Monday, June 29, 2020

Peter and Paul: Pillars of Christ's Church

Happy Feast of Saints Peter and Paul!

These are the two great apostles, martyrs, and patron saints of the Church of Rome. The bishops of Rome through the ages and even to the present day have received from Saint Peter the special authority and ministry entrusted to him by Jesus (see Matthew 16:13-19).

Today it is particularly important to pray for Pope Francis (indeed, Pope Francis constantly reminds us of his need for our prayers, always asking us to remember him and ask God to sustain him). We need to pray for him, the successor of Saint Peter in our time, that he might have strength to fulfill and persevere in his office as "the servant of the servants of God."

Jesus said to Peter, "'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' He said to him, 'Tend my sheep'" (John 21:16).

Let us adhere to the Lord with trust, no matter what, as did Peter when he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of God" (John 6:68-69).

We also honor especially, and aspire to imitate, the great faith of these two men who endured many trials and finally shed their blood as witnesses of Christ. The great Pope (and Saint) John Paul II helps us to appreciate this in all its radical depth: "If the witness of faith and the arduous struggle which the Apostles Peter and Paul had to undertake for the cause of the Gospel are considered in merely human terms, they ended in defeat. In this too they faithfully followed Christ’s example. Indeed, humanly speaking the mission of Christ, who was condemned to death and crucified, ended in defeat. However, both the Apostles, with their gaze fixed on the Paschal Mystery, did not doubt that precisely what to the eyes of the world seemed a defeat, was in fact the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan. It was the victory over the forces of evil won first by Christ and then by his disciples through faith" (from his homily on June 29, 1997).

Here too we have the testimonies of Peter and Paul themselves. Peter encourages believers: "Beloved, rejoice in the measure that you share Christ’s sufferings. When his glory is revealed, you will rejoice exultantly. Happy are you when you are insulted for the sake of Christ, for then God’s Spirit in its glory has come to rest on you" (1 Peter 4:13-14). And Paul expresses this in a very personal way to Timothy: "I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance" (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

This is a day of joy and hope for us, for Jesus remains among us through the essential service of the successors of Saint Peter, who hold “the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” and the apostolic heritage of Saint Paul, who opened the riches of the Gospel to the “Gentiles,” the peoples of all the earth and all of history.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A "Bee's Eye View" of the Wildflowers

Let’s pretend we’re bees!🐝 You've got to admit that not many blogs out there offer adventures like this. But we can do it here on JJ's blog! We're going to buzz right up to these cool wildflowers!πŸ˜‰

We've got "a bee's eye view" of this teeny tiny flower. You can almost smell the aroma of the nectar, amiright?

"That's it. He's finally gone crazy!" 

No, that's not true. I have always been... like this, haha haha ha heh heh... ummm hmmm... 😐

But anyway, I have been taking a close look at some of the different varieties of clover in grassy places these days. The first picture (above) might be of a “strawberry clover” (which I don’t think necessarily indicates that it will eventually become a strawberryπŸ“for eatingπŸ˜‹πŸ˜ž). 

The two in the second picture (below) are “burr clover,” which means they WILL eventually become burrs that will stick to your socks or pant legs in a few months.πŸ˜œπŸ˜‰

Saturday, June 27, 2020

"Digital Scriptorum" (Settings For Scripture Texts)

Here are some more recent efforts of tinkering with colors, filters, fonts, backgrounds, etc., in order to create settings for Scripture verses.

My intent is to present these texts in an artistic form while also experimenting with digital tools, and using a different part of my brain for a change.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Birth of Saint John the Baptist

Since ancient times, the Church has celebrated the Birth of Saint John the Baptist on June 24.

Six months from now it will be Christmas Eve, and that may seem far away, but today's feast reminds us that the joy of Christmas is always with us. Saint John the Baptist is honored as the “Forerunner” who proclaimed the coming of Christ: “John testified to him and cried out, 'This was he of whom I said, "He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me"'" (John 1:15). In giving him his name, Zechariah said: “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins" (Luke 1:76-77).

Zechariah and Elizabeth, those two elders of Israel, were both "upright according to the Law," faithful to God's covenant, grown old in the observance of its signs, and in the hope and expectation engendered by its mysterious promises. Now they are filled with joy as they welcome their own miraculous child at his birth. They already know that he is the herald of the fulfillment soon to come, the light who illuminates all things, the One who brings peace: "In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us" (Luke 1:78).

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Our Wedding Anniversary: Going "Out For Dinner," 2020 Style

A rose!

I always give Eileen roses for our Anniversary. I make that dashing, bold, romantic trip to the supermarket and I get some roses in the flower section and pay my money! This is the 21st century, after all, the epoch of cheap convenience for everything. Right!?

O wait... actually, it's 2020. Heh heh, things are done a bit differently now...

Going to the store is more of a project, with masks, and social distancing, and all that. And who knows whether there will be any nice flowers? Really, "convenience" is more of a crap shoot in these days of the "phased reopening" of our state. And there are no guarantees about "cheap" either (unless you're getting gasoline!). Of course, these problems are minor, and in fact we've been too spoiled in the past. The larger rupture in the overall infrastructure of the economy, however, has done more serious damage to people's lives, in addition to the many painful, serious illnesses and deaths caused by virus itself. 

In any case, I'm not going to stores or many other public places right now. I'm a high risk person in anybody's book. Even people who believe that coronavirus is overhyped fake news, or a scam to distract us while space aliens come to take over the world, would tell me that I should probably "lay low" right now.

Ironically, I have been out and about plenty all through the Spring. I live in an area where it's possible to walk (or climb or scramble) in many directions for miles without coming within six feet of any human being. Sure, there are people here and there, doing their own stuff, and you wave and they wave back from their garden or their tractor or even passing by on the road (we don't have sidewalks, and there's plenty of room on the road for people to pass by). This environment hasn't changed much. Meanwhile, I can get close to hills, streams, trees, flowers, and other beautiful things (that are "safe" according to the current focus of that term).

The range of my lifestyle was limited long before COVID-19. I learned years ago that adventures are waiting for me right outside my front door. Even if, because of my health condition, they are relatively short (and inordinately tiring) adventures.

Getting roses "in the wild" would have to be an adventure this year. There are rose bushes in the neighborhood. Most of the roses I saw were way past their bloom, but I found a few good ones (see above). And the old proverb is true: roses have thorns. Ouch!!

We also like to "go out for dinner" on our Anniversary. The restaurants in town are all available... for TAKEOUT or delivery. Part of the fun of a restaurant is the "ambiance" - but we were going to have to make our own ambiance. At least we could get some really good food, special food, cooked by someone else.

The Thai restaurant in town on Main Street offers everything on their menu (even the red snapper, yum!) - but we kept it simple: some small dishes of things to dip, and a "Pad Thai" and a "Sweet and Sour Beef" (with the fresh pineapples in the sauce, yum) and then, of course, I got a "small" bowl of my favorite "Tom Kha Gai" (chicken coconut milk soup). And Mango Sticky Rice for dessert.

Like I said, we kept it simple.

It would have looked nicer in their lovely restaurant. But it still tasted great! And we still went "out" to eat, right out into the front yard, with a lovely tablecloth on the picnic table and our own regular (non-plastic) tableware and utensils (fun fact: Thai people don't eat with chopsticks; they use spoons and forks - and we use knives too because some of the meat chunks in these dishes are pretty big).

The evening air was cool. The mosquitos mostly stayed away. They haven't gotten too bad (yet). It was delightful!

We definitely made our own ambiance, and it was very comfortable and casual. We didn't have the fun of "dressing up" fancy. We could have worn formal attire for this "intimate garden dinner party," I suppose. We might have done something like that 20 years ago, and we will get a chance to dress our best in a couple of months, as "mother and father of the groom" at John Paul's wedding. (Oh wow, that's coming up really soon!)

But we kept the dress code really laid-back for our 24th Anniversary Picnic Dinner. Eileen still looked beautiful. She is such a beautiful lady. I am so blessed to have her as the companion of my life.

The only other "problem"πŸ˜‰ with "dinner out" in the front yard is that "uninvited guests" can easily appear. They're just curious. If you give them some food, they'll usually go away! Actually we only have one "kid" left who would do something like that...

Happy Anniversary number 24, my dear Eileen. I love you!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

"Apocalypse in Slow Motion" - More Thoughts (Part 2)

Who is this masked man?

Is he scared? He looks scared. Maybe he's a germophobe. Or maybe his eyes are bugged out because the thing is wrapped so tightly on his face. Or, maybe he's just goofing around.

Most likely, it's goofing around. The expression, that is. He did seriously go out in public dressed like this.

He tries to be decent fellow, to keep the public good in mind, and he has no compelling reason to protest against the current law requiring masks in public places. It won't last forever, and for now it seems like a sensible and not excessively onerous precaution. So he has covered his face.

But with what?

What is he actually wearing? The fact is that he lives in a fairly rural area and doesn't go out in public very often these days. He goes out open-faced when he's alone, walking and enjoying the local scenery (and did quite a bit of that during the Spring) but he has only gone out to public gatherings a few times since March, only on Sundays since the churches reopened.

Being both too distracted and too cheap to buy a mask, he has made his rare sojourns wearing a clean dish towel. It seemed humorous to him, going to church looking like a bandit or a bank robber.

But now, Summer has arrived, and, man, this thing makes you get hot! So, it appears that the dish towel is not so clever after all. It looks like it's time to buy a mask.


I was born in 1963. The population of the world that year was about 3.1 billion people (which was more than double the population at the beginning of the century).

Now in this year of 2020, the world's population is about 7.8 billion.

In my lifetime so far (I do hope I have some time yet ahead, God willing) the global population has increased by 4.7 billion people!!

I'm not citing this fact in a negative way, nor do I advocate using unnatural means to "control" (i.e. suppress, suffocate) "population growth." I am in favor of people. I believe that the creativity of people — working in an integral ecological harmony with the resources, energies, and fruitfulness of the natural world — will make it possible for many more to thrive on this earth.

If we live with wisdom and generosity, we can flourish in a world of beauty and multitudinous diversity. It's not numbers of people who threaten the earth. The threat comes from material cupidity, that drives some people (they need not be many) to do violence to the world and foolishly strip its resources in an insatiable lust for power and possessions.

Size of population doesn't really increase this danger, because the vast majority of the population — whatever its size — is poor. And whatever may be their particular incoherence in relation to their immediate environments, the poor are inevitably subject to the few who actively possess power to manipulate material reality. What is crucial is that power be used with wisdom. A genuine ecological wisdom recognizes the world as a dwelling place (and even a "garden" — visions and echoes of that primal reality still inspire imitation in our present fractured milieu). It is the dwelling place of human persons and all the rest of the multifaceted creation that has been entrusted to them.

Wisdom, love, reverence, and gratitude will enable us to "grow" in our human capacities in a way that is proportionate and therefore enduring. We will cultivate our understanding and creativity, and use our technological powers to render our environment more hospitable, more pedagogical, and more tranquil — more of a "home." Without fear, we will be free to foster new generations in harmony with the "human ecosystem" of our bodies and the organic (but also interpersonal) relationships they perpetuate. Then we will also appreciate the gift of the whole creation, contemplate its beauty, care for it responsibly, and use gently and appropriately what it provides for our needs. Above all, a wise, grateful, integral ecology means engaging in the ongoing history of the world with a fundamental trust in the transcendent, pervasive, provident Mystery (the Mystery of Goodness) that sustains all things in being and brings them to fulfillment.

It makes a difference for how you view ecology when you acknowledge the radical dependence of every created being on God. You're not afraid of people as such. People are central to the meaning and fulfillment of the whole created universe. It is sin that ruptures the ecosystem. People, as people, are beautiful. Through the hearts of people, the whole of creation is destined to find the language to express its gratitude.

All of that being said, I want to just marvel at this stunning fact of my own lifetime: 4.7 billion more people on earth today than when I was born! Wow!! It's another feature of the truly epochal historical period we are passing through.

Today there are 7.8 billion people in the world. And every one of them a person, unrepeatable, precious, infinitely loved, created in the image of God, possessing inestimable value.

Up with people!

The ecological measure for the human community (and along with it the whole earth) is justice and love, wisdom, self-restraint, and generosity. This is an ecology that uses all of our reason, understanding, and creativity, but that hopes in God.

What is the alternative? That the few continue to rape and pillage the earth in order to indulge their lust for power while the multitudes are sterilized?


Another "Father's Day" has come. I had a good day with the family. But I miss my own father, and have fond thoughts of my youth - indeed of the days when he was quite a bit younger than I am now.

This is my Dad and Mom and their boys, circa... oh, I'm guessing 1977-1978. So he's 42 and she's 39 and we're teenagers. (I needed a haircut!πŸ˜‰) This is the Dad I remember when I was growing up in Pittsburgh. I'm more grateful to him than I can ever express.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, DAD!❤➕ Rest in Peace.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Treasures in Mary's Heart

"Mary treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). #ImmaculateHeartOfMary #FeastDay

Friday, June 19, 2020

Jesus Said, "I am Meek and Humble of Heart

This is a bit of computer graphic art of Sacred Heart of Jesus, based on a particular statue in Mexico City that I appreciate.

On this beautiful Feast Day, we glorify Jesus in his most Sacred Heart, the very depth of his assumed humanity through which he loves us, unites himself to our particular lives, has compassion and mercy on us.
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart. And you will find rest for yourselves, for my yoke is easy and my burden light" (Matthew 11:27-29).
Our contemplative Papa Benedict, the monk who once served as bishop of Rome and successor of Saint Peter, expressed the significance of this mysterious and utterly real fact so decisive for our lives:

Thursday, June 18, 2020

My Dad and my Mom, 60 years ago today...

My Dad and my Mom, 60 years ago today...

Wow, that's a chunk of time.

They nearly made it to 59 years before my Dad's death in April of 2019. Mom is okay, though we can only talk to her on the phone these days. Her time in the Assisted Living place in Arlington was just supposed to be an "interval" before we got a bigger house and she moved out here. It's turning out to be a long interval ... but thank God she's there and well, and content for now.

Lord, grant eternal rest to my father and bless and keep my mother.➕

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

We Are God's Little Children

We really have no idea how much God loves us. And, of course, God is not surprised by this. He knows we are small and weak, in need of his constant attention, protection, and tenderness. He knows we are little children.

He is our Father.

God loves us, each of us, with a love so radical that human fatherhood is a poor image in comparison. This means we can - we should - trust in him, whatever difficulties we may face.

God is our Father who loves us. He has a plan that is for our good, to bring us into everlasting possession of his own inexhaustible goodness. He is not just fooling around with our lives.

We should be able to grasp what Jesus means by the images he uses in the Gospel. If our children ask for bread, we don’t give them stones. If they ask for eggs, we don't give them scorpions. We know there's a serious problem with parental abuse or neglect if those kinds of things happen in a family. Even if we're decent and honorable people, that doesn't mean we're perfect parents by any stretch, but hopefully we're trying our best.

God is certainly an infinitely better Father to me than I could ever be to my own children. So why am I afraid that I can’t trust Him? Could I have really given myself a better life than the actual life that God has given me? And can I construct a better future for myself than what God has planned for me?

Should I not trust Him? What God wants for me is so much more, so much greater, so much more glorious and joyful, than what I think I want for myself.

In eternity, we shall see all and rejoice in all. Here, we see through that dark glass called faith. Sometimes it is very dark, but we must trust God to give us what we need to sustain hope, and to grow in the capacity to respond to His mysterious Love with our own childlike, radical, self-abandoning love.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Eucharist: A Loving “Fragility”

“In our fragmented lives, the Lord comes to meet us with a loving ‘fragility,’ which is the Eucharist. In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory...

The Eucharist gives us a grateful memory, because it makes us see that we are the Father’s children, whom he loves and nourishes. It gives us a free memory, because Jesus’ love and forgiveness heal the wounds of the past, soothe our remembrance of wrongs experienced and inflicted. It gives us a patient memory, because amid all our troubles we know that the Spirit of Jesus remains in us. The Eucharist encourages us: even on the roughest road, we are not alone; the Lord does not forget us and whenever we turn to him, he restores us with his love.”

~Pope Francis

Friday, June 12, 2020

Christianity is New Life in the Spirit

It is very easy to think of Christianity as "a bunch of stuff we have to do" (or not do), because God and the Church say so, and then try to negotiate and integrate this rather burdensome collection of stuff into our lives.

We really need to ask ourselves: "Is this how we live our faith? Is this how we present it to others?"

The rest of the world often views Christianity as a collection of external rules that more or less interfere with real life. This is one reason why people in the secular world view serious Christian faith as a hindrance to living a mature human life.

Christianity is seen as an obstacle and even a frustration to the desire to attain the fullness of personal existence. Its laws and complicated disciplines, rituals, and structure of authority - all imposed by manipulation and fear - suffocate the person. Christianity sets itself against the motivating impetus of living, the attraction of reality that gets people out of bed every morning, that actually interests and engages them as persons in a meaningful way. It's supposedly important for what happens to someone "in the afterlife," which seems remote from the vitality and the demands of the here-and-now. Religious people are preoccupied with maneuvering their way through arcane mazes in order to avoid some future punishment. They are no different from anyone else other than these "games" they play.

So goes the thought process of some non-Christians and the portrayal of Christianity in the general culture. Is that what it means to be a Christian? What a grim business! No wonder people want nothing to do with it.

But of course this view is a terrible distortion of our faith. In reality, our relationship with Jesus in the Church fulfills our humanity and illuminates the full depths of what we seek in all that we do: the Mystery that fascinates us and calls out to us in all the good and beautiful aspects of life. We must beware that we do not allow our own understanding of our faith to be reduced to a kind of puritannical moralism. Our fulfillment, our happiness as persons is central to God's promise.

Jesus calls us to life - "eternal life" - which is the opposite of a constraint on our humanity. In reality, sin is what frustrates and suffocates us. Jesus heals us, sets us free, and transforms us.

We must remember above all that Christianity is a new life, a supernatural life, a life of communion with God. Through baptism, we have been given a participation in the Divine life, and through grace this life grows within us and transforms us. God gives Himself to us; He draws us into a personal relationship with Himself; He leads us to our destiny which is to share forever in His glory, to behold and to love forever the One who is the fullness of all goodness, to belong to Him forever.

Eternal glory has already begun, secretly, in the very heart of this ordinary life, because God dwells in us, and God is at work in our lives.

But why are we so dull and unaware? Because we need the light of the Holy Spirit to recognize the path He has laid out before us. Christianity is not external to the real concerns of our lives. It illuminates them and opens us up to their true meaning. But this only happens if we live the relationship with God that He continually desires to deepen throughout our lives.

And how can I live and grow in a relationship with Eternal Love except by asking for Him to change me, asking for Him to empower me to love Him more, asking Him to enable me to see the Church as the instrument of His love, and her teachings as the road of love that really corresponds to my life?

I want Him to "come" into my life, deepen my relationship with Him, and make me more aware of His presence. This is why I must ask, continually, for the gift of the Holy Spirit to be renewed within me. This is why my whole heart has to be a living, loving, begging prayer for God's grace.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Christina Grimmie Can Teach Us to be People of Mercy

June 10, 2016 was four years ago.

It seems like so much has happened since Christina Grimmie's last day of life on this earth. But many people continue to miss her, in different ways depending on the place she held in their own lives.

Especially in the scary, dangerous, disorienting times we have been living through in recent months, many of us probably feel like crying out, "O Christina, we really need you now! We need your music, your joy, your groundedness, your affirmation, your whole example of what it means to be human."

The truth is that she is not as far from us as it seems. Her personal solicitude is with us, in some sense even closer to us, in ways we can hardly imagine. A sign of this, however, is the continuation of our memory of her and its ongoing fruitfulness. Four years later, Christina Grimmie's legacy is growing, becoming more extensive and more relevant for people all over the world.

Today, more than ever, we look to her passionate embrace of the mystery of her own very real life, and her trust, her gratitude, her confidence in the promise of ultimate goodness that constitutes the heart of all reality, even in the most difficult times.

Christina Grimmie lived a brief but intensely human life, with incredible talents and dedication to hard work, with challenges and problems, brilliant successes, setbacks, flaws and failures, suffering, courage, integrity and fidelity of spirit, humor, playfulness, huge generosity, and — especially  a tremendous awareness that human existence is fulfilled by loving and being loved.

Thus she lived each day, not easily, not free from mistakes and sorrow, but always going forward, never giving up, remembering that she was always held up by the arms of Love, and therefore unafraid to open her arms to give love to others: through music, friendship, encouragement, and hospitality "extended" in surprisingly concrete ways by means of her media platforms as well as in direct personal encounters.

With whatever means she had, Christina welcomed people into her company. She welcomed the sick of body and mind, the troubled, the people who didn't fit in, who felt worthless, who were forgotten, all kinds of people known and unknown, because she knew that every human person is precious and worthy of love.

She had space in her soul for that great and much needed work of mercy called "welcoming the stranger" (see Matthew 25:35). Indeed, her life was full of the works of mercy, often as expressions of a powerful compassion embedded within ordinary daily activities and interactions.

We do still need Christina. We need her legacy because we need to become people of mercy, people who ask for mercy and forgiveness, who return to fidelity to the mystery of our human vocation, and who forgive others and show an abundance of mercy toward one another. Christina has shown us that it is possible to live this way, that it is possible to focus on this way, return to it, and seek it, begging for the strength and the light to follow this way of merciful love, never giving up, all the way to the end.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Learning to be "Poor" in the Presence of God

I am a fool and a hypocrite. I know it, and I admit it. My heart seems always to be divided.

When I write these "spiritual reflections," it is true that I am trying to help myself remember the truth and to see reality in the perspective of the Gospel. But there is also this part of me that seeks attention. I'm not writing these reflections in a private notebook, but on a publicly accessible blog. Of course, I believe that maybe my process of "working things out" might also be helpful for others. I want to share my reflections as a gift. But again, there is always a lingering expectation for "the reward" of appreciation and respect. There's part of me that just "loves to be called 'rabbi,'" teacher!

I am a Pharisee. Even this confession of pharisaical behavior right now is really something of a scam; deep down there is something in me that craves your admiration for my candor. Don't trust me! I don't trust myself!

There is a flaw, a twist, a craving, a grasping that seem to be (at least) a little mixed in with almost everything I do. I never seem to be entirely free of a touch of selfish self-love. It's humbling to be aware of this ("look, I'm 'humble'"!). This is the reason some of the saints did extraordinary penances. They had very particular vocations and were given special graces. But for me, in my circumstances, flagellation or exile to the desert would not be helpful. In my case, it would more likely lead to an unhealthy self-loathing. I must follow Jesus within the circumstances in which He has called me.

We are all sinners. We all fail to some degree. So it is, for human flesh and blood. "Forgive us our trespasses," we are taught to pray every day. The assumption, of course, is that we are going to trespass. Jesus doesn't want us to obsess over our faults, but to ask for the Father's mercy, and to be formed according to His will in the school that is this life: "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

So we fail, and God is rich in mercy. But there is a special way that we must ask for God's mercy, and that is with the humility of hearts that are themselves merciful. "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Here Jesus sums up life. We sin. But others also sin against us. We are hurt. We are betrayed. We are the victims of injustice. We are neglected. But we must forgive others. We must be people of mercy. This is not easy. This is where I experience my powerlessness. Here I must really "sell all I have" and give it away. Here is where following Jesus begins.

How can I be merciful to others? I must ask God to enable me to be merciful to others. Everything begins in the position of trusting God in an ever-more-radical way, the position of prayer and poverty before God.


Jesus said that it was hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. And surely I am a "rich man," regardless of whatever difficulties I may have: I am rich in comparison with most of the human race in material things, and also rich in talents, education, ambitions, ideas, and a sense of the value of myself.

But Jesus teaches His disciples, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24).

Now the disciples are very perceptive at this point. Indeed, they are "astonished" and they cry out, "Who then can be saved?" It is more than a matter of economics, although on this level it is important to remember that there are, on the whole, two kinds of people: those who are rich, and those who want to be rich. On the personal level, however, everyone is "rich"—even if all he possesses is "himself." Because we must lose our very selves for His sake.

"For human beings this is impossible," Jesus says. So we can't trust in our own riches. We can't trust in ourselves!

"But nothing is impossible with God" (Matthew 19:27). Of course! Our hope is in God! So we must return, again and again, to that posture of begging for mercy, and that posture of trust because the God who does the impossible has given Himself to us. He wants to and He will transform us into people of compassion, people who give themselves away, people who follow Him and in Him discover the only true treasure, His Love.

Monday, June 8, 2020

A Shining Star Passed Through Our Skies


Well, sure. One of them is that I did NOT go to a particular concert in Washington D.C. on June 8, 2016.

Christina Grimmie performed at the Rock n Roll Hotel on H Street (which just shut down for good a few months ago). Really, it was not that far away from us, nor too hard to get to. I'm so sorry I missed it. 

All the video clips I have seen from this final tour indicate that Christina was taking her voice to a whole new level. She was ON FIRE!πŸ”₯ A phenomenal artist at 22 years old, so full of music, and still growing, always stretching her limits.🎡 She passed so close to here, just two nights before she was taken from this life. 

On Wednesday June 10, Team Grimmie all around the world will honor her memory once again and celebrate her legacy. Tonight I mourn for a personal reason, and as a musician and lover of music, that four years ago she sang out her heart and soul at a club in Washington D.C. and I WASN'T THERE.πŸ˜•πŸ˜“ 

Dear Christina, how I would have loved to have seen and heard you in a live performance.πŸ’šπŸŽΆ

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Friday, June 5, 2020

A Defiant Hong Kong Remembers Tiananmen Square

The drama of Hong Kong's struggle for freedom has reached a new level of crisis.

The PartyState in Beijing has decided unilaterally to impose a new "Basic Security Law" on the people of Hong Kong. There may yet be more bureaucratic formalities, but ultimately this means that mainland "security forces" will be able to intervene directly in activities in Hong Kong that their Beijing CCP masters determine to be "seditious."

A Hong Kong protestor or opposition candidate or pro-democracy legislator or journalist or grandmother sitting on a park bench can now be arrested if their behavior proves inconvenient to the Communist Party. Hong Kong's distinctive system of internal governance has been effectively and openly breached.

How the PartyState will use this newly decreed power remains to be seen. It's likely that people will begin to be "disappeared."

Meanwhile, even though the PartyState pretends (at least) to have Coronavirus under control, the local Hong Kong authorities banned the annual Tiananmen Square memorial gathering. In mainland China, of course, it has always been illegal to commemorate (and dangerous even to mention) the Beijing pro-democracy student protests of 1989 and their murderous suppression by the Communist People's Liberation Army on the infamous night of June 4.

Hong Kong people, however, have gathered enormous crowds every year, as such demonstrations were legal under their distinctive government system. This domestic political autonomy was supposedly guaranteed for Hong Kong by the "one country, two systems" treaty that united them with China in 1997. 

But what would Hong Kong people do for June 4, 2020? What would they do in the face of a direct ban and the new "security law" that looms over them?

They came out by tens of thousands to this candlelight vigil at Victoria Park, as well as other places throughout the city. (Pictures credit: Apple Daily and Stand News.) Little was done to hinder them (for the moment). And like the "Umbrella Revolution" of 2014 and the one million and two million person protest marches in June of last year, Hong Kong people once again gave the whole world a lesson in "civil disobedience."

These images are compelling and unambiguous. These people came in great numbers and in peace to speak truth to power. With the big ugly gun of the world's largest dictatorship loaded and pointed at their head, they brought candles. They stood in solidarity with their unarmed brothers and sisters from 31 years ago, who were met by bullets and tanks.

They even stood with ample space between one another because they were practicing social distancing!

The PartyState may very well crush the freedom and even the lives of the Hong Kong people. But they will never win their hearts. They will never convince anyone with a conscience that officially-sanctioned-violence is actually "necessary public security." They will be crafty, they will be brutal, and it will probably look like they have won. They will inflict much suffering. But whatever they do, their conquest will never be legitimate. It will remain a crime.

And peaceful witness to the truth will ultimately prevail, because violence - no matter how powerful - is doomed to consume itself.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

"We Cannot Turn a Blind Eye..."

The box below quotes the words of Pope Francis from today's General Audience. What he says expresses more than anything I could make up on my own. 

People need to look directly at this violation of human dignity with open eyes. Right now, everyone has been provoked by it. One of the great stinking wounds of the social body is exposed in full view, its festering poison visible for all to see. 

This is no time for the kind of extended analysis, probing of complex issues and tendencies, and hypothesizing that historians habitually carry out in their ongoing search for "the larger perspective." Such endeavors have their time and place, but not at this moment. 

For myself, in any case, I must continue to learn what I can and to listen to the long sorrowful story of the African-American people. Their lives do matter, and they have every reason to insist that others recognize their long-neglected rights. Black Americans are a people who, over the course of four centuries, have been ruthlessly dislocated, enslaved, abused, repressed, cheated, and fragmented — a people who nevertheless have endured with a common memory, and continue to forge their own identity through the determination, resilience, and heroism of so many among them, a people who have the potential for greatness, and who are vital to the future of this nation and the world. They have already given so much, yet their sorrowful story continues, and they still suffer enormously.

The Pope directed these words to us today:

Racial injustice is an old, deeply entrenched source of the violence that has scarred the history of the USA from the first slave ships that arrived on these shores 400 years ago to the systemic hostility and humiliation perpetuated even to the present day.

As May ends and June begins in this nightmare that is the year 2020, new traumatic events have emerged that none of us can ignore. With the first loosening of public restrictions in what remains an unresolved and unpredictable viral pandemic, we have seen the monstrous, appalling spectacle of a helpless black man crushed-to-death beneath the knee of a police officer.

We first must regard the particular human persons whose affliction is in front of us. We must pray for the repose of the soul of poor George Floyd, and pray and weep for his grieving family. We also need to insist on justice and full accountability here. (Surely the multitude of honorable, decent, and brave policemen and women throughout the country desire this as much as anyone else.)

Lord, grant eternal rest to George Floyd, and console his loved ones and family, especially his little 6 year old daughter Gianna. Grant that honest justice and accountability will prevail, that hearts will change, that systems, dangerous practices, and bad mentalities will change. Have mercy on us. (Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am a man far too complacent in my ways. Change my heart, O God!)

Sadly, in the past several days, there have been riots in the streets of some American cities. There are complicated factors and motivations that can drive people to acts of angry desperation, but they cannot avoid being sucked into a whirlwind that serves only the agents of chaos. Violence begets violence in the perpetuation of the cycle of violence that becomes ever more self-defeating and mutually destructive. "Nothing is gained by violence."

There are also many people who are engaged in peaceful demonstrations, seeking constructive reforms, and trying to "work for peace and justice." It is a daunting, seemingly overwhelming task. But it is the way forward, and everyone in this country needs to be committed to it, and never give up. 


From the various places in which we stand now, we must discover and take the steps to make a new beginning, together, as human beings.

What will enable us to recognize one another as brothers and sisters? We are all such strangers to one another, and we so easily tend to cover our own isolation and fear with contempt for the other.

Racism is founded on lies. Racism is a pretext we use to disown our brothers and sisters, to absolve ourselves from relationship with them as persons, to close our eyes and ears to their sufferings, to dehumanize them and abuse them, or to have no care when they are treated like disposable objects, like garbage.

I am a sinner, implicated like everyone else in this pride that looks down on other human persons and treats them like "things." I have no hope except to follow Jesus Christ, to be converted to Him again and again, day after day, to beg for His mercy, and to open my heart to His life-giving Spirit.

I need to pray for a new heart. We all have to pray. Without turning to God, what hope do we have? Only when God gives us new hearts will we be able to see one another as brothers and sisters. Then we can find better ways to live together, to give and to share the various riches of humanity that God has given us and inspired us to cultivate as individual persons and as particular communities.

This "new heart" is a concrete possibility for every person, because God has become one of us, has taken flesh to dwell with us, to be with us, to stay with us. God is present among us as a man, Jesus, who has destroyed the ultimate power of death and sin, who is with us in all our pain, who is our Lord and our brother. He calls to Himself people from every nation, race, culture, from all the earth, from every time and place, including the particular places where we live right now.

Jesus our Lord remains forever human. He was born of a woman, Mary, who remains forever His mother. Here we have a very special reason for hope: we have a mother, and her tenderness reaches out to gather together all the brothers and sisters of her Son with untiring solicitude.

Echoing Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis entrusts the USA to the Mother of Jesus who has made her maternal presence most evident to all of her children in this hemisphere in a place south of our national border, on the hill of Tepeyac. Nuestra SeΓ±ora de Guadalupe.

Like John Paul II, Francis calls her the "Mother of America."

Monday, June 1, 2020

John Paul is 23 Years Old!

John Paul turned 23 years old today.

It's mind-boggling. I remember very well when I turned 23, in the year 1986. I probably looked not entirely unlike he does now!

One big difference is that I still had ten years of academic study and travel and life in Europe ahead of me before I finally married his mother. Whereas his wedding is in two months and 8 days.

I think that's just fine. He's got the right girl. And he's a lot more mature than I was at his age!πŸ˜‰ 

This “stealth” photo was taken while John Paul was opening a gift. Though the wrapping said “Idaho Potatoes,” the gift is a bag of charcoal! (The other part of the gift - a grill - is being shipped to his new place.) Don’t worry, we’ll have more (and better) pictures when he gets married in August!

What's funny is that this blog has been going for so long that nostalgia is built right into it. The first time I blogged here about John Paul's birthday was on June 1, 2011. He was turning 14, and getting ready to be a freshman in high school. And he was the oldest. The kids were such a "compact bunch" back in those days:

Actually, the blog post itself tells the exciting story of his birth. (I'm glad I recorded these stories in various places; not that I have "forgotten" them, but it helps to have something to refresh those memories and buff up some of the finer details.😌) Anyway, here's the retro-post from 2011, with baby picture: