“WOULD YOU REALLY FOR ME?” (Mt 18:12-14): 11 December 2007 (Tuesday)

“WOULD YOU REALLY FOR ME?”  (Mt 18:12-14):  11 December 2007 (Tuesday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121107.shtml

Whatever you do, don’t fall for this trick.  In today’s gospel, the Lord pulls a fast one on his disciples. He asks them:  “What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?”   Continue reading “WOULD YOU REALLY FOR ME?” (Mt 18:12-14): 11 December 2007 (Tuesday)

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“CAN YOU TAKE YOUR EYES OFF US?” (Lk 5:17-26): 10 December 2007 (Monday)

“CAN YOU TAKE YOUR EYES OFF US?” (Lk 5:17-26):  10 December 2007 (Monday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121007.shtml

One interesting film I saw months ago is “Closer,” a realistic and sometimes painful portrayal of what happens in people’s relationships.  But what has lingered long after the credits all these months is not so much the story or the characters, but this unfamiliar but hauntingly beautiful song called “The Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice (shown in photo).  The refrain is just really simple; it goes, “I can’t take my eyes off you,” but the line is repeated over and over and over again. Hearing it, one can’t help but be moved by the singer’s  obsessive, desperate need.

For some reason, I thought of this song when I read the gospel story today:  Jesus is busy teaching in someone’s house, and a slight commotion distracts him.  Before he knows it, a paralytic is lowered from the roof for him to heal.  The crippled man’s face catches his eye, and he can’t take his eyes off him.  If I were making a film, here is where the song begins to play.

Of course songwriter Damien Rice didn’t have this in mind  at all when he wrote the song.  There’s been a lot of interest in the meaning of this song in the internet because after all, who can guess what the ‘blower’s daughter’ means?  So far I’ve found the best answer in a blog that says it refers to the daughter of Damien’s clarinet teacher (Ah!).

But for our purposes, I think we can depart from the author’s intention.  There’s a principle in literary interpretation that says that after the text is written, “the poet is dead”–i.e., aside from the author’s intended meaning, there is also “text meaning,” which is an equally legitimate interpretation as long as it can be justified by the text.

Here’s my take on the song:  For me, the song may well apply to the Lord since it expresses how he feels about the world and about us.  Think about it:  He becomes human and as the first lines of the song, he tells his Father, “And so it is / just like you said it would be. / Life goes easy on me / most of the time.”

It’s an almost ordinary life he leads, but when he gazes upon his Father’s world–the sky, the oceans, the universe–and especially when he sees us, his Father’s sons and daughters, with all our hopes and dreams mixed with all our fears and pains, he is smitten.  He is helpless. He gets weak in the knees and can’t take his eyes off us.  He pretends to look away, and the song has a great phrase for it:  “The pupil in denial.”  He wants nothing more than to gather us in his arms and take away all our fears and pains and turn them into joy.

So today we ask him, “Can you take your eyes off us?”  And we know the question is rhetorical because the answer is obvious:  He can’t.  His love won’t permit him to.  Even as he hung on the cross, his eyes remained fixed on us.  But then, we have to do our part to let him love us.   Like the paralytic whose friends had to climb a roof just to bring him to the Lord, we too have to find ways of getting to the Lord.  If we do, we can be sure that he will not turn away from us.  He can’t.  His love won’t let him.

Note:  I’ve uploaded the song.  If you’re up to it, take a listen and imagine the Lord singing it–first to God, then to you.  The “blower’s daughter” can refer to God’s creation, most especially ourselves, whom the Lord has been calling on to turn around and return to the Father.  Some people don’t like the way the song ends because it says, “I can’t take my mind off you…`till I find somebody new.”  But it applies to the Lord when you think about it since he has to keep his eye on so many of us.

I’m also posting the lyrics below for your reference.  If you wish, you can watch the music video, too.  It doesn’t hurt too that I think Damien resembles our usual images of Christ.

“The Blowers Daughter”
(from azlyrics.com)

And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes…

And so it is
Just like you said it should be
We’ll both forget the breeze
Most of the time
And so it is
The colder water
The blower’s daughter
The pupil in denial

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes…

Did I say that I loathe you?
Did I say that I want to
Leave it all behind?

I can’t take my mind off of you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off of you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind…
My mind…my mind…
‘Til I find somebody new

(image:  weblogs.newsday.com)

“MUST YOU SPOIL THE PARTY?” (Mt 3:1-12): 09 December 2007 (Second Sunday of Advent)

“MUST YOU SPOIL THE PARTY?” (Mt 3:1-12):  09 December 2007 (Second Sunday of Advent)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120907.shtml

If  a poll were conducted today about saints and biblical characters, my guess is that John the Baptist would get one of the lowest approval ratings.

Let’s face it:  Whenever he shows up in the gospel, as he does today, he’s usually bad news, reminding us of sins that we have committed but would rather forget.  That camel-hair ensemble won’t exactly land him on a “Best Dressed” list either, not to mention his strange eating habits.  In other words, the Baptist just isn’t the kind of person you’d invite to your party because he’s bound to be a party pooper.

So this Second Sunday of Advent, I’d like to turn to him and ask him a couple of questions:  “Must you spoil the party?  Must you talk about fire and brimstone instead of heaven and angels?  Why not be charming instead of resorting to all those scare tactics?”

Actually, he hasn’t always been like this.  The first time we meet him, he’s–of all things!–dancing!  Hearing the sound of Mary’s voice and recognizing the presence of the One, he leaps in his mother’s womb and for all we know, does a mean boogie as the Mother of the Lord sings her Magnificat.   When he is born, his name is all his father Zechariah needs to speak and sing again.  So what happened?  When did he turn into such a party pooper?

Maybe it happened in the desert, that lonely, scary place where God sometimes chooses to meet us–a place as much out there as in ourselves.  There, deep in his own desert, John the Baptist must have once again heard the music that once made him dance, a music so enchanting that he longed so much to share it with the rest of the world.  But soon he must have realized, much to his dismay, that the world couldn’t hear the music because its sins have rendered it–all of us–deaf.  Instead of dancing to God’s song, we’ve ended up listening to noise that we’ve been mistaking for music.  We think we’re having a ball, but we’re only limping to noise.

So you see, if John the Baptist is such a party pooper, I think it’s only because he knows we’re missing out on the real party.  After all, his job is to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths.”  He took his job so seriously, in fact, that he ended up having his head served on a plate at a dance that he till the end refused to join.

So if we want to be ready for the Lord, we’d better check if we’ve been attending the right party or dancing to the wrong music.  Otherwise, why not invite John the Baptist into our life this Advent to listen to what he has to say?  Maybe we will hear a little of the music he heard and–who knows?–one day dance and party with the Baptist.

(image:  details from Caravaggio’s “St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness”)

“ARE YOU NEARER GOD THAN WE?” (Lk 1:26-38): 08 December 2007 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Saturday)

“ARE YOU NEARER GOD THAN WE?” (Lk 1:26-38):  08 December 2007 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Saturday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120807.shtml

“You are not nearer God than we,” the angel declares almost resentfully to Mary in Rilke’s poem “Annunciation: Words of the Angel.”  But no sooner has the angel said these words when he gazes into Mary’s eyes and is stunned by God’s shimmering presence in her.  In fact, so surprised is the angel, according to Rilke, that he nearly forgets the message he has been sent to announce in the first place.

Of course Rilke’s angel has been mistaken:  Mary is nearer God than even the angels.  And that’s what this feast of the Immaculate Conception is all about:  God has willed that Mary receive this unique grace of an immaculate conception–to be, unlike the rest of humanity, conceived without sin–an honor God has reserved only for her. In another poem on the Annunciation, Rilke narrates how a doe chances upon Mary in the forest and beholding her purity, conceives–of all the loveliest things–a unicorn!

And so today we turn to her and ask, “Are you nearer God than we?”

Last April 2006, I took a train from San Sebastian to Lourdes to visit Mary’s famous shrine.  I only had a day, so that meant missing out on the bath and the evening procession, two significant features of a Lourdes pilgrimage.  I prayed in the church and walked over to the grotto, where there was a crowd, from the very young to the very old, many of them on their knees, their fingers racing through the beads of their rosaries.  I saw a queue and instinctively fell in line, and before I knew it, I was led to the grotto.

There was nothing much to see there, but there was so much to touch:  the rocks, its waters, its coolness…  Like the other pilgrims, I let my left hand caress the walls of the grotto as I walked by it.  By the time I reached its end, I was inexplicably and immeasurably reduced to tears.  I could only join the crowd in prayer, on my knees, bewildered by–but also grateful for–the experience.

For me, that brief but unforgettable experience in Lourdes was nothing but a sharing in Mary’s nearness to God, a gift received from her.  Her presence at the grotto was palpable, and even without speaking, the pilgrims recognized in one another’s eyes that we all felt it.

And so today we honor her for being “nearer God than we,” but we also thank her for sharing this nearness with us.  That has been her role, whatever title we use for her:  Intercessor, Mediatrix, Mother.  As the angel in the poem repeatedly says, she is the Tree.

(image: detail from Henry Ottawa Tanner’s Annunciation)

The complete text of Rilke’s poem:

Annunciation:
The Words of the Angel

You are not nearer God than we;
from him we are all distant.
But wonderfully have
your hands been blessed.
They mature so by no other woman,
gleaming from the hem:
I am the day, I am the dew,
but you are the tree…

You are a great, high gate,
and soon you shall open.
You, dearest ear of my song,
I feel now: my word got lost
in you as in the forest.

So I came and fulfilled what to you,
are a thousand and one dreams.
God looked at me; he dazzled …

But you are the tree.

Rainer Maria Rilke

“HOW LONG DO WE WAIT?” (Mt 9:27-37): 07 December 2007 (Memorial of St. Ambrose, Friday)

“HOW LONG DO WE WAIT?” (Mt 9:27-37):  07 December 2007 (Memorial of St. Ambrose, Friday)

Reading: www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120707.shtml

In the gospel story today, Jesus heals two blind men and they happily recover their sight.  But what strikes me most about the reading is that the healing doesn’t happen immediately; it is performed only after Jesus enters a house and the two blind men finally catch up with him.  Before that, we’re told that they follow him around for God knows how long, crying out to him, “Have pity on us!”

How long did they have to do that? I wonder.  How long did they have to wait?

All I can say is:  Been there, done that–haven’t we?  There have been times in our lives when we needed God’s help, and we prayed and begged, hounding him all day and all night with our pleas.  We had to wait.

Recently, I watched a film I didn’t want to watch. It’s called “A Mighty Heart” featuring Angelina Jolie.  I was reluctant to watch it because I knew watching the film would break my heart.  It’s the story of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, and eventually beheaded on video in 2002.  It’s a movie about waiting.  The film focuses on his pregnant wife, Mariane, as she waited and hoped against hope while the authorities tried to track the kidnapers and rescue Daniel.  But one who knows the story watches the film like a Greek tragedy, his heart just waiting to sink because of the inevitable end hanging over his head.

The strange thing about watching the film is that I found myself waiting and hoping with Mariane Pearl even if I already knew even before watching the movie that she–and I–would merely wait and hope in vain.  Daniel would never be found.  He would eventually end up dead and beheaded anyway.  But I waited and hoped still, like some desperate person who had no choice but to wait and hope.  Like Mariane Pearl.

Yes, been there, done that.  How many times have I felt similarly hopeless and desperate?  All those times I have felt that I had no choice but to wait and hope.

And so today I ask the Lord:  “How long do we wait and hope, Lord?”  Given the law of entropy, the world seems headed for inevitable ruin. Yet we wait and hope and pray because we must.  Perhaps one day you will turn around after we follow you crying for your pity. Perhaps one day you will heal our wound and ease our pain for good–and bring all our waiting to an end.

Or will we, like Mariane, simply end up waiting in vain?  But we never really just wait in vain, do we?  Doesn’t the waiting–even if in vain–bring some hidden grace?  Mariane’s waiting must have somehow gathered for her the strength she needed to face Daniel’s death, as well as the courage to raise their child alone after his death.  This Advent, let us pray that we learn to wait and hope, even if our pleas and prayers will not be answered in the exact way we expect or desire.  Sometimes the answer to the prayer is given in our very waiting.

(image:  http://media.canada.com)

“WHAT THEN SHALL WE CALL YOU?” (Mt 7:21, 24-27): 06 December 2007 (Thursday)

“WHAT THEN SHALL WE CALL YOU?”  (Mt 7:21, 24-27):  06 December 2007 (Thursday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120607.shtml

Some years ago, American singer Joan Osborne had a controverial hit song called “One of Us”–a song most recently used as the theme for the TV series “Joan of Arcadia.”  The first lines go:  “If God had a name, what would it be, and would you call it to his face?”

The gospel today warns us against simply calling Jesus “Lord” to his face.  Calling him Lord just isn’t going to be enough to get us to heaven.  So my question is:  If calling him “Lord” isn’t enough, what name does he prefer?  What then shall we call him?

I remember when I was a first-year novice twenty years ago, our novice master repeatedly told us that prayer shouldn’t just be about talking to God, but should involve listening to him.  So I tried doing just that:  I sat in the chapel to pray, listening for God’s voice.  I waited and waited.  Each day I went to a different chapel, prayed in a different position, closed my eyes and knitted my brows in deep concentration, but all I heard was the sound of my breathing and my own distracted wandering thoughts.  I couldn’t sense God’s presence.  I even tried using a mantra–repeating Christ’s name like some magical incantation–but all to no avail.

Not until after several weeks of hard work at it did I finally–by God’s grace– receive some satisfactory prayer experience.  Those first few weeks, however, taught me a valuable lesson not only about prayer, but also about the Lord:  He is truly transcendent.  We can never capture him and conveniently contain him in a box.  As the mystics say, God is “like the wind that blows where it pleases.”  Although he is present everywhere, our sense of his presence, our experience of him, is a gift he gives only when he wills it and only to those he wishes, whether deserving or not.  The most we can do is to wait humbly and patiently.

Today’s reading warns us against being content with simply calling him Lord.  Uttering his name will not automatically summon his presence and will not guarantee our salvation.  But our Lord also shares a secret with us:  If we really want to be close to him, more important than what we say and what we pray is what we do:  to “do the will of the Father”–i.e., to love and serve our neighbor.  In a word, to follow Jesus.

The music video of Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” features a carnival where every sort of odd-looking people stand behind a standee of Michaelangelo’s Creator and stick their faces into the hole where God’s face has been cut out.  I think it tells us that because God has truly become one of us, if we want to find him, we need to seek him in our neighbor.  His name is really not just “Lord.”  His name is also “brother.”

(image:  www.hotmixradio.fr)

Note:  I’ve uploaded the song if you wish to listen to it.  The lyrics are as follows:

ONE OF US (Joan Osborne)
(lyricsondemand.com)

If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question

And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in jesus and the saints and all the prophets

And yeah yeah god is great yeah yeah god is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
He’s trying to make his way home
Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in rome

And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
Just trying to make his way home
Like a holy rolling stone
Back up to heaven all alone
Just trying to make his way home
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the Pope maybe in Rome

“WHY NOT ALWAYS?” (Mt 15:29-37): 05 December 2007 (Wednesday)

“WHY NOT ALWAYS?”  (Mt 15:29-37): 05 December 2007 (Wednesday)

Reading: www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120507.shtml

That’s a lot of miracles Jesus performed in today’s gospel reading:  healing of the sick and feeding of the hungry–all in a day’s work!  I don’t know about you, but when I read something like that and I watch CNN or BBC or scan the morning papers and learn about all the suffering and hungry people in our world today, I can’t help but turn to the Lord and ask: “These miracles that you can do–why not perform them habitually?  Why only occasionally?  Why not always?”

God knows–and he literally does!–how much our world desperately needs miracles!  Despite modern technology, we still have millions of people suffering and dying of incurable illnesses.  And despite the abundance of food in certain places in the world, millions of children still die each day from hunger.

When I read about these miracles of healing and multiplication of loaves and fish, I can’t help but wonder why the Lord doesn’t perform more of them today.  Why indeed do his miracles have to be the exception rather than the rule?

There must be a good reason why God insists that we follow the laws of nature, and why he allows the pain and death that seem to be inevitable consequences of these laws.  The philosophers and theologians can come up with their intellectual discourses, but when I see the the devastated bodies  of the sick and the emaciated faces of starving children, I just don’t get it!  I know God is all-good and all-powerful, so what gives?

When I was a kid, I was told that when Job, that innocent man of the Old Testament, was stricken with unimaginable suffering, he piously intoned, “The Lord has given, and he has taken away!”  But later I found out that he said that only in the beginning.  For the rest of the book (in fact, most of it!), Job complained and demanded an explanation from God for his inexplicable suffering.  Unfortunately, God didn’t give him any explanation–and to this day, as far as I know, God hasn’t to anyone.

But what the Lord does is give us some kind of prescription–one that I suppose he thinks we can follow even without understanding.  We find this prescription in the feeding of the crowd.  The disciples ask him, “Where do we get the food to feed this crowd?”  And the Lord responds with a question, “What do you have?”  And the Lord takes what the disciples have–seven loaves, we’re told, and a few fish–and uses them to miraculously feed everybody.

In response to our questions and complaints about the sufferings and hunger of the world, the Lord invites us to share whatever we have, and to believe that he will use what we have–no matter how little, no matter how limited–to perform his much longed-for miracles.

So I guess the question we can ask ourselves today is:  Can we share the little that we have to heal and feed the world?  And if we can, his question to us will probably be the same question we had for him:  Why not do it habitually?  Why not always?

(image:  www.public.iastate.edu)

“DID YOU KNOW?” (Lk 10:22): 04 December 2007 (Tuesday)

“DID YOU KNOW?” (Lk 10:22): 04 December 2007 (Tuesday)

Reading: www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120407.shtml

The way our Lord spoke in the Gospel today certainly sounded like he knew what he was talking about.  He sounded so certain about who he was and what his relationship to the Father was–i.e., the Messiah, the Son of the Most High, and the only, almost exclusive, Way to the Father.  Those of us who prefer a superhuman Christ should be consoled by that.

However, most biblical scholars today would say that these words were probably added by his disciples only after the Resurrection, when they were more certain about the meaning of Christ’s person and life.  So the question I’d like to ask the Lord is:  “Did you know? Did you know for sure that you were the Messiah, the Divine Son of God?”

In one of the most moving and most meaningful Theology classes I had years ago, our professor, Fr. C. G. Arevalo, extended an invitation to us to speculate,  to imagine what Christ might have thought and felt as a human person. After all, the Church staunchly  teaches that Christ is both totally divine and totally human.  That’s also what the Bible says:  that he was like us in all things except sin.

If Christ, therefore, was totally human, it would not have been possible for him to know for sure who he was every moment of his life.  Ambiguity is part and parcel of being human, so if our Lord was truly totally human, then he couldn’t have been 100% sure about who he was and who God was for him!

As a result of that class, I wrote a song called “Something More,” which was about Christ asking if he was indeed “the One” people were looking for.  In other words, maybe the Lord didn’t know for sure.  At best he had a hunch, but he did not completely understand.  St. Paul had a term for Christ’s condition in his letter to the Philippians:  kenosis, meaning “self-emptying.”  In Christ, God emptied himself, his divinity, to become human.  I suppose the ‘self-emptying’ included divine omniscience.   When God emptied himself in Christ, the divine was hidden not only from people, but even from Christ himself!  That’s how human he must have been!

Some people might suspect that this Christ with all our human limitations might be a reduction of his divinity.  But that’s true only if you think you become less divine if you are more human, and that’s exactly what Christianity is not about.  Christianity teaches us through the Incarnation that there is no opposition between being divine and being human.

I don’t know about you, but this less-than-superhuman Christ, this less-than-certain Christ who probably struggled and lost sleep about who he was, who knew but also like us, did not know for sure if he was following God’s Will–such a Christ is more real and more appealing to me.  Such a Christ understands me more–my own questions, my own struggles, even my own doubts.  One of the most consoling things about the Christian faith is that it offers not a God who is distant and who, because of his perfection, does not and can never understand our imperfections.  Instead it offers us a somewhat subversive face of a God who is intimately linked to us and who remains perfect and divine but because of the human imperfection he willingly embraced, can and does understand our imperfections as well.

I don’t know about you, but such a God, such a Christ, inspires more love and more gratitude in me.  How wonderful that we have such a God!

(image: www.oel-bild.de/Bilder)

“WILL THEY SUSPEND THEIR DISBELIEF?” (Mt 8:5-11): 03 December 2007 (Monday – Feast of Francis Xavier)

“WILL THEY SUSPEND THEIR DISBELIEF?” (Mt 8:5-11):  03 December 2007 (Monday – Feast of Francis Xavier)

Reading: www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120307.shtml

There is a story about St. Francis Xavier that even the most pious among us may find hard to believe.  It involves–of all things–a crab!  The story goes this way:  In 1546, Francis Xavier’s boat was caught in a storm in the Moluccas.  During the voyage, he accidentally dropped his crucifix into the turbulent waters and gave it up for lost. The next day, however, as he was walking by the sea, a crab miraculously brought his crucifix back to him.

Did the event actually happen?  If we believe in miracles, if we hold that “nothing is impossible with God,” of course we have to concede that such a miracle is at least possible. But given the laws of nature and the usual way the world operates, we also have to quickly add that it’s probably unlikely that a particularly helpful and honest crab happened to be swimming around in the stormy sea and conveniently found the lost crucifix, grabbing it by its claw and delivering it personally back to the saint.

But what’s so remarkable about this story is not so much that it happened (because really, who knows if it did?), but that so many people actually believed it.  In fact, the crab story was depicted on the altar at  Xavier’s canonization rites and was one of the four miracles represented on the banner that decorated the basilica for the occasion.  This, for me, is the real miracle–that the people who knew Francis Xavier believed so much in his holiness that they were willing to believe such an incredible legend.  The crab story is proof of Xavier’s holiness not so much because of the alleged miracle, but because of people’s utter willingness to suspend their disbelief about this most unlikely of stories.  My hunch is that they must have seen in Xavier enough of God to believe that normal animal behavior would miraculously alter to serve the saint.

It seems to me then that the holier a person is, the more eager people will be to suspend their disbelief and accept even the fantastic and impossible.  This is how the centurion was with Jesus in the gospel story.  But the opposite is also true:  The less reputation for holiness a person has, the less easily convinced people will be about one’s ability to perform extraordinary miracles–or come to think of it, even simply in that person’s ordinary capacity to do good.

So let’s ask ourselves this question:  “If people hear that I did something good, will they believe me?  Will they be willing to suspend their disbelief?”

One unforgettable evening over twenty years ago, I invited a small group of high school friends to dinner.  After the meal, I broke the news: I had made the important decision to quit my job to enter the priesthood.  The stunned silence that followed my announcement was eventually broken by one of my best friends, who could not hide his disbelief. “That’s impossible!’ he said with his characteristic candor and lack of tact.  “You’ve got all the wrong values!”

So much for suspension of disbelief!  Of course we all had a good laugh over that, but I realized that given his reaction, I might as well have told him the crab story!

Today we remember St. Francis Xavier, a holy man and one of the greatest missionaries in history.  May he inspire us to keep working at being holy or even at simply doing good.  And not because we want our friends to believe some crab story about us in the future, but because we hope that like those who knew St. Francis Xavier, people will also catch a glimpse of God in us.

(image:  Jgotinga)

“DARE WE HOPE?” (Mt 24:37-44): 02 December 2007 (First Sunday of Advent)

“DARE WE HOPE?” (Mt 24:37-44):  02 December 2007 (First Sunday of Advent)

Reading: www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120207.shtml

I watched the movie “Evan Almighty” recently.  As many of us know, it’s about a newly elected congressman, Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell), who is all set to start his term when strange things begin to happen–e.g., the number “614” appears everywhere and all sorts of animals follow him around.  “614” turns out to be Genesis 6:14, where God commands Noah to build an ark.  And soon enough, God himself (Morgan Freeman) appears to Evan and, to the novice congressman’s dismay, gives him almost the exact same instruction. Despite his initial reluctance, like every good prophet, Evan finally concedes and actually becomes passionate about his cause.

I wasn’t surprised when the movie made me laugh, but I certainly was surprised when it made me cry!  “Evan Almighty” is a moving “feel-good” film that also offers a couple of lessons that we can use as we begin this season of Advent.

Lesson #1:  According to the film, God doesn’t “give” things; he only provides opportunities for us to get things.  It’s a timely lesson for Advent, this season of waiting.  I’ve always found it strange to be told to wait for Christ’s coming when he already did over 2000 years ago!  But Morgan Freeman’s God is right:  It isn’t exactly the case that the gift of Christ has been given, but that the opportunities to unwrap this gift are always available.

Lesson #2:  The movie offers a somewhat cheesy but profound acronym of “ark”:  Acts of Random Kindness.  One way to change the world, the movie suggests, is through such “acts of random kindness.”  If we make it a habit to perform such acts, then the “day of the Lord” that the Gospel today warns us about will perhaps catch us by surprise, but certainly not unprepared.

That’s a couple of things we can keep in mind and do as we enter into the Advent season:  Look out for opportunities to find Christ in our lives and opportunities to perform acts of random kindness in the world.  If we find and avail of these opportunities, before we know it, we will have received the gift of Christ and with him–dare we hope?–the gift of a changed world.

(image: en.epochtimes.com/news)