Sharing of Grace

Sharing of Grace

The scriptural meaning of grace is favor from God, freely given, and undeserved. God Himself is quoted as saying His Grace is sufficient for us in 2 Cor 12. It helps us respond to His call to become children of God, partakers of the divine nature, and of eternal life.

As Catholics we believe that going to Mass and Communion brings the possibility of grace to us, since they are two of the highest forms of activity ordained by God for our good. Still, we do not earn it, it is freely bestowed on us. It follows that grace flows our way from God to strengthen us and fill us to overflowing with the actual grace to be better people and stronger Christians. Somehow, the world at large might benefit from our attending Mass and receiving Communion since that grace enables us to be better people and treat others better.

Since grace is a gift to us, that we literally possess and often view as pseudo quasi tangible, it follows that we can use it as it is originally intended by God to help us through hardships and make us better, but might we use it to share with others? Would God mind if we see another person in need and desire to share our grace with that person?

Isn’t that the same thing as praying to God to ask Him to help the other person? Isn’t that spiritual alms-giving? It does in effect, add another dimension, it is being willing to diminish our largesse for the sake of the other person. Wouldn’t that generosity make God smile?

Giving away our own grace is surely different than praying for God to help the other person since we are left out of the equation completely. It does not really cost us anything to ask God to supply the need of the other. But, asking God to take some of the grace He has given us and give it to the other is an unselfish act.

Perhaps not as unselfish as it appears. The act of sharing our grace with another does offer us the benefit of taking our eyes inwardly off us and focusing them outwardly on others. That certainly has emotional benefits for us. It gives us a feeling of doing a good thing and adds an element of purpose to our lives.

Then there is the other issue to consider. When we ask God to take a portion of the grace, He has given us and give it to another, we are in fact asking God to take a very small amount of His infinite quantity and give it to the other person. That is hardly asking a lot from God.

Well, better minds than mine have wrestled with these topics so I will not go any farther. For me, I will opt for the benefit of sharing with others any grace God chooses to give me, when I see their need. Since I struggle with an inward-looking selfish nature, the action of sharing with another that gets me to focus outwardly helps me counter that fatal flaw.

Blessings to all in your own struggles!

Cacophony of Silence

In the early morning hours when all is quiet, when the sun is peeking up over the horizon, we become aware that there is absolutely a cacophony of silence at work in our soul.

The normal sound of birds greeting the morning sun, have stilled to a very gentle tweeting that resonates within us, gives us a sense of God’s presence speaking to us in quiet whispers.

Even our pets, our dogs and cats are aware that there is something on the wind as they dose and with their eyes closed we can see a small twitching in those eyelids that lets us know that there is a resonance going on even with them.

But, mostly, it is the sounds of silence in our own hearts that let us know that God is up and about and moving and sharing with us His deep deep love, His care, His concern, His view of the future for us, and that all things will, in fact, be in His hands and it will be well with us.

Even with a pandemic going on, with the 0.01% yelling and screaming in the streets, violently burning buildings under the guise of peaceful protest, the 99.99% of us sit quietly in our homes, with masks when we must go out, in a stillness we haven’t felt in years.

As we sit in that silence, we become aware of the millions of things over our lifetime that we worried about, and fretted about, and thought might come upon us, but never really did, because He was always there at the right time and with the right help that we needed at that moment.

From that comes a sure knowledge of His care and His concern for us that we should, in fact, hang our hope and our trust on His goodness and on His love for us and let go of the possibilities that will likely never come our way.

In this cacophony silence we know that He is real, that He is in us, that He is in everyone in our lives, and we should look for that in every new person we meet.

Sitting in our silence, let us settle into His arms. Let our hearts beat in resonance with His

My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?

My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?

Jesus quoted the words of Psalm 22, 2 as He hung on the cross, right before He died. Many of us everyday people utter that phrase when life falls down around us and we feel alone in the destructive world forces that come our way. When we have asked in prayer, when we have knocked on the door, and when we have sought with all our strength; yet, nothing changes. In desperation we plead with God over what feels like His abandonment.

An emptiness fills us. The world falls silent. All hope leaves us. But, at some point in the future, somehow, someway, our plight improves seemingly in spite of our earlier prayers. Or, we are given insight that shows us that what we prayed for was not the best recourse anyway and we are secretly happy that our prayer was not answered. We might even catch ourselves considering that the issue actually worked out in the natural order of things and are tempted to not even consider it an answer to our prayer. And, God smiles.

Now let us consider the exact opposite. Every once in a while, as life goes on, maybe in a silent contemplative mood, have we ever perceived God asking us that question, but in reverse? Have we ever heard God ask us why we have abandoned Him?

Have we ever abandoned God? Failed to strive for a closer relationship with Him? Neglected our prayer times with Him? Dropped off from reading His word? Failed to love others as we know He wants us to do? Have we not been grateful for His care and concern for us, and told Him so we were sorry?

Deep down we realize the answers to the above are yes, yes, yes and yes. But God smiles. He knows we are fallible. He measures us by our effort, not so much by our results. He loves us in spite of our failings. He views us much the same way that we as parents watch over our own children and smile at their attempts.

So, periodically, we should take our own measure and see how we stack up. We can rededicate ourselves to prayer, scripture, alms and in general, check the boxes of our lives, make the necessary changes and smile back at Him.

What Would Jesus Do in Today’s Environment?

What Would Jesus Do in Today’s Environment?

Between the Covid 19 virus demands for isolation and the street demonstrations and violence, not only here but throughout the world, there is a pall hanging out there that robs us of any sense of peace. It shakes us and makes us question our values.

Usually that uneasy feeling is not a bad condition. We sometimes pay to go to retreats to deliberately shake us out of our torpor and give us a new view to embrace. If it is a large change, we even have a name for it, a paradigm shift.

Somehow though, this is different. It seems to be coming from many different directions at once. Can we all be wrong? Have we been wrong for so long that we have grown accustomed to it? There is a jumble of voices saying this or that is wrong, while others take the exact opposite position. Why are our authority figures disproportionately quiet?

This is different. It seems to be almost choreographed. How else to explain why it is going on in so many countries at the same time. Perhaps over time we will come to understand and finally make the correct changes in our own lives to adapt to the new normal if, in fact, it is a new normal.

In the meantime, let us do some soul searching and take inventory of our actions and do what we can do to cope with the confusion.

For example, we should be drawing closer to the Lord in prayer. Our prayers should begin with praise of the overall goodness of the Lord even if we do not feel that way right now. Praise brings deliverance, Jonah 2, 10. Praise puts us back in right order with our Creator.

Let us replace some of our current TV news input with God’s word by reading scripture. We can even receive an email from the USCCB.org, by tapping on today’s date on their calendar, and reading the readings for the Mass of the Day. If something in the readings speaks to us, go to our bible, and read more about it.

We can always say a Rosary and expect it to settle our hearts. Many use the Rosary to fall asleep every night. Perhaps, say a decade as we drive our car rather than continuously listening to news on the radio.

As the virus begins to subside, we will be able to return to Church and our Church community and share again the sense of closeness with people we know, love, and trust.

We can always use intercessory prayer for others to move our minds outside of ourselves as we pray for others. Start with the inner most family members and move out on the concentric circles to include friends, acquaintances, and those we do not really know but who seem so unhappy.

If we are familiar with Centering Prayer or Contemplative Prayer, we can use those tools to bring us back to our relationship with the Lord.

These are the times when we are tried to the core of our souls. In spite of the circumstances, God loves us, and nothing can change that fact, as stated so eloquently in the last few verses of Romans 8.

A Visit to the Cathedral in Savannah

A Visit to the Cathedral

Covid 19 did something nothing else has done.  This grown up good Catholic boy didn’t attend mass today.  I just watched the most moving livestream of morning mass from the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Savannah. I was struck with the visual beauty, especially since it was mostly shown from the choir loft, a vantage point I have not seen since I was in a citywide parochial school choir singing at Holy Thursday services and funerals.

I was also struck with what was missing. As we older physicians try to find a way to serve our patients at a distance during this pandemic through the magic of telemedicine, video can only do so much. The smell of the incense and the feel of the organ within the pit of your stomach were missing. And the damp warmth of that old revered building and how even the sound of the choir seems to reverberate more in your bones than in your ears: missing.

Also missing was how one can gain a new perspective in person by just turning your head a bit.  The light coming through the gorgeous stained glass windows changes the colors and the depth of what you see around you based on just that small change of viewing angle.  And at communion time, I couldn’t take the host within me, bringing back memories from childhood sensations of that dry sticky wafer that assured me that the Lord was now truly within me. And, on the way out after mass, not feeling the cool hard sensation of the marble as your knee touched it as you began your exit with genuflection.

Then I noticed things that were missing even with just the visual experience. The baptismal font had no water. There were small clusters of people who share a household, probably. There was about 6 feet between the clusters, something that would not be possible given the usual attendance Sunday at the Cathedral in Savannah. There was no handshake during the expression of peace, in fact no communal expression of peace at all. What was also striking is that several couples kissed anyway after the priest offered his expression of peace, as they had every Sunday. And the priest co-celebrant was within 6 feet of the celebrant as were the altar boys bringing up the book to be read and moving the incense back-and-forth. There was no wiping off, of any of these sacred surfaces.

What have I missed and what are we missing? On my morning hospital rounds when the wild eyed elder who is convinced that she is being held against her will refused to be comforted by words, she seemed to have some peace when I just held her hand. How real is the value of human presence and human touch, with a bit of the Blessed thrown in.  I need to go to mass in person in that Cathedral again.  Soon.

William J. Crump, M.D.  (Deacon George’s brother-in-law)

Living Life on the Continuum

Living Life on the Continuum

Life is filled with areas that proceed from one extreme end to the other extreme end. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle of those extremes. Take wealth for example. There are really wealthy people on one end and really poor people on the other end. The majority of us are somewhere between the two extremes.

Small groups often find their members arguing about right and wrong on a certain topic when in fact, the members are really all adjacent to one another somewhere along the continuum. Those who are closely adjacent get along better than those who are far apart.

Recently, an elderly man who had lived a long life and faced many of life’s conflicts asked me about the different truths that different people hold dear, and each calls his correct. How do you know which truth is correct, he asked? His sincerity made me give his question more than passing thought.

The political scene today is a good example of his concern. The continuum of truth dealing with politics varies from the extreme of liberalism to the opposite end of the spectrum of extreme conservatism. We all fit on that continuum somewhere and each thinks his position is the correct one.

Even in the Gospels, we hear Jesus telling parables that are designed to move us along a continuum from where we are to where He wants us to be. We often hear the Pharisees ask Him questions to trick Him and He pushes them back with wise answers. He is told His mother and brothers are there to talk to Him, but He answers, “Those who do the will of God are my mother and my brothers.” Those who hear His answer are moved along the continuum of belief in God. They hear Him explaining how much He values those who believe in God and come away with a little more faith in God.

From the above example we see that Jesus is not averse to using hyperbole, exaggeration, to move His hearers closer to where He wants them to be. We ourselves do the same to make a point, to clarify an issue.

So, to answer my elderly friend’s question about how you know which truth is correct amid the cacophony of variant truths, we can only answer truthfully, “I can’t”. We listen to all, we weigh it against where we are at this point in time, we look for value that will enhance our own position. In the end, we must look to the truth that Jesus gives us and after testing it against what a respected mentor suggests, we move ourselves back and forth on the various continuums of life.

As we age, we often find our feelings, our knowledge, our comfort level changing. As we change environments, meet different people, face different challenges we change our position on the continuums.

In the end, we must keep our spiritual eyes on Jesus in every area of our lives for we walk through life by faith in Him, not by our physical sight.

Draw Close to the Lord

Mark 2, 1-12

In our Gospel today we find the four friends of a paralytic unable to carry him to Jesus who was inside a house, because it was filled with people. They dug a hole in the roof and let him down on a mat inside. When Jesus saw this, He realized how much faith the man’s friends had and said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some of the scribes who were there began to wonder to themselves, “Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus, aware of their thoughts, asked them, “Which is easier, to forgive sins or to heal the man?”

“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” – He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat and go home.”  The man did so, completely healed.

The message we take away from today’s Gospel is the faith of the people who made such an effort to get their friend close to Jesus, believing if they could do that then Jesus would in fact heal him. So, the call to us is to strive to get closer and closer to Jesus in our daily lives, not just when we are in Church, but even when we are driving on Frederica Road.

Let us agree today to do just that. Seek the Lord where he may be found and work on our relationship with Him so that we may remain close to Him.

May almighty God bless us in our effort!

Is the Consecrated Bread & Wine really the Body & Blood of Jesus?

As a child in parochial school I was taught that it was indeed the real presence of Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine. I believed that was true and I accepted that fact without any real question, so it became my reality.

When the years went by and I grew into manhood it was still my reality and my response on receiving the wafer was to ask the Lord to let His body co-mingle in my own body and somehow influence it to be more like His. And, I was hoping against hope that I would become more like Jesus in my actions. I was a Catholic Christian and thought I should be more Christlike. When I received the wine, I asked the Lord to wash away my sins with His blood as well as the stain of that sin in me and whomever I offended by my sin.

The years went by and one day I received a call from a Baptist pastor that I knew, and he asked me to stop by his office because he had a question for me. Since he was a friend, I went, but all the while trying to figure out what he might want to ask. Finally, as I approached his office, I asked the Lord to please give me the right words through His Spirit as He promised to do in scripture.

We talked about several topics that we shared in common and then he said, almost out of the blue, “George, maybe you can help me understand the Real Presence, because in my tradition we think it means to ‘do this in memory on Me’, but that it is really not real.

Without hesitating, and almost like reading a script, I answered that it was Real because we asked God in Eucharistic Prayer III to make it so. Then I quoted the words that I had never memorized, “And so, Father we bring You these gifts. We ask You to make them holy by the power of Your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate this Eucharist.

“Since we believe in answered prayer, we believe He does just that! Hence, it is real!”

We sat there for a minute just looking at one another, and finally he said, “Well, that actually makes a lot of sense, thanks for stopping by today”.

While this is a somewhat simplistic story, it has been my answer anytime I found myself doubting.

Be On Guard, Homily

Eucharistic Service

Gospel: Luke 12, 39-48

Today’s Gospel from Luke continues yesterday’s theme of reminding us to remain vigilant, awaiting the Lord’s return. Only, today the word is not actually ‘vigilant’ it is for us to ‘Be on guard’. That is slightly different. The emphasis is more in the context of being on guard lest a thief break into the house as opposed to us losing something by neglect. Today the emphasis ratchets up a level to where we should be aware of someone actively trying to take it away from us.

Jesus asks the question, “Who is that faithful, farsighted steward whom the master will set over His servants. Then He goes on to answer His own question by describing a conscientious soul who does what he is supposed to do over the long haul. Anyone can talk a good game. Some can actually produce for a short period of time. But, few is the number who can maintain faithful, diligent service on the Lord’s behalf over the long haul. That’s what the Lord is calling us to become. And, He’s calling us to grow into that faithful servant and yet warning us that we will encounter great resistance in the process.

Finally, near the end of today’s Gospel, we hear that verse that scares us all to death: “When much is given a man, much will be required of him. More will be asked of a man to whom much has been entrusted.”

I often think of our priests when I see this verse. They are given the faculty to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus for our sake. Much is given to them. But, by the same token, much is expected of them. They give up a lot to serve us. They are the main purveyor of the grace-filled life that is meant to be our heritage as Catholics.

So, in summary, let us be vigilant to avoid benign neglect; let us be on guard against the ever present pressures that can rob us of our heritage; at the same time let’s remember to pray for our priests who serve us all so faithfully.

Happy Mother’s Day Mama!!

Happy Mother’s Day Mama!!

I just wanted to tell you some things that might not fit in a traditional card. I hope that is o.k.

You have been such a wonderful mom to all of us. Now that I am a mother myself, I get it. There is so much involved that it’s hard to even put it into words. But I understand the emotion and the love that is so great it hurts sometimes. I understand the sacrifices that you made for all of us. I understand pushing through difficult circumstances and trying so hard to be a good role model. You did it all without a second thought. God crafted you so perfectly and I just love you so much.

When we were little you did all the right little kid things. You were there for us, you took us to our games, you helped us with our rooms, and our schoolwork. You loved us and played with us and helped shape us into respectful, decent human beings. As we got a little older, you stepped it up and armed yourself with a tough exterior for all the times we were stupid teenagers and were mean to you. ☹ I’ll never forgive myself for being so rude to you in the mornings when I was a teenager. You were so sweet! You just took it in stride.

When we all stepped into adulthood, you made it easy and supported our decisions and listened so patiently. You genuinely just wanted us to be happy and whole, whatever that meant for each of us. You didn’t push your opinions or your idea of what we should be doing, you just listened and supported us with so much love. I always felt so safe with you. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized not everyone has that beautiful circumstance. It was such a gift.

Through all the different phases, there was a steady and solid theme of prayer and faith. That’s the piece that takes my breath away. It’s such a blessing to know that someone is always praying behind the scenes. Even when we don’t ask you for specific prayers, I know you are praying for us. If I thanked you a million times, it still wouldn’t be enough.

I’m in such a bittersweet season right now with Joey and I catch myself often reflecting on my own relationship with you and I’m just always so grateful for you Mama. You have been such an amazing role model and I know I wouldn’t be the mom I am without having you to model the way for me.

This year has been quite emotional. Receiving the news of your stroke was…. I don’t even know the word. It was heavy and hard and emotionally crippling. I watched you fight through all your heart issues over the years and I know it was so hard on you, but you were still you and you were communicating, and healing and I got to see your grit and your strength.

This stroke though…. I don’t know, it felt different. I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid. I was afraid I might never hear your sweet voice again. You have such joy in your voice and it has been a constant consolation to me, and I was so afraid. We prayed and we prayed, and we prayed. And you…. You fought through it with such grace and such strength and such tenacity.

You were determined to have your voice heard again and I have never loved you more. I am so proud of the hard work you have done and selfishly I am so happy to hear your sweet voice again. I will never take that for granted. Being able to call you and hear the joy and the happiness in your greeting. I don’t know how you do it, but you manage to fit joy and love and happiness in the simple words “Hello! How are you?”

I don’t know how you do it, but it fills me with gratitude and makes me feel safe and loved so very much.  Just four little words and everything is right again. I’m so proud of you. I know you were afraid too, but you used it to your advantage. You forged through the frustration and confusion and came out victorious!

You are an amazing woman. You are filled with God’s grace, compassion, and pure love for others. I’m sobbing typing this letter and my heart feels like it will burst any moment. I love you Mom. I’m so grateful for you, for your gentle spirit and your deep love for us and for the Lord. Thank you seems very inadequate, but thank you for all the things, small and large that you have done for all of us.

Happy Mother’s Day! I love you and I can’t wait to see you very soon. I hope you have a great day today. You are the best.

Love, Jennifer

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