Tag Archives: Hosanna Prayer Group

Lenten Reflections – April 10, 2014

Today, parishioner Bill Thornton talks about where we are in Lent as seen through the Letter to Hebrews.

hebrews-12_1_4x6Many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (The Holy Office) for this week are from the Letter to the Hebrews. Maybe this is just the luck of the draw, but I prefer to think that this shows an intent of the Church to remind us of the messages of Hebrews that are so consistent with where we are in Lent.

Hebrews is a unique book in the New Testament and an important one. We do not know its author (we used to think that it was an epistle of Paul, but today’s scholars don’t think so); we do not know the circumstances of its composition; we do not even know whether it started out as a letter or not. What does seem to be true is that it was written before the destruction of the Temple and that it was meant for Continue reading

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Lenten Reflections – March 27, 2014

409-10.zoom.aIn last Thursday’s Gospel reading in the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Abraham says to the rich man who tries to keep his five brothers out of “this place of torment,” “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.” Jesus is saying in the context of His story that we should read the Bible in order to stay on the right path to eternity. Many of my Catholic contemporaries say that the Church prevented them from reading the Bible. I understand the basis for the statement, but I do not agree with it. In its liturgical celebrations (principally the Mass and the Holy Office), the pre-Vatican II Church served up daily “bite-sized” readings from the Law, the Prophets, the Wisdom Books, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Epistles. Where some of our Protestant friends carried the Bible to church, we carried the St. Joseph Missal that contained selected Bible readings for Mass each day. Just as the Church did this pre-Vatican II, it continues to do today.

I thought that I would use the readings from the Holy Office (or Liturgy of the Hours) for today to further illustrate the point. Here are the so-called “short readings” for the various hours:

Morning Prayer (Lauds)

Lord, we are your people and your heritage. Be always watchful for the entreaty of your servant and of your people Israel, and listen to us whenever we call to you. For it was you who set us apart from all the peoples of the earth to be your own heritage. 1 Kings 8:51-53

Mid-Morning Prayer (Terce)

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near. Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him, to our God who is rich in forgiving. Isaiah 55:6-7

Midday Prayer (Sext)

If you return to the Lord your God, if you obey his voice with all your heart and soul in everything I enjoin on you today, you and your children, then the Lord your God will bring back your captives and will have pity on you. Deuteronomy 30:2-3

Afternoon Prayer (None)

Continue to have confidence, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36

Evening Prayer (Vespers)

Give in to God: resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up. James 4:7-8,10

Night Prayer (Compline)

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

* * * * *

Look at the variety in these readings all in one day. We have selections from the Law (Deuteronomy), The Prophets ( Isaiah), Historical Books (1 Kings), the Epistles (Paul: 1 Thessalonians: James and Hebrews). In addition, there are many Psalms, another reading from Deuteronomy and one from St. Matthew’s Gospel at Mass, a reading from Exodus in the Office of Readings, and some other small scriptures salted away in other places. But for present purposes, I am going to talk only about the short readings from the six hours quoted above. They all speak of relationship with God, first with the Jews and later with all of God’s people.

The reading for Morning Prayer from 1 Kings is the end of a long prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the first Temple. The whole prayer is well worth reading as it expresses the gratitude and reverence of the Jewish people to the Lord at the time when the chosen people was at its height in power, influence, and satisfaction. [When we go through and look at these “short readings,” there is nothing stopping us from looking at the context by reading a chapter or two before or after the selected reading.] The prayer reminds God that it was He who sought the relationship with the chosen people, that they claim the benefit of that relationship, and that they expect that God will listen to their prayers and answer them. You and I can make that same prayer.

The reading for the Mid-Morning prayer is from Isaiah. He writes at a time when Israel has suffered defeat and exile. Isaiah reminds us that we can restore the relationship with God if we can turn back to the Lord. The Deuteronomy reading for Midday prayer is to the same effect, promising that the Lord will bring you back if you obey the Law. Hebrews reminds us in the Afternoon Prayer that the road to God may not be easy, but if we persevere the reward will be great.

I love the reading from James in the Evening Prayer. Again, we are encouraged to return and submit to God. When James writes, “ The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you.” I imagine two young lovers on a bench, and whenever the girl slides closer to the boy, he responds by sliding closer to her.

Finally, in the Night Prayer, Paul prays, just before we go off to bed, that our relationship with God will result in the Lord’s watching over us as we sleep.

This train of Bible readings teaches a unified lesson ideal for a day in Lent. It acknowledges the relationship between us was initiated by God out of love; it recognizes that we may turn our back on God from time to time; it reminds us that God is always waiting for us to return so that He can welcome us back and take care of us as His beloved child.

I intended in this piece to show how the Church puts the Bible before us in an easily accepted way to teach us the lessons of God’s love for us. You can use this approach to studying the Bible to supplement your practice of Bible reading or as your main or only Bible reading. You can use as much or as little as you choose, but to paraphrase St. James, “The nearer you go to the Bible, the nearer the Bible will bring you closer to God.”

[In terms of resources, there are many on-line sites, both Catholic and non-Catholic that can help you get more into the Bible. As in all other things on the web, there are certain pitfalls. There are some sites that proclaim that they are “Catholic,” but separate themselves from the Church by condemning Vatican II or claiming that the Latin Mass is the only valid Mass. There are non-Catholic sites that are in some way anti-Catholic. Two dependable sites that I recommend are the USCCB Daily Readings.  This is published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Besides the full text of the New American Bible, Revised Edition (the translation used at Mass in the U.S.), it provides an easy way to locate the Mass readings for each day; and Universalis.  This is a site originating in the UK and the readings are from the New Jerusalem Bible which is the official translation used there. This site provides not only the Mass readings but also the full text of the Holy Office.]
-Bill Thornton

 

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Lenten Reflections – Thursday, March 13 – by Madeline Longacker

ask-seek-knock“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find, knock,
and the door will be opened to you…” Matthew 7:7

This is one of my favorite scriptures. Jesus tells us of the Father’s profound love for us. Jesus encourages us to be part of a special parent-child relationship. The Father knows what we need, but He invites us to ask, seek, and knock revealing our deepest needs to Him. He wants us to draw on our knowledge of how a parent will want the best for his child. He, in the same way, wants the best for us. When I was a child I thought this scripture of asking and seeking meant that my prayers would be answered the way I wanted them and in the time I wanted them done. Even as an adult I struggle with the mystery of prayer.

Three years ago my brother died from stomach cancer. It was a time of great sadness and pain for the whole family. In looking back, I see all the amazing ways God was with us in this ordeal. God encouraged many people to stand by Gerard. The Father gave us courage, strength, and kindness through the family and friends around us. When we couldn’t pray, others could. God remained faithful even when we were frightened or angry. Ultimately, Gerard was healed when the Father took him home to heaven. It took time to surrender to God’s plan.

Prayer is powerful. I’ve seen a friend have his hearing restored. I saw my mom freed from her grief. Prayer binds us to God and to each other. It transforms our lives. God becomes real. Most of my prayers are the asking, seeking and knocking kind. More and more time, however, is given to thanking, praising, loving and being still. In an old catechism, prayer was lifting your heart to God, but it begins with God‘s heart reaching out to us. Through Jesus we see how the Father is always asking us to follow Him, seeking us in the places where we are lost, and knocking on the door to our hearts.
-submitted by Madeline Longacker

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Lenten Reflections – Thursday, March 6, by Bill Thornton

(This post was supposed to go up on Thursday morning, but life interfered and here it is on Thursday night, and into Friday!)

A reflection from Bill Thornton. Bill is a frequent contributor to the blog, along with others from the Hosanna Praer group.

It was different in the old days.

I remember Lent of 1951. I was 12 and in the 7th grade. Poor Sister Marie Louise was already showing signs of losing contact with reality. (She was institutionalized at the end of the school year, but they did not have anybody else to teach 7th grade.) Sister decided that, besides giving up candy for Lent (as she thought we would), the whole class was going to attend daily Mass. Just so we are clear, this meant that we had to leave home unfed and without water, walk a half mile (I checked on Google maps. I would have guessed much farther.), attend Mass, receive Communion, return the same half mile home, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, and walk back to school by 8:30.

To demonstrate our devotion to the task, all of us (7th graders remember) had to wear “crowns” made of purple construction paper with seven purple crosses sticking up from the headband. For each day that we attended Mass (and checked in with Sister), we would get a paper rose that we paper-clipped to one of the crosses. Imagine our embarrassment when we walked around school wearing those paper crowns with or without roses.

The second thing that Sister decided that we should do for Lent was memorize each week the Sunday Gospel – in French since we were in a French-speaking Canadian parish. We did a lot of memorizing in those days, and this would have been only a minor annoyance, except that I was assigned an additional chore in this regard, namely to “help” Arthur to memorize the Gospel. Arthur had come over to parochial school from public school in 7th grade because the public school teachers gave up on him, and, on top of that, he knew no French. (By the way, the nuns gave up on him at the end of the term.) I do not recall what I did to be awarded this particular privilege, but it must have been quite something, since the sisters all thought that I would be the one to became a priest, and therefore could do no wrong. Anyway, it was my task to sit in the back of the classroom for hours on end trying to think of something to enable Arthur to utter something that sounded something like the French scriptures. If Arthur did not come close enough, I was – so to speak – French toast.

As I said, I remember Lent that year, and it was different.

So what did I learn from my 1951 Lenten experience? Well, for starters, attending daily Mass is a good thing to do during Lent; walking a couple of miles before school won’t kill you; neither will wearing a silly paper crown at school, although you may wish you were dead. Also, there is nothing wrong with really getting into the gospels during Lent or at any other time. I am pretty sure that I did not learn anything from my interaction with Arthur – except maybe some obedience.

What I learned from remembering the experience is one of the lessons that the Ash Wednesday Gospel taught us: You can’t learn anything about a person’s Lent by watching from the outside. Some people might want you to judge them that way – they look like they are fasting and they like to be seen praying and giving alms. But Jesus says, that’s not what you should do. Whatever you choose to do, it should be something that God alone can see and judge.

In his 2014 Lenten message, Pope Francis quotes from 2 Cor 8:9 : “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” Developing this statement, the Pope says that we will not convert the world with our own physical resources, but, just as Christ did, with our poverty. We are spiritually rich because of Christ’s poverty, but if we want to help others to be spiritually rich, we can only do it if we are poor in spirit even as Christ was. There is no contradiction between being spiritually rich and being poor in spirit. When God gifts us with his grace, we become spiritually rich, but when we try or at least aspire to pass the riches along, we must understand that the gifts never belonged to us and never will. The gifts always belong to God and we only hold them “in earthen vessels” for the benefit of others. Perhaps we should use this Lent to increase our understanding that everything we have is gift and to pray for guidance from God as to how we ought to become poor as we approach the world to share these gifts.

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Advent Reflections – Thursday, December 12, 2013 – Our Lady of Guadalupe

our_lady_of_guadalupe“Hear favored one the Lord is with you.”Luke 1:28

The Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is such a gift to come in Advent. Advent is a time when we remember the dark times of the world’s suffering and our suffering.  We remember how much we need a savior who enters into that darkness and brings light.  In the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary reveals her love and her Son’s love to a suffering and oppressed people. She reminds the powerless of God’s love through the miracle of forming her image on a peasant’s tilma. She has a church built so that ordinary people know that all are welcomed to come to her. She will be a loving mother bringing all needs to Jesus.  I am particularly touched by the words that she spoke to Juan Diego.

‘Hear, and let it penetrate into your heart-let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?
-Madeline Longacker

On most Thursdays, our reflections are offered by members of the Hosanna Prayer Group, who have generously shared them with us during Advent and Lent for many years. We are most grateful! The group meets at our parish on Thursday nights at 7:30pm, for music and prayer. All are welcome!

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Advent Reflection – December 4, 2013 – My Cup Overfloweth

mycuprunnethoverwater

My Cup Overfloweth

Reflection on the readings for Dec. 4
Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23:1-6; Matthew 15:29-37

An Advent reflection from parishioner Charles Burre

In Saturday’s blog, Fran spoke of the transition from Thanksgiving to the waiting season of Advent, yet today’s readings are overflowing with reasons to continue to give thanks. Isaiah tells us that the Lord will provide “for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines.” Not only will He supply our material needs, He will remove those things the threaten or confuse us (“the web that is woven over all nations”) and those things that cause us sadness or grief. And finally, the ultimate reason to rejoice, that to which Advent is pointing, “let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us.

Psalm 23 is frequently invoked in times of turmoil or grief, yet it too is mostly about thanksgiving. Our cups overflow with all that we need: green pastures, still waters, right paths, comfort, protection, and an abundance goodness and mercy throughout our lives. The Psalm also ends with the assurance that we will remain in the Lord’s presence forever.

Thanksgiving has never been far from my thoughts at this time in my life. We had a joyful Thanksgiving with two of our children, their spouses, and two beautiful granddaughters. The month of November began with the birth of our sixth grandchild and first grandson. Over the years the material needs of our family have been taken care of, often in unanticipated ways. God has guided us to good doctors and nurses when healing was needed. This was especially true for me this past year. Most importantly, He has led me on the right paths, which brought me to St. Edward’s, and surrounded me with many Christian friends.

In Matthew’s gospel we see in Jesus what is foretold in the first two readings as He feeds and heals all those who come to Him. The salvation story will unfold as we journey through the gospel and the liturgical year. It is the fulfillment of this ultimate promise that gives Advent and Christmas the joy that is proclaimed in so many beautiful ways at this time of year. Let us not forget the reason for this joy. May we continue to live our lives with joyful hearts that are overflowing with thanksgiving.

-Charles Burre

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Holy Thursday – Men, Women, Friends A reflection by Bill Thornton

da_vinci_last_supper__2Holy Thursday is so rich in meaning. There is the foot-washing, the institution of the Eucharist, the ordination of the first priests, John’s long last discourse, … The Scripture from Holy Thursday is almost endless. Maybe that’s why I did not know where to start. Then I thought of da Vinci’s Last Supper. That picture contains 13 men and no women. This seems a little strange since it was painted to decorate a refectory for a community of nuns. Then it occurred to me that the stories of Holy Thursday do not mention a woman. Scripture scholars speculate that there must have been women there. Who cooked? Who served the meal? Where was Mary? Where were the other Holy women that appear in the stories of Good Friday? What would have been the scene if Jesus had offered to wash the feet of His mother or of Mary Magdalene? While there was conversation about Jesus death, and the men reacted as if they had gone a little overboard on the wine, what were the women saying, doing and thinking? Continue reading

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Thursday March 21, 2013 – Lenten Reflection by Bill Thornton

imagesIn Revelation (3:20) Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” It is always this way. If there is any movement toward a closer relationship between God and us, it always begins with God. The next step is how we respond to God’s approach.

There is a good example of how this works in the story in John’s Gospel of the cure of the man born blind. This is a long story so maybe you can follow this link and read it now.

The first thing to notice is that this story is not like the stories of other miraculous cures, here the blind man does not approach Jesus or ask to be healed. He is just sitting where he always sits, and doing what he always does, being blind and begging. I know just how he felt. I have stayed in the same place doing the same thing and being blind and begging from time to time.

The next thing about the story is that Jesus reveals that God has a plan for this man. Jesus says that the man has been born blind “so that the works of God can be made visible through him.” Wouldn’t we like to think that God’s plan included the idea that the works of God could be made visible through us? I think that God does have that plan even if it does not always include something dramatic like a miracle.

What happens next is rather strange. Jesus does not speak to the man, but rather puts mud on his eyes – dirt and spittle. How rude! How gross! And then Jesus says, “Go wash your face.” The blind beggar does not object or complain, he just moves toward the pool. Has his self-respect been so degraded by others over the years, because of his condition and what he has to do to maintain a living, that he does not even stick up for himself? Anyway, he goes and does what he was told, just like always. By obeying Jesus, when every instinct would be to be angry and fight back, the blind beggar gained his sight.

We will come back to the beggar, but for a minute let’s talk about the other people in this story. Jesus said that the cure was to make the “works of God” visible. The bystanders have, in a sense, seen the works of God. What is their reaction? It is as if they had seen a street magician. The are curious and maybe amused. “Where is he?” they ask, “we want to see more.” Just like the crowds that gathered around Jesus after he had fed the multitude.

What is the reaction of the Pharisees? All they can see is that Jesus broke the rules. They were more concerned with themselves – their rules – than the “works of God.” The beggar’s parents were afraid. They feared that acknowledging the “works of God” would create problems for them within the synagogue.

Back to the beggar: He had no choice but to face the reality – look the miracle in the face, if you will pardon a pun – that he was blind and now could see. He took on the opposition of the religious authorities. He called Jesus a prophet and said that his miraculous power must have come from God. He even took a shot at “evangelization,” when he said, “Do you want to become his disciples too?” When Jesus again sought out the beggar, the man professed faith in Jesus and worshiped him.

At the end of the story, Jesus has a conversation with some Pharisees about what had happened, how the physical cure of the beggar was supposed to be a lesson about their spiritual blindness. And it is clear that they understood the message. Some of them said, “Surely we are not also blind are we?” It makes you want to grab them by the shoulders, shake them and shout “Yes, yes, you understand. Now go change.”

An old technique for reading and meditating on the Scriptures is to put yourself in the place of each of the characters in the story. Am I like a bystander and simply curious, like a parent and fearful, like a Pharisee who is blind and more concerned with ancient rules than the “works of God,” or can I be like the man born blind.

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Lenten Reflection – March 14, 2013 by William Thornton

jeremiah17_9-10“The heart is more devious than any other thing, perverse too:
who can pierce its secrets?
I, the Lord, search to the heart, …” Jeremiah 17:9-10

It was not modern psychiatry nor TV soap operas that first discovered the complexity of the human heart and its tendency to sink to the lowest level. The prophet Jeremiah knew all about it. He probably did not need divine inspiration to get this point right. He could cetainly look at the people around him and perhaps into his own life. Lately, the Lord has been reminding me that I can be (and have been) as devious and perverse as any one. You will forgive me if I do not go into detail.

The words “devious” and “perverse” are related in thought, if not in derivation. “Devious” comes from the Latin word “via” meaning “way,” as in “I am the way.” “De” means “off” or “away.” I am devious if I am off God’s way or even some expected or “normal” way. Those around me can’t figure out where I am or where I am going or why. “Perverse” is based on the Latin “versus” meaning “against” just as it does in English. The prefix “per-” in this case means “very much,” as in very much against or against for no reason.

So, in one way, the prophet is saying that the heart is the seat of our free will. I do not know what “Original Sin” is. I never understood the whole idea. What I do understand – somewhat – is free will. God gave me my free will so that I can freely choose to love him the way he freely chose to love me. However, I have spent a good deal of my life making a different choice (deviating, if you will) and opposing him (being perverse). That just makes me human, and it makes me like all other humans. If grandparents call kill their young grandchildren, as we have seen in two recent instances, then I am capable of doing the same thing – not that I am planning to do something like that nor is it likely that I would do something like that. But it is something that a human person – like me – could do.

So what stops me from doing that or some other terrible crime? You have heard the old saying, “ There but for the grace of God, go I.” That’s really the answer, that God’s grace freely given to me keeps me from doing the worst things that I am capable of. You may ask why God does not give his grace to others who do do the worse things that they are capable of. God actually does give them the grace, but why do they continue to exercise their free will in a deviant and perverse way? There is an answer but the theology is far to difficult for me to explain.

But still God searches “to the heart.” He loves, he forgives. I obviously can not search to the heart of any one, but if I could, I probably would not find it to be more devious or more perverse than my own. How then can I be judgmental, how can I be unforgiving, how can I be “holier than thou?” The lesson is clear: if God loves and forgives me after he has searched to my heart, how can I fail to love and forgive those around me? Oh, wait, is that what the Lord’s prayer means?

We are rushing headlong to the end of Lent. In the readings for the Holy Office for today we hear Isaiah tell us, “Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near. Let the wicked one [with the devious and perverse heart] abandon his or her way” Is 55:6-7 And we hear from Hebrews, “Continue to have confidence since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.” Heb 10:35-36.

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Lenten Reflection, Thursday, February 14 – By William Thornton

edenI noticed something remarkable the other day.  The Old Testament Mass readings for Monday and Tuesday, the two days immediately before Lent, together make up the Creation story from Genesis.  (Gen 1:1–31; and 2:1–3)  I do not know whether this is what happens every year or whether this year is unique.  What makes this fact remarkable?  Well, the first reading at the Easter Vigil is the very same Creation story.  Therefore, the seven weeks of Lent are set between two tellings of the seven days of Creation.

The liturgical readings for Lent form, in effect, the life and teachings of Jesus, the Word of God. This is the same Word of whom John said:

“All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be.” (Jn 1:3)

So if the Genesis story represents the all-powerful God, the Lenten liturgical readings tell us that that same all-powerful God lived in the same world as we do, and suffered the same pains as we do, and finally died for us, and for Continue reading

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