Funeral for Suicide Victim

from the Gospel of St. John
“Jesus said to the crowds, ’I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.'”

Preachers who begin by saying, “Words cannot express…” continue to use words for the next thirty minutes. Mine is not that long because I have nothing new to tell you. You already know what I’m about to say. So I guess lengthy preachers are right, “Words cannot express.”

Our prayer tonight is genuinely and powerfully that. A prayer. Not a judgment which offers no resolution, not self-blaming which, like a gerbil in a cage which keeps going around and around in circles, and it’s not a repeating gossip which further destroys someone’s character. And most importantly, it’s not about playing God in our evaluations or appraisals of someone. Jim thought he was God and he was wrong.

The most challenging part of being a Christian isn’t the believing. We so often think that it’s all about the beliefs. We can say and believe whatever we wish, but the hardest part of being a Christian is, well, being a Christian. It is our actions that speak louder than words, as the saying goes.

Being a Christian is the Prayer of St. Francis – in words, of course, but full of and requiring our complete attention and action.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.”

Are you grounded? We often don’t think about it or answer that question but we should. What grounds your life? When “error, doubt, despair and darkness” surround your life, what holds you down in safety, what light continues to burn; even if it’s only a flicker? That’s the grounding that will help and support your handling today and knowing there is a tomorrow. Jim despaired and forgot about tomorrow.

“Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.”

Outside my kitchen window, while writing this on a cold, snowy Monday evening, I saw a bird fly overhead. Probably looking for some place warm to land. Wondering to herself, “What state am I in? It’s mid-April and here’s this crappy weather!” What happened here? It’s an unanswered question that we all ask tonight: “What happened here?” You may have some hints and vague clues, but you will never know the complete answer. That’s the mystery of life we live, and that’s the mystery of faith that grounds us, and we hold onto dearly, “for dear life.”

My admonition for you tonight and in the months and years ahead is not to define Jim by his tragic, self-death. He was still a complete person who lived, loved, breathed, touched the lives of many, contributed and took, and tried the best he could. In memories held in your heart and through your stories told about Jim, please consider the whole person. It’s beneficial in remembering him, and it’s healthy for you who continue your lives. Jim succeeded in some ways and failed in others. Christians call that sin and grace. And we believe and act more on the beauty of God’s grace than hopelessly dwelling on our own sins.

Jim either forgot or ignored. Let us never lose our grounding in our own potential and belief that there is a tomorrow and faithfully put into action – in our families, in our friendships, within ourselves – a merciful and hope-filled God.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality, suicide | Leave a comment

Easter’s “langue des veaux”

5da2556c82c2fe8c9e8a4586290523e8I was sitting all by myself at the kitchen table after dinner. I was in third grade. Everyone had eaten and my mother was cleaning up. It was looking right at my mouth. My feet couldn’t touch the floor so running when her back was turned was not an option. It was a tongue taken from a calve. A cute, little calve became a mute so I can stare at it as it stared back at me.

“Calves Tongue,” considered a healthy delicacy and served in our humble, Manitowoc home. There was nothing delicate about living in Manitowoc so why push this delicacy into a young person’s mouth? I had my tongue, and I boldly told her, “No.” “No, I won’t eat this thing,” stuffed between two pieces of bread.

Not one to lose, my mother insisted hence the sole person at the table. If only she’d introduced it to me in French, “langue des veaux,” I would have gobbled it up and bragged about it the next day at school. Nope. A blunt English name. When she turned off the kitchen light, I suspect that was my cue to tough it out and eat the darn thing. A battle of wits between a forty-six-year-old and a ten-year-old.

I remember taking a small bite and running to the sink to spit it out. She made her point, and I made mine. I tried a piece. It was a win-win except for the calve who remained speechless.

All right. What does this have to with Easter and sin?

All right. What does this have to with Easter and sin? Admitting your sins is a private matter. It’s personal. Our Mother Mary or our God is carefully watching, always from the sidelines and patiently waiting. The delicacy of forgiveness is staring us right in the face. Psalm 23 cleverly tells us, “You set a table before me in the sight of my foes.” In our honesty and sincerity, we put our weaknesses right where we can see and control them. We already do this with our gifts and talents, so why not proudly but personally hold dear our sins? If only we didn’t call it sin, perhaps a minor lapse or, how about, a silly mistake or, better yet, a mindless error. Would that make the swallowing of our pride would be easier? Nope, because that’s not the word. It’s a sin.

Here’s the Easter part.

One author wrote, “The resurrection of Christ Jesus reimagines our lives on earth. Life from above brings hope and healing in our worldly need. Everyone learns about things of heaven when lives on earth are changed.” Everyone learns about things of heaven when lives on earth are changed. I like that.

It’s the result of taking a small bite out of our pride, spitting it out as a sign of release, turning off the light and enjoying a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow’s eyes are opened a little wider and the day after that. That’s Easter’s hope. It’s a hope that will never fail us. God even blesses us with a prayer of forgiveness, whether in the confessional or said from your heart.

Was this too corny? I don’t think so. Try it sometime. You may be able to live with your “langue des veaus” a little easier. I’m told it’s high in protein…or is it graces?

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Easter, Salvation, Spirituality | Leave a comment

“Follow the Fellow”

(The Christian seasons of Advent & Easter meets Jesus Christ through the music of Broadway)
“On the day I was born, Said my father, said he. I’ve an elegant legacy Waitin’ for ye, ‘Tis rhyme for your lips And a song for your heart, To sing it whenever The world falls apart.

Look, look Look to the rainbow. Follow it over the hill And the stream. Look, look Look to the rainbow. Follow the fellow Who follows a dream.

So I bundled my heart And I roamed the world free; To the East with the lark To the West with the sea. And I searched all the earth And I scanned all the skies, And I found it at last, In my own true love’s eyes.

Look, look Look to the rainbow. Follow it over the hill And the stream. Look, look Look to the rainbow. Follow the fellow Who follows a dream.

‘Twas a sumptuous gift To bequeath to a child. Oh the lure of that song Kept her feet funnin’ wild. For you never grow old And you never stand still, With whippoorwills singin’ Beyond the next hill.

Look, look Look to the rainbow. Follow it over the hill And the stream. Look, look Look to the rainbow. Follow the fellow Who follows a dream. Follow the fellow, Follow the fellow,

Follow the fellow
Who follows a dream.”

(“Finians Rainbow,” 1947, Broadway. Written by Burton Lane (see below) and Yip Harburg.)

 

 

This is the “below,” just in case you’re interested…from Wikipedia…

Burton Lane is credited with discovering 13-year-old Frances Gumm, (Judy Garland, 1935). He caught her sisters’ act at the Paramount theater in Hollywood which featured a movie and a live stage show. The sisters, Virginia and Mary Jane, brought on their younger sister, Frances, who sang “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart“. Lane immediately called Jack Robbins, head of the music department at MGM, and told him he’d just heard a great new talent.

Robbins told him to bring her in next day for an audition which Lane did. Robbins was knocked out by the little girl’s voice (Lane played the audition piano for her), rushed upstairs and dragged Louis B. Mayer down to listen to her belt out some songs. Mayer was so impressed he ordered every writer, director and producer on the lot to hear her with the result that the audition; which began at 9 am, finished at 7:30 pm. Frances (Judy) was signed, and that was the start of her career. Because of circumstance, and contractual arrangements, Burton Lane didn’t work with her again for seven years (Babes on Broadway), but it was definitely he who discovered her. (“The Wizard of Oz” was filmed in 1939.)

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Advent, Easter, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Easter, “Amazing”

lily_2It began a couple of years ago. I was good at it for a long while, but slowly, I needed assistance. I couldn’t do it alone any longer. You could say that I didn’t trust myself anymore.

I, I, I started to write notes. I began to write notes to myself to remind myself of things I thought I might forget. Then when I needed to review or tell myself, I could look up one of my notes – a passing thought I worthy of remembering, something I heard from someone else and liked as a sermon theme. (You know you’re getting old when you write a note to remind yourself of something but then forget where you placed the note…or you forgot why you wrote it!) The small piles on my kitchen table rise higher each day.

To help me out tonight is an old standard from the 1958 movie, “Gigi,” “We met at nine, we met at eight, I was on time, no, you were late, Ah, yes, I remember it well. We dined with friends, we dined alone, a tenor sang, a baritone, Ah, yes, I remember it well.”

Today is our glorious time to remember and try hard not to forget. Especially for those special people, we welcome tonight into our community of faith through baptism and confirmation. My advice to you tonight is to try to remember one or two special moments for the rest of your lives. Hold on to them as best you can because these two sacraments are the anchors during any of life’s storms. Those memories will never fail you. (For me the meaning is there now but little of the experience. Baptism was as a baby and Confirmation was eighth grade. I only remember Confirmation’s slap on my cheek.) I hate to disagree with an angel, but I think we should be amazed this night and every time we gather as church. Amazed at the opportunity to touch him through the Eucharist, be reinforced by him while in this place and then bringing him to all the situations we encounter. That is profoundly amazing.

Tonight, we remember who began at Christmas and is completed this holy night and proves and shows us what eternal life looks likes.

Unless, of course, we forget.

“That dazzling April moon, there was none that night…And the month was June, that’s right, that’s right, It warms my heart to know that you remember still the way you do, Ah, yes, I remember it well.”

Perhaps the Original Sin isn’t idolatry but forgetting.

Perhaps the Original Sin isn’t idolatry but forgetting. Idolatry is a churchy word. The human experience that speaks to all of us is the word forgetting. How often we either take for granted or forget the great gift won for us this night. Or better yet, is the meaning of those words really the same? Idolatry is to forget what this night means. It means that “Yeah, I know the church is there, but I’m doing okay right now on my own.” I call those Catholics the fire extinguisher sign, “In case of an emergency, break glass.” The church becomes a crisis center until things settle down. Then there are those who say, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” I still don’t know what that means, but I think it boils down to, “I get to sleep in on Sunday mornings.” We forget the commitment it took him to give us new life so that we can receive new life and to then to bring new life to all those around us. If you think about it, I believe it’s too easy for us First World people to forget what this night means and to apply it to our every day lives. Unfortunately, us First World people are given only an illusion, an illusion of a life as gratification. That’s not what he won for us this night.

“That carriage ride, you walked me home, You lost a glove, aha, it was a comb, Ah, yes, I remember it well, That brilliant sky, we had some rain, Those Russian songs from sunny Spain, Ah, yes, I remember it well.”

And he showed us all with our ordinary things of life. And, he made them extraordinary. Oh, all right, there was that dove at his baptism and some heavenly voices from time to time but what will always remain is … I know you didn’t forget the answer to that one: bread and wine. Staples at any gathering. Your wife messages you, “Remember, to buy some wine for the party tonight,” because she knows that you’ll forget. Water to cleanse, he blesses us; a white cloth commissioning us at baptism and letting us go at death; oil on our foreheads for a lifetime of selfless service, a lifelong burning brightly lamp that never hides under a bushel basket and young mustard seeds of gifts and talents that grow into an adult life worthy of God’s creation. I can name more of them, but this service is long enough.

If I dare say, this whole night amounts to one word for us all.

If I dare say, this whole night amounts to one word for us all. It is hope. Hope for a faith-filled life for each of us, hope that our children develop an even deeper faith than we possess because of our witness, hope for all the oldsters to cherish their life’s wisdom and to recall all the advice they’ve given to others for many, many years and now applied to their lives, hope that our world can safely solve solvable problems and that we never ever forget, most importantly, even with aging minds, that none of this is ever achieved by our own self-wills or personal determination.

Our First World culture can only offer gratification. That’s the sad but loud Sinatra song that sings only to himself, “I Did It My Way.” That’s the First World’s response to life. It only leads to isolation and eventual loneliness. “Idolatry, anyone?” That’s what forgetting gets you. The Church can confidently promise you not gratification but fulfillment. We need to sing the song to him by the rock group, “America,” “I need you like the flower needs the rain, You know I need you, guess I’ll start it all again, You know I need you like the winter needs the spring, You know I need you, I need you, I need you.”

It is wholly and only accomplished as a faithful community,

It is wholly and only accomplished as a faithful community, together as the Body of Christ. That’s what he wants us to do as he did for his apostles in that Upper Room. It’s bread and wine – broken and poured out – our “broken and poured out lives” shared and lived together as his body was broken but divinely raised up this holy night. Here’s a goal for us all – both for those soon to belong and for us longtime belongers. Can we be that solider looking up at that Good Friday cross and sincerely and humbly say to ourselves and then to be, through our lives, to each other, “Truly this was the Son of God!”? That becomes and is an unforgettable and amazing faith.

One more musical verse and then I’m done. “How often I’ve thought of that Friday, Monday night, When we had our last rendezvous, And somehow I foolishly wondered if you might, By some chance be thinking of it too?”

Oh, I forgot. I forgot to tell you. I didn’t tell who he is! His name is Jesus Christ. I made a note of it.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Baptism, Easter, Spirituality | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Lent’s Garbage Can

“Where Do We Put It?”

Its shape is usually circular and placed in a corner of the kitchen. Not seen but available for those tossable tosses. Mine has a foot opener making it easier to dump, but cheaper folks need to lift the top of theirs for the other hand to toss off that something they no longer need. Never good at basketball, you’d be surprised how many inches I’m away from it, and I still miss. Go figure.

Where do we put it?

Something that’s no longer needed? We call it garbage, and we rid ourselves of it. You’ve got to be kidding! I’ve gone through mine often looking for that critical piece that I thought was no longer important and didn’t need any longer. I’ve rummaged through coffee grounds and smelly cigarette butts until I remember … it’s on my bedroom bureau. “Oh, well,” I say to myself, attempting to regain my self-respect even though I live alone and no one is watching me rummage, except my two cats. (The cats are thinking to themselves, “I told you that piece of paper was important, but no, do you listen to us?!”)

Being a guest in someone’s home is trickier in finding one. Sometimes, you need to wait until you’re alone to see where they placed theirs. Richier homes have theirs in a built-in cabinet often near the dishwasher. Others will put them in their hallway as though to disguise its purpose. I think that’s all meant to fool me into an “Easter Egg Hunt” to rid myself of my snot-filled tissue. If the hostess enters during my hunt, I easily say that my back hurts and bending helps. She sees through my ruse and ends my “Easter Egg Hunt” with a point of her finger.

Where do we put it?

Bathrooms are the easiest to house them for they’re always next to the toilet or slightly behind it. Living rooms? Unequivocally, never, ever present. If you need one in the living room, then you’re out of luck. Put the tissue in your pocket and say to yourself, “March on, valiant solider” because there has to be a bathroom around here somewhere.

Its purpose? Leftovers. They are the bits and pieces of our lives – bits, that linger around with a presumed value but time slowly dissolves its usefulness and – pieces, now needing a final resting place. It fills itself until you discover that no more once valuable things yet now un-valuable items can fit inside. The person who created a temporary plastic container placed inside the permanent container has got to be a millionaire and living in Boca Raton. Brilliant invention for all us tossers.

It’s now a breeze to remove the temporary plastic of unwanteds. “Thanks be to God” for the Boca guy who allows us to pull strings together and completely toss all of our losses with a single toss. Weekly we place it in front of our homes, as though we’re proud of our tosses. Having a grade school age child living in your home during those weekly driveway treks becomes a true blessing for this mindless task. (The lazy parent says to the child, “It teaches you character.”) Then, every week, an equally intelligent machine mechanically arrives at your home to pick up what you no longer wish to hold, store or see.

Where do we put it?

Speaking of outside, the “every week” service is complimented but an “every other week” for those tossables destined soon to be revisited by someone. You may think that you’ve ridden yourself of no-longer-valuable things, but months from now that newspaper you were reading soon becomes the snot-filled tissue I will toss away at your Christmas party. And, I’ll do it in her fancy kitchen!

Forget that “overflowing cup” along with our smoothly “oiled heads”

11949844571642344710cestino_pieno_architetto_01.svg.hiWhere is my silly ditty leading? To that famous Psalm 23 that we all love but often dismiss its most important verse, “You set the table before me in the sight of my foes.” Put aside that wonderful overflowing cup along with our smoothly oiled heads; my enemies are right across from me … and in a fancy restaurant? $38.00 for a steak and I need to contend with my envy, jealous and licentiousness? “Oh, wait! I don’t know what licentiousness means!” (You can’t sin unless you know what it means … and can spell it.) You can add calumny as well.

Where do we put it?

My unnamed object is the object we think we use to rid ourselves of attitudes or feelings that are harmful … to us and others. We attempt to throw them away as in Confession. We leave the booth (if we enter it in the first place) and leave it relieved that “all that’s behind me now and it’s a brand, new day for me.” Until one hour later. Even without Confession, we think the same MO. It’s over now and never to return.

“I love the Catholic Church.”

I love the Catholic Church. (Why do people always need to make that preface before they comment on the Catholic Church? Will Rome call my home? Will Google pick that up?) My comment is that we all fail at being the people that God created us to be. Will we, also, never succeed. We will never, ever be that purest, sincere creation. Original Sin was clean because of our parent’s baptismal diligence but sin still permeates our whole life. The Confessional prayer of forgiveness says, “And to sin no more.” Wait! It’s going to happen away, trust me on this. I say at Mass something similar while I smile to myself, “That we sin no more” as though there’s an off-ramp that we always seem to miss. It’s gonna happen again, and then again.

Please don’t chock it up to “human nature” because then you’re a heretic of the Church. The incarnation of Jesus showed us that “human nature” is divine. The union of human/divine is what makes the Jesus miracle, a miracle. We no longer flounder, we find. We no longer haplessly hope because hope is shown to us. St. Paul says that “we groan and yearn,” I love those words, but he also says that we’re “fools for Christ.” It’s foolish of us to think that we can truly be what God created us to be. One Catholic author suggests that we become “better than ourselves.” There is no “better” than what God created at our birth.

Like that unnamed container, we are always searching for somewhere to put those parts of our lives we no longer wish to live with, look at, or want to tolerate within ourselves. There is no magical bucket to bucket our “stuff.” King David rightly tell us that there’s only a dinner table with all of them proudly assembled before us. And, honestly, would you want it any other way? You’re all business people. You have an employee with a so-so attitude, but he does a good job. You keep him employed, but you know what he’s up to and doing. That’s David’s metaphor.

You can’t throw away anger, jealous, sexual urges and toss them conveniently into the Boca guy’s plastic bag. Because just like the movies we all watch – it comes back to haunt you. When the antagonist returns for another round of fake boxing, the hero says, “Gee, I thought I was done with that.” Scripture talks about supposed forgotten demons who only return to live within you, but now stronger and stronger. That circular container cannot discard the even scarier circular return of even beefier demons.

“Peek-a-boo”

But what happens when anger, frustration, jealousy or any other silly sins fills your mind or acts inself out? You place them before you – right in front of you so you can see them at all times. At your dinner table, from the first cocktail to your unnecessary dessert. You can say to yourself, “‘Peek-a-boo, I see you’ and I know what you’re up to and I want you near me, hell, right in front of me in my favorite overpriced restaurant.” David could have placed those foes anywhere – in your mind or heart. No, he choose a dinner table. The place where relatives gather, tell stories, laugh and argue about the quality of a Trump vote. It’s the place where those gather always begin with a prayer.

They say that religion and psychology don’t mix. Those are silly people who love to write about stuff to get their names known. Faith gives us reason and psychology often provides us with the methods. How’s that for a happy marriage? The husband says, “Honey, I know you right, I’m sorry.” The husband provided a perfectly good reason for continuing the marital union while methodically knowing she’s wrong. The marriage continues, and the conversation is settled at a later time with both religion and psychology meet a common ground. That’s the verse from Psalm 23.

A 90-year-old came to Confession and confessed looking at women in the wrong way. I said to him, “God bless you, you still got!” It’s not the looking; it’s what you do with that look that leads us to fail being God’s creation. We all get angry, but it’s the intention that triggers a moral failing and regret on our part. And remember that anger is only a symptom or expression of something more profound. That’s psychological thinking, and it’s combined with religion’s power of prayer.

We try to throw away sin from our lives. David tells us to live with sin, sleep with it and even dine with all of them surrounding you. I think that’s called awareness. You know it’s easy to lie to yourself because you believe yourself. Lying to others is trickier because they’re able to, so often, see through it. I’m an awful liar. After telling a lie, I always look down or away. I’m told that’s a D- in the lying department.

Find a technique to catch yourself (psychological) and reinforce it in and through God’s grace (religion). I use humor to stop me from my petty sins. It works for me because life would be very empty for me if it weren’t for humor – humor about others but especially laughing at and about myself. A technique I thought of while writing this was to give your feeling an adjective. Don’t just say jealousy but how about “choking jealousy” because that’s what it does to you. Chokes the goodness out of you and denies the goodness in someone else. And who wants to be choked? Envy? Think of the ugliest pair of socks you own, and you’ve given envy a name. Argyle-Knee-High envy. Naming and placing are essential in our battle against (or should I say dealing with) sin. Add Sour Milk to modify lust and see if takes on a healthier twist for you. (I hate when I need to smell old milk.)

“We proudly boast of our successes,
why
not boast of controlling and recognizing our failings?”

If you notice, both “naming and placing” don’t discard or throw anything away. Instead, it makes us owners of our failings. We proudly boast of our successes. Well, why don’t we, at least in private, boast of controlling and recognizing our failings? Naming and placing them where we can watch and weigh them daily. That may not lead to a sinless life, but it is a life worthy of God’s attention and mercy.

Lent is supposed to be about “letting go,” freeing ourselves to offer ourselves to God because of the resurrection. Instead of letting go of dispositions or attitudes that will surely return, how about saying, “hold fast,” and as Scripture says, “to the things that last.” Hold the gifts tightly you treasure most in your life and hold tight those things that keep you down or, worse yet, things or actions we use to keep others down.

Lent is not only a seasonal noun but a verb meaning “to borrow.” God’s lent us this body to praise and give glory back to God through this body. He gave it to us, and trust me on this; God wants it back. Someday. It’s on loan with an expiration date that surprises both God and us.

In my 38 years of doing this, I’ve always been confronted by priests and parishioners with that cute alliteration, “confusion or clarity.” “Don’t confusion the laity.” If this were 1920, then I’d agree. During those times, a priest was supposed to be and only talk all about clarity to those without the same education. (As though clarity was truly reached.) But those days are long over but appear to be returning. In me, the Church got the wrong guy for that “clarity” job. I’m not the answer man, as much as I’d to think I am. I believe my purpose in ministry is to confuse to get both you and me thinking about clarity. I have as many unanswered questions as you have. Unfortunately for you, I also have this vague, Godly authority. I’m a single guy with two cats along with much life experiences. Many of you have spouses, children and grandchildren and many life experiences of your own. What’s wrong with letting us confuse each other together in this wonderful, confusing gift that God calls “life.”

We may never achieve crystal, clear clarity but the fun and adventure of life is always about searching for our meaning and purpose. And, it changes with each of life’s stages. If you thought the business world was dog-eat-dog then just wait until 8:00, first retirement day, Monday morning, barefoot in your kitchen wearing your bathrobe, third cup of coffee with nothing to do … until Thursday. And then, it’s only a doctor’s appointment.

“A ‘midlife crisis’ isnt a crisis, it’s a sacred blessing…”

We reached a degree of clarity during one stage of life and we feel content and comfortable for awhile (thinking this will last for lifetime) until confusion again sets in requesting even more clarity. (“Psychology mixed in with religion, anyone?”) A “midlife crisis” is not a crisis. It’s a sacred blessing discarding childish notions and filling your life with dollops of wisdom and kernels of knowledge. If people weren’t so self-conscious during their midlife trial, I think the Church ought to have a ritual to spiritualize it and encourage its process. (I was forty-two when mine hit). I hope that you meet more people like me to confuse you, again and again, helping you to seek that elusive clarity.

And, if I’m not mistaken, I think that clarity is called “Heaven.”

Oh, by the way, here’s the definition and spellings of those two sins.

licentious | līˈsenSHəs |adjective
1 promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters.
2 archaic disregarding accepted rules or conventions, especially in grammar or literary style.

calumny | ˈkaləmnē |noun (plural calumnies)
the making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone’s reputation; slander.

You are now permitted to commit them. 11949844571642344710cestino_pieno_architetto_01.svg.hi

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Easter, Lent, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday: “Which Side of the Cross?”

We truly are a fickle lot.

palm_branch_3d_model_312e6679-f521-4144-aad3-c3b8743b6d36

We wave our palm branches saluting him and then call out loudly next week for the release of not him but “Anthony Quinn, give us Anthony Quinn!”

We promise ourselves to never swear again until we’re at a busy intercession, in Milwaukee it’s, 60th and Center Streets. We save money for our child’s college tuition but that 62’ flat screen, Full HD 1080, 4K looks pretty tempting. Our diets last until we pass a KFC.

We humbly lay our palm branches at his feet as he enters declaring him “king” today and call out loudly a few days later for the release of “Barabbas, Barabbas!”

We truly are a fickle lot.

palm_branch_3d_model_312e6679-f521-4144-aad3-c3b8743b6d36

We’re both thieves on both sides of him. We pledge a change and two years later forget what the pledge was. We seek forgiveness asking him for paradise while we don’t change a single aspect of our lives.

We plan a day spent solely with our son but something comes up with “the boys” and we get to cue the Harry Chapin song. “We’ll get together soon son, we’re gonna have a good time then.”

Our extra special effort in work is erased when we see no one else is doing anything “extra.” We say to ourselves, “Why bother?”

We are truly a fickle lot.

palm_branch_3d_model_312e6679-f521-4144-aad3-c3b8743b6d36

Our Lenten firm resolution didn’t make it to the Second Week. “Oh well,” we say to ourselves, “Things happen.”

That’s right. Things do happen. We’re not responsible for this or that happening. We find someone else to blame and wash our uninvolved hands of the matter. Sound like someone we know? His is the only other name mentioned in our Creed besides God, Jesus and Mary. I wonder why the Church did that?

We truly are a fickle lot.

palm_branch_3d_model_312e6679-f521-4144-aad3-c3b8743b6d36

We are and will continue to be a fickle lot until we discover that we are not the star in this movie we call life. We are all character actors – sometimes beautifully played and other times, wonderfully underplayed.

We welcome and honor him with our healthy, green palms. But those palms slowly and often mindlessly bristle and hardened to be returned. Where? Returned to the place we received them. Church. They are burned and placed upon our foreheads announcing to us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. I think the priest should say a new line when placing palm branch ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, “You are a character actor in God’s play. Perform and act like you know which side of the cross you’re on. Play it well and you may win an Oscar or at least a nomination.

We are a fickle lot, indeed.

palm_branch_3d_model_312e6679-f521-4144-aad3-c3b8743b6d36

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Easter, Lent, Palm Sunday, Spirituality | 3 Comments

From Lent to “Living Color”

nbc_laramie_peacockSad to say but our grandmother needed to die first. We liked her a lot but her day arrived. It wasn’t long after that we got a color TV in our family home. A color TV. I thought we’d never get one.

Our black and white TV was okay until I saw a color TV through our living room window. You see, our neighbors, who were childless, got to purchase a precious color TV. Our home full of children could not. (You do the math.) “Ours is just fine,” was my mother’s dismissive answer to my plaguing requests.

The program was “Bonanza.” On a Sunday night. Around 1967. Walking through our living room, I looked through our window into the window of our childless neighbors. And there it was, as the announcer announced in those days (with a harp playing in the background), “Brought to you in living color on NBC.” Thinking today, I don’t know how color can have an adjective of “living” but it was very convincing to a young mind living in a house with too many siblings and watching the same show, only, in B/W.

Jesus says, “This is the time.” Just like Jesus, how does our dreary “black and white” Lent turn into the “living color,” (whatever that means) of Easter? Jesus talks as though he’s speaking to himself and not to his apostles. He seems to be saying, “Yes, I can do this…no, I’m not sure of this…yes, I can do this.” As though he’s convincing himself. Do you ever talk to yourself? Do you ever talk to yourself out loud? Don’t worry about it, I think it’s healthy. It’s only when you answer yourself that you need to consult someone.

“This is the time.” Fifth Sunday of Lent. The finish line is a mere two weeks away. We’ll be gathered here then honoring the most sacred feast the Church offers its followers. We’ll hear powerful words tossed about like hope, promise, covenant; new, eternal life hoping to have all of it land into our laps and hearts. How do we move from the “black and white’s” of our lives to “living color?”

Oh, but wait! What if this Easter is not your Easter? What I mean is that, what if your big “This is the time” moment isn’t until May 10, July 2 or even August 2 or sometime next year? Well, this Easter the Church shows us how it’s done so when it does happen to you, you’ll know the sequence, what to expect.

“This is the time.” We all have them throughout our lives, trust me on that. Do we let others make the decision for us so we have someone to blame if things go rye? Do we postpone that time as long as possible waiting for other options to pop up or do we just procrastinate? The Church gives us an Easter date but it may not our date.

I saw something very attractive through my window, through another’s window. I saw a hint of it. In “living color,” whatever that means. The counsel of friends and family members help me in my Easter, new life, discernment. I ponder and pray…never for answers (God doesn’t give answers) but for guidance, strength and what Scripture calls, “The right path.” How do we move from the “black and white’s” of our lives to “living color?” Life decisions, of all kinds, are never easy to make or resolve.

“This is the time.” Time for what? We each know, in our hearts, what it’s time for. Change? Modification? Renewal? Retrieving? Remembering? Admitting an addiction? Confronting someone about an addiction? Reconciling with a co-worker about a disagreement neither of you remembers? Letting go of an attitude about yourself that’s been holding you down for years upon years? Apologizing (always the worst)? Self-forgiveness (second worse)? Forgiveness of another, whether living or deceased (deceased is trickier but still doable)? The Church’s calendar gives a yearly date but your date with be as they say, “TBA.”

Simple or profound. It’s all enriching, folks. Whether it be done through life’s erasing or life’s enhancing. That’s the paschal mystery of Easter.

Remembering my grandmother’s color TV today, I perceive it now as new life and new attitudes and a renewed faith that this holy season provides. When our “This is the time” comes (whenever that is), please remember that announcer from many years ago proclaiming to you and your Easter decisions (complete with a harp), “And brought to you in living color on NBC.”

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com

“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Lent, Spirituality | 1 Comment

“Verb!” A Confirmation Sermon

ConfirmationYour mom yells out to you from across the room, “Did you get to Mass today?” You reply, “Ya, Mom, I went to church this morning.”

The older woman tells you that she said the rosary. She says it four times every day. Hasn’t missed a day in forty years.

What’s wrong with those two scenarios?

It’s the verbs! It’s always about the verbs in our lives. What’s the definition of a verb? “A word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence” or the last word of a sentence.

You can “do” the dishes, but you can’t “do” Mass or “do” relationships or “do your personal life.

I “prayed” today at Mass for our family. Now, doesn’t that sound much better than that dead verb, “went?” Or how about this? “I slowly recited the rosary thinking about one person for each bead. And I only did it once a day because sometimes I forget to do it.” Now, doesn’t that sound much better than that dead verb, “said?” And isn’t one time sincerely prayed better than four repeating repetitions in a single day?

“Went” and, “said” are verbs that describe an event that’s been started and ended. It’s finished. I did it. It’s over now. It describes an event, not an experience. It’s like “seeing” a movie. So you sat there for two hours. Big deal. An experience brings out the response, “That movie moved me in several ways” and then proceed to explain what you mean to your friend.

Like any sacrament, confirmation is not an event, it’s an experience. It’s one that is unfolding and unpacked your whole life; just like marriage may be for you or as ordination has been to me. It’s the unfolding of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that will sometimes surprise you and other times expected. That’s one dynamic verb. I just made the Holy Spirit a verb! Good for me!

At the end of April, don’t you dare come up to me and tell me that you “got confirmed.” I’ll just walk away from you. You “receive” the sacrament of Confirmation from the Church for it to be unpacked, unraveled, unveiled, mysteriously present, shared, forgotten but then retrieved for the rest of your lives.

It’s the verb. It’s never “went” and, “said.” It’s always “touched,” “affected,” “scared,” “comforted,” “humbled,” and “honored.”

A verb. To paraphrase the definition, a verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence that makes the predicate of a sentence meaningful, worthwhile, and purposeful in your life.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Spirituality | Leave a comment

Children’s Sermon during Lent

Mmmmm. I had ice cream topped with ketchup and mustard last night. Boy, was it good.

You know it’s wrong, but at the time it sounds good.

The Bible calls the “Big Ten” commandments, but I don’t like that word. It sounds like God saying, “I COMMAND you to do this and not that.” I command you. I like the word recipe, a recipe for life. I like it because it combines all life’s aspects and mixes them together to become a “child of God.” Your recipe needs to be balanced with all the right food groups, it needs to be healthy, and it needs seasonings to taste all of the joys that life brings.

Here, how’s this one? In the morning try oatmeal with green peppers and tomatoes. Mix it all together. Mmmmm.

You know its wrong, but at the time it sounds good.

What a better definition for failing to follow God or committing a sin. “You know its wrong, but at the time it sounds good.”

My absolute favorite meal in the whole, wide world is meatloaf, creamy corn and a baked potato with butter and sour cream. Now that’s worthy of the sound, Mmmmmm.

Meatloaf is the mixing together of ground beef, onions, eggs and a splash of milk. It’s the mixing together of parents, new friends, a good education, sports and free time. Sounds good? The seasonings are the most essential ingredient in this meal, in this life. The meatloaf is sprinkled with gifts of character, integrity, charity, kindnesses, caring, hope and always with an eye for those left behind. Because you see, then you bake your life in the oven at 350 for about one hour. Baking your life is living your life as best you can with the best recipe God’s given you. Indeed, it’s a meal of one lifetime. Yours.

(walking away and then turning around)

How about pizza with peanut butter on top? You know it’s wrong but at the time…”

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

Posted in Lent, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Lent & Anthony Newley

“Just once in a lifetime, There’s one special moment, One wonderful moment, When fate takes your hand, And this is the moment, My once in a lifetime, When I can explore, A new and exciting land, For once in my lifetime, I feel like a giant, I soar like an eagle. As tho’ I had wings…”

Today, three songs from Anthony Newley to bring our three Scripture readings to life. If you don’t know his name, then as the kids say, “Goggle it!”

“Gonna build a mountain From a little hill, Gonna build a mountain Least I hope I will, Gonna build a mountain Gonna build it high, I don’t know how I’m gonna do it I only know I’m gonna Try…”

“Jesus led them up a high mountain…. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white…”

“Gonna build a daydream From a little hope, Gonna push that daydream Up the mountain slope, Gonna build a daydream Gonna see it through…”

“God called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” he replied. Then God said: ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and…you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.’”

“For this is my moment, My destiny calls me, And tho’ it may be just once in my lifetime, I’m gonna do great things…”

“‘Abraham, Abraham!’ ‘Here I am!’ he answered. ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy,’ said the messenger. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.’”

“Gonna build a mountain From a little hell, Gonna build a heaven And I know [darn] well, With a fine young son Who will take my place. There’ll be a sun in my heaven on earth with the Lord’s Good grace. When I build that heaven As I some day will. Gonna build a new life Throw the old away You and I together Gonna make life sing…”

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?”

“What kind of fool am I Who never fell in love It seems that I’m the only one that I have been thinking of. What kind of man is this? An empty shell – A lonely cell in which an empty heart must dwell…”

“…from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’ Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.”

“What kind of clown am I? What do I know of life? Why can’t I cast away the mask of play and live my life? Why can’t I fall in love Till I don’t give a [darn], And maybe then I’ll know what kind of fool I am.”

“Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised— who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”

“You and I together Gonna make life sing, We’ll fill tomorrow full of happiness.”

And so we end where we began,

“Just once in a lifetime, There’s one special moment, One wonderful moment, When fate takes your hand, And this is the moment, My once in a lifetime, When I can explore, A new and exciting land, For once in my lifetime, I feel like a giant, I soar like an eagle. As tho’ I had wings…”

Happy Lent.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

 

Posted in Lent, Spirituality | 1 Comment