Suggestions for a Prayerful Thanksgiving (And FUN!)

BEFORE THE DAY BEGINS:  

  • Set DVR to pre-record Thanksgiving Day parade(s) and Football Games; pre-record or purchase/rent CHARLIE BROWN THANKSIVING or other cartoons
  • Book or Paper Copy of OVER THE RIVER & THROUGH THE WOODS by Lydia Maria Child * and other Autumn / Thanksgiving Poems such as The MIST & ALL (Keep aside until DESERT COURSE)
  • Community Games to Have on Hand:  Charades, Pictionary, Balderdash
  • A Card Table with Index Cards & pens/pencils, a Small Basket or Shoebox and One Sheet of Paper with these 2 “Treasured Gifts” Questions printed:
    • “What experience this year do I treasure most?”     
    •  “What gift have I received from last Birthday or Christmas to date that I still enjoy?”
  • Music via CD, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube (See item IX below)

II   DURING ARRIVALS and /or Hors D’oeuvres: Invite everyone to print on an index card or post-it their response to this question: “What experience have I treasured most this year?”  and /or “What gift have I received from last Thanksgiving or Christmas to date that I still enjoy?”  Place these “Treasured Gifts” papers in a small basket and place the basket on or near the dining table. During the first course, guests will try to guess who wrote what.

III TRADITIONAL GRACE “PLUS” Each guest identifies how they feel today using one “Feeling Word.” (“Happy,” “Sad,” “Thankful,” “Frustrated,” etc.)  No judgments allowed! Then, pray: “Dear God, Here We Are–Our family and friends–and these are the feelings we bring to this Thanksgiving Day.  Helps us understand the beautiful way You accept each us as we are. Make us confident in your love so that we may be at peace and feel your presence among us.  Help us to make the most of this meal, this day, and our time together.”  Then invite everyone to join in the Traditional Grace before Meals, OR if your company is of mixed religions, substitute the Christian Grace with this: “Blessed are YOU, Source of Life, God known by so many names, help us to experience GRATITUDE, for gratefulness is the pathway to mutual affection and the road to peace. Bless our Meal and our Conversation. Amen.”

III         FIRST COURSE ACTIVITY (Soup/Salad/Antipasto): Treasured Gifts: Each person takes a paper and reads it aloud. Guests try to guess who wrote it—i.e. match the statement with its author.  Once guessed, invite the person to share why he or she is thankful for this gift. 

IV         DURING THE MAIN MEAL: Invite each Guest to share his or her memories of the best Thanksgiving OR ANY SPECIAL MEAL that they have ever experienced and why it is an important memory for him or her.

V          AFTER THE MAIN MEAL PRAYER:  Thanksgiving is a Day of Gratitude which is a Day of Prayer. Before we take a break, I invite us to share our prayers for one another and others.  For whom and what should we pray?” Close with Psalm 121.

VI         AFTER MEAL WALKS & PRE-DESSERT CLEAN UPS: Postpone desert and encourage Physical Activity: walks outdoors or help in the kitchen if weather does not permit, Football fans can catch up on the game; Others PLAY COMMUNITY GAMES and/or access your DVR for the recorded PARADE(s) or Cartoons. 

VII       DURING DESERT:   

  1. Together recall the Thanksgiving Poem: Over the River and Through the Woods –After everyone has had a try reciting or singing a verse, pass around the copy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over_the_River_and_Through_the_Wood
  2. Invite guests to share any favorite poems, rhymes, riddles or Autumn memories.

VIII      EVERYONE JOINS IN FOR FINAL CLEAN UP (OR, if space limitations in the kitchen, create Two Teams:  Those who go for walks and/or into the living room; and those who help in the Kitchen.  Try to have each team mixed with all ages, both men/woman/boys/girls if possible.  Each team memorizes OVER THE RIVER—as many verses as possible. Afterwards, gather together and see which Team remembers the most. 

IX         SOCIAL TIME:

  • Community Games to Have on Hand:  Charades, Pictionary, Balderdash
    • Dancing: Access Music via CD, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube
      • Old Fashioned WALTZ; I recommend “O Mio Babbino Caro” sung by Kiri Tekanawa (CD: Kiri Te Kanawa Sings Verdi & Puccini Arias;
      • Celebrate Married Couples with “I Dreamed of You” by Barbra Streisand: (CD Barbra Streisand: A Love Like Ours;

X          Farewells As each person prepares to leave, ask if they would like a final Thanksgiving

Blessing.  If yes, the Hosts may place their hands on each guest’s head or shoulders and

pray the PRIESTLY BLESSING from the Book of Numbers, Chapter 6: 24-26:

The Lord bless you and keep you!  The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace! “Conclude with “Safe home!  Godspeed!  God bless!”

OPTIONAL CHARITABLE COMPONENT TO THANKSGIVING DAY: INVTIE GUESTS TO BRING A SINGLE $ 1. BILL for each member of his or her family or party to participated in a PLEASE & THANK YOU GAME. Designate a charity and let them know what the dollars are for in advance OR have everyone vote on one of two or three choices before Grace (E.G, Catholic Charities for Puerto Rico Relief or Catholic Relief Services or Unicef.) Have some extra $1. bills around for those who forget.). The FIRST TIME anyone forgets to say Please” or “Thank You,” from the beginning of the Meal (after Grace) to end of dinner (i.e. “please pass the potatoes; thank you), he or she gets a WARNING.  The SECOND TIME he or she must surrender their dollar into a basket. Proceeds go to the previously announced charity. At the end of the day, people may contribute the Remaining Dollars or additional $ if they wish to the cause.   

More Details at https://frjamesdiluzio.com/2017/11/18/keeping-thanksgiving-spirit-filled/ 

Lydia Maria Child’s OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS

To Accompany Fr. James DiLuzio Facebook and YouTube videos reciting and singing the same

Over the river and through the wood,

    To grandfather’s house we go;

         The horse knows the way

         To carry the sleigh

    Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood–

    Oh, how the wind does blow!

         It stings the toes

         And bites the nose,

    As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood,

    To have first-rate play.

         Hear the bells ring,

         “Ting-a-ling-ding!”

    Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,

    And straight through the barn-yard gate.

         We seem to go

         Extremely slow–

    It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood–

    Now grandmother’s cap I spy!

         Hurrah for the fun!

         Is the pudding done?

    Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (1983)

These are variations:

The original piece had twelve stanzas, though only four are typically included in the song.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood—
and straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”

Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

The following verses appear in a “long version”:

Over the river, and through the wood,
with a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark, and children hark,
as we go jingling by.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding!”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood,
no matter for winds that blow;
Or if we get the sleigh upset
into a bank of snow

Over the river, and through the wood,
to see little John and Ann;
We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball
and stay as long as we can.

Over the river, and through the wood,
trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound!
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells.
He shakes his pow, with a loud bow-wow,[1]
and thus the news he tells.

Variations from http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Over_the_River_and_Through_the_Wood

Homily by Father James on the Gospel of Luke 15: 1-10 The Lost Sheep

Daily Scripture Readings may be accessed here: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/110520.cfm

Usually when we hear the Parable of the Lost Sheep we think of other people –the relatives and friends who have left the Church, the people in prison for embezzlement, fraud, or violence, or those without any faith.  Today, however, I invite us to see ourselves as Lost Sheep, too, but as people whose faith affirms that Jesus will come and find us.

When we who receive the sacraments hold on to resentments, and brood over injuries—we are Lost Sheep.

When we pass judgment on others especially those who do not vote as we do, think as we do, live as we do—and we want to send them all to hell in a handbasket, we are Lost.

When we are absorbed with “compassion fatigue,” and refuse to hear one more story of anyone or group suffering or victimized, or worse, when we want to blame the victims, we are Lost.

When we despair and believe that nothing good will ever happen again—we are Lost.

Today, we must appreciate faith’s reality that Jesus comes looking for us.  We depend upon Him. We need Him.  For even in our commitment to faith, we delude ourselves that our attitudes are righteous, when, in fact, we are not Christ-like at all.  As we approach the Eucharist today, may we cry out to Jesus: “Here I am Lord. Find me here!” The Good News is Jesus has found us in the past, He is with us now, and he find us again and again and again. For we, the faithful, too, often lose our way. Come, Lord Jesus! Find us here. Inspire us to do your will.   

The Way of Christ toward Friend and Foreigner

Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A Highlighting Exodus and Matthew (All Readings featured at the conclusion of the homily)

At the invitation of the Paulist Father’s National Office on Ecumenical and Multi—Faith Relations I have recently become a Board Member for RELIGIONS FOR PEACE, (RFP) USA with its offices here at the United Nations.

This week RFP conducted an online symposium on Immigration and Refugees that was provocative and inspiring.  Is it Providence or coincidence that having participated in the 5-session symposium this week, I found that our Reading from the Book of EXODUS explicitly addresses how we are to treat foreigners in our midst?  You tell me!   But let me tell you, how often I heard representatives of different faith repeat in their own words, from their own faith traditions, words so closely aligned to those of Jesus we heard today “Love of God and Neighbor as ourselves.”  These two commandments are the constants meant to be observed in every Christian’s life.  Still, the purpose for which God bestowed these laws upon us has yet to be fulfilled because along with grace, sin is always in evidence.

Yet, we have come to mass to be humbled—have we not?  We have come to be grateful for charity, generosity.  Indeed, the largess of the human heart continues to pervade our world. Grateful that, wherever we are on our faith journey, whatever our attitudes toward foreigners, immigrants, or any people unlike ourselves may be, God gives us yet another chance for conversion, for transformation, for renewed commitment to the Great Commandments.

I would like to share a story told by Rev. Bill Jenkins, of Christ Ministry Center in San Diego and his alliance with the United Methodist Refugee Assistance Program– a wonderful sign of HOPE for us all: In 2009, a great and terrible Earthquake devasted Haiti. With lives lost, and so many homeless with no signs of constructive reconstruction, all seemed hopeless. Yet through Providence or because of sheer mercenary considerations, Representatives of Brazil’s government travelled to Haiti.  They recruited some 46,000 Haitians to work in Brazil, to prepare for and maintain the 2016 Summer Olympics.

When the Olympics were over, however, the Brazilian economy collapsed, the Brazilian president impeached, and the Haitians who had made their homes there, with babies who were born there, were ordered to leave. Meanwhile, the living situations in Haiti went from bad to worse. Thousands had no reason or justification to return home.  So, the Brazilian Haitians began a march through that country– some by foot, some with carts, and on through Central America to find homes elsewhere. Crossing 11 borders, they were mistreated by each successive country: spat upon, ridiculed, and bullied; women were raped, men were killed.  Despite this, many found ways to remain in one Latin American country after another as day laborers and harvesters.

 It came to pass that 600 Haitian men, women and children made it to Tijuana, Mexico to apply to the US Immigration Court in San Diego.  There, their passports were stamped, and they were told to return in four months’ time for their individual court hearings. Not welcomed back into Tijuana, and not understanding English or Spanish (native language is French and Creole), they kept themselves in small groups and slept in San Diego’s streets and outdoor malls awaiting their turn.   

Now it so happened that there was already a small contingency of Haitians in Rev. Bill Jenkins’ San Diego Methodist Church. When they heard of their fellow countrymen’s plight on the streets, the Haitian church members drove through their city to find them.  Over the course of a few days, the Methodists found all 600, offering them food and shelter in their (fortunately large) church, with space enough for all to sleep in the pews at night. News of the Methodist’s hospitality spread and in five months, 5,000 Haitians came through the Center–not at all at once, of course, but as many as could be assisted at one time as they awaited their Court appearances. Other organizations stepped in to help, although, initially, no one was able to provide decent temporary homes or apartments.  Instead, more church pews and basements were opened for nightly shelter.

         Today San Diego Churches and other organizations have expanded their refugee ministries to include a network of temporary housing– all because of the Haitians’ stories and the witness of the Methodist Church. The biblical mandate from the Book of Exodus was and continues to be fulfilled by people of faith there. And here’s a touching footnote:  five years ago, when all this began, Rev. Bill Jenkins and his wife, at the age of 68, took in an 8-month-old boy separated from his mother somewhere between Tijuana and Sand Diego.  He is now their adopted son, Harry, and recently Harry’s birth mother was able to locate them and now all three adults are raising Harry together.

Beyond the San Diego story, there are legions of stories of compassion from the efforts of our very own Catholic Relief Services, local Catholic Charities in here in New York and in cities throughout our nation and the world.  The number of agencies for immigrants and refugees are legion.  There’s Amnesty International, World Vision USA, Jesuit Refugee Services, and dozens of other faith and secular based asylum initiatives.   I got a taste of some of these this week, but all of them repeatedly impressed upon me this truth: Most immigrants don’t flee their countries of origin because they desire “a better life,” most flee in fear because they just want to be able to LIVE!   

I’m not taking up a collection today for Catholic Relief Services or Catholic Charities but I think that it is important to remind us that as the governments of the world continue to argue as to what can be done, what can’t be done, what won’t be done for the neglected, the weary, the poor of this world, by the grace of God, people of many different faiths are upholding the Golden Rule.  We may take heart today that Good News is a reality and will continue to be a reality because of us, good people of faith.

So, now you have heard the Scriptures and one example of how FAITH COMES ALIVE! As we approach the altar to receive Jesus Christ again, may this Eucharist inspire us to persevere in making the Good News a living reality. I will close with this passage from the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 4:  

Book of Wisdom Chapter 4

My child, do not mock the life of the poor;
    do not keep needy eyes[a] waiting.
Do not grieve the hungry,
    nor anger the needy.
Do not aggravate a heart already angry,
    nor delay giving to the needy.
A beggar’s request do not reject;
    do not turn your face away from the poor.
From the needy do not turn your eyes;
    do not give them reason to curse you.
If in their pain they cry out bitterly,
    their Rock, (our God) will hear the sound of their cry.

THE SCRIPTURE READINGS

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: EX 22:20-26

Thus, says the LORD:
“You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. 
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry. 
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

“If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him. 
If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. 
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”
 

Responsorial Psalm

PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.

Reading 2: 1 THES 1:5C-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. 
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything. 
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Alleluia

JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: MT 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Luke Live Online Commentary: Luke 2: 21-40

In this section you will hear about Mary and Joseph observing the Mosaic Laws, dedicating their son to God and later, including him as a 12-year-old in the Passover celebrations at the great temple in Jerusalem.   I invite you to connect these stories to your experiences of sacraments of initiation—Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation—and/or other rituals and rites of passage such as bris, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, pilgrimages of any and every kind, be it to Lourdes or Jerusalem or Mecca or the Taj Mahal.  In addition, you may want to discuss your sensibilities about biblical prophecies and other forms of prophecy be they premonitions or hopes or expectations for yourself and for children in your life. 

Let’s explore with greater emphasis the benefits and burdens of rituals in our lives.  Sometimes we are drawn to them, sometimes they evoke ambivalence, and sometimes we anticipate them and flee!  Yet, we would be hard pressed not to allow some concrete explanations of their value.  In essence, rituals make public the inner personal dynamics and choices people make.  They affirm our inter-connectedness, that we belong to a people, a group, a faith or country, and, in terms of Christian Sacraments, that we belong to God and are part of Jesus’ story, perpetuating his love and truth throughout our lives.

Rituals make evident that we depend upon one another for support in life’s passages with all their corresponding joys and sorrows. I hope you take some time to use Luke’s brief but richly condensed portrait of Jesus’ childhood as a springboard for appreciating and understanding rituals in your lives.

          One of Luke’s primary purposes here is to show how Jesus and his parents are rooted in Judaism and are faithfully attentive to the God of Israel.  We also have here a wonderful example of the importance of multi-generations of faith and how the young and the old benefit from interacting with one another.  Many complain we no longer have true wisdom figures like Simeon and Anna among our seniors today.  Is that true or are we simply not paying attention to the elderly?  Or, if our seniors are feeling weary, maybe it’s because we do not draw them out, energizing them with our inquiries and interest.  And as for Simeon’s and Anna’s words—would that we all long for peace, consolation and the redemption of the world as they did.  What do we need from one another today to keep that hope alive?

Meditating on PROVIDENCE

I invite you to see my latest Luke Live Online! on YouTube and the reflection on the hand of God in all things to rejuvenate, transform, make good on the human condition and the vagaries of Nature. Faith –all the great faiths of the world invite trust in Providence. Every birth is willed by God –not its imperfections or illnesses–as a beginning toward transformation in this world of seeing, feeling, touching, being into an eternal communion. Go to:

Here’s a copy of the poem I read around in The Atlantic issue September 2018. The poem is by Carl Dennis and may be found in his collection NIGHT SCHOOL.

PROVIDENCE 

By Carl Dennis from his collection NIGHT SCHOOL 

PROVIDENCE seems to be one of the words

That shouldn’t be mourned as it falls from fashion.

Goodbye to the notion that whatever happens

Is meant to happen, foreseen and approved

By a thoughtful heaven.  A word that’s proven

Invaluable to the privileged when they’ve cautioned

The less-than-privileged to be content

With the portion that happenstance has assigned them. 

It’s the work of providence that you were born

To a sharecropping family on a hardscrabble farm,

Not to the family that owns the land. 

Goodbye to the word, and yet its disappearance

Might make it harder for the sharecropper’s daughter

To explain to her husband’s wealthy parents

Her reluctance to take a pill guaranteed

To make the baby boy she’s soon to bear

More handsome and clever than he would be otherwise.

Providential, meaning the baby for her

Is a gift meant to be welcomed as is, not a kit

To be assembled at home in the latest style.

A gift whether or not he later looks back

On his birth as providential or as a simple

Piece of good luck, providing him with a mother

Who would urge him to do the work

That pleased him most,

Work she believed he was meant to do. 

For more Commentary and Reflection on Luke 2, go to:

Commentary # 1 on Luke 2: 8-10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TeQ5jkm2Uc&list=OLAK5uy_kSpuk0fEKreIIDqDkJpGy2fzWsBz7hJ2I&index=10 Additional Reflections on Jesus’ Birth follow in Commentary # 2 and # 3 Below.REPLY

Commentary # 2: MORE reflections: The Angels Sing for You, too! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoA1mPC1g1w&list=OLAK5uy_kSpuk0fEKreIIDqDkJpGy2fzWsBz7hJ2I&index=11REPLY

ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3KB__57iYWVIvWsnmIyPow

1. What was your experience of applying ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH to your birth?  

2.  For Christians, combining stories of Jesus’ birth and our births confirms our belief that His story is ours, and our stories are His.  The result: the very best of who we are reflects “Christ in us” to others.  Did the song exercise help you own that?  Why or why not?

3. For listeners of other faiths or philosophies, what song (and /or literature) would you use to affirm your birth, your goodness–the best of who you are? In what ways do you understand your scriptures to point to the ways you understand yourselves?

4. For Christians, what about our belief that God shares in all aspects of being human with us through Jesus, brings you the most comfort?  The most? What aspects of this belief that we call “The Incarnation” may challenge you or trouble you?

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

Reading 1 Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm PS 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20; Reading 2: Pault’s Letter to the Philippians 4:6-9: GOSPEL: MATTHEW 21:33-43

Here’s a LIST for us to consider:

  • Cain and Abel.
  • Joseph and the envy of his Brothers
  • King Saul’s paranoia and jealousies against the shepherd David
  • Arguments Among the Apostles as to who is the greatest
  • Peter regarding “the beloved” in John’s Gospel
  • Judas Iscariot personality of constant suspicion, cynicism, pride, and willful attempts to manipulate Jesus to the point of betrayal
  • Centuries of the Promulgation of Anti-Semitism
  • Catholic and Protestant Wars of Religion
  • Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope’s corruption, and greed
  • Original American Constitution -filled with so many foundational goods—yet willfully ignoring the outrage of Slavery
  • The US Supreme Court –remember its dreadful Dredd Scott decision confirming freed slaves as property to be returned to their masters? A decision for political concerns not for what was right.
  • The irrefutable sins that lead to the Great Depression, the suffering of millions of people throughout the world. What resulted from that? The Second World War.
  • The realities of systemic poverty contributed greatly to the rise of ideologies such as Fascism, the Nazi party, and Communist Dictatorship, Terrorism and Radical Islam
  • Egregious greed lead to the economic collapse of 2008. Then banks foreclosed on homes without negotiating with current owners only to re-sell the homes at much lower prices.
  • Scandals in the Church, Sports, Medicine, Scouts, Schools deprived millions of trust in institutions meant to serve and educate the public

Do we not realize that so much of our personal, national and world histories and many of our current crisis repeatedly disavow FOUR of the Great Commandments:  One: “Thou Shall Not Covet another’s possessions,” Two: “Thou Shall Not Steal;” Three: “Thou Shall Not Kill;”  Four:  “I Am the Lord, your God, you shall not have false gods before me.”  ALL who thwart these commandments are INDICTED by today’s Scripture Readings. 

Yes, the parable was meant to reflect how the people rejected Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Covenant, but its application does not stop there. The parable’s vineyard workers offer a paradigm of entitlement, selfishness, and greed –sins every people, every nation are prone to commit, sins that continue to be an offense against Christ and His Body.  We are indicted like these vineyard workers as we continue to reject Jesus and His Gospel. Christ made it clear—just as the Hebrew prophets did before him:  humanity’s advancement is not to be at the expense or subjugation of any person or group.  Furthermore, as we commemorate Saint Francis of Assisi this Sunday, we are not to abuse the earth, its natural resources, and the animal kingdom—for all relationships impact one another.   Still, we have choices.  We have faith to guide us. Yet, the Scriptures urge CAUTION, lest we descend into the Vineyard workers’ selfish rebellion.

It is time we accept how counter-cultural the Gospel is. All of us have put our faith in too many princes, too many idols, too many ideologies that distract us from Jesus.  Jesus, who alone, is “our King and our God.”

Jesus’ tells us that there are tragic consequences for those who deny Faith’s reality: That all we have, and all we are, is a gift from God.  In gratitude we are to cultivate –what Saint Paul wrote – “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious.”

We pray at Every Eucharist: “Grant us, O Lord, unity and peace” doesn’t that mean we must participate, cooperate, collaborate with all people for a better earth, a more just and compassionate society? That is what UNITY means.

Since Vatican II, the Church finally abandoned its triumphalism (that hell awaits all who are not Catholic) in deference to grace and to God’s mercy offered to people of every ethnicity, faith, and nation. It is time we as individuals, as members of imperfect families, as members of a fallible Church, Nation, and World, that we renew our commitment to advance God’s Kingdom with greater fervor.  If we do not, Jesus’ parable tells us there will be consequences.  Our choices not only impact the poor today but future generations, too, will suffer; not to mention the grave detriment to our souls’ salvation.  

NOW is the time to cultivate our conscience to an extreme daily dedication to love of God and neighbor, lest the words of the Our Father make hypocrites of us all.  Last week our Jewish brothers and sisters observed a day of Atonement. Let today be ours! 

The signs of our times demand greater humility among all Catholic peoples.  Lest we be discouraged, this mandate is not to disavow the good in us, the good and even the great things we as individuals and all humanity have accomplished.  Nevertheless, our goodness requires balancing it with the reality of our sins and our failures. Clearly, we are not achieving the purpose for which God made us.  Enough of pride!  Enough of arrogance!  Enough of resentment, and greed–off to the devil with them all, I say.  It’s time a scrupulous examination of conscience engage us, our Church and nation.  If not for the blessed assurance that a contrite heart will fortify God’s grace in us, we are lost. May today’s Word and Eucharist humble us, inflame our desire for the Holy Spirit’s fire! Re-commit ourselves to Jesus today! Through Him, with Him and In Him, may we become what we are called to be:  LIGHT FOR THE WORLD!  

LUKE LIVE Online Session 8: CHAPTER 2: 1 – 7 accompanied with the Song Meditation: NIGHT OF SILENCE / SILENT NIGHT

Begin by going to my recitation of this passage with the accompanying Song Meditation. Simply copy this link and paste in your browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X0Qw_Dq4T8 As you listen, you may follow along with the following text

The Birth of Jesus. [a]In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus[b] that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.[c] She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Night of Silence / Silent Night Counterpoint CREDITS

Kantor, Daniel © 1984 by GIA Publication, Inc. 7404 S., Mason Ave. Chicago, IL 60638;  http://www.ocp.org/compositions/30161

This arrangement by Paulo J. Almeida http://www.pauloalmeida.com/

Piano: Laurence Rosania http://www.ocp.org/artists/1268

Violin: Christiana Liberis  http://www.christianaliberis.com/

Cello: E. Zoe Hassman

Flute: Matthew Wright http://facebook.com/matthewalanwright

Oboe: James Mobley  https://www.facebook.com/jmdesignstudio

Glockenspiel / Bells: Paulo J. Almeida http://www.pauloalmeida.com/

Night of Silence / Silent Night Counterpoint

Cold are the people—winter of life

We tremble in shadow this cold winter night

Frozen in the snow lie roses sleeping.

Will they ever echo the sunrise?

Fire of hope you’re are only warmth—

Weary!  You’re flame may be dying soon.

Silent Night, Holy Night,

All is calm, all is bright

‘Round young virgin, mother and child,

Holy infant so tender and mild—

Sleep in heavenly peace!   Sleep in heavenly peace!

Voice in the distance calls through the night

On wind you enfold us, you speak of a light!

Gentle on the ear you whisper softly

Echoes of a dawn so embracing!

Breathless love awaits darkened souls

Soon we will know of the morning!

Spirit among us, shine like a star!

Your light that guides shepherds and kings from afar.

Shimmer in the sky so empty, lonely

Rising in the warmth of your son’s Love!

Star unknowing of night or day

Spirit, we wait for you loving son!

You have just heard part of the traditional Christmas proclamation including Daniel Kantor’s Night of Silence with Franz Gruber’s Silent Night in counterpoint. 

  1. What feelings are evoked?

I love the fact that Kanter’s NIGHT OF SILENCE was composed as a counterpoint to SILENT NIGHT.  If you like, repeat the track, with your group singing verses of Silent Night to my singing NIGHT OF SILENCE. That experience, or just knowing about the song’s complementarity, offers a visceral understanding that unity and diversity can and must co-exist in our world for Peace to be realized. 

Luke Live Online Session 7: More Reflection on Zechariah’s BENEDICTUS

I am often asked why Luke was inspired to include the story of Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist’s birth in relating Jesus’s story to his primarily Gentile audience.  Luke had to make evident to them that Jesus were rooted in Judaism which alone, among all other religions at that time, had identified one, true God. Furthermore, Luke’s listeners had to understand that God willed Jesus to manifest Israel’s prophetic teachings: the importance of an honest, reverent relationship with God over and beyond the temple cult, the insistence that we improve the quality of our relationships with others especially those who suffer from society’s neglect, disrespect or prejudice, those who lack opportunities for work and livelihood, and those who suffer from being sick and/ or disabled.  Also Luke’s Gospel will affirm the central Christian witness that God intended Jesus to inaugurate the Pharisaic belief in resurrection from the dead. The Jewish sensibility that the Messiah required a forerunner was an essential link to all of this.  Here ‘s my commentary on Zechariah’s Canticle “Blessed be, the Lord,” also known as “The Benedictus” (Latin for ‘Blessed’).   The same insights gleaned from Mary’s Magnificat apply here.  Moreover, Zechariah’s Canticle highlights even more dramatically how the vision of prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Malachi and others was about to be realized in a way. 

Since the Exodus, Israel professed God as the great Liberator, the One who frees people from oppression.  Ever after, faithful Jews insisted that what God had done for their ancestors, God would continue to do for them and for all who seek God with a sincere heart.   Zechariah embodies this belief as he rejoices that his people will now be “free from the hands of enemies” and “free to worship God without fear” i.e., without interference from worldly powers.   When Jesus began his public ministry in Nazareth, he, too, embodies this truth by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “God has anointed me … to let the oppressed go free.” 

Continuing with the Canticle, Zechariah makes clear that FREEDOM FROM OPPRESSION IS part of a progressive movement in which ultimately the entire world will accept God’s invitation to treat all people as equals–all peoples as children of God.   Each in their own way, the Hebrew prophets insisted that God had invited Israel to become the world’s leader in this progression that would ultimately achieve harmony and peace for peoples everywhere.  Through Judaism, and, for Christians, through Jesus, God invites humanity to return to the glory of Eden–the world as God intended it before free will turned much of humanity against God and God’s ways.  As Zechariah’s canticle continues, this concept becomes clearer. 

“Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Zechariah looks upon his son John and declares that this forerunner to Messiah will “give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God.”  This statement puts all peoples, all nations and all religions on equal footing.  Indeed, one common denominator for humanity is that “everyone needs forgiveness.”  Life and Hope cannot be sustained without it.   It is this honest and humble recognition that will move the world out of its tribal sensibilities (the “us” against “them” mentality) toward a universal brotherhood and sisterhood working out conflicts with equanimity.  

Of course, to forgive and receive forgiveness presents many challenges for us today as then.  The choices as to the degree of accountability that each act of forgiveness must include wreak havoc with our souls.  After all, it is not easy to decide how much, how little to exact from those who have harmed us or harmed others.  Indeed, there are times when making demands on offenders is fitting, just and right.  For example, there are times to insist that money lent to a relative or friend be paid back in full.  Such accountability empowers the relative or friend to mature, to take responsibility for his or her actions.  Other times, however, it may be best to wipe the slate clean and grant complete clemency.  In the case of abusive relationships, it is right and just to abandon the relationship altogether—especially when the abusive party makes no attempt to change or proves incapable of improving. Forgiveness, like all human values, requires faith, dialogue and discernment with others.

Taking all of this into account, we need to note that the Bible offers a progression in its examples of how and when forgiveness is offered.  One of the oldest biblical writings, for example, comes from Leviticus 24: 20 in which we find justice expressed as “an eye for an eye” which began to put limits on exacting justice.  Genesis, however, (stories and events documented generations after the older “legal texts” of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy[1]) offers us “the mark of Cain”—evidence of an even greater mercy.  You will remember God does not kill Cain for murdering his brother Abel.  Moreover, God’s mark on Cain forbids others to take revenge upon him (Genesis 4:8—16).  These sensibilities deepen over time throughout TANAKH and Jesus builds on these as evidenced n Matthew’s Gospel’s Sermon on the Mount (MT: 38—42) and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6: 27—42).  These prescriptions reach their ultimate manifestation through Jesus himself when he cries out on the Cross “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”   Note that there is no exemption clause here—every one and all are forgiven.   Ultimately, when we take the Bible as a whole, it insists that accountability always leaves hope for the offending party, even as it grants us some satisfaction in terms of justice.  Hope is embodied in the opportunities it offers offenders to change, to make amends so that he or she can reclaim their inherent, basic, common human dignity.  Humanity’s survival is dependent on a universal commitment to forgiveness for genuine love to manifest itself and grow in the world. 

For Discussion:

  1. What biblical stories exemplify the importance of Zechariah’s pronouncement of the necessity for forgiveness of sins?  Consult the ways all world religions, world literature, drama, films, television stories offer catharsis through forgiveness. How do you relate to these stories?  How do they impact your understanding of forbearance, patience with yourself and others, mercy and forgiveness of yourself and others in your life?
  2. Recall your childhood experiences of forgiveness and accountability.  Was there a proper balance? How have these experiences informed your adult sensibilities?
  3. What are your personal experiences of forgiving and being forgiven as an adult?  How do you balance forgiveness and accountability in your life now? What criteria do you use? To what extent do the Golden Rule and Platinum Rule apply?
  4. In what ways might you be struggling with forgiveness and accountability today?  (Apply this to yourself as well as toward others.)
  5. What historical and contemporary world events challenge your faith tradition or alter your convictions about forgiveness and the balance of mercy and justice?

There are abundant resources that help us engage in the process of forgiveness—forgiving yourself, forgiving others.  See the corresponding page on the website for some suggestions:

There are abundant resources to explore forgiveness in your life.  Here are just a few:

Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn:

DON’T FORGIVE TOO SOON  (New York: Paulist Press, 1997)

http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/3704-6/dont-forgive-too-soon.aspx

HEALING LIFE’S HURTS: Healing Memories Through Five Stages of Forgiveness (New York: Paulist Press, 1988)   http://www.paulistpress.com/Products/2059-3/healing-lifes-hurts.aspx

Paulist Father Frank Desiderio’s Forgiveness Retreats: http://www.forgivenessretreats.org/

Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-the-right-thing/201403/forgiveness-4-helpful-strategies-do-it-better

The Center for Non-Violent Communication: https://www.cnvc.org/

[1] Genesis: Introduction by Jon D. Levenson in The Jewish Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) 11

Other sources include http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Book_of_Genesis:  composed “just before or during the Babylonian exile of the 6th century, and the Priestly final edition was made late in the Exilic period or soon after.”  FYI, scholars consider the OLDEST book of the Bible, the first to be recorded in writing is JOB.

EXPLORE Parallels between Zechariah’s Canticle and the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The Canticle of Zechariah parallel lines:
69 [t]He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, 70 even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
72 to show mercy to our fathers
 and to be mindful of his holy covenant
73 and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, 74  rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him 75 in holiness and righteousness
 before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
    for you will go before the Lordto prepare his ways,
77 to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God
    by which the daybreak from on highwill visit us
79 to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
    to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL VS. 5 TO 7  Verse 5: O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;

make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain
  (Verse 4 has this line: “O come, O Rod of Jesse’s stem (i.e. David), from every foe deliver them.”                             Verse 6: O come, O Day-Spring from on high And cheer us by thy drawing nigh Disperse the gloomy clouds of night And death’s dark shadow put to flight.  Refrain   Verse 7:
O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all humankind;
O bid our sad divisions cease,
And be for us our King of Peace.  Refrain

1. What feelings are evoked by listening to this portion of the hymn?

2. You’ve noticed that the hymn makes reference to the importance of Davidic descent in ancient Judaism and this concept of a “royal family” exists in many times and cultures. From ancient times up to the late middle ages, the world valued ancestral blood lines in leadership and revered them.  Of what benefit is that to us today?  Can we translate the importance of an ancestral line to a modern mindset?  If so, how?  If not, why?

3. Invite discussion on the many ways religious and spiritual leaders build on their predecessors’ lives and actions.  What can we learn from this dynamic? 

Luke Live! Online: Reflection on Mary’s Prayer THE MAGNIFICAT

The Canticle of Mary. 46 And Mary said:*

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

49 The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.

51 He has shown might with his arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.

53 The hungry he has filled with good things;

the rich he has sent away empty.

54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,

55 according to his promise to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Now let’s take a closer look at the words of Mary’s prayer that you have just heard. Tradition identifies this prayer as “The MAGNIFICAT.” “Magnificat” is a Latin word. Its English equivalent is the word “magnifies.”  The Christian tradition translated Luke’s original Greek into Latin and from Latin into English with the phrase “My soul magnifies the Lord.”  Scholars who created the New American Bible translation chose the word “proclaims” in this context.  Thus you heard Mary say in this translation, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Other translators coined these phrases: “My heart praises the Lord” (Good News translation), “My soul glorifies the Lord” (NIV), “My soul exalts the Lord” (New English Bible).  The Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New Revised Standard Versions (NRSV) returned to the more classic English translation “My soul magnifies the Lord” as do all of the King James versions. 

To magnify is to enlarge—i.e., to make God’s greatness more evident. The words “praise” and “proclaim” accomplish the same purpose. The more we praise God, the more opportunity for people to ponder God and God’s greatness.  Both Christians and Muslims see Mary’s willingness to conceive and give birth to Jesus as a perfect witness to God’s greatness.  Her willingness to trust God in this miraculous conception also emphasizes the importance of surrendering to God’s will.   And even though Mary is not part of the Hebrew Scriptures, her cooperation with God, which we call GRACE in this moment, concretizes her Jewish sensibilities inherent in the words of Psalm 79, verse 13: “We, your people, will give thanks to you forever; through all ages we will declare your praise.”   Also Psalm 111: 3: “Majestic and glorious is God’s work, God’s righteousness endures forever.”  Thus Mary can rightfully say, “from now on will all ages call me blessed,” and “God’s mercy is from age to age.”  Remember, Grace has an uncontainable quality that extends far beyond any one individual or group or place or time.  Indeed, many faiths and philosophies uphold that “goodness begets goodness,” ‘truth strengthens truth,” and that “love knows no boundaries.”  

In Mary’s prayer we also find affirmation of the great reversal promised in the Hebrew Scripturestraditionally called TANAKH[1]: “the poor will be exalted, the exalted humbled.” Most notably there is the Song of Hannah in the book of 1 Samuel 2: which contains phrases such as

“My heart exults in the Lord, 

my strength is exalted in my God.

 Speak boastfully no longer nor let arrogance issue from your mouths.  The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, 

while the hungry batten on spoil. 

The Lord makes poor and makes rich. He humbles, he also exults. 

He raises the needy from the dust; 

from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage.” 

Clearly the Divine Action is to reconcile peoples to their proper state of living:  a celebration of our common humanity—everyone standing before God as equals.  This is a “great reversal,” indeed, for so much of human history progressed—just as our world continues to progress—at other people’s expense.  God’s reversal through prophets and through Jesus insists that we implement checks and balances on progress for everyone’s mutual benefit.  Indeed, the biblical vision obliterates the importance of status and heritage because they distract us from the common vision that we are all one.  Ultimately, social rankings are illusions.  At the end of each and every day, everyone needs air, water, food, clothing shelter, sleep and, yes, toilet facilities.  We must not take any aspect of our humanity for granted.  The Book of Ecclesiastes puts it this way: “As they came forth from their mother’s womb, so again shall they return, naked as they came, having nothing from their toil to bring with them.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:14)

When all social divisions cease, every person is as important as another.  This is humanity’s one, unifying vision: Every individual is an instrument of Providence.  Believers are invited to live daily in awe and wonder that we are able to experience life and love because of God and through God.  The Catholic liturgy proclaims God as the one “In whom we live and move and have our being.”  (This is a direct quote from the Book of Acts 17: 28.) In secular terms, gratitude for life itself breeds humility which, in turn, brings people together.   

INTRODUCTION TO AVE MARIA

         Now I invite you to collect your feelings and thoughts about THE GREAT REVERSAL, AND THE ANNUNCIATION AND VISITATIONS PASSAGES through my song meditation, Schubert’s AVE MARIA.  The words are Latin but they comprise Luke 1, verses 28 and 42.  Verse 28 recalls the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary that preceded the Visitation passage you just heard. Gabriel calls out to Mary: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The next line of the prayer and lyric echoes Elizabeth’s words to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  For Christians these words are an affirmation of our belief in the “Incarnation,” God entering into human history as a human being.  We’ll explore that further in subsequent tracks.  I invite listeners from other faiths to meditate on the ways your religions affirm God’s presence in the world through people of good will in all times and places. 

The song’s second verse addresses Mary as Mother of God, that is, of Jesus. Christians believe Jesus to be both fully God and fully human—the complete manifestation of God to the material world.  Both aspects of Jesus are inseparable, therefore Mary is the mother of the ONE who is both God and human. That is followed by a prayer of petition that Mary will pray for us now and at the hour of our death so that we may be with God for all eternity.   These themes also have secular counterparts that can be part of your discussion with relatives and friends who hold other faiths or maintain more secular perspectives.  

“Full of grace” is to be blessed, to be congratulated, to be filled with good news, good thoughts–to be caught up in a life-affirming enterprise.  Prayer, which comprises the second part of Hail Mary, for example, is an active expressions of HOPE in eternal life.  Its secular counterpart is the concept of horizon—a reality that can be seen or envisioned but not fully grasped because, like the horizon itself, it beckons only to recede further into space and time.  Recede though it may, the impact of horizon—magnificent sunrises and sunsets–lingers and we are able to grasp some of its energy and inspiration in the here and now.   Here then is Schubert’s AVE MARIA.  Additional commentary with questions for discussion will follow. 

 Here are links to two of my recordings of AVE MARIE -one Audio Only with Instrumental Ensemble from my CD The Gospel of Luke In Word and Song; The second is a Video with piano accompaniment by Laurence Rosania.

Latin Catholic prayer versionLiteral English Translation 
Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
Ave, Ave, Dominus,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus,
Et benedictus fructus ventris (tui),
Ventris tui, Jesus.
Ave Maria!

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Ora, ora pro nobis;
Ora, ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Nunc et in hora mortis,
In hora mortis nostrae.
In hora, hora mortis nostrae,
In hora mortis nostrae.
Ave Maria!
Hail Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Hail, Hail, the Lord
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed,
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Thy womb, Jesus.
Hail Mary!

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Pray, pray for us;
Pray for us sinners,
Now, and at the hour of our death,
The hour of our death.
The hour, the hour of our death,
The hour of our death.
Hail Mary!

For more on Schubert’s AVE MARIA, see: 

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Ave_Maria_(Schubert)


[1] I want to emphasize the Hebrew word TANAKH in sensitivity to our Jewish friends.  What Christians call “The Old Testament” is actually the writings of The First Covenant, i.e. God’s covenant with Israel—the descendants of Jacob aka Israel.  The Covenant through Jesus for Christians is truly a Second Covenant. The Jews call their books TANAKH and so we respect them by using this title rather than “Old Testament.”  Contemporary Christians affirm the validity of God’s Covenant with Israel grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Romans 11: 29 and in the Catholic Ecumenical Council known as Vatican II (1963-65) in the document NOSTRA AETATE (“In Our Time”) See

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html  In truth the people of Christian History have been disrespectful of Judaism and contributed to anti-Semitism and violence against the Jewish people.  Yet, Judaism constitutes the very foundation of Jesus and therefore Christianity.  In that way our ancestors neglected to observe the Fourth Commandment (Catholics) aka Fifth Commandment (Orthodox Christians and Protestants): Honor your Father and your Mother.