First Sunday of Advent

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

(long silence after reading the gospel. I look at my watch and slowly clean my glasses.)

complaining beautiful young blond woman holding a clockI’ll begin in a moment. Or, will I start in a while? Or, how about shortly, That’s it. I’ll start the sermon shortly, or is the word I want, “soon?”

And, how long is a moment?

Or have I begun it already? And, how long is a moment? It’s my favorite word when time suddenly becomes timeless. And, how many moments are there in 60 seconds? (“The doctor will be with you in a moment,” “Your call is very important, that’s why you’re listening to a recording and ‘on hold’ listening to elevator music, but in a moment…,”)

You’ll need to wait a while longer before I make my point to you this afternoon. This may call for some patience on your part. Perhaps. Choose to read the Sunday bulletin before I get to the good spiritual stuff.

“It’ll take two weeks to complete, ma’am.”

The season of Advent is four weeks long, why four I don’t know. Why not two weeks like the carpenter tells you when he appraises your home project. It’s always, “It’ll take two weeks to complete, ma’am.” If you’re in hospice, the magical time frame is six months. If you survive 181 days plus one day, then another six months is added to your lottery-type life expectancy. Medical test results? Medicare response? “Two weeks.

My Sunday point will unfold soon, as in any time now. It’ll be but a brief moment. Why we need an adjective added to “moment?” I have no idea because a moment contains no time.

So, which one is it, Jesus?

Even Jesus says that “I am with you for awhile, but I will return.” He also says, “I am with you always, until the end of time.” So, which one is it?

The word is “today.”

Here’s a word I haven’t used yet, and it’s the point of my painstakingly time-consuming sermon, so please put the bulletin down. The word is “today.” It’s the perfectly timed word because it’s the only day, the only time, we have. We don’t wait for December 25 and Jesus’ birth because Jesus lives within us this very day. We honor December 25 but we live, breath, and move only this day. (I’m discovering that retired people know this better than the rest of us. The “there-so-no-time” executive says, “Let’s have lunch sometime next month,” The retired gal says to her friend, “How about this afternoon?”)

The English Mass is a means to end.
This Mass is not the end.

I was talking to friends about the Latin Mass versus the current English Mass, and it hit me. The Latin Mass was a strictly timed experience and was an end unto itself. You attended, watched, got communion, went home. You didn’t know what was going on, but hoped it would help you in your life. (Why you thought words you didn’t understand somehow helpsed you, is beyond me.) The English Mass, however, is a means to end. This Mass is not the end. Our prayer today is not the “this is it” moment but this Mass today erases easy words like, “tomorrow,” “someday,” “soon,” and “two weeks.” This Mass says “go forth” and duplicate what’s witnessed here – church words like mercy, forgiveness, community, and peace – and make those words your words in your thoughts, words, and deeds – but please, “Don’t delay, do it today. This offer will not last forever.”)

That’s Advent, folks. Advent is telling us to stop waiting and to forget about tomorrow’s promises and yesterday’s regrets. We only have “today,” (as in, “now”) to encourage the lives of others and inspire our own. We only have “now” to know that Jesus is alive and well in this parish community and in our acknowleding and reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves. We only have this known moment to know of God’s welcoming embrace for us. It’s an embrace that affects not only ourselves but every, single person we meet.

This sermon is about to end – any time now.

Oh, wait! I think I said all the good spiritual stuff. My time is up!

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available 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

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Where Is “It?”

Lost-Box-300x300“I know it’s around here somewhere, I saw it the other day. Or, was it the day before that; or it doesn’t matter what day, what matters now is to find it.

After all, I have a small apartment. You’d think an apartment is a perfect place for older folks to find compartments to store stuff they may someday need.

It’s not limited to material things but my escaping thought about who played in that 1940 movie that I love. I played the alphabet game, but not a single letter struck me. I could use a computer, but that’s the teenagers way out. I’m determined to earn that lost name after I uncover the it that I need before Noon. Healthcare people talk about losing your car keys. Dumb people. I know exactly where my car keys are, it’s this it that baffles me.

I have my special places for specials items that may need attention in some unforeseen future. I review those items wondering what future I was foreseeing, however, it was not among them. It’s funny how the eye moves to the trash as though I’d throw something valuable away. Why, on earth, would I do such a thing? I remember thinking that I ought to make a copy of it, just in case, but then thought to myself, “Why would I lose something I want to keep?” So, I stored it. I saved it in what has now become a very, very, safe place. It’s not a ‘rainy day, ’ but it’s an it that I need by Noon. I retrace my steps and thoughts over the past two days, but nothing is clicking. I suspect there is no “Ahhh” moment to my search.

Praying to St. Anthony is a Catholic thing, but he must be busy uncovering more important its for other thoughtless Catholics. I was told to think of something else, and then my mind will relax and in my lose it will reappear in my mind. That’s easy to say when you don’t have a deadline. I’m already thinking of another it that I need but can’t find.

“The mind is a terrible thing to waste,” said a wise person who probably find his it with great ease. My mind is fine, I only need to find it, soon. I remember how it looks, how I carefully folded it with the text facing upwards so I’d know its content. Then, I placed it…I placed it…I placed it…somewhere in what has now become a huge building instead of my cozy apartment.

Oh damn. It’s twelve thirty and I’ve forgotten what I was looking for. I think this is a good time for a nap.”

(Three o’clock, that very afternoon, the actor’s name pops into my head without requesting it. “Charles Boyer,” “Gaslight.” But where is it?)

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available 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

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Feast of “Christ the King”

disneyland-resort-anaheim-sleeping-beauty-castle-walt-mickey-mouse-600x338It’s good you’re sitting down. Since I don’t have kids, I was floored by the Disney Kingdom’s ticket price for three days. Two adults (over 10-years-old, parents are getting younger every day) along with two children under ten years costs – ready for this? $1056.00. Now remember that you haven’t flown there yet, you have eaten yet and you haven’t slept yet.

“Wow, what a great vacation, Dad,” says the 9-year-old kid to his 10-year-old father. (Dads: you’d have to be 10 to fork out that amount!)

“But it’s magical,” says the kid who’s paying $20.00 less than the parents.

Ezekiel writes, “I will resume them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. (Like writing a check for close to $4,000.00 for three days to see a castle lit at night.) He continues, “I will pasture my sheep; I will give them rest, says the Lord God. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy shepherding them rightly.”

Magic, Mystery, and Myth

On Thanksgiving Day at Christ King parish, I used a nice alteration, “magic, mystery, and myth.” It sums up our Christian faith on this ending Church season with “Christ as King” and the advent of his new life beginning next week.

If you want those three M’s to grow and mature in your life, then skip that Florida trip and immerse yourself in our incredible Christian faith. There’s no mercy or forgiveness at Disneyland, only tears at the end of the month when you see the bill and your two kids who forgot about the trip.

St. Paul gives us faith’s progression, “Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

I attended a Disney seminar years ago about how “Disney does it.” The employees aren’t called that but are called “cast members.” Everything you see, feel and hear has been carefully crafted for your $1,056.00 enjoyment. What I’ll never forget is the plan for your second visit. First time around, you’re overwhelmed by everything you see. Your second visit (probably increased from $1,056.00) is programmed. The speaker said, “You’ve seen the magic castle, but you didn’t see its decorated sides or looked down to see the additional trimmings a first timer would miss. Your third visit to Disneyland is built in as well with new surprises and excitements to make a fourth visit possible.

Match that with the Church’s 2,000-year-old ritual that invites us to see and hear, touch and embrace new messages from ancient messages each time at Mass. (So, who’s copying whom?)

Magic, myth and mystery, we’ve got it all folks, hands down.

Matthew writes to us about those plaguing times of human life that call for a response from us. It’s an endearing smile to a naked person who lost her husband or a child, a friend who thirsts for more knowledge of God, that hungry person who wants to eat the good out of good people, the ill who need a visit and a prayer and those people imprisoned by their own selfishness, addiction or not knowing how to love.

Jesus says, “He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Let’s see Walt top that one?!

Disneyland will take you for a ride
but the Catholic Church invites you to enjoy the ride of your life

Disneyland will take you for a ride but the Catholic Church invites you to enjoy the ride of your life, because it is your life’s ride. (Oh, come on, you knew I was going to include that!) The 23rd Psalm saves us, “Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, for years to come.”

The Kingdom of God with Christ as King is gathered here today. The Disney kingdom is thousands of miles away and also that amount in dollars.

$1,056.00? You’ve got to be kidding. God wants and demands of us the whole amount, our complete lives. Try putting a price tag on that!

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available 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

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A “Thanksgiving” Sermon

“It is commonly said that the domesticated turkey is the dumbest animal on the planet. This unofficial designation has resulted not only from the turkey’s widely spaced eyes and clumsy walking style that suggest it is dim-witted but from its supposed propensity for behavior that can be fatal. This refers to its propensity to stare at the sky for more than half a minute at a time, even when it is pouring, an act that could, potentially, lead to drowning. As it turns out, that is an inherited condition, not an act of stupidity, and no, turkeys don’t really drown from it.”

ncXkEBRcBSt. Paul says followers of our Savior are, “fools for Christ.” So, who’s the turkey this family day, is it the main course or is it us, its faithful people? We say “Virgin Birth” as though we say, “Please pass the salt.” Virgin Birth! How about serving the best wine last instead of the cheap stuff at the end of a party? How about giving your youngest half of the inheritance which he was never entitled to in the first place? Talk about “widely space eyes.” Or how about that runt with a slingshot who writes over 200 songs and has his best friend killed so he can marry the dead man’s wife! (That’s a hard act to follow, folks.)

In fact, the Discovery Channel defends the turkey in this passage: “Due to an inherited condition” that I can’t pronounce, “they are spasms – turkeys often stare at the sky for 30 seconds or more, even if it’s raining giving the impression that they are “dumb.” Also, turkeys often tilt their heads because they have monocular vision. Their eyes are placed far apart so they cannot focus both eyes on one image like humans can. To compensate, they tilt their heads to the side to get a better view. Turkeys are not dumb — instead, they’re very social with each other and with humans.”ncXkEBRcB

That is unless a human welds an ax the Monday before Thanksgiving.

How about picturing the Son of God as a German as most of our homes boast of instead of the Jew portrayal that he was, along with the nose. And what about his dizzy dozen followers he tells a dozen times that he’s about to be killed and rise from the dead in three days and then they’re all amazed when it really happens? (He told them it was going to happen!)

Animal Planet isn’t so kind, calling turkeys “confused,” but Benjamin Franklin called them “birds of courage” and thought the wild turkey should be the official animal of the United States. Turkey enthusiasts say that all turkeys are curious animals with individual personalities.

What about our Bible’s famous three’s? The guy tells his friend that he loves him three times after being tested three times by his friend and later on denies that he knows his friend. Guess how many times? Yep, three times. And now the pope sits a chair named after the guy, and we even call the Vatican basilica after the guy. And what about our faith contradictions, “An eye for an eye” to kill someone we don’t like, like in 33 U.S. states, instead of the potent phrase “turn the other cheek” from the same Hebrew scripture book.

Thanksgiving is obviously about what the word means assembling that cousin who doesn’t like your conservative politics, that aunt who can’t seem to get enough wine into her body, the in-law who thinks he’s too smart for the ten jobs he’s had in ten years, the spouse who retells his one heroic story twice a year (now and Christmas); and there’s always that quiet nephew who sits in the corner. I choose to visit the nephew each time, hands down. But we love them all, as best we can.

“There is a broad and growing field of study — animal cognition — that researches all aspects of animal cognition from different disciplines, including behavior, cognitive sciences. In what Scientific American called “a new frontier” in animal intelligence, researchers are finding some evidence that “some animals are capable of ‘mental time travel,’” suggesting that “they have a deeper understanding of the world around them” than humans give them credit for.”ncXkEBRcB

“…suggesting that ‘they have a deeper understanding
of the world around them’”

How about the Hebrew Scriptures 80-year-old woman who gives birth and the Christian Scripture presents the exact, same story to a woman? Or, how about living inside a whale for three days (without cable or internet), or becoming mute because you want to name your son after yourself? There are more stories I can give you, but I think you get the idea.

Is it magic, myth or mystery? Or is it all three?

Fanciful or faith, we are entirely captured by stories handed down to us that influence and inform our lives. Our Christian faith has our total attention. Fact or fiction, we have absolutely no idea. “Fact or fiction” is what the mind keeps asking again and again without any satisfaction when it is our heart and soul that calls it to life and lives it in faith; not for its validity but for its message for each of us at each interval, at every corner of our lives.

Are we “fools for Christ,” as St. Paul claims or are we, “turkeys for Christ” with a single vision and a desire to humbly stand in the rain and drown ourselves in God’s forgiveness and mercy? The final lyrics from the song, “The Fruits of This Creation” sing it best for us on this turkey day.

But first I share with you what I told the Christ King grade school children during our Tuesday prayer service.

“You combine all the ingredients of your life and mix it in a bowl that is you, your life. Cook it for 450 degrees for five hours and then see if your peaceful, content-full feeling is the same as God’s mercy and grace. To us today, I can say as adults, if that first taste is not God-worthy, then continue to bake, it’s probably the stuffing that’s stuffed us with abit too much of ourselves. Keep baking until you can truly offer a “Thanksgiving” worthy of God’s appetite.”

The song’s lyrics conclude, “for the wonders that surround us, for the truths that will find us, most of all, {it’s} that love has found us.” Do you know how that song ends? It ends with, “Thanks be to God.”

Key
Mary, Wedding at Cana, Prodigal Son, David, Apostles, Peter, Sarah, Elizabeth, Jonah and Zechariah

(red means excerpts from The Washington Post, please don’t sue me.)

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available 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

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“Thanksgiving Day” Prayers for Grade Schoolers

Opening Prayer

thDear Father,
We pray our school will be filled with a love only You can give,
We pray our learning will be full of questioning and still more questions until we discover Your truth,
We pray our playground will be full of joy,
We pray our friendships will be full of forgiveness,
We pray and are thankful for our teachers who are full of wisdom and share that wisdom with us every day,
We pray and are thankful for all the volunteers who help make Christ King a great school,
We pray and are thankful for our two wonderful priests who teach us how to pray and love God,
We pray and are thankful for our parent or parents who dedicate their lives to make our lives healthy to grow and blossom,
We pray and are thankful for our two wonderful priests…(Oh, did I say that one already?!)
We pray and are thankful for our parish community who fill us full of hope and who show us who we can grow up to be.
May you run with the love of God always at your back,
Build on God’s truth that guides you throughout your lives,
Play with your joy for joy is the foundation of youth never to be lost in adulthood,
Share your forgiveness, constantly forgive each other even more than they forgive you,
Rest in God’s wisdom, trust in God’s wisdom, hold tightly to God’s wisdom for it is better than any church could ever imagine.

For the Thanksgiving dinner of your whole life, mix these ingredients together within the bowl of life that is you, then bake yourself at 450 degrees for five hours and you will be the good person God created you to be, every single day. We offer this prayer through Christ our Lord.

Reflection

We say, “Thank you” without thinking just as our next breath leaves us. The salt is passed, “Thank you,” the door is opened, “Thank you,” papers passed forward, “Thank you.”

Without thinking those two words automatically come out of our mouths. However, we seem to fail to thank our parents for a punishment or a time out. “Gee, Mom, thank you for punishing me! I needed that.” It may be true but whoever thanks mom or dad for teaching us an important lesson?

Thanksgiving is our country’s one-time event to be reminded of all the good in our lives. In the Church, though, it’s every day that thanksgiving is offered up to our Creator God. The Mass, the Eucharist is totally all about giving thanks – thanks for life, thanks for this day, thanks for a hopeful tomorrow. Whether you’re in first or eighth grade, we know what “giving thanks” means.

Yet, here’s our problem. How can our “Thank you” about passing the salt or the open door be compared to thanking our Creator? That’s a hard one. “Thank you God” just doesn’t equal papers passed forward. The first is powerful and the second is said without thinking.

I think I found a solution to our problem. Keep saying, “Thank you” for those simple, ordinary things of daily life. But when it comes to God, let’s forget the words. There are no words to “Thank God.” Did you hear what I just said? There are truly no words to “Thank God.”

We thank God by the way we treat others and ourselves. We thank God without words, only by our thoughts and actions. That simple smile, that hug, that helping hand when the backpack gets too heavy, helping those who need our help, assisting those who have much less than we do. Without words but within our hearts, we are telling God that we recognize that He’s living and breathing within us.

Put the Trinity together and what’ve you got? You got God-Creator, Jesus who shows us how to do it and the Holy Spirit that sparks us to keep going. That’s a Thanksgiving meal you’re able to enjoy and share with others not only once a year but every, single day.

Closing Prayer

Dear Father,
We pray our school will be filled with love
We pray our learning will be full of truth
We pray our playground will be full of joy
We pray our friendships will be full of forgiveness

We pray our teachers will be full of wisdom
We pray our community will be full of hope

May we run with your love
Build on your truth
Play with your joy
Share your forgiveness
Rest in your wisdom
Every day. Amen.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available 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

About

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Posted in Spirituality

God-Given Talents

 

Talents

Five, Two and One

 

God entrusts his possessions to us. Please note the pronoun, “his.” The Creator loaned us, the created, talents to be entrusted. Entrusted – to be kept safe but never hidden away, shared with all but owned by none, individually encouraging toward others to excel personally in their talents and gifts, and also achieve a degree of satisfaction within ourselves for the good we perform every day. (Once in awhile, patting yourselves on the back is good for your spiritual and physical health.) That’s what entrusted means.

We are finally globally realizing that as a planet we need to work together. How many centuries did it take us silly, selfish humans to own that simple principle? But alas, if you can’t get along with your next door neighbor then how do you expect France to work with Spain or North Korea with their neighbor, South.

The requirement for giving the talents was to earnestly invest them to a higher amount, toward a greater end. The talent of each of our lives is not be lived solo for ourselves but to continually reach out to others in kindnesses, mutual trust and rebuilding bridges that so often get tattered and torn.

In the midst of all this talent stuff, we need to be reminded of life’s number one sin. Do you know what it is? I’m sure we’d all agree that it’s selfishness. It is idolatry. It’s not the idolatry of the golden calf that Edward G. Robinson built while Charlton Heston was on top of the mountain; this is the idolatry precisely centered around the most important person in the world, Moi.

The master knew what the third guy would do with his one talent, that’s why he received only one while the others got more. The third guy was only looking after himself after grasping the one talent he held in his hand, never to invest or share with others. The third guy indeed “went off and dug a hole” and placed himself inside of it. He buried himself to protect himself. His only perimeters about living life were his shoulders. He defended only himself out of a childish, selfish fear. That’s the number one sin within us all. The man sends the third guy into darkness. I find that amusing because the third guy was already in a selfish darkness. The master only named it for the third guy.

Catholic confessions ought to be easy from now on. I don’t need your list. Just say, “Father, I’ve been selfish.” I don’t need the quantity or when you last went to confession. And, I don’t need the details, I know about them from my own life. God only needs to hear that you admit to centering your life around the unique person that you think you are. That’ll save you from saying wrenching stories and saves me time hearing them. We both win in God’s eyes.

Did you know that priests can have Mass all by themselves? It’s an old custom that’s gone away but not entirely. I wonder what the Sign of Peace looks like when the priest is all by himself. And, if I’m not mistaken it’s called “Mass,” as in “a mass of people” for a reason.

But, please beware. There’s a risk in community living. You don’t always get your way when compromise is the solution, you are not the center of attention in a community in spite of the volume of your voice, and entering late to make a grand entrance is merely petty self-indulgence.

The talents the master handed out wasn’t coins to be invested. The man was handing out uncertainties when “two or three are gathered in my name,” he placed insecurities in their hands when their opinion is one among many. He gave them a pocketful of hopeful chancey-ness all wrapped up in a divine trust, a communal belief system, and a firm conviction in the goodness and worth of other people.

We each become larger people because of the larger people who surround us. (And I don’t mean the wide, physical width of Milwaukeeans but the inspiration and innovation that communal life brings forth.)

Thanksgiving is around the corner and families again gather. I’ve eaten Thanksgiving meals alone. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Good food, like good sacraments, are always enjoyed and much more pregnant with God’s hope when eaten together as the “Body of Christ.”

 

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available 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

Practice Makes Perfect?

Sports-balls-1You’re young and show up for practice to teach you the tools you need to efficiently perform your sport. You regularly practice and never miss a practice (verb and noun from the same word) until you get it right. That’s life’s formula preparing you for whatever career, because of your learned sport’s discipline.

Oh, but wait! If you become either a doctor or lawyer, you never stop practicing. What’s with that?

“I sold my practice a couple of years ago” to a larger law firm says a retiring lawyer. Who’d want to buy a “practice?” Didn’t they get it right after all those years? “I want to begin my own practice,” says a young doctor and that one I understand. Get yourself out there. Do some good things. Get to know your patients. (Another great use of the word “patient,” when starring at the table sign that says, “If you’ve been waiting for more than fifteen minutes…” My concluding end of the sentence is, “Now you are truly a patient. Please find a different doctor.

Still practicing?

Both lawyer and doctor have practiced their respective careers only to retire, still practicing. Where’s the feeling of perfection and satisfaction after a stressful day? Where’s the word “practice” in confidence and pleasure?” “The practice went well today,” the coach says to the anxious team about tomorrow’s big game. “I know we’re ready, now let’s get out there.” See! The practice is over and tomorrow is the performance to demonstrate what the practicing did.

With my pretend Masses at ten-years-old, I practiced and imagined who I could be. I tried to mimic the real thing I witnessed daily at Church. Fast forward eighteen years and I’m standing in front of a congregation wishing for words of encouragement or enlightenment to lighten up their upcoming week. You can see it in their eyes staring up at me, “Give me something Father that I can take home with me tonight. Something to remind myself of, something to teach my children, something I can carry to work with me.”

I guess my first few sermons were practice. I got to know the people and threw away all my graduate notes with words no one uses in daily conversation. I talked to them. I wanted a chuckle from them to know they’re listening. I wanted to zing them at the end to sharpen my point. I was no longer practicing, I was preaching, and they’re listening.

“You are who you represent yourself to be.”

A wise friend told me, “You are who you represent yourself to be.” I carry that with me daily. Those guys rose up above priests in our cultural status with their “practices, ” but I’ve perfected the gift given to me. I’m not practicing priesthood. I now know the confidence and satisfaction when Mass has ended.

Patient or client? I hope I never become either but I know that you and I will always need someone who knows what he’s talking about.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available 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

 

 

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An “All School Mass” Sermon for Grade Schoolers

(A reflection for people from first to eighth grade. After taking to an eighth grader at the end of a class I taught, he dared me to include saying, “rocking chair” in a sermon. I met his challenge.)

Group-portrait-of-elementary-school-kids-in-school-corridorIt’s interesting, you can take almost anything about our culture and say the opposite and then be right with the Catholic Church. Let’s try a few. Take something from our U.S. culture and find its contradiction (its truth) in our Christian faith.

The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t some gilded, gold mansion but a small, dark barn with a manger to hold the Christ child while he sleeps.

The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t some far place in the sky where you end up when you die, but it’s in every, single classroom, lunchroom, playground, the gym here at Christ King parish.

The gift of wisdom is not passed on to you by your smart parents, it’s slowly learned through life experiences to include integrity, dignity, and authenticity. (Three words your teachers can tell you more about.) Integrity, dignity and authenticity.

The Christ child was not born at a Motel 6 because they forgot to leave the light on…but placed in a place where the animals eat their hay and wheat.

The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t a reward, but it’s the fulfillment of a meaningful life lived as much as possible right here and now.

Eating the Body of Christ isn’t a prize or award for being good, but it is the food that leads us to goodness.

Getting angry with a brother or sister isn’t getting even, but it’s a warning bell ringing out for God’s forgiveness.

Being calm doesn’t mean a trip to the Wisconsin Dells, but it does mean being calm and resting in a rocking chair with a good book, a sleeping baby or a purring cat. (Got him!)

The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t some gilded, gold mansion but it’s thanking the crossing guard for getting you safely to the next block.

I was let go from my job working with older adults after 22 years or did the Holy Spirit want me to talk to you young people this early morning at Christ King parish?

Jesus wasn’t born from a beautiful princess with wealth beyond imagination but to a 13 or 16-year-old young girl who becomes God’s Mom.

Jesus wasn’t famous because he starred in a movie or married a famous Kardashian but his fame was in his words, his attitude, his love for his Father and in a terrible thief’s death for our salvation.

Wealth and wisdom make you special and famous but wealth isn’t about money but the worth of your personal life and intelligence isn’t about being smart, but it’s taking what you’ve learned and experienced and applying it to your daily life.

Young people are the future of the Church our culture tells us when truly you are the Church right now, as much as I am, in this time and place.

The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t some gilded, gold mansion but it is a manger in a dark barn where spiritual food is served every day of our lives – the Body of Christ – from an infant whose mother said of his birth, “Yes” to an angel who said to her, “Do not be afraid.”

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available 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

 

 

 

 

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Life’s “Run of the Mill”

“The foolish ones [virgins] said to the wise [ones], ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25.

 

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A Burning Candle

“I haven’t seen you for awhile, what have you been up to,” asks a good friend. Listen to her responses as well as those of others. “Well, ‘this and that.’” Wow. Another great conversation exchanged on this glorious and adventurous and mysterious and sometimes baffling journey we call life.

Are “this and that” equal in amount or is there sometimes more of life’s that’s than the this’s!? Or does her this’s beat out her that’s? It now becomes my job and responsibility to work out and to figure out what she’s trying to tell me by my asking her a simple question that is asked to all of us every single day? The work I need to do that should be done by others.

The response I love is, “the usual,” as though anything unusual would never cross this person’s path. Anything unusual would surely throw this person a curveball, never to be caught. “Same old, same old” is not only grammatically redundant but truly summarizes this individual’s human existence; second only to, “been there, done that.” Hearing that kinda takes your breath away, doesn’t it? The weirdest response to a question about your wellbeing is, “Oh, you know.” This is a fill-in-the-blank response. “No, I don’t know.” If I knew the response, I wouldn’t have asked the question!

“Miscellaneous” is a cool word, but it only suggests as much as “bits and pieces” does. “Hodgepodge” is the individuals with a messy desk that reflects the inner workings of their brains. You can add “mishmash” to this growing list that includes “mixed bag” and a writer’s laziness in typing, “etcetera” at the end of a sentence, leaving it to our imaginations to complete the writer’s thought.  In your mundane reality of living, use the word “paraphernalia” to justify your humanity and then ask your friend to spell it.
Is the routine of our predictable days so habitual that nightly television satisfies our lack of daily drama? What pushes the bed covers away in our early mornings, especially during winter months?

Is it the earned buck just for showing up or is it a growing and evolving process in your life that amounts to passion, commitment, and resolve. Is there enough passion in your life to make you smile or cry at either its success or failure? The biblical lamp oil leads us to passionate occupations and commitments. And then, ironically, that same oil keeps that flame alive and even increases its fiery blaze throughout our lives. It is the flame of life and the flame of our faith.

Flames like seeking out new insights to old problems, uncovering a new side of an old friend (“I didn’t know he had it in him!”), an important book read for the third time, the clouds formation and reformations segue into dusk, the stillness of a November evening like the one I’m witnessing writing this, the memories that earned the adjective “cherished” and those labeled “forgiven but not forgotten,” a simple, new goal to be completed the same day, a touching phrase or impressive thought told by a friend that you want to remember (but not the “this or that” friend).

Mine’s a silly list of sundry items – or is it? How often we say to ourselves, “Tomorrow, something will excite me again” while all the time, the this’s and that’s of today escapes us when today is the one and only one we genuinely hold and possess, like a burning lamp.

“Tomorrow” is sadly but safely housed in the attic of those “Same old, same old” people. Passions and commitments are the beauty and force that makes this life worthy of the value of each of our breaths.

 

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available 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