Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Babies in the womb feel pain

Route 80 West, Hackensack New Jersey USA

As I was driving west on Route 80, on the way home from my office in New York, I spotted this billboard sign. It says "Babies in the womb feel pain." It is rare to see these pro-life signs on major US highways. I have to say - I felt so proud of the New Jersey Right to Life folks that put up this sign.May God bless them and their efforts to stop the scourge of abortion, in our land, and the world.

Babies in the Womb Feel Pain: Please Support A3452/S2606, the NJ Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Good Shepherd Sunday 2016


I recently watched a film on PBS titled “Animal Reunions.  What happens when people are reunited with the wild animals with which they forged deep bonds years ago?  Dr. Rebecca Atencia is chief veterinarian and executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute in Congo, where she cares for sick and orphaned chimpanzees. 


For nine years Dr. Atencia raised an orphaned chimpanzee named Kudia, with whom she formed a maternal bond.  Kudia was raised with the intent of returning her to the wild. After nine years, Kudia was released. After a two year wait; Dr. Atencia went back to the same forest where Kudia was released. Stepping off the boat she walks into the forest and calls out “Kudia, Kudia. At first there was silence. Then, after a few minutes there is a rustle in the high trees – and there coming down the tree is Kudia. The chimp hears the voice she recognizes, it is the one who nurtured her, who loved her all those years. She slowly moves towards Dr. Atenica – she places an arm on the doctor’s shoulder – then backs away – then, comes back and embraces her, quite a moving moment. The chimps under Dr. Atencia’s care hear her voice – just like the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd.


Today is “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The focus of the Gospel reading is on Jesus - as our Good Shepherd. In the Old Testament - God appears as the shepherd of Israel. We have all familiar with the verse in David’s Psalm 23, the Lord is my Shepherd. It is a declaration of what it means to be God’s child – the sheep belonging to the shepherd. This theme of God as shepherd is even more developed in the book of Ezekiel, who proclaims the promise that God himself will seek out his sheep and care for them. Jesus uses the same image of the shepherd to explain his mission. For it is Him who protects, gathers and lays down his life.

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” What is it about a voice?  Books are wonderful to read - but how wonderful it is to hear someone tell their story with their voice? I can remember so well - when I was a child - my father would take a chair and sit next to my bed - and tell me stories of rocket ships and space. I can still hear his voice. Steven Spielberg gave Holocaust Survivors a chance to tell their story – not in a book - but by a recorded voice. Their inflections tell a story that the printed word never could. Even before we are born, we are listening for voices. Research shows that a child in the womb shows a discernible preference for a mother's voice. 


Christianity is not a bunch of ideas; it is not a philosophy, though we do use philosophy to help explain the underlying truths of our faith. It is not ideology, and certainly not a club that meets once a week. Christianity is a “relationship” with a “someone” – someone who has a voice.  The first disciples who Jesus speaks to today – how privileged they were to hear the voice of Jesus. How privileged “we” are, for we too are the sheep of the fold who hear Jesus’ voice.

You may ask, how do WE hear Jesus’ voice? first and foremost, in scripture. When the scriptures are proclaimed at Mass - we hear his voice. We hear Jesus’ voice through the living voice of the Church, the magisterium, the Pope with his bishops who interpret and safeguard of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
 


We hear the voice of Jesus through our conscience. John Henry Cardinal Newman said the conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ in the soul. A formed conscience, formed by the teachings of Christ and his Church, becomes finely attuned to all that is true, good, and beautiful. It is our sense of morality – it is not an instinct; it is a voice – as though someone were speaking to us in it. 

I will share some examples of “conscience.” – If I am going to the store, and I make a mistake and drive down the wrong road, I’m not happy about it – but I don’t feel that I offended anyone. If my wife sends me to the store and I forget to buy milk, I may have disappointed – but I did not offend. But if I commit immoral sin – against myself – or another person, If I break the commandments, I know I did something wrong. When we do something morally wrong, we feel – we know - that we hurt someone – someone who loves us. That someone is the shepherd.

We also hear Jesus’ voice in the good counsel of others – in those who encourage us – who guide us - our family - our friends – our priests.


We live today in the midst of many voices, media – music – internet – politicians - all different points of view – trying to lead us in many different directions – the good road, the bad road. So, who do we follow? We must gain the capacity to discern the voice of Christ our shepherd. 

First and foremost, God never says anything that contradicts Scripture. God's voice is not the voice of anxiety, for unbelief is the Root of Anxiety; He is not the voice of unsettledness, a wavering or uncertainty, or spiritual fatigue. God's voice is not the voice of obscurity or gossip. God's voice is not the voice of condemnation. 

Jesus says “I give them eternal life, they shall never perish.”

Why do we listen to Jesus, and discern HIS voice and follow him?  Is it just to make us better people? Make us more upright? To be more just - more peaceful? All these things will happen when we follow Jesus, but we can become these things by listening to many teachers - the Dalai Lama, Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Deepak Chopra.

Why do we follow Jesus? It is only Jesus that can lead us to eternal life – to a renewed - and transformed life - on high with God – where we will never perish – where we will see God face to face. Where we will stand before God’s throne - and worship him day and night in his temple.


This is where the Jesus the good Shepherd is leading us, on a journey to the heavenly Jerusalem.

I am the good shepherd; I know my own, and my own know me 

Let us rejoice that the Lord has made us members of his flock - and knows each of us by name! Let us follow him with joy - and let him guide us in all our ways.
Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Wedding at Cana


Today we hear the beautiful story of Jesus attending a wedding at Cana. Now, when we hear these beautiful scripture stories, we should keep in mind - that every word of scripture - every theme of scripture - has meaning. Jesus coming to earth as a human being speaks of the profound dignity of the human person. Jesus, choosing a wedding feast to display his first sign or miracle, speaks of the great significance of marriage.  

The institution of Marriage pre-dates recorded history, and has been, through time, become a symbol of the mystical union between God and his people. We can see clearly this “union” described in today’s first reading from the Old Testament in the words from the prophet Isaiah. After years of suffering, Israel returns from exile in Babylon – finally coming home to Jerusalem. Israel’s shame is removed. “For the Lord delights in you, and make your land his “spouse.” As a young man marries a virgin, your builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”


Who is this Builder? Who is this Bridegroom? God.  It is God who wishes to have a “marriage” relationship with His people Israel – and He will consummate the relationship by filling the people with His own “Divine” Life.   Jesus is the very embodiment of the God of Israel – speaking and acting in the very person of God. He is the wedding of heaven and earth. 


The gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke are known as the “synoptic gospels”, as they are similar. John’s gospel is different. John was a mystic, and his gospel is full of symbolism, so there is always something much deeper going on than what we find on the surface. 


In our story, Mary is the first to speak. “They have no more wine.” Now weddings in Jesus time would go on for two days. To run out of wine would be a social disaster. Mary asks Jesus to do something very practical, again, this is just on the surface. So we go deeper.


This “running out of wine” is a metaphor for Israel, who is lost in its sin. It is also a metaphor for us; for we are lost in our sin. Today, the dignity of the human person, rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God, seems to be lost. Just look at the attacks upon the human person - abortion, euthanasia, homelessness. Like the feast in Cana, what was festive and full of life - has now become dry and lifeless. Mary shows her great sensitivity to an embarrassing situation. She tells the stewards, “Do whatever He tells you.” 

St. John Paul II said that “Mary's request: “It is an exhortation to trust without hesitation, especially when one does not understand the meaning or benefit of what Christ asks.” This speaks volumes concerning the teachings of our church.Many teachings we don't understand - don't agree with. Still - following our great witnesses of obedience - Jesus and his mother - we believe the Church speaks for Christ - so we listen - we believe.

Mary’s words,Do whatever He tells you",  address what Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel, and all the prophets that came before had addressed, that the “The Divine life has run out.” Mary is now Israel - saying to the Creator, “When will you restore the Divine Life.”?

Jesus hesitates, saying, Woman, how does your concern affect me? Is Jesus being curt, disrespectful? No. He is addressing her with the title of "Eve". 


The term “Woman” is the New Eve, recreated in baptism - in the beauty of radiant grace. She is brought by Christ to her husband, as Eve was to Adam, She is no longer for man the temptress and accomplice in sin. Instead she is given to him as grace and as companion in holiness.


Jesus’ reply to his mother signals a major change in their relationship. His public ministry has begun, and earthly relationships will not determine His actions. Mary will now relate to Him no longer as her son, but as her Messiah, the Son of God, and her Savior. 


Jesus tells the servers to fill the stone jars with water, to the brim. The jars were used for Jewish ritual – they held the water that was used to purify the feet after travel, and the hands before eating – the jars of water represent the ritual and religious life of ancient Israel – the temple, the law, and the prophets. The jars of water were important, and good, but they represent the past, they are not “WINE.” 

Jesus quietly transforms or elevates that “water” into WINE – 360 gallons of wine, the wine of Divine Life. He transforms Jewish ritual into the Sacraments of the Church, reminding us of the bread and wine that will be changed today on the altar, into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.


Christ changes everything. The worthless water becomes wine, exuberant, abundant, and unsurpassed. Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, has come: and the hearts of Christians are full of joy at the sight of Him and that joy no one shall take from them. (John 16:22).


The miracle of Cana was Jesus' first manifestation of His glory – it was worked at the request, or we could say, prayer of Mary. No one knows better than Mary - the difficulties - and the needs of married people. At Cana she became our great intercessor. It is Mary who points out to Jesus, our difficulties - and our needs. "Son, your children have no wine"... they have no home, no work, no money, no health, no courage, no hope... 

Through Mary's prayers, Our Lord will let his glory be seen - and his disciples, you and I, will come to believe in Him.


O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.  Amen

Deacon Brian Murphy

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Solemnity of Mary



The Solemnity of Mary 

“Your name, O Mother of God, is filled with every divine grace and blessing. You carried in your womb Him whom the heavens could not contain. You nourished Him who feeds the whole world. The Lord of the universe willed to have need of you, for you gave Him the flesh which He did not have before. Rejoice, O Mother and Handmaid of God! Rejoice! You have for debtor Him who gives existence to all creatures; we are all debtors to God, but God is debtor to you!

“O most holy Virgin, you have more goodness and charity than all the other saints and you have greater access to the throne of God than they, because you are His Mother. I, then, who am celebrating your glories and praising your immense goodness, beg you to be mindful of me and my miseries” (St. Methodius).

Happy New Year!  Hope it’s a good one.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

St. Stephen's Day



 Psalm 119:169-176
XXII (Tau)

Lord, let my cry come before you:
teach me by your word.
Let my pleading come before you:
save me by your promise.

Let my lips proclaim your praise
because you teach me your statutes.
Let my tongue sing your promise
for your commands are just.

Let your hand be ready to help me,
since I have chosen your precepts.
Lord, I long for your saving help
and your law is my delight.

Give life to my soul that I may praise you.
Let your decrees give me help.
I am lost like a sheep; seek your servant
for I remember your commands. 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: — as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.


Image: Chapel - Newark Abbey, Newark NJ

Monday, November 30, 2015

"How Long We Wait" by Thomas Merton
















HOW LONG WE WAIT

How long we wait, with minds as quiet as time,
Like sentries on a tower.
How long we watch, by night, like the astronomers.

Heaven, when will we hear you sing,
Arising from our grassy hills,
And say: “The dark is done, and Day
Laughs like a Bridegroom in His tent, the lovely sun,
His tent the sun, His tent the smiling sky!”

How long we wait with minds as dim as ponds
While stars swim slowly homeward in the water of our west!
Heaven, when will we hear you sing?

How long we listened to the silence of our vineyards
And heard no bird stir in the rising barley.
The stars go home behind the shaggy trees.
Our minds are as grey as rivers.

O earth, when will you wake in the green wheat,
And all our Trappist cedars sing:
“Bright land, lift up your leafy gates!
You abbey steeple, sing with bells!
For look, our Sun rejoices like  a dancer
On the rim of our hills.”

In the blue west the moon is uttered like the word:

“Farewell.”


** Photo: Fields, Holy Trinity Monastery - Petersham, Mass. © Brian Murphy