Hidden Blessings

March 28th, 2020 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

When we look back over these last few days, weeks and months many of us can’t help wondering, “Where did this virus and pandemic come from?” and “What does it mean?”  The first question may not have a clear answer, but we want to know how it got here because such knowledge may help us understand it now and give us a handle on what signs we need to look for in order to prevent a recurrence. The answer will surely come from the disciplines of science, medicine and demographics.


But the question of what it means for us is not so easily answered, and certainly not by science, because each individual will respond based on his or her experiences. Some people may experience the virus and pandemic as God’s punishment for sin, while others may feel it is a “ test.”


I prefer to think the virus and pandemic are opportunities, and as such, have something positive to give and teach us. For instance, the social distancing that has come with the virus has made me see how important my friendships are, especially those which span many years but which I sometimes take for granted. The virus has motivated me to learn skills like FaceTime and WhatsApp, which let me not just think about people but actually see them and talk with them. I would probably never had done so without the virus.


A second gift that the experience of the virus has given me  is that I am more aware of people I haven’t really noticed or paid attention to before. Previously I would be aware of them but not really see them. Now  when I go into a grocery store or pharmacy I’m more likely to  see the employees  as individuals, each one facing the same kind of challenges that I do, and I realize that we do all share a kinship, whether spoken or unspoken. And what we are experiencing right now has been the experience of many people in other countries throughout the world. We are truly all in this together. 

Lastly, the virus gives me the reminder that I need to put into God’s hands myself, the ones I love and people I don’t even know. Then I find it easier to take seriously Christ’s command to depend on God and not be afraid. We may not be able to attend church right now, but at every moment God works in the way we need, and will be walking with us and, when necessary, carrying us —- all of us —- in his arms.


So, are these difficult and challenging times? Absolutely! But God is still able to meet us and bless us, even there. 

— 
Frank Majka, S.J. 

God’s Christmas Joy

December 29th, 2019 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Christmas is a time of great joy. Joy runs through the whole season. Mary joyfully sings God’s praise when she visits Elizabeth, angels bring the shepherds “news of great joy which will be to all the people” and one of our Christmas carols begins, “Joy to the world. The Lord has come!”

But doesn’t it seem strange that we seldom talk about God’s joy? Yet if God so loved us as to send us the Second Person of the Trinity in order to share his divinity with us and save us, it seems only right to believe that the Three-Person God is filled with great joy and deep satisfaction as they see their desire and plan for us and our world begin to unfold in time. So, if heaven and earth and shepherds and angels rejoice, wouldn’t God?

Perhaps we feel that such language makes God too much like us. But we believe that God made us in his own image. So it seems clear that we are not mistaken if we think that our own Christmas joy comes from and shares in the deep joy that fills the heart of God.

Bethlehem

December 25th, 2019 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

At the Christmas season, the old saying that All Roads Lead to Rome must, for believers, change to All Roads Lead to Bethlehem. For, though Rome displayed the power and authority of an empire, Bethlehem reveals the deeper majesty and power of God’s love in being born as a baby.

Because God chose to come in such a manner, God makes himself available not just to the powerful of the world, but to simple shepherds. It is they who are not just told about the coming of Jesus but are invited to see it for themselves and bring the news to others.

Bethlehem reveals God’s deep desire, born out of love for us, to be one of us. It also reveals to us that God wishes to share his own life with us by being human.

So this season you might want to take some time to visit a crib scene in your local church or in your home And ask yourself what you are really seeing and what Bethlehem this year is teaching you.

Hidden Blessings

December 14th, 2019 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

“Mi casa es su casa!” I think these five words (“My house is your house!”) express a welcome more generous and warm than the simple word “Welcome!” ever could.

I like to think that the time of Advent is a time for us to choose what words we might use to greet the Son of God, whose coming we celebrate at Christmas. Does his arrival elicit from us more than a simple “welcome”? Doesn’t it instead call from us words and feelings of a more heartfelt and generous kind? Doesn’t the coming of Jesus deserve that we welcome him into the very heart of the world where we live (our “casa”)?

And how will we know if we are offering him an appropriate welcome? The answer is simple, for Jesus told us that he will regard our welcome and treatment of others as being done to him. The sharing of our home, our casa, with them is the way we welcome him. And if we are generous and welcoming to them, Jesus will be similarly be generous and welcoming to us. And his casa will become ours.

When we look back over these last few days and weeks of the Corona virus and the pandemic it has brought, many of us can’t help wondering, “Where did this come from?” and “What does it mean?” The first question may not have a clear answer. We want to know how it got here because such knowledge may help us understand it now and give us a handle on what signs we need to look for in order to prevent a recurrence. The answer will surely come from the disciplines of science, medicine and demographics.

But the question of what it means for us is not so easily answered, and certainly not by science, because each individual will respond based on his or her experiences. Some people may experience the virus and pandemic as God’s punishment for sin, while others may feel it is a “ test” or that it really has no meaning

I prefer to think the virus and pandemic are opportunities, and as such, have something positive to give and teach us. For instance, the social distancing that has come with the virus has made me see how important my friendships are, especially those which span many years but which I sometimes take for granted. The virus has motivated me to learn skills like FaceTime and WhatsApp, which let me not just think about people but actually see them and talk with them. I would probably never had done so without the virus.

A second gift the virus has given me is making me more aware of people I haven’t really noticed or paid attention to before. Previously I might have been aware of them in a superficial way but not really seen them. Now when I go into a grocery store or pharmacy I’m more likely to see the employees as individuals, each one facing the same kind of challenges that I do, and I realize that we do all share a kinship, whether spoken or unspoken. And what we are experiencing right now has been and is the experience of many people in other countries throughout the world. We are truly all in this together.

Lastly, the virus reminds me that I need to put into God’s hands myself, the ones I love and people I don’t even know. Then I find it easier to take seriously Christ’s command to depend on God and not be afraid. We may not be able to attend church right now, but at every moment God works in the way we need. God will be walking with us and, when necessary, carrying us —- all of us —- in his arms.

So, are these difficult and challenging times? Absolutely! But God is still able to meet and bless us, even there.


Frank Majka, S.J.

Naming the Story

September 19th, 2019 Posted in writing | No Comments »

One of the most familiar stories in the Bible is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. But we could also name it the Parable of the Beaten Traveler, the Tale of the Two Men Who Kept Walking or, finally, the Story of the Person Who Cared. Depending on the person or persons we center on, the story’s focus changes and gives us different things to think about.

For instance, if we call it the Parable of the Beaten Traveler, we might ask if we have ever been in a situation similar to his. We probably have been if we’ve ever found ourselves victimized, attacked physically, verbally, psychologically, or mentally and left lying at the side of the road, bruised and hurt and just wishing someone would come along to help us.

If we name the story the Tale of the Two Men Who Kept Walking, then we might ask if we have passed people by, either because we simply don’t see them lying along our way or because we choose not to find out who they are, how they got there or how we might be able to help them. Perhaps, if we do see them, we may feel some pity but think that we don’t have time for reaching out or that maybe they’re pulling a scam to get money.

Lastly, we can continue to call the story the Parable of the Good Samaritan, remembering that Jesus’ audience might have been surprised that a Samaritan would be capable of doing anything good, selfless or compassionate. The Jewish listeners of the day might have expected that the priest and Levite who passed by would have stopped to help the man. But those two ignored him, while the Samaritan went out of his way to tend to the man and even pay for his care at an inn. Have we ever gone out of our way to help someone who is not part of our family, neighborhood, ethnic or racial group?

Of the three names we could give this story, which grabs our attention most, and which part do we most frequently find ourselves playing?