Friday, December 19, 2014

The Eloquence of Weakness

No doubt you heard and/or read today's gospel and thought, "I wonder if anyone has some good reflections on this. What does Zechariah's predicament have to do with ordinary human experience?"

Good questions. Your Magnificat Advent Companion 2014 addresses those very questions! (Subscribe to Magnificat. Help feed the Janaro family. Click HERE!) Below we present the Great Thoughts of one "Professor Janaro" ("Emeritus" -- which used to sound cool and important until Benedict made it a household word).

Actually, Janaro writes simply here, for he too has been slow to believe the promise. Will the angel of the Lord one day restore the energy and vigor of his voice? Whatever may be, he struggles now to be open to the eloquence of weakness.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stretch Out Your Mighty Hand


        O Adonai
       and Ruler of the house of Israel,
       who showed Yourself to Moses
       in the burning bush,
       who gave him the holy law
       on Sinai mountain:
       Come, stretch out Your mighty hand
       to set us free.

                       ~Antiphon for December 18

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grateful For Green


It's showtime for pines and firs and cedar trees and all the vines and shrubs that stay green all year. We've been ignoring you from the time of the first blossoms of spring all the way through the glowing colors of fall.

Now you're the only ones who haven't abandoned us. You remind us that there is life all through the soil even while so many other growing things sleep.


Thank you, evergreens, for your quiet company.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joy is More Than a "Feeling"

Rejoice! The Lord is near.

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, known as Guadete Sunday. The birth of Jesus is near at hand.

Light breaks through the long Advent of our lives too. We are on a mysterious journey, but we are sustained by the One who accompanies us, whose Father's house is our destination.

We can lose sight of joy if we confuse it with a mere feeling. Joy comes from a place more profound than our temperament or emotional makeup, or our psychological "personalities," so frail and subject to affliction.

The joy of the Holy Spirit is an affirmation of the heart (in the sense of "the whole person"). It is the affirmation that says, "God is good! God loves us!"

Joy affirms here and now that this present moment is a gift from God through which I am being shaped and drawn to the fulfillment of my destiny in Jesus Christ.

This is a moment when Jesus comes to be with me. All the more when it is dark and painful, full of suffering. Jesus is with me here, in these places of affliction. And I can affirm His presence even in the experience of sorrow. I can affirm that He is with me, that He is sharing my sorrows, that He is redeeming me through His presence herein.

Remember the love of God in Jesus, in all the places of our lives. Believe in Him. Trust in Him.

Rejoice!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Virgin of Guadalupe in Her Own Words


It has become the custom of this blog to post, on this great Feast Day, two excerpts from the original account of the events of December 9-12, 1531, as dictated by Saint Juan Diego in the language of the Nahua peoples and recorded by an indigenous Mexican, Antonio Valeriano. These are Mary's words to Saint Juan Diego and to all of us, and they are an important complement to the singular icon that accompanies them.

Three times I have been a pilgrim to the Villa de Guadalupe, in 1999, 2002, and 2003. I have spent hours upon hours in her company, and I know the truth of what she says in these words. The icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe is not just a picture, and the greatest wonders that are worked through her are beyond all the observational and measuring techniques of the sciences.

The testimony of science to the inexplicable nature of the image and its preservation are enough to impress us and gain our attention.

But what matters above all is the dialogue that our Merciful Mother carries out with each of her children who seek her, cherish her, and bring to her their needs.

Readers will no doubt find this version slightly different from other versions they may have read. The Guadalupe account is translated in various ways from various sources (usually from Spanish translations of the original). I am using here the translation of the late Father Martinus Cawley, O.C.S.O., a lifelong scholar of Nahuatl and native Mexican texts, above all the critical edition of Antonio Valeriano's original account, known as the Nican Mopohua. Father Cawley endeavored to render into English the poetic cadence of the text, which corresponds to the rich aesthetic quality of the image.

To communicate herself and her Son, Mary entered a particular place, time, and culture. In the same way, she desires to dwell in a particular way with each one of us, in our families, our homes, and our communities.

In her company, we always find her Son and our Brother, Jesus. And through her we learn how much Jesus wants to stay with us.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego
(as presented in the Nican Mopohua):

"Do know this, do be assured of it in your heart,
My Littlest One,
that I Myself, I am the Entirely and Ever Virgin, Saint Mary,
Mother of the True Divinity, of God Himself.
Because of Him, Life goes on, Creation goes on;
His are all things afar, His are all things near at hand,
things above in the Heavens, things here below on the Earth.

How  truly  I wish it, how greatly I desire it,
that here they should erect Me My Temple!
Here would I show forth, here would I lift up to view,
here would I make a gift
of all My Fondness for My Dear Ones,
all My Regard for My Needy Ones,
My Willingness to Aid them,
My Readiness to Protect them.

For truly I Myself, 
I am your Compassionate Mother,
yours, for you yourself,
for everybody here in the Land,
for each and all together,
for all others too, for all Folk of every kind,
who do but cherish Me,
who do but raise their voices to Me,
who do but seek Me,
who do but raise their trust to Me.

For here I shall listen to their groanings, to their saddenings;
here shall I make well and heal up
their each and every kind of disappointment,
of exhausting pangs, of bitter aching pain."

. . . .

"Do listen,
do be assured of it in your heart, My Littlest One, 
that nothing at all should alarm you, should trouble you, 
nor in any way disturb your countenance, your heart.

And do not be afraid of this Pestilence,
nor of any other pestilence, 
or any rasping hardship.

For am I not here, I, Your Mother? 
Are you not in the Cool of My Shadow?
in the Breeziness of My Shade? 
Is it not I that am your Source of Contentment?
Are you not cradled in My Mantle?
cuddled in the Crossing of My Arms? 
Is there anything else for you to need?

Nothing else, though, should trouble you,
should disquiet you." 

Flowers in December

On a chill morning, in the first light of day, on a barren hill, there were flowers.

It was no place to find flowers, or anything of value.

There was just one small man who had nothing in this world, nothing but a love for a beauty and a goodness and a presence that he encountered on his path. A beauty that won his heart. A presence that he could not deny; that, indeed, found him even when he tried to hide from it.

That small man followed; He let himself be loved. He listened and obeyed and did things that appeared to be foolish and useless.

And he found flowers in December.

Blooming in the barren wastes. It was a wonder, a surprise.

But he had learned how to be surprised. So he picked these flowers and gathered them in his cloak. It was enough for him to know, in that moment, that he would be able to share some sign of the wonder he had seen, so that others too would be convinced and drawn by beauty and love.

And there was to be yet another surprise.

We can be surprised. Something new can happen, beyond our calculations. And then, new possibilities open, a path stretches before us, and there is communication where before there were only inadequate words and the failure to understand. Something new can happen.

It already has happened. It is forever new. Again and again, it surprises us.

The night does not last forever

At dawn comes the opening of the eyes, and a miracle is given to us.

One day, from a place where no one was looking, something happened... something that was a new beginning, a healing, a changing of hearts, and -- slowly -- a new culture that arose from out of the ruins of the old.

What happened on December 12, 1531 was a sign of the miracle that happens everyday, every moment: She brings Him to us.

This is why we must "never give up." Our hope for our salvation, and for our society, is Him.

Nothing less.

Him.

And He is here, right now.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Forever Humble: Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Today was the feast day of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. You may have missed it, because it ranks as "only" an optional memorial.

Who is Juan Diego? Even now, he is largely hidden from us.

He was always loved by the simple people who came for centuries to the church on a hill in Mexico City to see his wondrous cloak.

But not much was said about him in the past. Some tried to deny that he ever existed, though most didn't go that far. After all, we had his cloak.

When I was young and Catholic in the United States, he was just "the guy" in the story of the amazing and scientifically inexplicable image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Wow, the incredible tilma and its image! There were the studies, the cactus fibers, the miraculous preservation of the cloth, the mysterious colors, the eyes, etc. And millions of conversions, of course. (All of these things are fascinating and important, I hasten to add.)

But who was Juan Diego?

I must say, it never seemed to matter much.

I can recall that it flashed through my mind: "Just 'plain' Juan Diego? These Marian visionaries are usually saints or at least blessed, but he's 'just plain Juan Diego.' Seems odd. Wonder why."

But I didn't give it much thought. Nor did I think too much about this particular way that Mary had chosen to be present as a merciful, loving mother for me in my own history, on my own continent.

Only later did I begin to learn that the Virgin of Guadalupe is an enduring and vital presence at the center of the American continent, and indeed a profoundly personal presence for me, just as she wishes to be for every person who visits her in that place.

As with so many other things, the man who taught me to love Our Lady of Guadalupe was the man who taught me to love Jesus Christ, to love the human person, to love my own life. Saint John Paul II made five pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe during his pontificate. He brought to her a love that convinced me there was a person there, not just a remarkable artifact.

The tilma is Mary's way of "using media" to be present to her children.

But you see, whenever I try to talk about St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, even now, it seems natural to pass him by and go right to Mary.

I don't think he has a problem with that.

Here is a "saint" who is so humble that his identity is almost entirely transparent to the Mother of God. It is true, he is a patron of indigenous peoples of America, as well as all lay persons. He is an exemplar for the New Evangelization.

But he was just a poor man who encountered the beauty of Jesus living in Mary, and followed. He gave himself over to a humble place in a great and mysterious story. And he remains standing behind the Merciful Mother, giving her a place where she can give Jesus to us.

I pray to him every day. I am convinced that he is one of the greatest saints of the Church. He stands forever in a humble relationship to Mary, her "dearest and smallest son" and in this way so much like Jesus.

John Paul II brought Juan Diego out from behind the tilma. I was there in the plaza of the basilica on July 31, 2002 along with millions of pilgrims throughout the city. And I was convinced that I was watching a saint canonizing another saint.

Saint John Paul II was suffering so much at that time, it was painful to look at him even from a distance. But on that day, there was something luminous about him. I can only describe it by recalling my impression at that time; I saw John Paul as though he were pierced with the form of the Cross on his whole body. And yet, he moved -- almost miraculously -- for it was Crucified Love that carried him.

John Paul II came to Mexico because he loved Our Lady of Guadalupe and he loved "America" -- which for him was one great continent -- and he loved the "Ecclesia in America."

It was love that transfigured him in those moments on that day. And I thought to myself, "This is what it must have been like to see Saint Francis of Assisi." This was the impression that came to me, spontaneously, as I watched this magnificent, wounded, broken lover of Christ, the man who was the outstanding witness to the Gospel in my lifetime: Saint John Paul II.

He left an unforgettable mark on the Church in America during that journey. Many remember it primarily as the occasion of his last international World Youth Day celebration, held in Toronto. But Toronto came after the pilgrimage to Mexico to be with Mary and to honor the one she called "Juanito."

It strikes me that poor Saint Juan Diego was "overshadowed" -- even at his own canonization -- by the stupendous presence of the great Saint John Paul II. But once again, I don't think that the humble Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin had any complaints about that.

These two great saints, and our Merciful Mother, are my hope for the future of our land.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Teresa Turns Twelve Today!





Since pictures are worth a thousand words each, I won't add too many here. Teresa is twelve years old today. Happy Birthday Teresa!

I got my first digital camera in the summer of 2003, so that is where our "life tour" must begin. Here she is in the crib, already showing her irrepressible personality. I used to sing to her "Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, Teresa, you're only the size of an extra large Pizza!" And so she was:




And here she is, curious as always, in the arms of her clean-shaven, forty year old father (ah, my lost youth...):



Now she's crawling and wearing Daddy's fishing hat. By this point, I had upgraded my camera:



Soon she's standing up (even in her high chair). You have to keep an eye on her to make sure she stays out of mischief:



And before you know it, she's starting to become a pretty little girl:



Here she is in 2005:







Soon, something big happens in Teresa's life. She becomes a big sister! Here she is with Josefina, when Jojo still had a nasal-gastric tube (Summer 2007):




Dressing up for her oldest sister's first communion (2007):




And she keeps growing and expressing her lively, enthusiastic, and sometimes wacky personality. This is in 2009:



And in 2011:



I've assembled these pictures because soon Teresa will be a teenager and I won't be able to get away with doing this (I'm not sure I'm gonna get away with it even now, haha). But I'm just so proud of her. She is maturing into a wonderful young person. She's so full of life and heart. She's our outdoor-lover, she's everyone's friend, she's generous, she's the karate kid, the soccer player, and so many other things.

She's a tree climber:



A popcorn eater:



A smiling face:



And a terrific Big Sister. She and Jojo are always hanging around together, often squabbling, sometimes driving their parents crazy, but also keeping us young:




Happy Birthday, Teresa! We love you so much!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Is Jesus a "Faith-Healer"?

So... you probably want to reflect on today's gospel reading, right?

After all, it's Advent, a time for reflection.

I'm happy to say that I've already written a little something, and I've posted it below because it makes for a nice little blog entry.

(The story about trying to "heal" my car is from a long time ago.)

Don't forget to take advantage of your Magnificat Advent Companion for reflections on the daily readings and many other things. It's a great "companion" to your daily Magnificat issue for the month of December.

What's that? You don't subscribe? Well, click right RIGHT HERE and make sure you don't miss another issue.

Subscriptions make wonderful Christmas gifts too.

Meanwhile, here is a reflection on today's gospel reading by one of Magnificat's regular contributors.





Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Authentic Love: Words and Images

I found these words today in a book of quotations from Saint John Paul II, and I knew immediately that I wanted to post them here. The text is taken from an Angelus message from 1994. The images that accompany them below, however, came as an unexpected and deeply moving surprise.

"Authentic love is not a vague sentiment or a blind passion.
It is an inner attitude that involves the whole human being.
It is looking at others, not to use them but to serve them.
It is the ability to rejoice with those who are rejoicing
and to suffer with those who are suffering.
It is sharing what one possesses
so that no one may continue to be deprived of what he needs.
Love, in a word, is the gift of self."


I decided to google for an image of John Paul II expressing this authentic love in a concrete situation, with reference to another human being. I had no doubt that there would be many examples and indeed there were.

But I found the entire encounter presented in this video especially compelling. In April of 2004, John Paul II presided over a world youth gathering for the last time (the "diocesan World Youth Day" in Rome). There was a woman from Krakow, about 23 years old, who spoke with great ardor about her own faith and her generation's experience of the spiritual fatherhood of the Pope, as well as her hopes for Poland's young people (she appears beginning at 2:10 in the video).

The young woman, Paula Olearnik, told the Pope that he had inspired her take up the study of philosophy. After speaking in Italian and Polish, she approached the Pope with tears and hugged him and they spoke personally for several moments. The images below and others like them are apparently well known, although I had never seen them before. The authentic love expressed here speaks for itself.

Today, Dr. Paula Olearnik teaches political philosophy at the Jesuit University in Krakow.












Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Realism of Hope: Reflections on the Montessori Method

Today's blog is posted at the website for the John XXIII Montessori Children's Center, where I take the opportunity to reflect upon the work we are doing to cultivate a pedagogical environment for an integrated Catholic Montessori education. I reproduce the article below. For more information about the Center, please visit the website: http://www.john23mcc.org.

The Realism of Hope: Reflections on the Montessori Method

By John Janaro

It has been a dynamic and enlightening Fall session here at the John XXIII Montessori Children’s Center. It’s hard to believe that Advent has begun, and that Christmas break is only a few weeks away. While we all look forward to the Christmas holiday, our Montessori kids will be happy to return again for the Spring session. I always find it remarkable and encouraging that Montessori children actually like “going to school.

Indeed, the work in the Montessori environment helps children form an attitude toward reality as a whole. One thing I have observed about my own kids is that Montessori has shaped them into "learners" all day, every day. They take interest in ordinary circumstances and things, and are often engaged in some kind of constructive or exploratory "play." They are open to discovering the good in things, and the good that develops through their engagement with things.

And this openness is a reasonable attitude, because reality is good. Created things are good. The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is good, even though the person is wounded by original sin, burdened by limitations, and requiring guidance and discipline to remain focused on reality. The Montessori pedagogy appreciates all the various factors that are involved in the development of the child as a person who is loved by God and called to follow Him in the midst of the real world.
Montessori requires much attentive preparation and direction from its teachers, but it also has a tremendous confidence in the capacity of being to reveal truth, goodness, and beauty: to shape the minds and hearts of children who are placed in an environment that allows them to encounter the being of things.

Is this confidence well founded?

The real world—after all—is full of violence, tragedy, and ambivalence. Does this pedagogy rest on some naive ideology that ignores sin, destruction, and suffering, or that somehow proposes to change the world fundamentally by merely human educational techniques?

In fact, a genuine Montessori pedagogy—faithful to the vision of the foundress—has nothing to do with any ideology. Maria Montessori's program and all her efforts and insights were informed by her own profound Catholic faith and her experience of the life of the Church.
Here at the John XXIII Montessori Children’s Center the Montessori environment, and the activity of the teachers, are designed with an awareness that children are marked by the effects of original sin and that they must learn how to respond to the challenges of life.

But the confidence of this pedagogy is based on two factors. The first is that original sin has wounded but has not destroyed human nature and the human capacity for the good. The second, and truly the central factor, is that the world has been redeemed. The world has been redeemed.
As we approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, of His coming into the world and dwelling among us, it is good to remember His redeeming love. Christ has already won the victory. History and reality belong to Him.
The Montessori academic program at John XXIII reflects a pervasive awareness of this fact; thus it endeavors to provide a pedagogy that affirms Christ's redeeming love and fulfills Maria Montessori's own fundamental intuitions about reality and life. The Center offers children a place for an integrated Catholic Montessori learning experience. This is why the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has an essential place in the three-morning/three-day academic program, and also why the whole academic environment is permeated with the vitality of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus has redeemed reality and bestowed upon everything a new and more profound attraction.
Thus we have reason to be confident. Jesus has won the victory. His resurrection renews thebeing of things in hope. He draws all things to Himself, and He draws children to Himself through everything that awakens within them the fascination with reality, the desire to live and learn.
Certainly, life is a trial. But it is a trial in which we conquer in Christ. The redemption is a reality that has meaning for every person. All of creation—all of the experience of truth, goodness, and beauty—has been penetrated by the victory of Christ's redeeming love and the glory of His presence as Lord of the cosmos and of history.

Christ shapes the journey of every human person, even the billions of human persons who do not yet know Him. He is present in the world as the One toward whom everything points.

He is the One who awakens our interest in existence, in the reality of things, in truth. In the words of my old theology professor, the late Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, "This is what Christ has come to do—to revive, to give life to our interest so that we can recognize His victory, and therefore our victory."

We are speaking, of course, within the context of a recognition that the human struggle with original sin and personal sin continues in this present life: the struggle to respond in love to the invitation of His presence. But we also recognize that even this struggle has been redeemed by Christ. He has transformed it into the opportunity to remember in every moment our need for Him, to adhere to Him as the true fulfillment of life, to offer everything to Him with joy and generosity, and thereby to share in His victory.

The pedagogy at the John XXIII Montessori Children's Center is one that is infused with the realism of Christian hope, and with the confidence that those who bear this hope can generate an environment where nature and grace can fascinate a child, and lead him or her forward in the personal search for the path to their Destiny.


John Janaro is Associate Professor Emeritus of Theology at Christendom College. He serves as Scholar in Residence and Special Resource Consultant at the John XXIII Montessori Children's Center. He also the husband of Eileen Janaro (who is the Elementary Directress of the John XXIII Center's academic program) and the father of five Montessori-educated children, three graduates of the Center and two current elementary students: Teresa Janaro and Josefina Janaro.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Place to Call Home

December has arrived, bringing unusually warm weather today: over 70 degrees (farenheit).

This is a month of riches, with the freshness of Advent expectation, with great feast days dedicated to Mary, with birthdays for Teresa (Dec 6) and Agnese (Dec 21). And then, of course, there is Christmas Day and the week that follows. The secular new year arrives in the midst of Christmas celebrations. While the days are short, the house glows with light and greenery and wonder at the God who became a little child.

Even the sparse daylight can have a charm. December in Virginia often has sunny and brisk days, and the bare trees open up new vistas in the Valley, and give us the contrasting hues of branch and sky, of bark and hilly rock, and of the evergreens that now have their time of special glory.

Our Valley has a grandeur and an intimacy that I have come to appreciate more over the years. This is a great place to call home, nestled in rolling hills, and it also has heights and depths: blue green hazy peaks and tall trees and plunging stream beds where the water runs relentlessly even when it is nothing more than a trickle.

A place to call home... even as I look up at the tops of the hills and the line of the ridge marking the horizon with the faint outline of the limbs of distant trees. It is a home that fills me with longing.

Friday, November 28, 2014

We Give Thanks to the Lord Who Has Given Us So Much

We had Thanksgiving Day all together, along with Uncle Walter. It was a good day.

The high school kids could breathe a little, with a four day weekend and therefore no homework or tests or papers hanging over their heads.

Everybody pitched in to help Mommy with the dinner and the kids had plenty of time "to be kids" together. Their high school education is outstanding in its quality, but the school work and extracurricular activities are quite an investment of time and energy.

I'm glad everyone had a chance to relax a little and goof around. It made me think of when the kids were all little and tumbling through the house, rollicking and playing at high decibels.

I think these kids will be good friends when they're grown up.

I pray that, wherever the future takes us, we may always remain close to one another -- certainly in heart even if we spread out to different places.

Mommy planned a Jacques Pepin style Thanksgiving: the usual featured foods of the day with a few surprises and some special culinary finesse. The turkey was steamed first, then roasted. The stuffing had lovely fresh ingredients.

And then there was a soup that could have been a meal in itself.

Oh my, my, it was good!

The menu only begins to tell a story that not even pictures can communicate. But we'll do our best with the pictures below, and more....

Fresh vegetables were prepared with love by a wonderful lady and several helpers.



video
The littlest helper was quite skilled with the knife, as this short video shows.


The opening course was salad and this amazing butternut squash soup with onion and spices. It was all blended together with heavy cream. We didn't eat too much of this, but the leftovers are welcome.


Here is the main course, surrounded by Uncle Walter and his nephew and nieces.


His two little nieces sat on the other side. Then there was Eileen and me, of course, taking pictures.


Josefina and Teresa busy eating. Lucia did Jojo's braids -- girls' hair is amazing, really!


Here is a plate of food I don't want to forget. The brown gravy with veggies was a special treat.


We were almost too full to enjoy the pies the girls baked. "Almost!" Here's Agnese's apple pie.


Happy Thanksgiving 2014 from the Janaros!

This presentation is dedicated with particular love to "Papa and Grandma" who were not able to join us. They were very much in our hearts and in our prayers.

We love you, Papa and Grandma!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson: The Violence Within

Fires light up the night sky outside of an American city.

I have no special insights into the particulars of the Grand Jury decision in Missouri. There is an underlying sadness, however, that afflicts our society and it stems from something greater than any particular event.

The event itself obviously was weighted with tragedy, and nothing can be done to restore a young man to life. As for the complicated juridical proceedings, I don't know enough about civil law to have an opinion worth expressing.

That doesn't mean I'm not paying attention. I'm reading, watching, listening, remembering the explosions of civil chaos in various American cities throughout my life. The problem of racism is as old as America (older, of course), and it's one of the elephants-in-the-room of the "American experiment" from its very beginning.

Martin Luther King was right in 1963 to refer to the American Founding as a "promissory note" that an entire group of American people had hitherto been unable to draw upon. 51 years have brought some progress, and yet racism is still with us.

There are other fundamental questions as well -- questions about what was actually promised in America's charter. One might wonder if there are other more profoundly ambivalent features in this brilliantly conceived, eclectic, tirelessly energetic, reckless, generous, visionary, gifted, disturbed, blessed, awesome, materialistic, free, full of possibilities, success-driven, rootless, magnificent, deeply flawed and dramatically human society called the United States of America.

I do not know what these features are, or how they have affected our history and our current national life. Much remains to be considered and verified.

I do know that on that August afternoon last summer, something went terribly wrong.

It is so easy to turn from the Ferguson shooting and its aftermath to broader categories of problems that trouble many people: racial tensions and prejudice, faulty law enforcement practices, abuse of power, pretexts for looting and stirring up riots, drug abuse, the dangers of the streets, the militarization of the police.

These are real problems that cast great shadows over the lives of people. But the explosion of violence is not just in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

There is a violence of the emotions and of the mind that swirls inside all of us. Some of us express outrage, others seek to take advantage of things for profit or political advantage, and others try to escape through apathy or simply take sensationalistic interest in the latest news as an anecdote to chronic boredom.

I don't know who exactly is guilty of what in Ferguson, or in the many reactions to it, or in all the various other acts of open or hidden violence that occur every day. But none of us is innocent.

We are all implicated and taken up into this dysfunctional social spiral. The external violence of brutality, crime, and war are a reflection of the internal violence and disorientation that we carry around inside ourselves and that so often poisons our relationships with others.

None of the "isms" on our political or social spectrum can resolve this fundamental problem.

Our hope is that the real reason for living -- for being focused in our energies as human beings -- can take hold of our lives and then remind us of the value of each moment we live. Only if we encounter a reason for hope that is greater than our fears will we emerge from the dark and become creative, constructive, and able to help one another.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wings of the Wind


"Above the rains You build Your dwelling.
You make the clouds Your chariot,
You walk on the wings of the wind"
(Psalm 104:3).