Thursday, January 23, 2014


      We have now entered Ordinary Time, in the liturgical calendar, I guess one could say, in Kairos time. I must remind myself, "Joe this is your first time on this hike so be on the watch, be vigilant for the newnesses, the unforeseen, the unpredictable." In other words be alert for the advent of God. (We have Advent EVERY moment of every day. This is the reason for one to be alert.) This hike, through the various and challenging landscapes will stretch for 34 weeks. In chronos time this seems like ages but not so if one is dealing with The Infinite. For The Infinite, a thousand years is just like a day, so then, we are always adjusting to God's time, Kairos. God came to exist in time, yet transcends time. The entrance of The Infinite Word into the fleshliness of our humanity forever changes how we see all of reality. "By reason of creation, and still more by reason of The Incarnation, there is nothing profane for those who know how to see."(Chardin) These are words that offer us a great challenge, yet always contain a promise of something beyond that which we now see. The Word came to make His dwelling with all of His own creation. This is the very same Word, Who  created and now maintains all creation in an ongoing creative reality. We have been chosen, from eternity to be co-creators and co-perfectors of this ongoing creation. The Creator came and "pitched His tent" within the family of humankind. In having just a tent, He can move whenever and wherever. He is not boxed in, and can never be. We are told when we follow our natural human instincts and attempt to box God into a neat package, which we control, we are boxing in, a dead god, not The Living God. This Living God, which The Incarnation slowly reveals to us, exists beyond time and space, yet He has embraced the human condition to the point of extreme suffering, and death. For what purpose?

                   WE are told that "we live life looking forward, but understand it looking backward." How seldom do we ever get the full meaning of what is happening to us in the awe-full, wonder-full  sacrament of the present moment? Because it is a sacrament, with a small "s," it is of its nature sacred, no matter how profane (not sacred) we may think it is. What appears to be so "common," ordinary, "boring" "lifeless," "familiar" seen through the x-ray eye of faith is, in its DEEPEST reality, a revelation of This Living God. The living God, we are always seeking and searching for, as the result of Him already having found us. In time it will come to us that which is most taken for granted, is in reality The Transcendent's  way of reaching out to connect with us. We are slowly, through the process we call our journey of faith brought to the belief  that ,"He is all in all. " Nothing exists unless it finds its source of  existence in The Creative Word. Everything that exists  is used to hide and reveal The One Who is the subject of our endless seeking and searching. The ordinary is therefore, not ordinary but always extraordinary.  Always containing, beneath its apparent " blahness, " lies the buried treasure, the pearl of great price, about which the scriptures have much to say to us. What do we need to do? Follow the example of Mary, who is presented to us as the example of what a disciple is to be. We will all fall short of Mary, because she by her Immaculate Conception was never tainted by the effects of original sin. That did not come to her, as a freebie. This grace had to be won for her by her Son's death on the cross.

                       So, then, let us go back to Bethlehem and the visit of the shepherds to The Infant, newly born. I wonder what was Mary thinking, when she and Joseph saw the shepherds approaching? Were they hoping they were going to pass by, and not bother them. What could these uncouth, unwashed, strange men, who were looked on as being  outside the law, have to say to them? How surprised were they when these unlearned strange ones, spoke of their experience with the angels? How terrified they were? Mary could nod her head in agreement when they spoke of the fear that came with the appearance of angels. "Wow!! I was afraid with the appearance of one, what overwhelming fear must  be triggered by "a host of angels?" By the way I was told This Child would have the throne of David, this sure is no palace?" Was I really told the truth, or, was  I deceived? From the purely human standpoint I believe that Mary is one of the most deceived persons in the scriptures. She was promised so much and outwardly received so little.  Yet Mary from her first "Yes," her first "fiat" to her last breath, she was to remain ever faithful to the journey she committed herself to. That original Yes lead to so many other challenging fiats, she never faltered. Questioned Yes! Do you remember when Mary and the family went to get The Rabbi Jesus to take Him home because they thought He had lost it? The anguishes of Mary, how deep they went yet the scriptures are so silent, for the most part.

                             What kept Mary going? Do we get a clue from the scriptures when it tells us that "Mary treasured all these things and pondered on them in her heart." She treasured in her heart  and pondered  in her mind the good news trumpeted by the angels, and relayed to her and others by the shepherds.  All were amazed when they heard the good news, in other words, when they heard the gospel. How amazed were we, and how amazed are we right now at the gospel of the shepherds? As Advent-Christmas-Epiphany passes and there is nothing  that we are aware of left on the shores of our souls from this grace-filled wave that has just enveloped and showered us? What are the  new insights into what it means to be human? Are we growing in our belief in the sacramentality of all that is? What does it mean that we have been chosen, from eternity, to carry on The Mystery of The Incarnation within our bodies and reveal, proclaim it ,ever new, through the joy of our daily living?  The Glory of God, that glory revealed in The Christ Child, is today revealed in the human person that is fully alive. (St. Irenaeus) The cribs have disappeared from our homes and churches. They have not disappeared from our world. The crib must now to be found alive within the reality of our human journey. All those crib figures are they alive,  energizing, vitalizing, challenging us to live anew each and every moment of our daily lives. I remembering reading these challenging words many years ago. "If we do not give birth to the Christ child within, then Mary giving birth was a waste of time."  This spiritual journey is not for those who are looking for, "the easier, softer way." Mary gave birth in a matter of minutes, or hours. We give birth to the Christ Child over our whole lifetime. So all the pain that goes with becoming who we really are, is an essential part of the pain-full process  of becoming the person our Creator knows, and gazes  on us, with infinite love. "You are my beloved daughter/son. In you I am well pleased," are the words constantly, and endlessly spoke to us. Oh! to have the ears to hear, and the eyes to see.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014


                Yes, my wish for all is that your 2014 may be an awe-full year, not an awesome one. May each and every moment be, what it is intended to be, full of awe, full of Mystery. May this year bring you to the realization that of your essence, you are an awe-full reality. Because of The Mystery being within, we are in the midst of celebrating, "there is nothing profane for her/him who knows how to see." Because of the advent of The Word, into His own creation, the  whole meaning of creation is radically changed.  A dignity, previously hinted at, is now revealed, presented to us, in its mysterious wonder-full-ness. This cannot be achieved with natural sight, so we have been gifted and blessed with the gift of wonder. This gift of The Holy Spirit empowers us  to grow in awe-full awareness of the "grandeur of God," hidden and revealed in all that is in us and surrounds us. The Incarnation, God coming in flesh to pitch His tent among us, confers an inner, invisible dimension of mystery to all that is. "Everything that is, is to be adored" (St. Francis), and in that act of adoration, "new heavens and a new earth," is revealed to us. What a gift that is offered to you and me? A gift which is endless, in its benevolence, in its generosity, because its source is, Infinite Love.

                Just because we are offered a gift, that does not mean we have to accept it. If we accept a gift, it does not mean we have to put that gift to the use it was intended. A decision has to be made by the recipient, which is you and I. We have to decide whether to say "Yes" or "No." In the realm of the spiritual annunciating that "Yes" leads us in ways and to places previously unknown. That is why it is so much safer, and easier on the ego to say, "no." Now I can stay put, in the safety of the familiar. I am not opening myself up to any unnecessary risks. Everyday living is challenging enough. However, this is not living, it is existing. We are called to live life and live it to the fullest. Entering into the fullness of life DEMANDS that we take risks. It demands courage on our part to face the inherent challenge and danger "of living life on life's terms."

                Mary had no clue where her "Yes" was going to take her. We, being the contemporary Marys, do not know where our "yes" to the demands of the present, will lead us to. I am wrong there.  Actually we do know.  All we have to do is read and reflect on the Gospels and there we have the outline of our lives. Living each moment, not just existing in each moment, fills in the details of our personal Gospel. While the outline is the same, the details, the actions will be different as we write our personal Gospel. Each and every action, person, place, event, are gathered into a unity and so become the gospel of, a contemporary Christmas.  We reflect on the Gospels; we are challenged to encounter Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the Three Kings, Herod (Yep he must be encountered, if we are to be really real). Within us and the life we live, we will also encounter Judas, The Pharisees, The Scribes, Pontius Pilate, and all those unsavory characters depicted in the events of The Passion.  ALL, yes all, will have to encountered and eventually embraced with a mercy-full, healing, soothing, comforting love.  We are challenged to love the way our Gracious and Prodigal Father-God does.  This sounds impossible, way beyond anything we can do, and so it is. It was apparently impossible for a virgin to conceive, and old woman to also conceive, but it happened. How?  "With God all things are possible," whereas "by ourselves we can do nothing, but we can do all things in Him who strengthens us." The scriptures tell us that our God "lavishes His love" upon us. I like that word "lavish."  There is nothing small, mean, or tightfisted about lavish.  The God of lavishness does not impart the minimum on us, His beloved. On the contrary, because we are the beloved, and ever will be, He fills up our cup, not just to the brim, but to the point of brimming over.  There is nothing small about God.  If my God is small, then that is the result of the smallness of my mind. Big hearted people seem to communicate a larger than life God, as so indeed He/She is.

                Left to our unenlightened, natural hearts, souls, and minds the great deep, mysterious reality of who we are and that which lies deep within, will not come to consciousness. It will remain dormant, unawakened in the unconscious. There it will remain, like all buried treasure waiting to be discovered. Yes, it waits, there  in the darkness of the humus, in the darkness of the earth.  This treasure can only be discovered, through the action of digging, going deep, under the guidance of The Holy Spirit. We are therefore called to journey within into the earthiness of who we are, seeing through the x-ray  eye of faith. This is a long journey.  A journey that will only end at our deaths.  On this journey we will encounter death many, many times, as it were, rehearsals for the final encounter.

                This journey is no quiet stroll in the park, on the contrary.  If Yeats is to be believed, and others concur, "it takes reckless courage to journey into the depths of who we are as human beings." Let us not be caught up in fear about this perilous journey.  There will always be a tiny point of light there to guide us on our way.  We all have our own personal star guiding us to our own personal Bethlehem. As we come to discover The Christ Child within, our lives are radically changed.  We will now journey by new roads, and traverse landscapes hitherto the unknown.  As we journey with new insights, as it were, with this new lenses, we will lead to encounter never before realities. New vistas will open up before us. These vistas will be full of mystery, awe, and wonder.  We will find ourselves lost in the awe-full-ness of  breathless silence.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Time To Reflect...

The following is my Christmas letter that I would like to share with you. I hope it gives you a little glimpse into my very small world. A world that seems to shrink with the passing of each day. Then on the other hand, life has opened new vistas as well.  Some seem attractive, while others offer nothing but the challenge of uncertainty. To embrace the journey of faith as a journey into darkness is not always appealing.  It is so much easier to journey with a certain sense of security.  The security that dark faith offers is not what my ego wants.  Joe wants the security of certainty.  That is not what the spiritual journey is about, so I have to continue, darn it, to learn acceptance on an ever deepening level.  Thank God, I do not have to like any part of this process.  I find as I keep fighting it with some degree of honesty, things seem to work out for the best.  I seem to get what I need, definitely NOT what I want.  As I look back, it appears to me that My God does not want me to be too comfortable.  Some day we will have a chat about that.  I just pray that that chat will take place in the distant future.
Dear friends,
              I, again, take this opportunity to extend my sincerest good wishes for this Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, Season.  May this time be Kairos time for you and your loved ones.  May each moment be filled with every grace and blessing necessary for you to come to an ever deeper appreciation of the reality that you are, the beloved of your gracious God. At this eventide of my life, I have finally come to this realization, namely,  there is no greater gift you can bestow on yourself other than you are, beloved.  Being the beloved means one is loved without condition, restriction or reservation. This gift of being the beloved, cannot be earned, deserved or qualified for. It is, like all the essentials of life, a pure gift.  Acceptance of the gift is another thing.  There is a lot of real hard work to be done in order to distance ourselves from that old mind set, that somehow we have to be worthy of the gift of grace.  It has been so ingrained in us that when we hear Our Pope reiterate this fact he is, somehow, a little off.  This is too good to be true, right? We have such a long way to go to be converted to the real good news of the Gospel. The Good news of the Gospel always has had its opponents. So it is today.
I get really sad when I see/read those published accounts of the conscious effort on the part of some to speak out against this great prophet of our age, Pope Francis.  Then in reality, if he was opposed then he would not be an authentic profit.  I hope, and pray you will become familiar with "The Good News of The Gospel."  You can Google it, as I have.  Use it, as I do have to, in moments of challenge, and discouragement.  We all have, and do fall short of the ideal.  We all sin and are sinners.  In the admission of that fact we join real good company, Pope Francis.  At the very beginning he was asked the question "Who are you?" and he answered "A sinner."  All us sinners have a Supreme Shepherd who embodies  Our Eternal Good Shepherd. This new vision of the Church being a "poor church for the poor" changes everything.  I just love the following quote:  "I prefer a church that is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security." He wants the church to be like a hospital after a battle.  I think we all can relate to that.  He also sees The Eucharist as NOT being an award for being good.  Eucharist is for us who are weak and wounded and in need of The Medicine Of Mercy incarnated in Jesus, Who became The Christ of God.  That happened as the result of His crucifixion.  Where He has gone, there we are, or supposed to be, right behind without footsteps in His sandal prints.

As you can see I seem to be revitalizes by this great gift of The Holy Spirit.  This then is the second time  I have seen the result of This  Mysterious Guiding Power we have.  The first was the election of, soon to be Saint, John XXX 23Rd.  He really crossed up the power brokers who wanted just a "care-taker" Pope. Yep!!  He took real good care of the people (who are the church) to the chagrin of the those who thought they could program the Holy Spirit.  One of my fondest memories of "The God Of Surprises."  I have other encounters with that Same God and the resulting surprises I am being reconciled with. Reconciliation is a process, and I do not have to like it. All I can hope for, and so pray for is acceptance.

I had a great  50th Anniversary trip.  Drove over 10,000 miles, and walked or hiked another 300-400 miles.  God caught in those fires in Montana, and neighboring states.  There was a wonder-full, awe-full storm on the Oregon-Washington coast.  Pinetop, Durango, Aspen, Vail, The Breck, (Breckenridge), Estes Park, Cody, Casper, West Yellowstone, Whitefish, Bellingham, Vancouver City and Island, Washington State, Northern  California coast, Cambria, the grand metropolis of Barstow, and home.  Before I left, the book "Soul Searching" was accepted and published by Tau Publishing.  All proceeds will go to scholarships for kids who do the most with the least.  Also those who work to prevent bullying will be recognized. The orphanage in Haiti has also been included .  It is available on Amazon for those outside the valley.  I still am on Facebook and have found it as a great way to follow up with those who wish to and with whom I journey with.  While I am typing this, 3 messages came through that need a response. I still write the blog, "Ashling on Earth."  I was shocked to see it is listed among "the best blogs written by a priest in The U.S.A. The .com, web page has photos from my trips Theses photos appear also in the book. The blog has almost 53,000 hits, and the web about 3500 in 6 months.  When I returned and called the office for the mass schedule I was told there was another priest appointed so I was not needed.  So there has been that surprise to deal with. Thank God Fr. Bob continued to welcome me at St. Ben's and St. John Bosco school. Fr. John at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel has been great.  I really  enjoy the school masses.  The choir is wonder-full.  I still am privileged to be  a companion  with many on their life's journey.                             

I am sincerely so very, grateful to all those of you who have remained faithful over these many years, and those who have begun a connection.  It is great to know one is not forgotten.  So often it is "out of sight, out of mind."

You will have a remembrance in the Masses on the 24th & 25th. The two Christmas Eve masses are children masses. The 4 pm at O.L.M.C. in Tempe, and  the 6 at St. Ben's. I also have noon mass at St. Margaret's in Tempe.  I just found out that I will have the team mass for Kansas State on the 24th.

I honestly do not know when this will reach you.  My life is at times discombobulated, to say the least.  I still manage to hike/walk 4-6 hours a week, so I can keep the old body in somewhat healthy shape. The mind, well that is another story.  Maybe some week's blog?

In closing, I hope and pray that you will always look inside to slowly discover that uniqueness which is the source peace, joy, and love.  Rest in that uniqueness and you will find that you rest in the Presence of a love that is both your origin and destiny.  I parrot the request of our Pope, please pray for me.  May The Good & Gracious God bless you.