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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

I am slowly deciphering some of the written materials left by the late Msgr. William J. Awalt. For review and comments, they are being posted at my BLOGGER PRIEST site.

http://bloggerpriest.com/category/awalt-papers/

Msgr. Awalt was the pastor of St. Ann’s Church in NW Washington , DC for just over 30 years, retiring in the year 2000. I was honored to preach at the Mass celebrating his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2007. His pastorate was marked by a deep devotion to the Eucharist and a never-ending preoccupation with preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.

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END TIMES ANNOUNCEMENT?

I have to apologize for not explaining why this Blog has been so unattended lately.  Because of ministerial responsibilities, and now pressing health concerns, updates will continue to be sporadic.  A recent cardiac C-T scan did not go as I had hoped.  Things might get rather crazy from this point forward.  The doctors will do their best but know I am very grateful and touched by the concern of readers and, of course, by your prayers.

FATHER JOE

P.S.  President Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize?  Hum, I wonder what President Reagan and Pope John Paul II think about that?  (Not that I want to personally ask them any time soon!)

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I love this song by the Brotherhood of Man:

But sometimes, seeing how time changes us so quickly, makes me feel very old:

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This past weekend I attended a science fiction convention just north of Baltimore, MD.

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Jason Momoa
Stargate: Atlantis’
Ronon Dex

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Rachel Luttrell
Stargate: Atlantis’
Teyla Emmagan

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Robert Picardo
Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis’ Richard Woolsey; ST:Voy’s The Doctor

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Ethan Phillips
ST:Voy’s Neelix

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Clifton Collins
Star Trek’s Ayel, Nero’s second-in-command

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Adrienne Wilkinson
Xena:Warrior Princess’ Eve and Livia; Star Wars: The Force Unleashed’s Jedi Maris Brood; Appearances in Angel and Charmed; Voiced more than 40 video game and animated characters

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Christopher Heyerdahl
Sanctuary’s John Druitt/Bigfoot; Stargate: Atlantis’s Todd the Wraith/Halling; Stargate SG-1’s Pallan

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Vanessa Angel
Stargate: SG-1’s Anise/Freya
Weird Science’s Lisa

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Johnathon Schaech
Prom Night’s Richard Fenton;
Houdini’s Houdini

NOT PICTURED

Miracle Laurie
Dollhouse’s Mellie/November

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June 28, 2009 – Sunday, Week 13

Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 / Psalm 30 / Mark 5:21-43

frjoepul

Death is a consequence of sin or rebellion. It is on the human side of the equation. We are told that “God formed man to be imperishable.” But God would not abandon his people to sin and death. He would break the devil’s hold upon us. He, who was rich, made himself poor for our sakes. Jesus became one of us to save us. Just as we see in the Gospel, our Lord wants to bring healing and life. We beseech his help in prayer, “Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me: O LORD, be my helper. You changed my mourning into dancing….”

The case of the synagogue official Jairus is evidence that some of the Jewish religious leaders placed faith in Jesus, albeit his daughter’s illness and death gave the incident a particular urgency. The insertion of the secondary story about the hemorrhaging woman is also significant, particularly in terms of our Lord’s overtures to women and the alienated. The Gospel selection is important as a collaboration of several Catholic teachings.

While the characters make direct overtures to Christ, the two incidents speak about Christian prayer and petition:

1. We can pray both for ourselves and for others. Some contest the Catholic view that we can pray for others and insist upon a radical personal relationship with Christ. The woman seeks healing for herself, but the synagogue leader sought healing for another, his daughter.

2. We can pray or intercede for both the living and the dead. Jesus was willing to go to Jairus’ house even after the news came to them that the little girl was dead. It is also interesting that Jairus still seems to believe that Jesus can make a difference.

The two stories are quite interesting. Both require a little defining. There are cultural elements we might miss.

The poor sick woman believed that if she just touched the tip of Christ’s clothes, she could be healed. She has suffered for years and none of the doctors could help her. No doubt she had spent a small fortune and only got worse. She touches Christ’s cloak and she is immediately healed. Jesus turns around and asks who has touched him? She comes forward “in fear and trembling”. According to Jewish law, her issue of blood made her perpetually unclean. This was detrimental to all social congress and even marriage. She saw herself as cursed. Touching Jesus would make him unclean and was a criminal act. But Jesus does not condemn her. Rather, he commends her faith and says that it has saved her. Now she can finally take her rightful place in the community. He tells her to go in peace.

The story of the father and his dead daughter is particularly poignant. People are making a commotion at the house, weeping and wailing. These were not necessarily people who loved and cared about the child. These were probably professional mourners. The Jews believed that no one should die unlamented. Some made a business of mourning tragedy and death. They knew the little girl was dead. But Jesus insisted that she was only sleeping. They mocked him, not only because they thought they knew better but because they hope to get paid. If she was not dead, they would get no reimbursement. The closest thing I have seen to this practice in our culture is in regard to certain funerals in the African-American community. Doing many funerals, I noticed that some used a woman dressed as a nurse. Another lady would sit up front, wail loudly and then collapse. Poor woman I thought, but then I saw the same routine in several funerals— often the same pair, sometimes others. I doubt any money traded hands; I suspect that people were moved by such expressions and made sure to invite the one and maybe employ the nurse. Unlike the Gospel story, all the dead for whom I have offered funerals did not get up. Our Lord tells the child, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” Not only does the child get up, she walks around. She is alive and perfectly well. Jesus says to give her something to eat. This is another sign of life, just as with our risen Lord eating a fish along the shore with his apostles. The dead do not eat, only the living.

Jesus makes possible our life beyond the grave. This past week a number of celebrities have passed away. Johnny Carson’s sidekick Ed MacMahon died. He was a decorated Veteran and successful announcer. Okay, he went through several marriages and had his money troubles, but he was also a Catholic. I remember seeing him years ago with his friend the late Father Hartke at Catholic University. When it came to charity work he was often very generous with his time and talent. I am reminded of Cardinal McCarrick’s words, “Charity covers a multitude of sins.” Rest in Peace. Farrah Fawcett also died. A lot of us who were teenage boys in the 1970’s had her poster on the wall. She was a pretty girl. The media easily exploits pretty girls. Sometimes they let themselves get used. Ryan O’Neal had been with her for decades. He said if she would wake up, he would marry her. She did not awaken, at least not in this world. There is sadness about this. Despite his own addictions and troubles O’Neal stayed by her and suffered in her hospital room. The last few years she proved in several films that she really could act. She made a real contribution to our appreciation of abuse in our society. She showed certain courage in fighting her cancer. The image that will remain with me will not be her poster, but that of her praying her rosary beads. Sickness and death can strip away all that does not matter. A priest came to her bedside and gave her the last rites. Rest in Peace. Then there was the tragic loss of Michael Jackson. We were the same age. No, I could not begin to do the Moonwalk. Maybe it was all too much for him and he should have slowed down? He was an incredibly gifted but also wounded man. I do not know what religion he claimed. He started out Baptist, became a Jehovah Witness and purportedly ended up as a Moslem. But his life was so bizarre at times, who can know for sure? He was half a billion dollars in debt and had devastated his handsome face. Sometimes he forgot modesty when he danced. But there was also a peculiar childlike innocence about him. Were the people with whom he associated really his friends? Like Elvis Presley before him, could the right friends have saved him? It is too late now. All we can do is commend him to the Lord. Rest in Peace.

None of these people would classify as saints worthy of canonization, but they were sinners like us who need the mercy and healing of God. It is not our place to judge them. We leave that to God. What is left to us is prayer.

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June 26, 2009 – Friday, Week 12

Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22 / Psalm 128 / Matthew 8:1-4

frjoepul

God tells Abram to walk blamelessly in his presence. Like a well designed shoe, the Psalm fits the elderly patriarch perfectly: “Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways! … Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home.” Some years have passed and now Abram is 99 years old and his wife is 90. Throughout misfortune and struggle, he has kept faith with God. Now, God makes his covenant with Abram and gives him a new name, Abraham. Despite his wife’s age, now renamed Sarah, God promises a son through whom nations will arise. It is a pretty tall order. Abraham is naturally a bit incredulous, but while he questions, he does not argue. God promises not to forget Ishmael but insists that his covenant will be through Isaac. (Curiously, the name changes really bring no change in meaning, “exalted father” and “princess”.)

God comes across as quite outrageous. Abram has been given the promise that his progeny will endure, become countless and a great nation. But he is old. His wife is old. If the rendering for his age is accurate, he should be preparing for death, not fatherhood. But the gift of children is the chief way that God rewards his people. Further, any claim to a divine calling has yet to be ratified by a child of promise. Unless there is an heir, Abram’s decision to separate his tribe from the others and his claims of God speaking to him become suspect.

Notice that there is a two-fold movement. God comes down from his heaven, but Abraham is also called out to walk with the Almighty. There is never once the illusion that they are equals. But there is a sense that the two walk together. It parallels the scene in the primordial garden when God summons Adam: “Where are you?” We read that God moved about the garden like the blowing wind. However, in that case Adam hid himself because along with Eve, he had eaten from the Forbidden Tree. Adam had sinned grievously and knew he was not worthy to be seen by God. Of course, nothing was hidden from God. Both as blessing and punishment, Eve would become the mother of all the living, knowing the pain of childbirth. Abraham, like all men since, was born in sin; but God calls him nonetheless to “walk in [his] presence and be blameless.” The time for hiding is over. The God who created man from the dust of the earth can certainly make a barren woman fruitful. God restores his covenant which will one day culminate in the new covenant of Christ. In Jesus, men and women can truly know the forgiveness of sins and walk in holiness before the Lord.

Jesus did a great deal of walking, as did those who regularly followed him and those who sought him out. Of course, in Jesus God was not simply a voice or the blowing wind, but the incarnate deity. He called sinners to himself and made possible the forgiveness of sins. Today, we know his presence, not by sight but by faith. We are all called to know and to love him. Like the men on the road to Emmaus, we are to walk with the Lord.

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June 25, 2009 – Thursday, Week 12

Genesis 16: 1-12; 15-16 / Psalm 106 / Matthew 7:21-29

frjoepul

Given our sensibilities about right and wrong, there is probably a lot about the first reading that we find blatantly offensive. We have to approach the story by appreciating that this is a most primitive period in the history of salvation. God has called a people to himself; but, for the most part, they are much like the pagan tribes around them. They believe that there are no gods to compare with theirs, but even a strict monotheism is still in the making. Morals are pretty much what the ruling patriarch decides. Divine favor and rewards revolve around this life; there is little talk about an afterlife. Now, add to this that we can only perceive the divine will (at that time) through the prism of their eyes. They were children just making the first steps to real faith.

Sarai feels ashamed about being barren and has apparently despaired of having a son. She does something that we as Christians find hard to stomach. She gives Abram her Egyptian maidservant, literally a slave, for the sole purpose of impregnating her and claiming her child. After Hagar gets pregnant, Sarai interprets the poor woman’s joy as incrimination against her. She abuses the pregnant woman so badly that she tries to run away. God stops her along the way and tells her to go back and to take the abuse, but to take solace from the fact that she is going to have one badass of a son. Sarai berates her husband for the situation she orchestrated. The whole business is not unlike a seamy soap opera. One could almost envision the whole cast of characters on one of those daytime tell-all television programs. Add to this what comes next, Sarai getting pregnant and having her own son and one might imagine Montel offering a DNA test to be shared on the next show. No doubt there would be a cat-fight between the ladies, too.

All this hardly sounds respectable or how providence should proceed. It is messy and scandalous. But why should the beginning of the story be any different from the ending. The world Jesus entered was also filled with obscenity and oppression. Such is the reality of the human lot. The real miracle is that God should lower himself so much to care about us at all. The eventual pregnancy of Sarai was highly improbable. In the Gospels, the pregnancy of Elizabeth was also unlikely. But, as we see especially in the Virgin Mary, God can make the impossible possible. As the Psalm relates, “Who can tell the mighty deeds of the LORD, or proclaim his praises?”

Abram, later renamed Abraham, is the ancient father of faith. Jesus tells us that genuine faith must be more than either mouth service or deeds to be seen by others. He says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Notice that he gives voice to the lost souls. They call him Lord and even admit to performing prophesy, exorcism and other “mighty deeds”. It may be that God did manifest his power through them. The Church tells us that even a priest in mortal sin can absolve the sins of others and offer the sacrifice of the Mass, even if he is personally guilty of sacrilege in doing so. God takes care of his people, even with the most unworthy of instruments. Truly obeying God means to surrender ourselves to him. Our words and actions should emerge from a living faith or internal disposition of obedience and humility. God knows who we really are, past the fancy rhetoric, sensational works and possible self-deception. Our Lord knows who we are under the skin. If we belong to him, we will weather all the storms of life and find ourselves safely with him when our pilgrimage is over.

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