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
Jesus has words of caution for those who might wish to follow him: be ready to deny yourselves and take up your cross. That involves more than grasping the nettle of life that everyone has to grasp in order to grow. The cross will take its shape and weight in the circumstances that believers find themselves in life.
Bombs and explosives, killer vans and forest fires, mudslides and floods, gangs and cartels. Jails that are overflowing and churches that are near-empty. TV images of people running for their lives. What’s going on? Who’s in charge? Has hope abandoned our world?
A recent trip to Moscow and St Petersburg was eye-opening and a bit mind-boggling. The majestic palaces beautifully restored from the imperial centuries, the huge museums that house old European and Russian art treasures, and the onion-domed cathedrals that strain at the seams with stunning icons and mosaics – each one in itself a cultural and visual feast.
All sorts of folk drop by our local bakery. It may be for a chat, a quiet read over a cappuchino, escape from the house, a couple of tourists to check it out or whatever. I am not immune to any of the above and I like to engage with others in the congenial surround of the bakery and its denizens.
For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about Pope Francis lately. He is deep into his 81st year and there seems to be no let-up to his energy level. I’ve been looking over his daily homilies which he gives Monday thru Friday at Casa Santa Marta, his home in the Vatican.