Stories for the Right Column of the Columns Page
My basement is ripped apart right now, stripped bare to concrete and studs. The catalyst was a flood just before Christmas that required the panelling and carpet to be ripped out. In the process, two significant fire hazards were discovered, one in some faulty wiring and another associated with the clothes dryer. Each had the potential to literally bring our house down. Neither was likely to have been discovered if not for the renovations we are now doing.
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It's easy to get to a point where we start to hear without hearing. How many times do we hear or recite the Our Father or the Hail Mary without paying attention to the fact that we're uttering meaningful words and not just a series of familiar, vaguely pleasant syllables? Perhaps the Ten Commandments, which we hear recited in today's First Reading, also falls into this category; how often do we stop and really read and reflect on those oft-heard ordinances when we see them hanging on a wall (usually on a poster in the shape of two tablets)? If we do ever stop and think about them, what is our reaction?
A Catholic friend of mine recently asked me why a priest at his parish would announce a message such as the following: "Today's Mass is being offered for the intention of Mrs. So-and-So, as requested by her family." My friend was perplexed because a Sunday Mass is a collective liturgical worship by and for everyone attending. It should not be celebrated just for the intention of a particular person. Isn't the Mass a memorial of the death of Christ that brings grace to all, in fact to the whole world?
Each year as we enter the first week of Lent, we naturally tend to think of fasting. Often we may think of things to give up and abstain from. Candies and deserts may be chosen. For adults, maybe it is alcohol or smoking. It is almost as if we can get a second chance to work at the New Year's resolutions we failed at a month earlier. Significantly, the Scripture passages for the first days of Lent each year speak of fasting. However, what is meant by fasting is different from simply giving up certain treats and pleasures for 40 days.
In this week's Second Reading we are offered this challenge, "Do everything for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10.31). How can you and I fulfill this scripture? How do we do everything for God's glory? We can start by thinking about all our daily actions. Each thing we do is important. Actions that are small or large, honest or dishonest, good or bad. St. Ignatius of Loyola saw the purpose of his life in the maxim: "For the greater glory of God." Something that glorifies God is in tune with his truth and love. It must be in tune with the ultimate reality underlying all creation – God.
I think it was Father David Bittner who explained "covenant" in a way I found easy to understand: an agreement or a contract, which makes the parties into family members. He used the example of the covenant of marriage, which makes formerly unrelated people into a family of two. The Hebrew people entered a covenant with God almost 4,000 years ago and almost 2,000 of those years are mapped out in the Old Testament. God promises he will be their God, he frees them from slavery and he continually blesses them. The Hebrews? They promise they will be his people, and they continually complain and are frequently unfaithful to him.
As a child I was always thrown when the priest announced that we were in Ordinary Time. Sometimes it seemed self-evident; but often it was anything but ordinary. My uncle bagged a moose; someone won the lottery; another had triplets. And in the papers . . . goodness me, nothing seemed ordinary. So why was the priest proclaiming that we were in the fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time? What, I always wondered, was extraordinary time? Maybe I should come back later when the cool things were happening.