doesn’t take us long to see that it can get out of hand in a hurry.  Let’s say after Mass, I give…a punch on the arm.  Perhaps my “punch” to…was my way of telling him/her that he/she did such a great job on the 1st reading today.  But…doesn’t take it that way and feels that they’ve been wronged.  Under the “eye for an eye” rule, …is entitled to take a whack back at the Deacon.  Now the Deacon feels wronged and is going to take his entitled shot back at…  You can see where this is going.  In old Israel, it got to the point where whole families were being wiped out over nothing.  Jesus came to stop all that.  But He does it in such a subtle, yet masterful, way.  When He says to turn and offer the other cheek, He is now taking control of the situation.  If someone strikes again, the one who’s been hit now holds all the cards and may be owed some measure of justice, which, by the way, comes not now, but in heaven.  But also notice what Jesus does NOT say in this Gospel and He does not say to offer a third cheek.  The world likes to translate this passage in that way.  In no way does Jesus condone anyone being abused at any time.  If the other cheek is offered and struck, we have every right to leave the situation and if we can’t leave the situation, we have every right to defend ourselves.  At the same time, we can’t be afraid to be “struck”.  We have to tell the truth to the world and there will be times that people will strike us because of that truth, because we’re upsetting their world.  We cannot retaliate.  Jesus asks us to stop the violence and to love our enemies.

The key to unlocking today’s Gospel really lies in our second reading from 1st Corinthians.  “Let no one deceive himself.”  We really need to have a sense of where we are in journey with the Lord.  To be able to love our enemies we have to have that self-awareness, we cannot deceive ourselves.  But we do deceive ourselves don’t we?  Case in point.  Toward the end of summer last year, I was a little beat up physically and maybe mentally (no pity please) and I decided to take some time off from working out to heal.  Now feeling a little on the fat side around Christmas, I decided to start working out again for the new year.  One day, just recently, I was in the basement lifting weights, feeling pretty good about myself, pumping iron, a little sweat going.  In my head, I’m Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime or maybe the Steelers’ James Harrison, all pumped up.  When, my beloved three-year-old daughter Maria comes downstairs, sees me working out and says, “Wow!  Dad! Your belly is getting bigger!”…God’s little messenger...The vision in my head instantly went from a bodybuilder to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  But, I needed that.  I’ve since gotten a little more serious about what I’m doing and started a better diet.

To fully comprehend how to love our enemies, it takes change.  A large part of our formation, our change, our movement from the human to the divine, becoming (all together), that best version of ourselves is to understand and embrace the loving of our enemies, which allows us to fully experience the true love of God.  Let us remember our four pillars of formation; the human, the intellectual, the spiritual, and the pastoral.  But today, I’d like to look at these in reverse order, to get to the foundation of our formation as they relate to our spiritual growth, namely our growth through prayer, scripture, and fellowship.  This is where we’ll understand the need for love for others.  First, our pastoral formation, as you all remember is the sharing of our faith with others.  However, that can be very difficult to do in an adversarial relationship.  Do we do nothing then?  Certainly not, and inaction was assuredly not Jesus’ example.  To get to the answer we have to go deeper. 

Our spiritual formation relates to our spiritual growth in prayer.  Jesus says as much today, “pray for your persecutors.”  It’s prayer that plugs us into God, and it’s our communication to Him, and His communication to us where He can plant the seeds of change, where we start to love.

But let’s go further, our intellectual formation relates to our spiritual growth through our study of scripture.  It is through scripture that understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus, where Our Lord teaches us how to love.  But, we still need to keep digging. 

Our human formation is the foundation of our spiritual growth.  To come to know God, we must come to know ourselves first.  St. Catherine of Genoa was quoted “My Me is God, nor do I recognize any other Me except my God Himself.”  How do we get to know what we look like?  We use a mirror, we go outside of our own vision to see ourselves.  We need to do the same thing spiritually.  How do we do that?  Deacon, are you advocating some sort of Zen Buddhist outer body experience?  Not at all. 

To get outside of ourselves we need others.  We go beyond ourselves in two ways.  Service and fellowship.  When we interact with others through our service, no doubt we help them, but we also help ourselves.  By putting ourselves at the service of those in need, we interact with Our Lord himself, who in turn, gives us a vision of our interior life, we become able to see inside and discover how well and how much we love others.  Remember, we’re not trying to earn heaven through our service, we give our service to love. 

We also interact with others in fellowship.  Any time we come together to share Our Lord, we have the opportunity to share, and have others share their experience of Jesus.  It gives us a unique look at our own spiritual development alongside that of our brothers and sisters.  It helps us to love and support, and to be loved and supported.  The best look at ourselves really comes here and now in the greatest fellowship our world can offer in the Mass.  Here in our Eucharistic celebration, we join with all the angels and all the saints and we get a glimpse of ourselves in the light of heaven.  One of the excuses I hear all the time, from people of all ages “oh, Mass is so boorring.  It’s saaammmmee thing eeeevvery weeeeeek.”  What they fail to realize is the beauty of liturgy.  A beautiful sunset, a majestic landscape, the brightness of the stars in the sky on a clear night, no one ever complains that those things are boooring.  Mass is boring to some simply because they lack the appreciation of seeing beyond the natural and to the supernatural.  Not to pick on my beautiful little Maria, but I wouldn’t pay for a ticket for her to go to the symphony.  She’s simply not educated enough to appreciate the beauty of the symphony.  We can appreciate the beauty of our Mass, and when we do, we can see the beauty of heaven.  Here we can embrace the vision of who we really are in our humanity, and it is then we can embrace our enemies and truly love as God loves.  So, the next time God sends a little messenger your way, I hope you’ll hear “Wow, the God in you is getting bigger!”

Monday, January 16, 2017

Deacon Joe's homily for the 2nd Ordinary Sunday, 1/15/17

I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test.

Believe it or not those lyrics were pretty much where I found myself as a young man in my late twenties.  I was chasing my career thinking that the goal of life was to die with the most toys.  But every time I achieved, or got that “toy”, the victory seemed hollow.  My thinking at the time that the answer was that I needed more and more and more.  A “crowning achievement” of mine, or so I thought, was when I got a big raise and a promotion and got to work and live in the mega-metropolis of Philadelphia.  I was going big and my future was so bright I had to wear shades.  But things don’t always go as planned do they.  I thought so much of myself that my arrogance took over and I wasn’t treating people very well.  In reality, most of the people I met while working I was really using to further my own ends.  I wound up not having very many friends and quite a few enemies.  I fell.  Not a rock bottom kind of thing, but my pride took a big hit.  In fact, I was falling for quite some time, I just didn’t know it.  A very wise man once said to me, “While we’re falling, our faces are pointed downward, but finally when we hit, we can change our direction and find God.”  That’s exactly what happened to me.  When I finally took a big hit, my direction changed, and behold, there was God.  That trip to Philadelphia very much served as an Exodus for me, Joanne, and our family, because it really was our journey through a spiritual desert, where we could see things differently and come to truth of our faith in God.
Today’s Gospel is that same kind of wakeup call.  (Btw Christmas and Easter) John the Baptist is telling his followers “Hey!  Him!  Over there!  That’s the guy I was talking about!  Now it begins!”  But there’s really something interesting here in our Gospel as John the Baptist says “I did not know Him”.  At this point you may be saying “Wait a minute Deacon, I remember from my CCD classes that Jesus and John the Baptist were related, so how can John say he didn’t know Him?”  Some scholars believe John says that he did not know Jesus because his father and mother (Zachariah and Elizabeth) were advanced in years and couldn’t travel much.  It was around 90 miles between Judea, where John the Baptist lived and Galilee, where the Holy Family lived and things back then weren’t like they are now, travel was very difficult.  Other scholars suggest that John the Baptist didn’t quite grow up like a typical young Jewish man, as the Gospels suggest John grew up in the desert and scholars trace him to living in the community of the Essenes, kind of like a monk (certainly not like a Benedictine though).  Those theories may hold some truth, but it begs the question why St. John (the author of this Gospel) would mention it.  The more theological scholars contend that St. John brings this up in the Gospel because it was more of a case where John the Baptist was surprised to find that it was his cousin, Jesus, who was the Messiah.  Some of the Bible translations actually use the word “recognize.”  To translate into modern day English, John probably would’ve said something like “we used to hang out together at family picnics and all kinds of other things, I had no clue that Jesus was going to become the Messiah.”  Things changed for John the Baptist.  The reason they changed is because John fully devoted himself to living a life of faith, to living a life in a communal relationship with God.  It was through that relationship that God was able to help John the Baptist change, see through the eyes of faith, see God in the unexpected, and recognize his own cousin as the Messiah.  This Gospel is very much a continuation of the same theme we heard over Advent and Christmas.  Jesus has come, the world, our world, has been changed.
Collectively as a Diocese we’re about to embark on a program of change in the On Mission For The Church Alive.  A little over a year from now, we will be members of a new and different parish.  One possibility is that we may be attending Mass in another location.  Then the changes will be obvious.  But another possibility is that in the summer of 2018 we’re still sitting right here, I may very well be preaching (so you’ve been warned) and nothing will necessarily seem different on the surface.  But it will be.  And even if our surroundings don’t change, we’ll still need to have faith and see beyond and embrace and welcome those whose worlds have been changed.  A subtle message of our Gospel today is to open our hearts and minds in love and to welcome change, because we understand it as coming from God and being an integral part of our journey home to Him.
We may not like it and maybe we try not to think about it, but things are constantly changing for us whether we’re conscious of it or not.  When we stop and think about it, we’ll come to the realization that we change to get better, to become that “Best Version of Ourselves,” we certainly don’t change with the goal of getting worse.  You’ll leave this Church this morning a different person.  Hopefully this liturgy will move you closer to God.  Hopefully this homily didn’t totally confuse you and move you further away from God.  But, we never stay in the same place.  We’ll also be different tomorrow, it never stops.  This year, I’ll hit some milestone changes.  I’ll turn 50 and I’ll have worked 30 years for the federal government.  Please don’t congratulate me, I’m just getting older.  By no means are either of those things an achievement, I’ve mostly just shown up.  But, to be really honest, if it weren’t for my faith in God, I’d probably be going nuts and having a crazy midlife crisis of some sort.  Because without God, this just ends.  What a hopeless thought.  But with God, and with a relationship with the Lord and Savior of the World, there’s always a future, there’s always hope and we know that the best day we’ve had here on earth doesn’t even scratch the surface of what heaven will be like.  But to get there, we need to change.  I’d like to leave you with a little saying I came across:  “There are 3 C’s of life; Choices, Chances, Changes.  You must make a choice, to take a chance, to make a better life through change.”


Been a long time...

When I started writing this blog, I had the intention of writing fairly frequently. However, life got in the way.

The last post that I wrote was an emotional one and I truly didn't have the energy or the desire to write again. I was going to delete the blog, but for some reason, I couldn't, although I had no intention of reviving it.

Last year brought a busy year of homeschooling my boys and very little time. This year, I found myself in the midst of extensive remodeling and updating of our house. We're still in the process of that and will be for quite some time. Also with parish commitments as baptism coordinator, Pre-Cana coordinator, and serving on the core team of the ChristLife program at our parish as the Evangelism and Registration coordinator, facilitator, and prayer team member, the thought of writing here was the absolute furthest thing on my mind.

Enter the husband. After the election which startled us as to how divided our nation is and witnessing how some people have used Twitter and Facebook as a sounding board to spew hatred and criticizing anyone who disagrees with them while professing that they are tolerant and loving, Deacon Joe decided to start using Facebook the way it should be used: to keep in touch, to offer love and prayers, and to share inspiration. So, he's returned to Facebook and has been posting regularly. Wanting to share some of his homilies, I suggested that he post here or start a blog and post the link to Facebook. Well, this was easier than creating new, so I changed the name of the blog to reflect the both of us and he can post his homilies and if I feel like it, I'll post on occasion.

Here's hoping that we can offer love and hope in this turbulent world.

Blessings,
Joanne




Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A month of sorrow and loss

Last month as I flipped the calendar to view May, I experienced a little trepidation. May is always a busy month for us with birthdays, end of year events, baseball, and a host of other late spring events. But this year seemed especially busy with an added First Holy Communion, meetings and other commitments. What I wasn't banking on, and who does, is having the unexpected events...like death.

Two days after my son's First Communion, I attended the funeral of my uncle and godfather. Although his death wasn't a surprise, the realization that he was the last of my parent's siblings made the event that much more somber.

A week and a half later, my sister's nephew was killed in a car crash. Knowing the family for 40 years, my heart ached for them and what they were going through.

Fast forward to several days ago, I realized that I was experiencing a miscarriage. At my age, people hardly view pregnancy as a positive thing and so my husband and I chose not to tell anyone, thinking that miscarriage was a very real possibility. In truth, when I found out that I was pregnant, I was a little frustrated thinking about carrying another child to term and knowing how hard the last pregnancy was on me. But, I also know that all life is a precious gift from God and I choose to embrace that beautiful life that God had given me, understanding that it may be for the remainder of my life or for a considerably shorter time period. But miscarriage is never easy even when you know that it is very probable. Experiencing a miscarriage is a very painful experience both physically and emotionally but I thank God for entrusting that life to me for even that short period.

The hardest part about miscarriage is society's lack of understanding. In a culture that embraces abortion, there is very little understanding for couples whose child has died before birth. Unfortunately, society also embraces the notion that if you want the baby, it's real and if you don't, it's not real, an indication of a dysfunctional society to be sure. But, since society can't see the baby, then it couldn't have been too real, so you should just get over it and certainly don't talk about it.

As I was dealing with the physical and emotional effects of this on Monday, my daughter and her boyfriend came home to tell me that one of their friends was in a motorcycle accident and not long after they informed me that he died. This young man was set to graduate high school next week. He came from a large family who I've known for the past 12 years and saw regularly as their mother and I often worked on church projects together. So for the second time this month, my heart aches for a family as they endure the unimaginable.

I can't imagine enduring any of these events without faith. Faith is what sustains us. It strengthens and upholds us through all of life's trials.Our understanding of God's love and mercy should comfort us through dark times and give us hope in the eternal.

Please pray for the families that have endured the losses this month.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

He is Risen!

I'm a little late in saying this (although not really, because Easter last 50 days!), but Easter Sunday was quite hectic. Although we stayed home on that day, dear husband still had to assist with Masses in the morning and we had company for dinner. But just keeping up with the house and preparing food seemed to take the whole day.

Yesterday, I was back to the grindstone with necessary shopping, laundry, and other activities. But this is such a special time of the year that I wanted to stop and reflect on this beautiful season. Our Lord Jesus has conquered death. Love is more powerful than death! Love wins and evil loses. What could be more special than that?

We attended the Easter Vigil on Saturday night and the littles did wonderful. I didn't have to leave the church once. It was also a wonderful evening because my son's girlfriend of a year-and-a-half came into the Church! She is such a sweetheart and we were very moved to be a part of her special day. This picture was taken at the conclusion of Mass. We were missing our oldest daughter who unfortunately had to work.




May you have a truly Blessed Easter Season!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Unless you acquire the heart of a child...

Okay, I admit it, we don't recite the Rosary every night together as a family. Fact is if we say it together once or twice a week, I'm thrilled. So it must be because we don't say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together, except for the novena that began yesterday, that my five year old took pause at the different order of prayers. As I said the Apostles Creed, he interrupted me at the 'descended into hell to say, "No! Jesus didn't go to hell, he went to Heaven. That's not right." At my Rosary group, we say 'descended to the dead,' now I know why with all the young children.

Ah, the heart of a child...