Sunday, October 28, 2012

Today's Catholic Church Readings and the Weather

On this day, I find myself a continental distance away from my family.  They are home.  I am at a professional conference.  In some ways, I wish it had been easier to back out of the commitments that I have this week.  But it is not really simple or possible to pull back from a variety of reservations and there are professional expectations.  And other than provide camaraderie, I'm not sure what I could do at home.  At least this way, when I get home, I'l be able to help as a well rested person who has not stressed quite as much during the week.  Still, I can only say "not stressed as much" as I will be stressed here wondering what will happen to my family.  In short, with a house with some history of basement flooding and many large trees both around the house and in the neighborhood, I worry that this storm could be a real disaster.

As such, I take some solace from today's Catholic church Gospel reading.  The reading is from the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 10, veres 46-52.  The story is of a blind man who asks for pity, and when Jesus asks what he wants, he says " see."  Jesus restores his sight based on his faith.

This is a week in which I will need a lot of faith.  I am just hoping that my faith and my family's faith an be as strong as the blind man in the Gospel reading.  If it is, this may be a messy week with implications for a long time to come, but we will persevere and come through.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Yesterday at church, the opening song played by the worship band in which I play electric bass every Sunday was called "The Stand".  We didn't play the whole song as written.  We repeated the chorus five times over with the music building, starting a whole step below the key in which it was written and ending in the key in which it was written--modulating after three repetitions and then repeating twice more.  It was a very fun song to play.  The bass part was nice but easy.  And I could actually look up and smile while just playing almost without thinking.  I felt God's joy in my playing. It was good.

Then, the priest made a number of comments during the homily.  Of course, he addressed the readings.  But, as importantly on this particular day, he also addressed the fact that the confirmandi, i.e. the class of mostly 9th graders who will be confirmed in June if all goes well, were attending the mass.

He told them to listen to what he said, but more importantly to watch what he (and all the other adults in the congregation) did, and how he acted, and how he made choices in life to see what being Catholic really meant.

In other words--he challenged the teens to consider what the church stands for.  It was a nice way to tie back to the opening song.

And it was a nice way for me to tie back to a week away and to look forward.  It was only by some stroke of luck or by some divine intervention (I like to believe the latter) that I made it from landing at Dullest at 6:32 to being in my home by 8:35, and able to take my two younger boys to Sunday school by 9:15 and to be ready to take my class of third graders on a neighborhood service project as well.  It was such a good way to feel that maybe God was smiling down and saying, "See, I answered your prayer to get home quickly and be with your class so you can serve."

All for God's glory. That is what I try to stand for.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Short Thought of the Day

There is a song that we sometimes sing in church, especially when the "traditional" contemporary choir is playing.  The song goes "Take the Word of God with you as you go."  There are other words of course.  But these words speak to me in the context of last Sunday's readings.  And I do try to take the Word of God with me (both in terms of the messages of the Bible and taking Jesus with me) wherever I go.  I have felt the joy of God this week in my actions with colleagues and in the beauty of the land and in my running.  I look forward to the joy of God in my family on Sunday. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

International Travel Haiku

Cramped on plane.  Jet-lagged.
Concentration difficult.
Extra sleep.  Missed run.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Short Reflection on Sunday's Readings that I Missed

Sunday's readings in the Catholic church included Wis 7:7-11, Heb 4:12-13, and Mk 10:17-30. As I read over them and pondered them while running, the book of wisdom reading focuses on how prudence and the wisdom that often accompanies prudence can lead to great things in a way that nothing else does.  And where does wisdom come from?  Building on the foundation of what God has set as the path for men to follow.

The second reading makes two basic points.  We are never outside the domain of God and the word of God is all powerful.  All powerful in how it shapes our wisdom.  All powerful in its ability to lead us to good things.  All powerful in its ability to lead us to everlasting life.

And that last point is critical in the third reading.  After Jesus recites the commandments, he tells of giving up everything and following him.  Following his word.  It is the Gospel story about how it is easier for a camel to pass through they eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.  The only way to everlasting life is by following the word of God.  That provides us with the keys to wisdom.

From a basic interpretation of how the elements fit together liturgically there was not much challenge to this one.  The challenge is to find the way to make it central to the way that I lead my life every day.  

Monday, October 15, 2012


Here I sit at 5:13 AM in Durban, South Africa.  It is 11:13 PM back home on a Sunday.  This Sunday, I missed church as I was in flight.  The closest I came was the service being held in the airport at Dulles at the time that I was getting ready to leave on the first of three flights that got me here.

I will look at the readings during this week.  That is easy enough.

But last night, I was taken aback by a song I heard on the television.  Many hotels have a menu of services.  When I flipped to that channel, I had to stop.  What I heard was an orchestral version of a song that our worship band at my church performs often.  It is called “Here I am to Worship”.  The lyrics in the chorus include “Here I am to Worship/Here I am to bow down/Here I am to say that you’re my God”.

And when I wonder “What am I doing in Durban?  Why do I have to come so far for a meeting?  Why do the bunch of people who are meeting have to come so far?”  The last question in reference to the fact that we actually have people here from Sydney, Australia as well.  I know when I hear “Here I am to Worship.”  That is exactly why I am here.

And it fits so well with having watched Chariots of Fire on the flight on the way over.  Eric Liddell was both a great runner and a great missionary.  He commented that he feels God’s pleasure when he runs fast.  I don’t run like him but have written previously about feeling God’s please when I run as fast as I can with friends.  I also feel God’s pleasure when I do my work on a project through the university as well as I can to help provide more information for decision makers to try to make the world a better place.  Reading Atlas Shrugged on the flight, the song also helped to remind me of my purpose.  To bring glory to God through my actions. 

The reminders of God always come in interesting forms that I never anticipate.  A movie on the flight here.  An orchestral version of a song that could have been a part of any mass and while my family was at mass.  A book by Any Rand.  It’s all a part of my interestingly interwoven life with one purpose.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blessings on a Sunday

First, I can't believe it has been almost two weeks since my last entry.  I think I will try to write shorter entries rather than none at all.

Second Today was a day in transit for me and a day to think a lot about running that I am doing and running that I have not done.  Both are important.

Running that I did not do-I did not participate in the Baltimore Running Festival this year.  As my three kids pile more and more on Saturday activities (particularly with how early ice hockey can be), I'll probably have to choose one--or at most two--weekends in the fall to participate in races.  At least after September.  The past three years I had taken part in the Baltimore running festival.  This year I did not. And this year was the most perfect weather of them all with lots of people I know getting either their fastest times ever in general or at the very least their fastest times at the Baltimore Running Festival. Definitely makes me think about making this one of my fall Saturdays for "not just very early morning running" next year.

In terms of running that I am doing, I am doing a lot of very early morning running on Saturdays at this point.   We have reached a point in the year where trail running at 6 AM is downright dangerous. So, my main running partner and I have taken to running urban/suburban street courses.  What is interesting and what demonstrates just how blessed I have been through all my hard work is how much my running has changed in two years.  A little over two years ago, I ran the Philadelphia ING Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in September and was on a flight so South Africa later that day. That was the beginning of a very difficult month long period of final preparation for the Baltimore Marathon 2010 as my legs completely tightened up after what was an all out effort.  I later promised a friend who is a much more senior runner that I would not race so far and fly such long distances again.  There is a risk of embolism in an airplane.  The risk goes up after running.

Here I sit two years later, and I went out and ran just under 12 miles with my best matched running partner and we ran at a pace on average faster than the pace I raced at two years ago.  Today, my legs are a little stiff after 17+ hours on a plane but it just from the plane ride.  Not from the run.

I am blessed to be able to improve what I do, to have good friends to improve with, and to set an example of what hard work can do for my boys.  Interestingly, I think all thee already get it, but it doesn't hurt to continue to show them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Thoughts on the Homily from September 30

Yesterday's mass at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Towson was a very nice mass musically--or at least I thought so. I didn't poll the remainder of the worship band, but the songs were all good songs for the bass (which I play) and my bass playing skills continue to improve--but remain way less than perfect.  In any case, the songs were good and seemed to fit with the meaning of the mass in a way that is as good as it gets most times.

During the mass, the readings included one from the Book of Numbers that mentions Eldad and Medad (which was also the subject of a classic homily by Fr. Hank), a reading from the letter of James, and a well known reading from the Gospel of Mark.

Of all the things that Fr. Sam talked about in the homily, there were some big points that I'd like to quickly comment on.

First, Fr. Sam reminded us that God still speaks--and it is important for us to listen and act like we do listen.

Second, Fr. Sam commented on the possibility of the corrupting influence of wealth--although stating that not everyone who is wealthy is corrupt.

Third, both the reading from Numbers and the gospel reading talked about calling into question who was speaking God's word.  Fr. Sam reminded us that we are all called on to speak God's word.  Some of us struggle with God's word.  I don't take any credit for having necessarily good insight into God's word, but I do struggle with, ask questions about, and share my thoughts on how God's word relates to me in this blog.  Is that what the Bible and my faith calls me to do?  Well, it's clear that would not necessarily have been anticipated when the Bible was written, but I don't think it is a bad interpretation.

Finally, the part of yesterday's Gospel that many would recognize was where Jesus called on people to cut off their hands or feet or pluck out their eyes if thy caused sin.  Fr. Sam pointed out that this was not meant literally but was meant to be a form of teaching that could be interpreted as "get rid of whatever keeps you from 'getting it'."  Where "getting it" is God's word.  I'm sure there are other interpretations of this particular reading, but this is a very cool one.  (And, I suppose, a very modern one.)  The main point of our faith is "to get it" in this interpretation (and then, of course, act on it) and whatever keeps us from getting it should be out of our lives.  Seems simple enough.  Once we get it, we can speak it.  Getting it reminds us to listen for God's voice in today's word.  And getting it can occur regardless of how much wealth we have or can provide us with an indication of how to use our wealth in a way consisten with God's words.