233. An Injection of Hope for 2018

I’ve been in a bit of a slump recently. Sometimes I just get down when I think of the state of the world. Sometimes I just get down when I think of the state of my own broken humanity and the interior battles I must continue to fight. “How long, O Lord!?” is a refrain from the psalms that I find welling up in me quite often.

There is so much suffering in the world … How long until you deliver us, O Lord!? There is so much confusion and deception in the world … How long until your truth is revealed, O Lord!? There are so many lonely, pained people who don’t know who they are … How long until your love fills every heart, O Lord!? I’ve encountered this love, tasted it, but I falter, I turn to my own way, I forget …How long, O Lord, until I see you face to face and know you in the eternal embrace for which I so ardently long!?

COR THOUGHTS 236: The Family Participates in the Life of the Trinity

Cor-Thoughts-logo

This Sunday, after having celebrated the birth of Christ, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.  Sometimes I feel sorry for Joseph. What would it be like to be the only sinner in your family? It would seem that whenever something went wrong in the Holy Family, it was Joseph’s fault. But imagine how loved Joseph was by Jesus and Mary in his faults, failings, and sinfulness. That’s what allowed Joseph to grow in holiness. Are we loved any less by Jesus and Mary in our faults, failings, and sinfulness? Holiness does not mean we have it all together. Holiness means we have all of our broken, wounded humanity “presented to the Lord,” as we read in this Sunday’s Gospel. The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple is much more profound than we may first realize. From all eternity, the Son offers himself to the Father in love. But now, as a newborn babe, it’s Joseph and Mary who “present him to the Lord.” Do you know what this means? A human family is now participating in the life of the Trinity. That’s holiness: to participate in the life and love of the God who himself is a family: Father, Son, and Spirit. Lord, here we are, as we are. We present ourselves to you with all our faults, failings, and sinfulness. Help us to live in the knowledge that we are part of your holy family. Amen!

Is There Someone You Need to Forgive This Christmas?

Justice and Mercy in "The Man Who Invented Christmas"

man who invented christmas 1 600px

[By Bill Howard]

A dear friend of mine once shared with me a deep pain in his heart when I asked about his father. His parents divorced when he and his siblings were very young, and in the bitterness and anger at the father that followed, only my friend continued to see his father on a regular basis.

In recent years, his father has been seriously ill and living in an assisted care facility. Holiday gatherings consist of the children and their families gathering at the mother’s house with their stepfather, while my friend and his wife make an extra visit to the father to hold a simple celebration and to pray. Many years ago, the father came back to his Catholic faith, which eventually led to this son also embracing Catholicism.

My friend’s siblings have rarely spoken to the father since their youth and seem to carry an anger that serves as a punishment for past misdeeds and wounds caused from the reckless life their father lived as a young man. The pain of his mother and siblings is very real and understandable. We’ve often wondered if his father is hanging on with hope of a reconciliation.

MUSIC VIDEO: ‘O Holy Night’ by Mike Mangione & the Kin

Beauty can sneak past our heads and dwell in our hearts. It is felt before comprehended. Like a glass that fills itself from within, beauty can fill our hearts with streams of warmth, affirmation and familiarity, while our head happily and willingly drifts in wonder. The Theology of The Body was the first time I heard about a universal echo in our hearts. When I heard about it I knew it to be true because … well, its there! But I never had a name for it. This echo resonates when it encounters what it craves, and what it craves is love. Love is both true and beautiful. Jesus is the most true and beautiful love. Therefore our hearts crave Jesus whether we know it or not.

Simply to tell people they crave Jesus with words alone attempts to dwell in the intimate warm echo chambers of their heart by entering through the dense, cold, spray-painted walls of their heads. Like a one-sided love affair, the truth battles to enter but is met with force and thickness comprised of history, hurt and fear… with a side of bad formation. It is a thick wall that’s reinforced by time, habit, relationships and culture, and it seems impenetrable. But Beauty knows no boundaries. Beauty, like a spring, pops the callused cork and floods the heart from within, flowing down the mountain of self awareness, through the crevasse of experience, into the drying reservoir of the echo. That reservoir fills and rises in temperature and begins to bubble to a boil. If given time, tenderness and community, that boil begins to condensate, rise and collect at the threshold of the mind, where it begins to soften and saturate that mind. It is at these moments that the head follows the lead of the heart and the two begin to open together in unison in search of the source. The cold wall begins to come down, the head and heart join hands and enter a vulnerable state of pliability. These are the moments that the truth can be found, seen and accepted through the freedom of the individual.

This is why we say: lead with Beauty. It has the power to awaken and be a guide on the journey. My goal with music has always been to bring Jesus to the people right where they are standing. My method is to try and create something beautiful. Sometimes I do this well and sometimes … not so much, but the effort needs to be made. So when asked to play a Christmas song for the NBC affiliate TMJ4 in Milwaukee, I happily accepted and was excited by the opportunity. I decided to do one of my favorite Christmas songs, “O Holy Night” because the lyrics and melody are some of the most beautifully written. I decided to arrange it stripped back and bare, just voices and one guitar, because the melody and lyrics don’t need much help. And my hope was that for three minutes, the audience and I could quietly come together, get ourselves out of the way and make room for the most true and Beautiful love. May God bless you on your journey. 

Mike

[Order Mike Mangione & the Kin’s new album “But I’ve Seen the Stars” and learn more about Mike’s music here.]

COR THOUGHTS 235: The Mystery Now Manifested

Cor-Thoughts-logo

This weekend’s Gospel presents the familiar account of the Annunciation in Luke’s Gospel. Here “the mystery kept secret for long ages [is] now manifested” (second reading). What is it? God wants to marry us! While the prophets of the Old Testament spoke of God’s love for Israel in this way, here, through the conception of God’s Son in the womb of the Virgin, we learn, as Pope Francis asserts, that God’s “spousal love” for humanity is not just a “manner of speaking.” These are “real and true nuptials!” exclaims Francis. While Mary had “no relations with a man,” as we read in this Sunday’s Gospel, the virginal union Mary experienced with God when the “power of the Most High” overshadowed her was an experience of everything to which the marital embrace is meant to point. The doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, therefore, is in no way a negation of human sexuality, as many tend to think. Rather, it is the deepest possible affirmation of the real purpose and meaning of sexuality: to point us to union with God. As Saint John Paul II observed, Mary’s virginity is motivated by her “desire for total union with God.” “She wanted to be his faithful bride.”