As a child, I saw my grandmother take black tea and bread during Lent. She was a severe observer! The elders of the family said Lent was a time to give up comfort food. And so I remember going off things like chocolate, offering up my sweet tooth’s burning desire as a sacrifice to God.
Over the weekend I revisited Viktor Frankl’s little classic, “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Brian Keenan, who spent nearly five years as a hostage to terrorism in Beirut, called it ‘a hymn to the phoenix rising in each of us who choose life before flight.’ It’s Frankl’s formula for survival drawn from his horrific experiences in the Auschwitz death camp during WW2
This time of year, between Christmas and Lent, the gospels show us Jesus ‘going public’. There’s excitement in the air. He has good news: cripples are healed, the blind see, the sick and the great unwashed are given new hope and something better to live for.
The winter solstice has come and gone. Soon the days will lengthen. The long grass will grow again and birds will start to sing once more…. Once upon a time the true light came to our darkened world. It promised never to fade, dim or disappear. The shepherds, the Magi, even old Simeon and Anna in the temple recognised the light of the world.
The time before Christmas usually found me wrestling in my mind. Year after year I decided that commercial Christmas would take second place. When the time came, I could not be sure which Christmas would win my time and attention most – religious or social.
“Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn3:18). These words of the Apostle John voice an imperative that no Christian may disregard. The seriousness with which the “beloved disciple” hands down Jesus’ command to our own day is made even clearer by the contrast between the empty words so frequently on our lips and the concrete deeds against which we are called to measure ourselves. Love has no alibi. Whenever we set out to love as Jesus loved, we have to take the Lord as our example; especially when it comes to loving the poor. The Son of God’s way of loving is well-known, and John spells it out clearly. It stands on two pillars: God loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:10.19), and he loved us by giving completely of himself, even to laying down his life (cf. 1 Jn 3:16).
October in wine country, whether it is Burgundy in France or Sonoma in California, is vintage time. Countryside’s are alive with all the colors of autumn leaves and hillsides are weighted with vineyards heavy with fruit. These are memorable sights to behold.
Here and Hereafter A older man in a business suit sat across from me on the suburban train. He was reading William Taubman’s recent hefty biography of Mikhail Gorbachev. As he paused to look down at the rocks and sea below, I asked, “What do you think of Gorbachev?” “Oh, this is, among other things, a great 20th century Russian love story,” he said, tapping the book, “and so well written. He loved his wife, Raissa, and he loved the Russian people.” We chatted for a few minutes during which he mentioned how Gorbachev was rejected by the very people