Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Meditations on the Gospel and Life…

Father John J. Lombardi

God and "Three G’s": First G= Going out­In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus goes out of His way to seek and find St Matthew the tax collector. Notice: many scholars imply that tax collectors were manipulating money makers. So: If Matthew could become Saint Matthew then we sinners can become saints. Jesus is known by the poet Francis Thomson as "The Hound of Heaven" Who constantly seeks to save souls­hounding us in all byways of life…So: do you have zeal to go out and search for others who are in need, or are you a "spiritual couch potato"?

Second G= Jesus greets Matthew, and calls him by name. God takes the initiative, will you? Are you gonna be hostile or hospitable towards others? I just heard a talk where the speaker said that a new religious order of nuns took a vow of hospitality. In other words: friendliness towards others. Are you a greeter or a grimacer? Holy people can be joyful too (think of St Phillip Neri). How can you practice this and meet people where they are?

Third G= giving .The Lord Himself gives His time and attention to the sinner and even eats a meal with Him. This is a Happy Meal beyond comparison! Notice in the Gospels how frequently Jesus Christ hangs with sinners, prostitutes and so-called questionable people. His not justifying their behaviors but desirous to enter their lives and atmospheres and transform them.

I just gave a retreat and learned a lot. The title of the retreat was: ABC=A Balanced Christian: Living Harmoniously in the World Today

You may be reminded by what Jesus says: "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place a rest a while" (Mk. 6:31). That’s just what many people did and I was impressed by their spirit and fervor, their love of Jesus and Mary and leading spiritual lives.

I just reviewed some of their evaluations and one of the most common themes was the time for silence. The retreat was advertised as "semi-silent": We had allotted lots of time for silence (no talking) and also time for conversation. People enjoyed both. However, I was struck by how many people, coming from such busy, interactive lives­what with children, jobs, traffic snarls, ipods and email and cell phones­that so many did like the silence. Why? Perhaps because holy silence is a healer. We have so much talk and noise and chatter in our lives that refraining from speaking and "listening to the silence" heals wearied souls and allows one to receive Jesus and His messages in a more intimate and deep way…How about for you? How can you embrace silence in your life?

Another theme of the evaluations was Eucharistic adoration (the exposed Blessed Sacrament of Jesus in Holy Communion upon the altar for veneration, praise and worship­and simply "sitting with Him"). People loved this. We had two nights of all night adoration, and I was a little concerned we would have enough people to sign up to cover the hours. No problem! The retreatants signed up faithfully­and fully!­and loved sitting in the chapel talking and listening to Jesus. For, Jesus Himself said: "I Am the living Bread come down from Heaven" (Jn. 6)… Have you ever made a holy hour or spent time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?

People also loved coming to Mary’s Mountain. The beauty, sereneness, sacred history all helped envelop them in a holy love and peace that brought spiritual fruits. No wonder, as St Elizabeth Seton once said about our Mountain: "We’re halfway in the sky. The height of our situation is almost incredible." …So: keep coming back!

More than a couple folks responded about the beauty of the liturgies, especially the singing (provided by our faithful Grotto choir) and how this healed, inspired and enthralled them. Music –especially "of the spheres", the Heavens, like our friends sang­helped in the balancing and healing and in-spiriting process. In the spiritual life, I’ve come to learn, "It all adds up". That is, all our beautiful Catholic customs, disciplines and provisions which both imitate and "translate" the Lord as One, True and Beautiful­especially sacred song­help us to become holy!...Seek holy music to heal the soul.

Even though I was the "director" of the retreat­giving talks, hearing confessions, kinda’ acting like I knew what I was doing--I also learned a lot about becoming holy from the retreatants themselves. I heard about some who made valiant attempts at praying, what with so many challenges. I discovered about struggles in marriages and jobs and relationships­and these retreatants still being committed to Jesus and their duties thru it all. I witness thru these folks about being faithful orthodox Catholics despite so many secularist pressures. And I learned much form two non-Catholics who came to all the services (even the Masses and healing services while respecting our customs) and responded with great cheer thru all and even in our question and answer session. And I earned from Gregory, the youngest retreatant, age sixteen, who is just graduating from high school and attended with his grandparents. I saw in him and them a beautiful family and heartfelt devotion!...And so I’m thankful for all these lessons on "Living harmoniously in the world today" and feel refreshed myself after such great witnesses!

A parish school visit

I recently received some beautiful letters form the seventh graders from St. Matthew School, Wilmington, Del., who pilgrimaged to the Grotto last month. A friend I was driving with said right before I read these letters: "I could use some good news." So…I read­and the "good news" came forth! The young guys and girls said how impressed they were­even in the rain­with the many statues of the Grotto; how they enjoyed drinking the spring water and, and to our edification, how much they loved the Mass. We even had a foot race before they departed which they reveled in. As I now recall I was delighted by how serene, quite and participative these fifty young folks were at the Mass. Many responded that they loved the singing (some of it in Greek and Latin). A couple responses which heartened us­and made us smile, were: " Dear Father Jack, Thank you for giving us a tour. I liked it. It was very fun. I liked the mass there… it was really quick mass…" And: "The Mass was really cool, too. It was different than the way we do it here…Thanks for a great time!" Also: "I loved all the statues of all the people remembered in history. (Father) You are a very fast runner. I was the one in the white shirt and tan pants, but mostly everyone was in pants, but I was the only girl. I was also the one that los the race…" Lastly: "I greatly enjoyed all parts of the tour but may favorite part was the 12 noon mass in the glass chapel. I also like the plants and trees." ...Sometimes I get in the "just-going-thru-the-motions" syndrome and letters like these help so much to remind me of the tremendous privilege to serve and be here at Mary’s Mountain Grotto!

"Parenting, Inc." An intriguing book title. I read a book review of this and then got the book. You might be interested yourself, so., as the book flap says: "An inside investigation into the billion-dollar baby business that will help parents discover what’s worth their money---and what’s a waste.

From the moment the self-pregnancy test confirms the happy news, the sales pitches begin. A shower of catalogs hawking the very best in organic onesies, lavender-scented diaper creams, and designer rubber duckies. The pressure to buy the "it" –an ergonomic stroller, specially engineered for bustling parents. A never-ending cascade of DVDs and baby classes that promise to make your child smarter, socially adept, and bilingual before age three. The onslaught of promises is overwhelming and incredibly difficult to resist. That’s because time-strapped mothers and fathers are the perfect mark---for the mammoth "parenting" industry. In Parenting, Inc., Pamela Paul uncovers how, over the past generation, the parenting industry has convinced parents that they cannot trust their children’s health, happiness, and success to themselves. From the statistically warped warning labels touting deluxe car seats to the booming supply of baby consultants charging hundreds of dollars, parents are assaulted by a whirligig of marketing hype, social pressure, and celebrity expertise, transforming the way they raise their children." We all need good and holy parents and children, so you may take note and be aware of the positive and challenging forces in today’s culture. Remember Catholic and Christian parents: you are responsible for your children’s salvation, so keep on parenting in noble, Christ-centered and loving ways!


Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi