Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lazarus and the Rich Man (Dives)

Peace and Good!
This is a powerful parable, and an uncomfortable one—and so, very important. An interesting point: it is the only parable of Jesus that I am aware of in which one of the characters has a name: Lazarus. Sometimes the parable is called “Dives and Lazarus,” but dives is just the Latin word for “a rich man,” so he doesn’t get a name. In the parable, the rich man apparently enjoys his wealth and ignores Lazarus completely, not even sharing crumbs from his table. The mention of the dogs licking Lazarus’ wounds is meant to emphasize this neglect: the licking of wounds by dogs was thought to help healing, so even the dogs were doing more for the poor man, Lazarus, than his rich brother.
Even in the afterworld, the rich man does not look at Lazarus as anyone to note. He does not ask Lazarus for a drink, but tells Abraham to send him to dip the tip of his finger and serve the suffering rich man. He does not ask Lazarus to go to warn his brothers, but asks Abraham to send him. For the rich man, Lazarus still does not count for anything.
Which makes me think that the great chasm Abraham speaks of that exists between them is put there not by God, but by the rich man himself. His refusal to recognize Lazarus, either in life or in death, places a chasm that cannot be crossed.
So, we create the chasm. And we cannot bridge it, or cross over it ourselves. Only one who has loved in the supreme way can do that: Jesus. This same Jesus came and comes to show us how to cross that chasm, or better, how to rid ourselves of it. “Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength; love your neighbor as yourself; love one another as I have loved you.”
Francis experienced the gap being closed only when he looked on a leper and did not see a horror, or an object to be avoided, but a brother, to be embraced and served and, even, loved. Such is the power of Jesus Christ and the cross and resurrection.
God bless you!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Montecasale Evenings

Peace and Good! One of the enjoyable things during my retreat at Montecasale was the time after dinner in the evening. We all moved outside onto the terrace, overlooking the town of San Sepolcro, and visited. Chatted, told stories, laughed. Since it was mostly in Italian I was not able to participate a lot, but it was an enjoyable experience. And good, not to have to talk over the TV or compete with so many other distractions. I don’t bemoan modern inventions, they have been a great blessing from God in many ways. But I think Francis would warn us to be very careful that we use the things God has given us to become more human and more the children of God we are created to be. Do all the gadgets and inventions make us more human or less? It’s not automatic, either way. We have to make a choice. Montecasale evenings reminded me of that. Thank you Lord!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Clay God Uses: St. Francis Mary Camporosso

Peace and Good! A brief interlude from musings on Montecasale to mention today’s saint, Francis Mary of Camporosso, a Capuchin lay brother who worked many years as questor in Genoa and helped many people with his prayers and kindness. He died helping victims of a cholera epidemic. Such a death may seem insignificant and perhaps useless. Most of the people he aided during the epidemic probably died anyway. But his death has to be seen in the light of Jesus’ death. We forget that for most of the world the day of Jesus’ death was like any other. The Emperor Tiberius kept up his misrule of the Empire; the dockworkers in Ostia, Piraeus, Alexandria and else kept loading and unloading ships; the soldiers patrolling the borders of the Empire kept up with their watch and their dice games. For most of the world it was an insignificant event, this death of one member of a conquered race in a small corner of the world.
The significance, of course, was tremendous, for in that event the Love of God burst into the world in a new and amazing way. But it did not look that way at the time. Neither did the death of Francis Mary of Camporosso. But we celebrate him today because we believe that the same Love was with him in his sacrifice as was there on Calvary.
What makes our life and actions, and our death, significant? If we believe Jesus, it is only to live out his command: Love one another as I have loved you. How simple, and how hard! Yet, it is life. I am grateful to St. Francis Mary, Bl Teresa of Calcutta, St. Francis, and all the others who show us that truth again and again. And for the sacrament of the Love of the God, the Eucharist. We don’t do anything significant: take some bread and wine, say some words. But what the Love of God does with that!
(Peace to all those with connections to Naples! I know today is also the feast of St. Januarius. It is said that when Januarius (Italian Gennaro) was beheaded by pagan Romans in 305 A.D., a Neapolitan woman soaked up his blood with a sponge and preserved it in a glass phial. Every year on his feast the people wait to see if the blood will liquefy. It did again this year, and Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, then showed the glass phial of blood to the congregation and paraded it to the crowds outside, where fireworks were lit in celebration. "It is a prodigious sign that shows the Lord's closeness and predilection for our beloved and long-suffering city," he said.)
God bless you!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Montecasale: Fossa

Peace and Good! St. Francis had several hermitage spots in Italy where he liked to go for prayer. The requirements for them all seem to be that they were high up, far from town, and that they had water nearby. The last, of course, was a necessity: no one could long survive without water, even an austere hermit. For Francis water was important for life, both the life of the body and of the spirit. Water taught him much about God. As he says in the Canticle of the Creatures: “Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.”
While I was in Montecasale, they were experiencing a drought. So the little stream nearby was not running—or better, it was barely running. There were pools of water and tiny streamlets over the rocks. As I sat by them one day, a deer creeped slowly down toward the pool, seeking to slake her thirst. “As a deer yearns for running streams, even so my soul.” What a gift water is, and the longing for water! They both speak to us of the goodness of God and of our need, built into us, for God. We can forget that need, until the thirst compels us to seek living water. That, perhaps, is what drove Francis up into those mountains!
God bless and keep you!

Friday, September 07, 2007


Peace! These are the Capuchin Poor Clare Sisters elected to lead their federation.

God bless!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Contemplative Interlude

Peace and Good! I am with some Capuchin Poor Clare sisters this week, helping with a meeting. We reflected on St. Bonaventure and his writings about contemplation and about St. Francis. The sisters are truly inspiring as they live their cloistered life of prayer and charity. I will be continuing my reflections on Montecasale and the pilgrimage in a few days. God bless!