The King of Truth: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel (John 18:33b-37) by Father Steven LaBaire –

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

This weekend’s gospel reading presents us with two men: Pontius Pilate and Jesus.

Sheona Beaumont Station 5, Flickr Creative Commons
Sheona Beaumont Station 5, Flickr Creative Commons

Pilate has heard a lot about Jesus. He’s trying to figure out who Jesus is: Where does he get his power? What’s his appeal?

Jesus doesn’t have the dress or swagger of a king. He’s not accompanied by servants or protected by armies.

He brings no weapons.

And yet, this Jesus, dares to speak about his “kingdom.”

Pilate is confused. If this “Kingdom” belonging to Jesus is somewhere, it doesn’t seem to be much help right now.

Then Jesus says:

“Everyone who cares for the truth,
who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.”

Now Pilate is really confused…

But hopefully we are not:

The Kingdom of Jesus exists wherever the truth is told.

Wherever and whenever truth and honesty triumph over lies, deception, falsehood, and cover-ups, Jesus reigns supreme.

Christ is the “King” of every human heart, committed to the truth.

So, who are the truth tellers of our generation? (In our families? In business? In the Church? In our culture?)

darylcheng Follow what is truth?, Flickr Creative Commons
darylcheng what is truth?, Flickr Creative Commons

Are we able to accept the “truth” about ourselves? (Are we honest enough to face-up to both the good and the bad within?)

Do we avoid the truth, when it sheds light on people or things we want to protect?

Are we willing to follow Christ our King, trusting that the “ truth,” sets us free to face both life and death without fear.

Pray that we will always be counted as citizens of this Kingdom.

Amen.

copyright 2015 by Steven Michael LaBaire

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Preview from the River of Grace Soundtrack: “Spirit of Life:” Ever wonder how a song is recorded?

Have you ever wondered just how a song is recorded? It’s rather like building a building from the ground up, or making a layer cake. Here’s a simple demonstration from the recording of “Spirit of Life” (written by Carolyn McDade, Surtsey Publishing Company) for my River of Grace Soundtrack CD:

Recording is a long and tedious process of such layering but it’s fun and rewarding too when you hear the final product. Besides the layering of vocals, instruments are added in (more than you can imagine!). Then the engineer (in this case Ron) makes sure every little piece can be heard – this is done by something called panning. When you listen to a stereo recording through headphones you can pick out how there’s a little guitar here, a little percussion there … it’s all quite fascinating to figure out just what is in a recording of your favorite song.

Special effects are added in as well (such as putting a little echo into the voice, known as reverb. Without reverb, it sounds like you’re singing in a small room. With reverb, it can sound like you’re singing in a cathedral with slate floors (or something a little smaller).

This is just the beginning of the process for “Spirit of Life;” very soon I can show you the final result.

By the way, here’s a peak at the cover for the CD. Longtime readers of Be as One will recognize it:

cover front only for web

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Loving this world, warts and all: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel John 3:14-21 by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish.” The world that God loves is not some idealized place where people try to live in justice and peace.

It is this world: with all the crime, dishonesty, wars and constant feuding that divide people. With all the greed and pettiness; this world with all its sickening teenage bullying and Ferguson Missouris: this is the world that God loves so much. This world is so loved by God that he seeks to bring healing and new life to it.

Faith or “believing,” is the “ladder” out of the chaos we humans create in this world. It is ladder freely provided by God. But it is also ladder we freely choose to climb. No one can climb it for us. We must faithfully climb it ourselves.

Lars Plougmann Upwards, Flickr Creative Commons
Lars Plougmann Upwards, Flickr Creative Commons

Faith is not just a matter of saying “Lord, Lord” or simply wearing a cross around our necks or cleverly being able to quote bible verses. To believe in Christ is to live the life he asks of us. It is to pursue good and resist evil. Believing demands a constant striving for integrity in our lives and relationships. Climbing the ladder is challenging. It requires perseverance and energy.

But this is how the world in all its craziness is transformed: person by person, relationship by relationship, family by family, community by community, each choosing to “climb the ladder” toward harmony with God ,with ourselves and with our neighbor.

We’re now halfway through Lent. Let’s pray for one another. Pray, that we’d each find and embrace our own way of transforming our little piece of this word, the world God loves so much.

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The Ever-Present Thirst for Connection and Community

This is my monthly column for Catholicmom.com.

catholic mom logo

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Recently I met with a mother and daughter from our parish to conduct an interview for the local Catholic newspaper. Chris and her teenaged daughter Katy had attended our diocesan women’s conference together in 2011 and I was curious as to how a mother managed to cajole her daughter to give up a Saturday to gather with mostly older women and learn about her faith. After a lively hour the interview was over and Chris and I lingered over coffee and muffins to share tales and concerns about our spiritual lives. The time flew by and we knew by the time I left that we would do this again.

Our hearts and minds connected instantly, finding so much in common. We bonded through our common faith and deep desire to grow in love of God.

Park Street Church, Boston
Park Street Church, Boston

Ever since I was a teenager, I have craved such relationships. Throughout high school I was blessed to have been part of a regional non-denominational youth fellowship run by a famous Protestant church in Boston, Park Street Church. Twenty-five kids from our high school belonged to this group including my future husband. Every Friday we’d get together and play volleyball, sing at the top of our lungs and listen to inspirational preaching about what it was like to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Fellowship with other Christians was an integral part of this group and it left me with a lifelong desire for such friendships. I moved on from the group after college and marriage but I never lost my need for a community of believers. It haunted me for years to come.

My rebellious years arrived during my twenties. It didn’t appear that way on the outside as my husband and I faithfully attended mass and got ourselves involved in various church activities. But inside I wandered aimlessly. People at our church were very nice but they were so much older than we that we found little common ground. My husband and I had not yet learned to share our spiritual lives with each other so my faith withered in isolation, much like the seed on dry ground. My thirst for Christ and for other Christians gnawed at me endlessly but I had no clue how to quench it.

Each year just before Easter, Franco Zeffirelli’s iconic “Jesus of Nazareth” miniseries would air on the TV and I would fall in love again, crying copious tears. I wished fervently for those feelings of love to remain alive. But, in an instant they would pass and I’d return to my cold isolation.

jesus of nazareth

A breakthrough finally came in my mid-thirties. At that time I was a mother of two young children. I worked the second shift at a local daily newspaper, often coming home after midnight. Faith at that time came down to the perfunctory attendance of mass each week, no more. A new passion had taken over as I poured myself into my job, wishing to advance up the ladder.  In the process I offended a colleague whom I had been friendly with. She in turn wrote a disparaging letter about me to another colleague and strategically left it where I could find it on the computer. Late at night as I was finishing my shift, I read the letter. In stunned silence I could feel a pressure on my chest as hurt, anger and confusion welled up inside. Desperate to keep my feelings secret I rushed to the ladies room, breathing heavily and sweating profusely. My supervisor caught wind of my plight and followed me in, asking what was wrong, and I shared what happened. Her kindness dispelled the anxiety and I was able to get ahold of myself.

simple faithThat letter was a gift in disguise. The next day, still distressed over what my colleague had said about me, I turned to a book by Chuck Swindoll called Simple Faith and read a section about forgiveness. I fought vehemently against the notion, crying out to God that I could not forgive this woman. It was then that I finally realized my need for God to take over and I asked Him to help me forgive her.

God was tremendously gracious to me. He filled my head with many practical ideas as to how to make amends. This woman had no idea I had found the letter so I could act clandestinely. I remembered things we had talked about in the past, especially the soap operas, and chatted with her about them whenever we were together. I found my mind opening up again to God’s grace and my heart softened, becoming pliant, and ready for whatever He wanted. I left that job two months later, walking out the door with a bottle of champagne and best wishes from that colleague.

My relationship with God restored, that longing for fellowship with other Christians burned inside of me. Knowing my need, He led me to a morning bible study at our parish. I struck up a conversation with another mother who eventually invited me to a rosary prayer group. In the process, I met a precious new friend in the Blessed Mother. Shared the rosary and our lives together, my thirst for Christian fellowship was being quenched after eighteen years of wandering alone in the desert. The grace of those friendships poured over me like a balm, healing the wounds brought on by isolation. My pride and arrogance began melting away as I turned over my life again to God.

jackie silverstein for webOver the years I have continued to seek out and develop relationships with other Christian women with whom I could share my faith. These relationships are some of the most precious gifts God has given me. My friendship with Jackie, a homebound woman, is one I particularly treasure. We spend a couple of hours together each week chatting about our interests and eventually, sharing deeply about our growing love for Jesus. That time together is a comfort to our souls and a light to our minds and hearts. The insights fly back and forth, fast and furious, with deep joy and passion. We laugh, cry and learn from each other.

My husband’s discovery of his vocation as a deacon opened up his heart and deepened his zeal. As he read and studied, he began sharing with me what he was learning. His insights taught me and my feedback helped him to better understand what he was learning. Sharing our faith lives together has deepened our love for each other and created a wonderful sense of harmony in our marriage

More than ever I am convinced that we are never meant to walk with God alone. The day that Jesus began His public ministry, He called Andrew, Nathaniel and Simon Peter to follow Him. While He would retreat to hilltops in the middle of the night to pray alone with His Father, He was never far from His friends, even walking on water to be with them. After ascending to heaven, He provided the Holy Spirit, to bind together His followers in love and unity. He foresaw the difficulties and dangers of following His path and thus freely gave of the Spirit to them.

trinity  newA favorite icon by Rublev of the Holy Trinity best describes why faith in God can only live and grow in community. In the icon, we see three angelic figures, each looking at the other with indescribable love. Henri Nouwen described it as an endless circle of selfless love, a circle that each Christian is invited to join. The Trinity is the symbol of perfect and live-giving community, the Church that Christ has given to us through the Holy Spirit.

Long ago God had planted that thirst inside me for friendships with my spiritual brothers and sisters. He is continually calling me into that circle, just as He calls all of us. Faith cannot grow, cannot live without that vital food. It took me eighteen years of aimless wandering through the desert to figure out what I had already known and experienced as a teenager. I’m always amazed how dense I can be!

My new friend Chris is now a part of my circle and I look forward to the growth of our friendship as God continues to reveal Himself to us.

Click to Tweet & Share: The Ever-Present Thirst for Connection and Community http://wp.me/p2D9hg-sO

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Tweets of the Week (September 5, 2012)

Here are some great links and tweets I found this past week:

From the Post Bulletin @PB_News

Moonlight kayaking – I want to do this! – Post Bulletin http://www.postbulletin.com/news/stories/display.php?id=1507175

From Patheos.com @Patheos

I am so blessed to have two outstanding spiritual friends – Spiritual Direction vs. Spiritual Friend http://shar.es/7V9RA

ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Will Braden holds Henri, the cat who stars in Braden’s videos

From the Seattle Times @seattletimes

Here’s the producer of the Henri 2 video, winner of the first internet Cat video award: Garfield High grad wins Internet Cat Video Film Festival http://tinyurl.com/9jjgycd

From the Kenilworth Weekly

Kayaking Katie backs move to end paralympics exclusion rule  – http://tinyurl.com/8nwkfym

From the NewsandSentinal.com

“It’s just a gas to build a beautiful boat that looks like a piece of furniture and then float away.” http://tinyurl.com/9cahrkq

Click to Tweet & Share: Tweets of the Week: moonlight kayaking; meet maker of Henri 2, Spiritual direction & more http://wp.me/p2D9hg-ap

Would you like to learn along with Susan how to live your life
in single flow?
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Detachment: a “dirty word” that promises freedom

What feelings come up when you read the following two words:

  • Obedience
  • Detachment

Are your feelings positive or negative?

Are these words to be avoided at all costs or embraced?

Do these words hinder your freedom or enhance it?

In a later post I will deal with obedience, one of the most freeing words in the entire English language.

Today I will deal with detachment because I finally found out what it means.

Detachment can strike fear into the hearts of those pursuing an authentic spiritual life. It means walking away and letting go.

What do I have to give up?

Will I have to watch less TV, skip that beer or ice cream, put aside dreams of a tropical winter get-away in order to instead travel to snowbound Buffalo to visit elderly parents?

Will I have to give up something, or someone I dearly love?

What will I have to sacrifice?

Detachment in part means sacrifice and both words have a negative connotation in this age of you-can-have-it-all.

And there’s more to sacrifice than giving up time, money and material items. There are feelings inside of us that need to be sacrificed too.

That sacrifice is known as self-control.

Thud. Another word that stirs up a negative connotations.

In this age of exposing ourselves on Facebook and Twitter, self-control has fallen by the wayside.

When we feel bad, we show it. Why hide it? We not only show it, we indulge in it. We feel entitled to wallow in it. Hell, we feel like crap so why not just let it take over?

At some point you long to escape. Escape, as you know, comes about in many unhealthy, even deadly forms. Just ask Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith.

Oh that’s right. We can’t.

What does all this have to do with detachment? Here’s how.

And I only just learned this in the last few days.

On Saturday we said goodbye to our 26 year-old son. He is moving from his place near our home in central MA to Brooklyn, NY to explore new options in his life. It’s only four hours away but it might as well be on the other side of this planet to this mother’s heart.

I urged him to go.

Heck, I was the main cheerleader. And I was bound and determined not to lose it in front of him.

So just before the big goodbye, I stole away to the bathroom in his house and begged God to help me put a lid on my emotions.

The response was an impulse to pray the Hail Mary.

With that first of many Hail Mary’s I recalled that the Mother of Jesus had to endure such a goodbye too. She would understand and she would listen to me.

I then rifled through my pocketbook and found my rosary ring. I put it in my pocket and fingered it, continuing to pray.

And when it came time to say goodbye, I only cried a little.

We exchanged warm hugs and a few tears flowed but I held it together.

I realized at that moment that asking God to intervene, He stepped in between my son and myself, providing that little bit of detachment that allowed me to keep a lid on my emotions.

Later on in the privacy of my kitchen, I had my cry.

Detachment saved me from embarrassment, not only for myself, but for my son and everyone else that was there when we exchanged goodbyes.

from http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_blackholes_blackholes.html

And now I am working on building on that detachment.

The pain of saying goodbye is not unlike grief and it can become a black hole, sucking you in and smothering the life out of you.

The natural inclination is to go towards that black hole.

The smart thing to do is to step back.

I work up this morning filled with pain over the goodbye. But I washed up, went to Sunday mass, did the food shopping and spent the day with my husband.

I clung to God and made a deliberate effort to tell that black hole I wasn’t going to be sucked in.

It wasn’t easy.

A lot of the time I just wanted to lay down on my bed and go to sleep.

The lesson of yesterday’s goodbye and the taste of freedom from that small bit of detachment gave me the impetus to keep pursuing it.

I sacrificed the urge to give in to the pain.

Using self-control, I deliberately turned away from pain of the past and fixed my gaze upon the future.

Little things like a medium Dunkin’ Donuts mocha ice coffee helped in the cause.

God teaches us detachment for a reason.

He wants to set us free. I feel like I have discovered a most precious secret.

And so I bid my son a bittersweet farewell, knowing it’s for the best and wishing him many blessings in his journey.

I have already found mine.

Click to Tweet & Share: Saying goodbye to our son hurt but taught me something new: turning to God, I learned to walk away & not lose it. http://wp.me/p2D9hg-8s

em space

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