Sunday, October 26, 2014

I love...


all_your_heart



I absolutely love....  CHIPOTLE!  Once I knew there was a Chipotle in Amherst, I knew I was going to be OK.

I love... Amazon Prime!  I love that I can order things and days later they appear in the office.  I get everything from there.

I love... my nieces and nephew and my family.

I love... being a priest.

I love... Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, and Julia Roberts.

I love... my pastor, Fr. Martello.

I love... dark chocolate covered almonds.

I love... going to the movies.

I love... the people at my parish and all the friends I have made over the years.

I love.... God.

Love can be used in a lot of different ways and mean a lot of different ways.

In the English Language we only have one word for love.  So it's used in a lot of different ways.

The Greeks, which the Gospels were written in, had many different words for love with very specific meanings.

Here are the four most common:

Storge (στοργή storgē) means "love, affection" and "especially of parents and children" It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in "loving" the tyrant.

Philia (φιλία philía) means "affectionate regard, friendship," usually "between equals."  It is a dispassionate virtuous love.  Philia is expressed variously as loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. Philos denotes a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.

Éros (ἔρως érōs) means "love, mostly of the sexual passion."The Modern Greek word "erotas" means "intimate love." It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage. Plato refined his own definition: Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. Eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth, the ideal "Form" of youthful beauty that leads us humans to feel erotic desire – thus suggesting that even that sensually based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence.  Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth through the means of eros.

Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē means "love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God."  Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the "love chapter," 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as brotherly love, affection, good will, love, and benevolence.  Whether the love given is returned or not, the person continues to love (even without any self-benefit). It can also be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard. Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children. This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as "to will the good of another."

So when Jesus is asked:  

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,

What kind of love is he referring to?  What is the original greek that was used?  

Ἀγαπήσεις  "You will love (the)..." 

It is the love of Agape that he means.  It is the unconditional love that "wills the good of another."  It means loving God in the way that God loves us.  Agapic love for God is loving God without expecting anything in return.  It means loving God even if don't feel His presence or receive His gifts.  It means loving God so much so that we want God's will to be done even more than our own.  This is the first and the greatest of all the commandments.  

But I love that he follows up this Agapic love "You shall love the Lord, your God..." with 

with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.  


What this means is that we are not only supposed to love God but BE IN LOVE with God!  

We are supposed to have all of these loves: Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape for God.  

With all of our heart... 
When we think of the heart we think of falling in love.  This is the erotic love for God.  Just a as couple falls in love with each other, gets engaged, married, and enjoys their honeymoon.  We are to love God with all of our heart - to fall in love with Him.  To want to do everything that He does, to go anywhere just because we are with him, to do anything for him.  

with all of our soul, 
this begins with the Storge, the natural love, but goes beyond to the supernatural.  We are called to have this natural love for God, this inborn love of our Creator, but it should expand to all of our soul.  That we truly love him as we would "a soul mate".  This is the Philia love, the brotherly love, the love of just being together with your best friend and doing things with the one you love.  

We are also to love God with all of our mind.  If you think about the places our minds go especially with erotic love (think Fifty Shades of Grey).  All of our mind should be in love with God.  That means that every thought at every moment we should be completely preoccupied with God.  Our thoughts wholly directed to him... this is what the saints mean when they say pray always.

The question is: "Do you love God?"

Do you love God with all of your heart?  Are you in love with God?

Do you love God with all of your soul?  Is Jesus your "soul-mate"?  Do you want to share every adventure with Him?

Do you love God with all of your mind?  Do you think about God with all of your mind?  Is your mind consumed with God?  Does God direct everything that you think and do?

This is the FIRST and GREATEST commandment.   To love God and be in love with God.  


Pedro Arrupe was serving as the Superior of the Jesuits’ Japanese Province when he was elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus in 1965. He held the position until 1983.

His prayer is a wonderful expression of the first and greatest commandment.  
 


Fall in Love


Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907–1991)

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

From Finding God in All Things: A Marquette Prayer Book © 2009 Marquette University Press.






Thursday, October 23, 2014

Holy My Hand

parent-holding-childs-hand

One of the benefits of being a priest is that I have nieces and a nephew.  The great thing about that is I get to truly enjoy them and share in their lives.  

Last year around Christmas time I took my three nieces to the square in Strongsville for their annual Christmas lighting.  There was such a big crowd that we had to park pretty far down the street.  As we approached I got a little anxious because there was tons of activity, it was getting dark, and there was a crowd.  My nieces were skipping along and I instinctively reached out to grab their hands.  There were three of them and I only have two hands.  So I took the two youngest by the hand.  I didn't want to lose them.  Meanwhile they were mesmerized by their friends, the lights, the music, the hot coffee, the popcorn, Santa and live reindeer!  

I found myself always looking ahead, keeping my eyes on them, and taking their hands whenever they would let me.  

God does the same for us.  He loves that we enjoy this life but is always aware of the potential for us to get lost when we begin to walk away from him mesmerized by some apparent and seemingly good attraction.  The world is good and full of good, just as it was that evening.  However, we have a tendency to let go of God's hand and become distracted by the good.  

The wonderful thing about God is that He initiates.  He always sees two steps ahead of us and whenever we are in danger or begin to walk away from Him he reaches out his hand to us.  

The Lord initiates!  He grasps us by the hand!  Even before it even occurs to us to reach for him.  

Do you find yourself drifting away from God because of any "pleasures" or "attractions"?

Do you want the Father to be involved in everything that you do?

Do you delight when you realize that God takes you by the hand and shares in your adventures?

Sometimes it is just good to know that not only is God always there with us but He takes us by the hand even before we realize we are straying.  




Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
subduing nations before him,
and making kings run in his service,
opening doors before him
and leaving the gates unbarred:
For the sake of Jacob, my servant,
of Israel, my chosen one,
I have called you by your name,
giving you a title, though you knew me not.
I am the LORD and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.
It is I who arm you, though you know me not,
so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun
people may know that there is none besides me.
I am the LORD, there is no other.

The song "Hold My Hand" by Hootie and the Blowfish illustrates this quote well.  Imagine God singing this song to you, taking your hand, and sharing in the great adventure of life with you!


HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH LYRICS
"Hold My Hand"

With a little love, and some tenderness
We'll walk upon the water
We'll rise above this mess
With a little peace, and some harmony
We'll take the world together
We'll take 'em by the hand
'Cause I've got a hand for you
'Cause I wanna run with you
Yesterday, I saw you standing there
Your head was down, your eyes were red
No comb had touched your hair
I said get up, and let me see you smile
We'll take a walk together
Walk the road awhile, 'cause
'Cause I've got a hand for you
I've got a hand for you
'Cause I wanna run with you
Won't you let me run with you? yeah
Hold my hand
Want you to hold my hand
Hold my hand
I'll take you to a place where you can be
Hold my hand
Anything you wanna be because
I wanna love you the best that, the best that I can
See I was wasted, and I was wasting time
'Till I thought about your problems, I thought about your crimes
Then I stood up, and then I screamed aloud
I don't wanna be part of your problems
Don't wanna be part of your crowd, no
'Cause I've got a hand for you
I've got a hand for you
'Cause I wanna run with you
Ah, won't you let me run with you?
Hold my hand
Want you to hold my hand
Hold my hand
I'll take you to the promised land
Hold my hand
Maybe we can't change the world but
I wanna love you the best that, the best that I can, yeah
Hold my hand
Want you to hold my hand
Hold my hand
I'll take you to a place where you can be
Hold my hand
Anything you wanna be because
I...Oh...No, No, No, No, No
Hold my hand
Want you to hold my hand
Hold my hand
I'll take you to the promised land
Hold my hand
Maybe we can't change the world but
I wanna love you the best that, best that I can
Oh, The best that I can

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Change your mind





This is one of my favorite Gospel stories. And I think it's because when I was a child I tended to be the defiant one in the family. My parents and I can still laugh about it today, because Jimmy and I, my younger brother, were really close, and so we did a lot of things together. We often got in trouble together.





Whenever we would have some punishment that I didn't think was fair or some horrible thing my parents were making us do, I would always argue it to the hilt and say, "I'm not going doing that." And I would be defiant and just tell them I wasn't going to do it until I had a good explanation. And so, I'd battle, a war would break out because of that. In the end, I would do it. I would do whatever I had to do if I understood why.





Yet Jimmy, my younger brother, who never caused any trouble, would always, when given a punishment or given something to go do, would always say, "Yeah, I'll do it," and he never would. But my parents, I don't think, cared because he never put up a fight. He just said, "Sure, I'll do it, no big deal," and they forgot all about it. So I feel a little bit of redemption here, you know, because it's the first son that changed his mind and changed his ways that is the one that got to eternal life.





The truth is, though, it's hard to change our minds. Changing our minds, especially if we can be stubborn or bullheaded, can be a very difficult thing to do. So what does it sound like when you do change your mind?




Seth Godin who is one of the founders of the internet, he's an American author, entrepreneur, marketer, public speaker, writes a story about the beginning days of the internet.





"Nineteen years ago, shortly after I hired Mark Hurst to join the team at my internet startup group, I turned to him and said, 'I don't think the web makes sense.' This was the most expensive mistake I ever made.





"At the time, we were working on AOL, CompuServe and other online services. The web was in its infancy, and I notoriously said, 'It's just like the Prodigy, but slower and no business model.





"It took me eighteen months to change my mind. Actually, that's not true. It took me about five minutes to change my mind, after eighteen months of being wrong. I still remember how it felt to feel that flip switch in my head.





"This is one of the assets of youth, and something that's worth seeking out and maintaining. That flip, the ability, when confronted with a world that doesn't match the world in your head, to say, 'Wait, maybe I was wrong.' We're not good at that. Science brings us overwhelming data about the truth of washing hands before surgery, of the age and origin of species, about the efficacy of placebos, and the natural instinct is push those facts away, rather than find that moment where were can shift our thinking.





"If you needed to, could you argue passionately for that thing you don't believe in today? Could you imagine walking over to the other side of the new argument, to once again hear that sound?





"That's the essential skill of thriving in a world that's changing fast."





Malcolm Gladwell, who is an author, he wrote some books you might have heard of called the "Tipping Point" and "Outliers." He writes on this whole idea of change and how difficult it is for us to change, and how change can actually be perceived as being a flaw. And he actually commented -- and now, just to let you know, he's extremely liberal, a wonderful author, but he's just very liberal on that side. He writes about Mitt Romney and the time where Mitt was running for the election, and he had changed his mind on an issue. He changed his platform on universal health care. And actually, Gladwell will go on to say that Mitt Romney got so criticized for flip-flopping, as many labeled him, and for changing his mind on an idea after he had more evidence. He said he was crucified by the Democrats and the Republicans because he changed his mind.





And the truth is we all kind of do that. We expect people to be solid on what their thoughts and solid on what their platforms are and solid on what they're thinking, and while there is a value to that, there is also a value to changing our minds when we have new information, when we have a greater revelation.





And so he looks back and he says that though Mitt was made fun of -- there's actually flip-flops that you can get that say "Mitt" on one side and "Romney" on the other. Though he was made fun of and criticized, he thinks all of that was done extremely unfairly because this man gained new information and changed his mind, and rather than seeing that as something virtuous and good, it was condemned and vilified.





And sometimes we do this with ourselves. Sometimes we get caught in a mindset and we argue something, or we wrestle with something that we know deep down isn't right, it's not truth, but for some reason we feel like we have to cling to the argument, like we have to win the argument.





I can just picture a husband and wife arguing over something, or good friends arguing over something, and at some point in the conversation you start to realize you're wrong, but for some reason we feel like we have to keep arguing it further and try to make ourselves right, even though deep down inside we know that we are wrong.





But what if we could just actually change our minds? What if we could actually just admit that we are wrong, and given new information, we can adapt our minds and actually change our minds to this new information?





And we hear about this in the Gospel today. The Gospel is about the two brothers. The first sentence, as I said before, obviously when asked by his father to do something, he said, "No, I will not." But later changed and went and did it. The older son said, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go." And Jesus asked, "Which of the two did the father's will?" And they all answered, "The first." Then Jesus goes on to say, "Amen, I say to you. Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you." Why? Well, because the Jews that he was speaking to were locked in an old mindset. They couldn't see right before them that Jesus was God. They couldn't see this revelation, this prophecy that John was trying to point people to the Christ, who was in our presence. And the tax collectors and the prostitutes, through their forgiveness of sins, through their looking and being loved by Jesus through this encounter with Jesus, have a change in their minds. They can grasp who he is.





But the last line, I love the last line of the Gospel because it says, "Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him." So Jesus is saying, even when you saw, you know, that these people were getting it and you weren't, you did not change your mind and believe in him. And you could see they were stuck in their mindset. They couldn't change their mind.





I always try to think of an image or an idea or a story to tell, or a song. And as I was praying about this and just thinking about this all week for the homily, this song came to mind from ABBA, actually. And the first line of the song is, "You can change your mind."





Anybody know the name of it?





It's "Take a Chance on Me." So I'm just going to read you the first verse and we're going to listen to a little bit of the song. But it goes, "If you change your mind, I'm the first in line."





Now, instead of ABBA singing this to you, I want you to think about the Father. Think about the Father singing this to you, God, the Father, who loves you saying:





If you change your mind, I'm the first in line

Honey I'm still free

Take a chance on me

If you need me, let me know, gonna be around

If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down

If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown

Honey I'm still free

Take a chance on me

Gonna do my very best and it ain't no lie

If you put me to the test, if you let me try

Take a chance on me

Take a chance on me





(Playing the song)





So we hear in this kind of lighthearted song how God is inviting us to change our minds. So I just want you to think about that for yourself. Are you stuck in any mentality of God or of the church teachings or of commandments? Is there anything that you've just set yourself against and you don't want to change your mind about it, even though deep down you know you might need to? Maybe you still have the old mentality of God, the Father, being this stern discipline, you know, just kind of like scary figure.





Well, you know, revelation has shown us, Jesus has shown us, that we have a loving Father. And maybe you've been taught all your life that he's not, that you can change your mind, and you can come to this revelation, this insight that God is such a loving and gentle Father and all He wants to do is be with you.





Maybe there is some church teaching that your heart -- your head has gotten so set on what you believe, and maybe you disagree with the church teaching, and deep down inside you know you're wrong, but you've just argued for so long you can't imagine changing your platform. Well, you can. You can change your mind and be open to revelation and church teaching.





Maybe it's something at home. Maybe it's something superfluous with your wife or member of family and maybe it's an ongoing argument and you know you've been wrong. Maybe it's a rift in the family deep down for 15, 20 years, and you know you are wrong. You can change your mind. And we do this by taking a chance to God. You can take a chance, take a chance, take a chance, take a chance, take a chance, take a chance on God. Change your mind and experience this new way of living.



Get it here! 

(Playing the song)



"Take A Chance On Me"
If you change your mind, I'm the first in line
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
If you need me, let me know, gonna be around
If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down
If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best and it ain't no lie
If you put me to the test, if you let me try


Take a chance on me
(That's all I ask of you honey)
Take a chance on me


We can go dancing, we can go walking, as long as we're together
Listen to some music, maybe just talking, get to know you better
'Cos you know I've got
So much that I wanna do, when I dream I'm alone with you
It's magic
You want me to leave it there, afraid of a love affair
But I think you know
That I can't let go


If you change your mind, I'm the first in line
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
If you need me, let me know, gonna be around
If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down
If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best and it ain't no lie
If you put me to the test, if you let me try


Take a chance on me
(Come on, give me a break will you?)
Take a chance on me
Oh you can take your time baby, I'm in no hurry, know I'm gonna get you
You don't wanna hurt me, baby don't worry, I ain't gonna let you
Let me tell you now
My love is strong enough to last when things are rough
It's magic
You say that I waste my time but I can't get you off my mind
No I can't let go
'Cos I love you so


If you change your mind, I'm the first in line
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
If you need me, let me know, gonna be around
If you've got no place to go, if you're feeling down
If you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best, baby can't you see
Gotta put me to the test, take a chance on me
(Take a chance, take a chance, take a chance on me)


Ba ba ba ba baa, ba ba ba ba baa
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me
Gonna do my very best, baby can't you see
Gotta put me to the test, take a chance on me
(Take a chance, take a chance, take a chance on me)


Ba ba ba ba baa, ba ba ba ba baa ba-ba
Honey I'm still free
Take a chance on me


[fade]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vail, Colorado

The Prodigal Father Productions had our quarterly board meeting in Vail.  We were there for the peak leaf changing of the Aspens.  It was breathtaking.  One morning I even woke up for sunrise coming up over the mountains and layer of light by layer of light brightening the "W" Mountain before me.  Absolutely beautiful.

We spent the mornings and afternoons in conference and the rest of the day horse back riding!  Colorado truly is "God's Country".