Monday, April 16, 2018

Off In Your Boats...

The daily Gospel tells of those who were moved by Jesus'  miracle of the loaves and fishes, and took up to find him afterwards.   They took to their boats, and from both the location of the miracle and from Tiberias they set out to find him.  They did eventually find him in Capaernum.

These people remind me of our daily Mass regulars.  Instead of getting into their boats, they get up at half-past dark and drive to our parish church for the early Mass.  After awhile you get to know them by sight, if not by name.  

What these two groups of people have in common is a thirst for God.  Why else would they do what they don't have to do in order to find Jesus?  The difference between the two groups is that those in Capernaum had yet to experience the full revelation of God's plan of salvation.  The band of early Mass goers has.

Both however, have experienced being able to be closer to Christ. In their own ways they move closer and closer to Him.  When I talk about this with them, I urge them not to try to understand God, because it just won't happen.  Instead, I suggest they simply be still and listen.

In both cases, they experience the Eucharist. The people who were fed with the loaves and fishes got a preview.  The early morning Mass crew experience the whole gift.  In both cases, when the heart is open the urge is for more.

This blog is called "Under the Broom Tree" because of the story of Elijah under the broom tree in Kings 1:19.  My initial trip to the broom tree occured after the death of my children.  Since then, I visit frequently.  It seemed like now is a good time to return to the blog and its original purpose.  In the midst of suffering and sorrow we can find ourselves falling in love...for the first time, or once again...with God.  In the midst of what modern life offers us, sometimes we do need time at a place where all that stuff is checked at the door.   If this can be one of those places for you, fine.  Grab a seat.  The Broom Tree is big enough for many.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Holy Innocents

December 28 is the day in the Church calendar when we remember in prayer the children killed due to the insane jealousy of Herod.  Deathly afraid of the potential of the new born Messiaiah, he figure that if he simply kill every two year old or younger male child, his future would be secured.  Thus, the first martyrs...all helpless, all under two.

On this day, as a parent who has lost children, I think of the parents of those children and the parents of all children who have lost their lives due to the violent, selfish, prideful, envy rigged actioctions of others.  Those murdered.  Those persecuted.  Those who took their lives because of the actions of others.  Those killed in war or acts of terrorism.    There is no pain like the pain of loosing a your child.

For our children today, we pray for the intercession of those first martyrs.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


It is the Fourth Sunday of  Easter.  Last week, we heard the story of Jesus appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.   There was a key passage in there for us.  It was when the two invited Jesus to stay with them.   This is how we are to respond to Jesus' love in our life...invite him to stay with us.  If we don't, we will sit in the pew each Sunday, wondering why we don't get anything out of Mass.   We become passive and hope for the magic tricks of the sacraments, which will not come because that's not what will happen.  We have to actively invite Jesus into our hearts.

This week, we are faced with another call to action.  This time it is to listen.  We are the sheep, and as the Good Shepherd explains to us, the sheep know his voice and follow him  while rejecting the voice of the stranger.

If you ask me, listening is not easy for most Americans.  We live in a culture that is designed to fill every minute with some sort of activity.  We cannot be quiet.  We cannot be still.  This will make listening, well, impossible.  If we don't listen, how can we respond as the two disciples responded in last week's gospel?  How can we actively welcome Christ into our hearts if we cannot listen  and hear his call.

Being still is a challenge.  It is also an action.  It takes conscious effort to be still, to learn how to listen.  To quiet our restless hearts while we pray.  To be still and know the Lord.  How can we hear the Shepher's call if we can't dial out the rest of the cacophony?  Do you think the two disciples who broke bread with Christ would have recognized him if their minds were elsewhere?  Do you think we will recognize Him if our minds are elsewhere.

A discipline of prayer will lead us to silencing of the mind and heart.  Silence leads to stillness and in the stillness of our heart we invite Jesus to be with us and are able to hear and recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday March 14th reflection

The Gospel from Matthew today finds Jesus using certain Pharisees as an example for his disciples once again.  Note that he tells his disciples to listen to them when they speak of the law, but don't always imitate the way they act.   In short, Jesus is telling us that these Pharisees are good people who have some parts of their lives that they are getting wrong.  Just like the rest of us.

It's easy to blow through Gospel readings like this, automatically dividing the disciples  and Pharisees into "us and them" categories.  Don't be like them.  Them's bad!    But that's not the point.  Jesus is warning us that it will be easy for us to be like "them" and we have to be continually aware and on guard against that happening.

As I reflected on this passage of Matthew, I thought about all of us...clerics and lay folk...involved in the work of the Church, which has been my "day job" now for about eight years.   It is very easy for us to fall into the Pharisee trap if we are not careful.  I know it can be for me, and I have seen it in others as well.  All good meaning people, all with their hearts in the right places, but sometimes it can creep in.  A subtle version of "Hey, look at me, I'm holy!"  

  It's not my objective to be judgmental here.  This is a great case of  not being able to cast the stone because I'm as guilty as the next party.

It's just an observation that Jesus may actually be reminding those of ministry and service or not...   who strive to move closer to him each day to keep our heads up and be aware that each of us can be as susceptible to this temptation  as the next person.   The antidote?  Humility.  Jesus calls us to live humbly.  A confessor once put this in easy-to-understand perspective for me.   "Make an effort to put acts of charity in your day."    What a great Lenten practice!

Mt. 23:1-12

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A. Thursday Ramble

Thursday of the 22nd week of Ordinary time and the gospel is from Luke, chapter five, verses 1-10.

Jesus teaches from Simon's boat and then instructs Simon to go out and cast the nets.  What I love about this reading is Simon's response.  We've fished all night and caught nothing, he tells Jesus, but
"If you say so, I will."    So off they go and catch two boat loads of fish.

Simon gives us a single sentence definition of faith.   His professional experience says that he doubts any catch will happen, but his answer expresses just enough  faith to give it a try.  He has been reached in that undefinable way that God can touch us, a touch personal between God and ourself.

When I think of those filled nets, I think of God's love toward us.  How he can fill our hearts if we say so and follow.  How his love expresses itself in ways we can't imagine because our human imagination lacks the scope to do so.  How is love is both mysterious and personal.  I can't define exactly what it can be for you.  I know how it works for me...but even then, I often don't recognize it  until after it has come.

I'm not talking emotional Jesus highs here.  That's not who I am and that's not how he comes to me.

Think of it this way.   He told Peter to cast his nets.  Made sense for Peter who was a fisherman.  Compare that with how he reaches Philip.   Would he say "get a boat and cast some nets?'  Doubt it.

Listen for what he says to you.  Be aware and awake as Peter was.  Then cast the nets.  You gotta cast the nets, whatever they are.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Good and Evil on Labor Day (talk about work!)

Good morning from Northeast Indiana...where summer is playing the grand finale with sun and 90 degree temperatures.

So today Jesus takes up the secret challenge of the Pharisees (Luke 6:6-11) and asks them the killer question.  "Is it permitted on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life, or to destroy it."

It's a killer question because it causes all of us to stop and reflect.  The truth is that even some of our "holy" actions can be evil actions because they are rationalizations that keep us from truly turning to the good and giving ourselves to God.   Evil actions can take on camoflauge...they can appear to be good, but are they truly in line with being in a loving relationship with God.   That is what Jesus was creating when he opened eyes, cleared ears and straightened withered hands...loving relationships.

Anyway, it's worth a little spiritual look-see.  Are my actions, are my thoughts, is my reasoning turning to the good?  Not the perceived good, but the Good.  Or are they turning away from the Good, which would be the definition of evil.

Hey, enjoy the brats today. Happy Labor Day.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Trinity Sunday

I’m not really going to attempt to get into some deep explanation of the Holy Trinity here.  I would leave that to those with greater theological knowledge and wisdom than I have.  Besides, the one thing I have learned in my own faith journey is that understanding him is not as important or as necessary as just living in his love.

And that’s what the Trinitarian God makes possible for us.  To live in his love. Living in his love is what He seeks for us, and living in his love will bring each of us the fullness of our human dignity.  This is what God wants for us and this is what he calls us to do.

Saint Paul understood this.  This is what he means in the letter to the Romans,  “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”   

Sons of God. In the family.  The FAther loves his children, sons and daiughters.  This perfect Father, who's essence is love, loves us so much he calls us to be with him, but in his love.  And as Paul says, it is the Spirit working in us to bring us to this union of love.

As Paul goes on to say, “You did not recieeve a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through whom we cry “Abba, FAther."  We are close to Him as Sons and daughters..   We call him "Abba," a term  of praise and glory...and of intimate love.

Paul continues by saying “the Spirit bears witness with our spirit. that we are Children of God...joint heirs with Christ, if only suffer with hime so that we may be glorified.

Paul is telling us that the essence of the Trinity is our loving Father who gives us life out of that love,

Jesus Christ, the Son, who suffered and died for us and by joining ourselves to his suffering and death, we are also joined to his resurrection and like Christ become sons and daughters of God and can share in the inheritance of the Father...the love of the Father.  

Finally the Holy Spirit is the presence of God with us, in us,  that guides us and leads us as children of God.    

I once heard this descirbed as the Father who loves, the Son who is loved and the Spirit who is the love.   The Father sends the Son out of Love, the Son sacrifices himself for us to the Father out of love, and the Spirit is the love that is ours through baptism.

"God is love" is more than just some feel good sounding phrase on a banner.  God’s love allows us to find joy in the darkest hours, peace in the most difficult times, purpose in a world devoid of purpose and hope for a future that we have yet to arrive at.

God's love allows us be in him, to live in him, to have him with us always, not some distant God who's favor we seek and controls us like puppets, but the loving parent who guides us, gifts us and cherishes us.

God’s love comes to us in the graces of the sacraments, starting with baptism and especially in the eucharist.  Grace is that gift of God to his children that enables us to share in this life of love.  It is grace that leads us to humility, to charity, to hope.  It is grace that leads us to act in love to those around us.  Grace is the life of the Church, the presence of Christ here and now.

In Matthew's Gospel, we read his account of the ascension.  The Son, Jesus Christ, continues his work of freeing us from sin, now with the Church as his body on earth.  As members of that Body, the apostles are commissioned to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  We are baptized in that way and we are sent as the apostles were sent.  

Jesus final words are  "I am with you always."  This is what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit give us...the love that comes from being with God always.