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Living Word

  • Holy Thursday - A Day of Contrasts!

    Apr 17, 2014

    By: Sr. Jean Marie Cleveland, O.S.F.

    Holy Thursday – a day of contrasts! It marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the Triduum. From the evening liturgy of Holy Thursday until evening vespers of Easter Sunday, we celebrate the day Jesus gave us His Body to eat and His Blood to drink, His betrayal and capture, His death and burial, and finally His resurrection.

    Jesus and His friends gather to eat the Paschal meal. He washes their feet giving them an example of service as he recognizes the dignity of each person. He gives us a great gift in the Eucharist. Imagine a meal you have shared with your friends. Remember the fun you had, the laughs you shared. Then think how you would feel if you knew one of your friends would betray you through gossip, rejection, breaking the trust you share.

    Jesus’ evening went from one of community and joy to one of rejection. He gave Himself to His apostles and one of them gave Him to the authorities. Have you felt rejection? How much did it hurt? How did you react?

    Jesus went to the Garden to pray. He took some of His disciples with Him. He prayed and agonized over what was to come. They slept! He went from a supper with friends to a time of suffering alone!

    Finally one of His trusted disciples betrayed Him with a kiss. Peter denied him. They all fled! Left alone, He faced His accusers the next morning.

    Let these Holy Days be days in which we remember the love Jesus has for each of us. As we reflect on His suffering, and our own trials, let us ask Him to give us the courage to continue looking for Him in all the people and events of our lives. Let us find Him in the Eucharist and thank Him for coming to earth to show us how to live.


  • Living Word: "I will love them freely."

    Apr 03, 2014

    By: John Shelton, Campus Minister

    "I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
    I will love them freely;
    for my wrath is turned away from them."
    From HOS 14:1-10

    As I lectored at Friday’s Mass at Marian University, in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel, the words from the prophet Hosea jumped off the pages and went straight to my heart:

    I have spent a lot of time on the road this March as the head men's golf coach at Marian University, traveling from Texas to Florida to Nevada, all in the span of three weeks. The team competed well. While I do not feel that I have defected from God, I am tired. I have missed my wife Alice, my 85 year old mother (who just moved into our home two months ago), my St. Elizabeth Seton church family, and my work family in the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine.  While I have prayed daily, I have been able to attend mass only once before today. I felt “malnourished,” hungering for the Lord at his table. My dear wife Alice has borne the brunt of care for my mother. This was made especially difficult after one of mom’s physician teams diagnosed her with a “severe status” in her battle with Alzheimer’s- this week. I love these two women deeply and especially appreciate Alice’s sacrificial gift of care for my mother. Their time together, with only my prayerful, non-present support, has weighed heavily on my heart and mind.

    I needed to hear God’s words—“I will love them (me) freely”. This love was there, in spite of Israel’s constant wandering and apostasy. And, he is always ready for our (my) return to him. This underscores that God’s love was (and is) unmerited, without condition, constant, overflowing, just like the fountain that overflows 24/7 during the summer months in the centers of our campus. And even more encouraging to me is the fact that this gospel message in located smack dab in the middle of the Old Testament.  God’s love is beyond time, yet eternal in our temporal world. For me, the New Testament equivalent verse is in Hebrews 13:8. In the midst of the author’s exhortation to “let mutual love continue”, he states that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”. I will meditate on this truth as the days before Holy Week wind down—where His love for us is most visible.

    I look forward to going home tonight and listening to my mother play her piano with all the vim and vigor of an 18 year old. Our God is Good, always.

  • Living Word: Rejoicing during Lent!

    Apr 03, 2014
    By Joe Gehret In the tradition of the Catholic Church, the Fourth Sunday in Lent is Laetare Sunday, a day which marks the half-way point of the Lenten season. Laetare Sunday, like its Adventian counterpart Gaudete Sunday, seems to stand in contrast to the seasons they find themselves in. Both Laetare and Gaudete are Latin words which mean the same thing: “Rejoice.” This is rather peculiar when you place it in context. Lent and Advent are periods of fasting, penance, and preparation; they are not seasons known for their emphasis on the more cheerful side of faith, but rather they are periods of solemnity, of conversion and penance. And yet, here we are, on Laetare Sunday, and the word of the day is “Rejoice”. Why? Is it because we’re halfway done with our Lenten penance? Or is it because we can pause our fasting for the day and indulge? No, not really. Our rejoicing comes from something much deeper. We rejoice in the midst of Lent because of one simple irony: Hope. You see, Lent exists, if for no other reason, than to bring us into the Paschal Mystery, and by doing so, discovering one simple, painful truth: We need God. We don’t do Lent, with all of its communal and personal fasting and penance, because God has schadenfreude and likes it when we’re inconvenienced. God wants for nothing, he has no need or desire for our fasting and penance. From the perspective of the divine, God is only concerned with our Lent because Lent is genuinely good for us. We fast and repent because we are removing from ourselves things that distract us or content us beyond the realization that we truly need God. Let’s put it in the context of the Gospel from Mass. Jesus approaches the blind man, and instantly, the bystanders assume that his blindness is punishment; that he suffers to appease God. How very similar to how many of us see Lent; we see this Lenten journey as God’s desire for our suffering; we think that He has some vested interest in our penances. Pay attention to the answer of Christ: the man is blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Do not lose the irony of that statement. His blindness gives visibility to the works of God. His lack of vision brings vision. Such is how Lent works. Lent exists because it makes the works of God more visible in us and through us. The things we give up, both as a community and as individuals, remind us that we need God more than we need anything else. Lent takes us and places us in the realization of our need for God’s grace. It makes visible to us our need for God. So why do we rejoice in our hope? Why Laetare Sunday? Why are we rejoicing in our time of need? Lent makes us aware of our dependency and vulnerability, and such states are typically not cause for hope and rejoicing. As it turns out, hope is a funny thing. Resist the attempt to domesticate hope, because, at least in the Christian sense, hope is incredible. The apologist G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Hope means hoping in what seems hopeless,” and just as a lamp is really only meaningful in dark situations, hope is only meaningful where all seems hopeless. Lent, in so much as it makes us realize how empty-handed and dependent we really are, can seem hopeless. As such, it is the perfect opportunity to hope. As we are made aware that we are not in control and we cannot save ourselves and we are utterly dependent upon the mercy of God, Laetare Sunday says “Rejoice!” because in the midst of our need, we have hope in the God who will provide for us. In the middle of Lent’s desert, God sends his angels to bring us the Bread of Life. As we climb the mountain of Lenten penance, God reveals the saving Glory of his Son. As we come thirsty to the well of Lenten prayer, God gives us Life-giving water to drink. As we beg for God’s grace in our blindness and vulnerability, Christ opens our eyes to see Him and believe in Him. Our Laetare rejoicing is beautiful and odd, because Lent has shown us our empty hands, and raise them up rejoicing. Hope drives us to rejoice for that which we have yet to receive; It compels us to praise God for blessings which have not yet been revealed. If Lent is hard on you, and you find yourself uncomfortable and unsettled, I urge you to really take the chance to rejoice, because the season of Lent proclaims a God who saves. If you are finding this Lent easy, I urge you to do more; to better immerse yourself in your neediness, and by doing so, be more hopeful and rejoicing, because God’s salvation comes.
  • Fasting: A Lost Art

    Mar 27, 2014

    By: Arthur Canales, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Theology

    Millions of Americans are overweight and obesity is rampant in the United States. Medical professionals tell us that two leading causes of death that are related to obesity are heart attacks and diabetes. It is clear that obesity is a complex issue, involving both physical and psychological components; however, if the Catholic tradition is correct, it is also a spiritual issue, since obesity indicates a form of concupiscence or errant desire (Robert Barron, The Strangest Way, 2002, 63). If the center of the Christian life is Jesus the Christ, then the appetites for unhealthy food and drink need to be quelled and disciplined into control. The ancient Christians knew this, but our contemporary, fast-paced world seems to have forgotten this truth. If our center is compromised or weakened, then the passion for God becomes secondary or lost completely. Simple fasting for one day out of the month can “calm the monkey on one’s back” to help center one’s mind and spirit for God (Barron, 63). Perhaps reclaiming the lost art of fasting will help Christians engage their bodies in healthy living and their souls in deeper holiness and prayer.    

    Fasting is Prayer

    There are many types of prayer and many ways to pray, but one form of prayer form that is often overlooked today—fasting. Fasting is a lost art today, but it remains an important part of one’s spirituality, and is one that is especially helpful during the liturgical season of Lent. Fasting is a viable form of prayer for two reasons: (1) it is biblically-based, Jesus did it (Luke 4:2) and (2) it requires mental willpower and physical discipline—it ain’t easy.

    Fasting is a practical, yet intense, spiritual exercise that tries to deepen our “hunger” for God. As our hunger for food intensifies while fasting, so does our spiritual hunger for God intensify through the ritual of fasting (Charles M Murphy, The Spiritualty of Fasting, 2010, pp. 18).

    For centuries, Christians around the world would fast on Fridays by abstaining from eating red meats. Through this modest act of self-denial, Catholics identified themselves with the suffering of Christ on the Cross at Calvary (Barron, 64). In addition, Catholics were reminded of the larger social problem and disorder around the globe because Christian wealth did not feed everyone who was hungry or in need of something to eat. Fasting, like all other prayer styles, takes discipline and the ability to focus bodily behavior upon God.

    The ascetical practice of fasting may arise from the need to be more fully expressive in one’s relationship with God or the need to seek some deeper religious insight to an indiscernible problem (Barry and Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction, 1998, 41). Christians who fast on a regular basis allow the body to encounter God in a different manner, and by doing so empowering their spirit to enter more deeply into the communication and contemplation with God.

    Many Ways to Fast

    Personally, I have found fasting to be an act of faith and one that bolsters my spiritual journey. I have fasted several times a year, usually for a big event that I have prepared for in my ministry. There are many ways to fast. Fasting can be for one meal a day for a week, fasting can be for a week of eating only fruits, vegetables, and drinking only water. A fast can last from sunrise to sunset or vice versa, like in the Jewish and Muslim traditions; or it can be for an entire day, once a week for six weeks, as in the Christian season of Lent.

    I have found that fasting on Fridays during Lent to be a spiritual practice that I look forward to each year; I liken it to an annual pilgrimage. My Friday Lenten fast typically lasts from Thursday at bedtime until dinner on Friday evening, which is typically capped-off by a fish dinner or cheese enchiladas (yummy!). Fasting need not be a burden on the body; it should be a spiritually uplifting enterprise. There is no set rule of fasting; it is simply another method of prayer, one that involves a total bodily commitment.

     Fasting should be according to each person’s disposition, culture, and tradition. The richness of fasting depends on the relationship that a person has with God. The important rule of thumb here is to not lose this ancient art of fasting!


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