friend’s job requires a lot of flying. Like a lot of us who fly
frequently he has a routine. He boards a flight, takes his seat,
usually in business class, fastens his seatbelt, accepts coffee from
the flight attendant, reads the financial news and thumbs through
reports. He has flown so often he pays little attention to the
flight attendant’s safety instructions: where the emergency doors
are, floor lighting to the exits, fastened seatbelts etc. He told
me, "I could give those instructions by heart. So, I ignore the
them, sip my coffee, read my reports, and jot notes about the
Recently, on a flight to Cleveland, as the plane began to
descend, the pilot came on and said, "We may have a problem." Above
the sounds of the engine and the concerned chatter of his fellow
passengers, he heard phrases like this, "Not sure if the landing
gear is coming down... Need to circle... May have to expel fuel...
Pay attention to the flight attendant’s instructions...." He said,
"Everyone put down their newspapers, closed their computers, stopped
sipping coffee and were all ears. We listened to the instructions
about the emergency exits, life jackets, floor lighting etc. I knew
that if we crashed following those instructions could mean the
difference between life and death."
Perhaps situations might not be as dramatic still, what my friend
said is true in many aspects of life. Words spoken to us at just the
right time can make a significant difference for us.
Well-intentioned words from someone we respect can stop us from
continuing on a wrong or aimless path. They can instigate and guide
us to make changes that result in a meaningful, more better-directed
The disciples went with Jesus to an out-of-the-way place, a
mountaintop. In many ancient, or primitive religions, mountain tops
were thought to be the dwelling places of the gods, where sacred
encounters might happen. Even now, among modern people, mountains
are good places to go apart from the hustle and bustle of daily
life. They can make good listening places at times when we need to
reflect, or make an important decision. From a mountain you can see
a long distance; so it is a conducive place for insight and
perspective. In the kind of world most of us live we need an
opportunity to reflect on the long view, so we can see and get
perspective on our lives. When we choose to go on a retreat, a walk
in the woods, speak to a counselor, not turn on the radio in our
car, etc. it is as if they are responding to the invitation Jesus
gave to his disciples, to come apart for a while. We are choosing to
do what the disciples heard from the cloud, "Listen to him."
On that mountain the disciples got more than they expected. They
had a momentary glimpse into how special Jesus was. They heard a
voice, a Big Voice, that guided them, "This is my beloved Son, with
whom I am well pleased; listen to him." Jesus asked them not to tell
anyone about the vision, "Until the Son of Man has been raised from
the dead." That sounded like the future was going to be bleak for
them, because Jesus was talking about his death. That was not
something they were prepared to hear. It was obvious they still had
much more to learn about following Jesus.
Just prior to today’ passage Jesus predicted the suffering and
death that awaited him in Jerusalem. Peter tried to dissuade him and
Jesus rebuked him and told him and the others that if they wished to
be his disciples, they must take up their cross and follow him.
Perhaps that was something else that struck fear in the hearts of
the disciples on the mountain: not just the awesome presence and
call of the Holy One, but what might be asked of them if they
continued to follow the Lord. Which might give us all a pause to
ask, "What cross am I being asked to take up, or continue to carry,
in the name of Jesus?"
We may not have such a spectacular revelation as those disciples,
but like them, we have come apart today to this place of worship – a
good listening place. Here we hear again the voice that directs us,
"Listen to him." In the scriptures proclaimed to us we pay close
attention, not only to his words, but his actions as well, for they
reveal Jesus’ heart to us. They tell us about God’s forgiveness,
compassion and unfaltering love for us. As we listen closely we hear
Jesus tell us to do for others what he is about to do for us: pick
up our cross of service and follow him.
The voice we hear on this mountain today is on our side. It
speaks for our well-being and happiness. It directs us to listen to
Jesus, for there are many competing voices that might lure us to
another way of living than the one Jesus has called us to.
Worshiping together gives us an opportunity to have our hearing
checked; a time to unplug our ears and try listening anew. We also
want to foster a daily habit listening by asking, "What is Jesus
saying to me in the people and events of this day?" Then, we listen
and do our best to discern his response.
In the light of what Jesus has said to us we ask: Is what I call
a "successful life" really that? Whose standards am I measuring by?
Are my "blessings" really from God’s hands, or just through my own
hard work, without much thought to Christ? Is what I call
"happiness" truly deep and secure, or is it based on something very
transitory and fragile at its roots, easily lost, or ripped out of
Listening to Jesus’ words, I need to reevaluate my priorities and
direction. What I would call a "failure," might result in something
entirely new and unexpected in my life and yield the deepest joy for
me. What has been a death of a dream, might really have been about
my own ambition and may be the opening of a door to a whole other
perspective on life.
As we gather today we check our hearing, like the man in the
plane, listening for instructions that are life-giving. We need to
pay attention to the details of our daily lives. After all, who
wants to wake up someday at a place, or stage in life and say, "How
did I get here?" Or, in the language of air travel, I don’t want to
come to the realization that I have been flying like a jet on
automatic pilot, going in the wrong direction. Nor do I want to say,
at some stage in my life, the words of Peggy Lee’s old song, "Is
that all there is?"
The disciples on the mountaintop had a graced experience and now
so do we. As he promised, Jesus has risen from the dead and we are a
resurrection people, gifted with his Spirit. It is that Spirit that
enables us to listen and act on Jesus’ words as we strive to follow
the voice spoken on the mountain top, "This is my beloved Son with
whom I am well pleased; listen to him."
here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
|Make no mistake.
If Jesus did not really come back to life, forget it! We
might as well go home, turn on the movie channel, revel
in violence or sex or whatever turns us on . But let us
not waste our time on a Christ who simple lives in our
memories, simply in our hearts, simply in a picture
frame or on a cross, that Christ deserves to stay dead.
No, our Christ is alive. Alive now. More alive than you
or I have ever been. Alive in the Godhead and in the
humanity God’s unique Son borrowed from us forever.
Alive for us, for each human image of God, alive for
what the first letter of Paul calls a "new birth."
Walter J. Burghardt, S. J.
darkness surround the Lord
August is Nuclear-Free Future Month and today is the anniversary
of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. In 1943, two years before, Pope
Pius XII urged that such weapons never be developed "because
otherwise the consequence could be catastrophic not only in itself
but for the whole planet." After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki
bombings, Pius called the nuclear bomb "the most terrible weapon
that the human mind has ever conceived." Fast forward to Miami,
Florida, in the 1950’s, when, as students, we practiced hiding under
our desks and memorizing evacuation routes in the event of a nuclear
event. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the terror came very
close and I remember praying that God would protect me and my
family. It is now 2017 and once again the threat of nuclear disaster
rears its ugly head. What kind of world do we want?
In a letter to Elayne Whyte Gómez (3/27/17), President of the
United Nations conference to prohibit nuclear weapons leading toward
their elimination, Pope Francis writes that we must consider "the
catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences" that would
follow from any use of nuclear weapons. He also queries that we need
"to ask ourselves how sustainable is a stability based on fear, when
it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust
between peoples" and that "international peace and stability cannot
be based on a false sense of security, on the threat destruction or
total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power."
Pope Francis then goes on to envision a different kind of world,
"built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for
fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the
participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on
the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and
health, on dialogue and solidarity." Everything he proposes is
within parameters that require our participation. This is the kind
of world that I would be happy to help build for future generations.
Want to help build this better world? Join Campaign Nonviolence
NC. Learn more at the national website:
follow our local group on Facebook by "liking" us at Campaign
Nonviolence NC, and join us by leaving me a message at (919)
865-8966. If not now, when?
To read the entire letter, go to:
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries, Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
...from the cloud came a voice that said,
is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
Listen to him.’
We must do our best to listen to Jesus, not only to his words,
but his actions as well, for both reveal Jesus’ heart. They tell us
about God’s forgiveness, compassion and unfaltering love for us. As
we listen closely we also hear Jesus tell us that what has been done
for us, we must do for others.
So we ask ourselves:
- What efforts do I make to listen to Jesus?
- What am I hearing these days and how do I plan to respond?
DEATH ROW INMATES
"The use of the death penalty cannot really be
mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Tilmon Golphin #0590940 (On death row since 5/13/98)
- Johnny Hyde #0542024 (7/23/98)
- Patrick Steen #0388640 (8/28/98)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
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