Monday, February 18, 2013

It's Been a While

1st Tuesday in Lent
19 February 2013

Mt 6:7-15

Fifty-five words.  None of which has more than three syllables.  Fifty-five words outline the relationship between us and God.  In just fifty-five short words Jesus taught us to pray.  The ten lines of the Our Father contain:  Praise,  petition,  and hope.  Each line could be the basis of a homily.  Each line could be the focus for an entire day of meditation.

The Our Father is the middle of Jesus’ teachings on three important acts of piety:  Almsgiving,  prayer,  and fasting.  The same three acts of piety that the Church encourages for all the faithful during this holy season of Lent.  As he does elsewhere Jesus begins by instructing his listeners “How Not To” before telling them “How To.”  “Do not babble like the pagans who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” 

The pagan belief, one that appears to have been carried forward to the 21st century, was that God could be manipulated by a flood of words.  The more words and the more floridly they are proclaimed the more effective the prayer.   Sometimes prayers of petition degenerate into detailed scripts which we expect and demand God to follow.  Scripts and lists of desires that are unnecessary in prayer.  Torrents of words are not needed.  When Jesus says: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” He is citing Isaiah who wrote:  “Before they call, I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hear them.” Unfortunately, our familiarity with the Our Father allows us to zip through it without necessarily hearing or paying attention to it. 

St. Ignatius gives the following instruction in the Spiritual Exercises under what is titled, “The Third Method of Praying.”  It reads in part, "with each breath taken in or expelled, one should pray mentally, by saying one word of the Our Father between one breath and the next.  Between each breath one reflects on the meaning of that word, on the one to whom the prayer is directed, or on one’s own lowliness."  Try doing that during this holy season. Drink deeply from each of the ten lines.  Let each of the fifty-five words soak into your soul. Your thirst will be satisfied.
It has been a while since I posted mostly for reasons beyond control.  Norovirus, the virus that can destroy a cruise, hit the community.  About a dozen men got sick.  I was one of them.  The first ten or so hours were spent thinking I was going to die.  The next eight were spent wishing I had managed to do so.  The final six or so of what was a long day were spent wondering if rigor mortis was setting in.  It was not how I would have chosen to spend almost three days in bed.  Some of the men were much sicker.  I examined several of them before and after my own bout.  Through the stethescope their guts sounded like washing machines in mid-cycle.  I can't thank Ignatius enough for keeping up a supply of ginger ale when it was possible to keep something down and then, when food was possible, bringing a toasted bagel and bit of jelly.  On the other hand, just as the worst seemed to be over he phoned to ask where he and a friend could go for a burger.  The mere word 'burger' almost did me in. 

Just as I recovered from noro, with the prospect of having to prepare some lectures, the blizzard hit.  That was good for twenty-eight inches of snow and some lovely photographic opportunities.  

The snow piled up quickly.  The maintenance staff did a great job keeping the roads clear throughout the night. 

The break table out by the employee entrance gives an idea of how deep the snow was.  It is in a protected position and there was no drifting to interfere with the symmetry of the snowfall.  The little humps are the chairs surrounding the table
This is a lamp outside one of the external doors to the chapel.  It was much too cold and windy to stay outdoors for long. 
This was sunset.  I think I managed to stay out for about twenty minutes before my fingers began to hurt from the cold despite the gloves. 
This is a black and white of a window at the back of the fourth floor library.  
Finally, a still life of the ashes and holy water before the Ash Wednesday Mass. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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