Archive for the ‘Words from the Altar’ Category.

Our Life- A thank you.

Our Life: Bound to a space: 9 rooms, our home, another 9 rooms, the home of others, briefly.

An acre and a half of glorious New England Land bordered by the Millbrook, by the home of the Hawthorne’s and the Alcott’s; this sliver owned by them and by Emerson…HD Thoreau surveying : all of the Transcendentalists touching the soil on which we live.

We are contained , in our created environment, welcoming so many [we have added Syria and Rwanda to our list of guests] but, only, physically, for in this space, we have been truly Blessed to have shaken hands, to have laughed to have shared joys and sorrows and stories with so many and, most importantly, to have offered respite.

The most amazing thing is: as we have, hopefully, honored those who have crossed our threshold, they, too, have honored us by doing so.

We are held in the hearts of many and, in Prayer, we Thank those who have left our so wonderful Town of Concord, Our Inn, with Joy and Happiness and Memories to reflect upon.

I wish that we had taken of photo of every guest and wrote a brief line to remember them by …we have not.
Nevertheless, these notes are held in another place. Somewhere deep in hearts.

I wish that we had held a hand a bit more tightly; said Thank-you a bit more emphatically; listened a bit more intently.

Our lives, these 37 years, have been Blessed no more or less than any other.

God is with each of us.

Our path was to have meet many Gracing our Table.
Our circle was/is large.

Remember, the dance happens in intimacy and in broadness. The dance that is this Life, that is over, ‘just like that’!

Honor one another [even if you really do not want to].
Listen, too, to each other.
Play music that you Love and Dance alone, with another, but Dance and Sing and close your eyes when you look at Beauty [in a Sky, in reflecting water, in orchards ripe, at a lost person asking, wordless, for a path to wholeness].

Close your eyes and move and feel and take in beauty and pray that you can remember joy and love and serenity and beauty when times get tough; when your world feels like it is falling apart.

Prayer and connection.

And, a kind word really does means more than we shall ever know.

Many, in my life, amaze me by their humility and generosity and kindness.

I thank the many tens of thousands whom have allowed us excellent food on our table, the means to gift our three children the most amazing education: gifted us a good life.
We are so fortunate to be Innkeepers of our Inn.We are so fortunate to be Innkeepers of our Inn

 

The Poetry of Advent

Excerpt from a Homily delivered November 29, 2009,

 

The Poetry of Advent

 

If the Season of Advent were a book I would file it on a shelf, right at eye-level, foremost among the great works of poetry. Advent is a poem of a bright new beginning. Advent is a love poem written to us from God.

 

This poem of the season of Advent is set to the meter of eternity, the rhythm of our hearts and in the cadence of now.

 

In the poem of the season of Advent we are pregnant with Mary. We are filled with our hopes for future, our longing for love and our trust in God. We live each day carrying within our bellies the expectation and the reality of the divine.  

 

In the poem of Advent all words rhyme with love. Even Already, even “Not Yet”

 

In the poem of the season of Advent every line contains hope as “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our lord”

 

Advent is a love poem written to us from God.

 

And, we already know the substance of this poem for it is inscribed on our heart. “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”

Pentecost

 

 

May 31, 2009, Pentecost Sunday B

                                              Acts 2:1-11, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13, John 20:19-23

Deacon Gregory Burch

 

Let me tell you of locks and treasures.

 

When my children were little we organized an elaborate birthday party with a pirate theme. In preparation, my wife and I filled an old iron-strapped chest with foreign coins, which we had purchased cheaply by the pound. Then we locked the chest in chains and secretly buried it in our back-yard. I created an intricate treasure map rife with cryptic runes, measured footsteps, and natural markers as clues. The parchment was all duly aged with intentional coffee stains and burn holes.

 

The little crew gathered in full pirate regalia. We set off with the map on our treasure quest. Soon our everyday, familiar, mundane back-yard began to transform in front of our eyes. What had been but a tree became an important cipher in our puzzle, a swing on a rope revealed the measurement of a circle’s arc, a bush declared its relationship to a wall and the sun, once again, gave clue to our orientation in space. The common became infused with energy, the mundane manifested mystery, the landscape showed unity, and a potential not perceived by us before.

 

When the little tykes uncovered the chest the excitement was feverish. They took command, and, hauling chains, barley lifted the load from the grip of the earth. The lock was hammered off, and when the lid was thrown open those coins dazzled in the sun and reflected the wonder in their eyes.

 

I noticed the broken lock being trampled by little dancing feet. I wondered, what good would that treasure have served if the lock held?  The lock, which was meant to keep intruders out also kept the treasure confined, where it was useless. Even if the box of cheap coins had been of gold or diamonds they could not sparkle in the darkness of a sealed chest.

 

 

 

 

We heard today in Scripture of another lock and a different treasure. The Disciples of Jesus had bolted, chained and locked them selves into a room for fear of the outside. What would have happened if that lock had held, the treasures in that room could not

have been spent. The gospel would not have been preached to the world. The word was gagged, muffled, mute in that stale room, until Jesus dissolved the locked door, and brought gifts from the treasury of his spirit.

 

The first treasure of the resurrection was an antidote to fear. The first treasure of the resurrection was a reminder of God’s irrevocable love for us. The first treasure of the resurrection was conveyed in Christ’s words, “Peace be with you.”  Who can fear when we are so loved by God?

 

Christ has done so much to spend his own treasury of love on us. He purchased our salvation and then he sent to us a key to unlock unbounded riches. The key is the restorative breath of life that sets all things right. The key is the Holy Spirit, who is the spark that ignites the inner fires that illumine the holiness of life.

 

Scripture tells us that our treasures are varied. In truth we have only one treasure and that is God. The treasures that the Holy Spirit unlocks and reveals is our singular ability to perceive, to appreciate, to bathe ourselves in God and His creation.

 

When we allow the Holy Spirit to open the treasures locked within, we open the lid and peer in at the abundant wealth of God’s graces.

 

The Holy Spirit is the key to unlock:

The treasure of our eyes, to know God’s presence in glistening particles of colored light filtered through the stained glass around us. To see God’s hand in the beauty of all creation. Eyes to issue tears of joy or sadness as we bring the cares of our lives to His table.

 

 

 

 

The Holy Spirit is the key to unlock:

The treasure of our ears, so we may be uplifted by songs of praise, brought closer to him by a baby’s sigh, and rejoice in the fellowship of laughter. Ears to receive the Word of God and to listen for the needs of those around us.

 

The Holy Spirit is the key to unlock:

 The Treasure of our lips, to offer the comfort of a kiss, to proclaim our faith and praise the glory of God. Lips to receive the Eucharist and taste eternity.

 

What good is a locked treasure?

 

Every day, barred doors dissolve and frightened hearts are calmed when Christ prevails and the key of the Holy Spirit opens hearts to reveal the treasures of the soul.

 

Be not afraid, spend yourself to the glory of God.

Memorial Day

This is the Benediction delivered by your Innkeeper at the Memorial Day Observances and parade.

Memorial Day       May 25, 2009      

Deacon Gregory Burch

 

Let us pause in the soft silence of our own inner-peace where we embrace what we know to be Holy…

 

Eternal God, creator of days and centuries,

For you time is the unfolding of truth that already is,

The unveiling of beauty that is yet to be.

 

We gather in the springtime of the year,

among the gift of your abundant fragrant blooms:

colorful flowers that are, for us, a symbol of sacrifice

and a reminder of hope and renewal.

 

We recall swaying fields of black-eyed poppies,

each a marker for one of our own who died in sacrifice far from home.

 

And we remember so many other fields too, Lord,

 that evermore hug our loved-ones,

rather than be wrapped in the arms of those who needed them most.

 

Fields of sand under the red-blossomed sun, Fields of rice rattling like silver sabers,

Fields of snow with a crystal bloom, Fields jungle green and oceans blue,

Fields too far from the pastures of home

 

We honor all who have paid the price of our freedom with their god-given lives.

We pray today for their eternal rest.

 

And for all who pay dividends in tears on this ultimate price of lives lost,

We pray for their peace of heart.

 

Merciful God, we turn to you in hope,

Look kindly on all those who plow the field of war this day,

Keep them from danger

And return them safe to us.

 

We pray that one day it will not be our brothers and sisters who will be among the numbered heroes,

But that we will need to look back to our grandparent and their parent’s parents to find

a grave upon which to adorn with shorn flowers.

 

Those we mourn and honor today fought and died to bring us peace.

Let us resolve that their gift to us, once gained, will be cherished and held on to for all time.

 

In your Holy Name, this we pray.             Amen.

Veteran’s Day Prayer November 11, 2008

Veteran’s Day and Flag Retirement Ceremony. November 11, 2008

Invocation      Delivered by Deacon Gregory Burch at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

 

In the quiet sanctuary of our own hearts, let us pause and name the One we call holy…..

And let us pray….

 

In every age you set aside men and women to be warriors, for a season of their life, to achieve a purpose. They are called forth from hearth and home to defend the human family from oppression, tyranny and evil. Since our founding as a Nation, conceived in liberty, countless heroes have responded to the call to defend this great country from aggressors and to selflessly liberate those held captive around the globe.

 

Today we revere all of our veterans: those who rest in honored glory, those who still suffer from the wounds of war, and those, who with us, enjoy the blessings of living in a glorious land of freedom.

 

God, whose hand reaches to the ends of the earth, we ask you to bless those who have served in the armed forces in a special way today, as well as to touch the families and loved ones of all veterans. Comfort they who grieve for those who gave the last full measure of devotion. Strengthen those who bear physical, spiritual and emotional wounds and stand by all who provide care for them.

 

As a nation of people ever longing for peace help us to reach out to our brothers and sisters in uniform and in the field so that they may know that it is not just on one day, but everyday, that we honor their sacrifice and the sacrifices made by their families.

 

Thank you for your gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. May we ever have the will and determination to guarantee these rights to all human kind. In your name this we pray.  Amen

 

Benediction

 

Today we have retired with ceremony and dignity the symbol of our nation.

May we never forget what this simple cloth of stars and stripes represents. Each time this flag is hoisted on a pole, and unfurls to a light breeze, it reveals more than color and pattern but tells the story of who we are, what we believe.

 

 May we always honor those fallen patriots, who through our nation’s history served this flag and the land that they loved and the ideal that is America.  Let us ever prize the hard won freedom, bought with toil and sacrifice, and use it wisely.

 

 Live your life as if your actions and deeds were judged by those who gave their all for our country. This respect is an honor owed.  And by keeping them alive in our hearts we will continue to glorify all that is good about our nation. Veterans we salute you, Veterans we honor you, Veterans we give you our thanks.

 

Forgiving

 

February 22, 2009, Seventh Sunday Ordinary Time B

                   Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25, 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, Mark 2:1-12

Deacon Gregory Burch

 

 

 

Imagine this scene if you will: You live on a hill by Capernaum, where your gaze stretches south to the sun-sparkled waves of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has returned home. You are a paralytic. Through the faith and urging of your friends and family you are raised toward the blue sky and born on shoulders, through the dust of the crowd. They deliver you to the very feet of Jesus, where you lay, helpless, upon your mat. The Son of God, Jesus, the incarnate form of He who made heaven and earth, who conceived of you before conception and who shaped you in the womb, smiles upon you. With infinite love he looks down. As he speaks the breath of life issues from his lips, and he says: “Your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your mat and go home.”

 

As the crowd watches ….you just lay there. You don’t get up. You can, but insist that you cannot.

 

This is the position many of us find ourselves in over and over again. We become self-made paralytics who refuse to move, refuse to walk, because we cannot ask for forgiveness, or, when given, we cannot accept fully forgiveness.  We cannot accept the free gift of love, that mends our wounds and makes us whole, frees us and sends us home.

 

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we beat ourselves up, time and again, as if; my sin is the greatest shame of all time, my sin is the one that can never be forgiven.

 

How odd it is that we fail to seek and accept personal forgiveness, and yet the core of the Christian message is that Jesus came in order to make atonement possible.

 

Jesus Christ came into this world and lived among us to demonstrate God’s constant invitation to be enfolded by his love and compassion.  God communicates his inmost life through the mission of Jesus. The purpose of Jesus’ earthly ministry was precisely to forgive and take away our sins.

 

We all wrestle with our failings. Through human frailty we succumb to sin’s temptation and become alienated from God’s intention for us. We become spiritually crippled.

 

Sin is a signal that there is a brokenness in our life that keeps us from getting up and walking forward. The injury may take on many forms. Some experience a rupture in their relationship with God and loved ones when ties of trust and fidelity are strained and snap.

 

Many experience a spiritual palsy that causes their legs to weaken when they knowingly act against there own conscience.   Others experience brokenness when they abuse the gifts of creation.

 

Jesus likens healing of body to the healing of soul, for when the hurt of sin cripples us, the disruption to our spirit paralyses our relationships and our own ability to love freely.

 

Perhaps forgiveness is so difficult for us to ask for and fully accept because we know how hard it is for ourselves to forgive. Who among us is not right now, estranged from someone ( we once loved?) for a hurt received that began with: a simple slight, or an angry word, a lie, a theft, an addiction.  The events keep rolling round and round and our hurt grows and grows until forgiveness seems impossible. There comes a time when it is our own anger, hurt and inability to forgive that keeps us paralysed and trapped on a little mat. It is that black thing that we have created and carry that does us the most harm.

 

 When we cling to our brokenness, and decline the free gift of healing, forgiving love, we are cut-off from the source of all goodness and continue to throw our life, our family and even our health into utter chaos.

 

This coming week we will open the doors to Easter as we enter the Lenten Season. Through reflection, prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can cleanse ourselves in a newness of life that springs from Christ himself.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation offers us a startling claim to newness. A fresh start, once and for all.

 

God offers to love your brokenness back in to wholeness.

 

The first step to forgiveness is to express sorrow for your thoughts and actions and the first conviction is that the sacrament of Reconciliation is the primary way of obtaining forgiveness and a new beginning.

 

In this precious sacrament we receive, as a gracious gift of the father, by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the ministry of the church, that reconciliation which is Christ, an inexhaustible source of compassion and healing love

 

Jesus bids us to rise, pick up our mat and go home. He heals the brokenness of our ways, and, as we shed the paralysis of sin through Reconciliation, we may walk anew with a strength that bears witnesses to his glory.

 

He calls us home.  Home to this sacrificial table, the focus of our faith.  Home to this family of Believers. Home to where we are forgiven as we forgive one another. So rise. Pick-up your mat, Jesus is calling you home.

 

 

 

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Discipleship

January 18, 2009, Second Sunday Ordinary Time B

                  1 Samuel 3:3b-10; 19, 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20, John 1:35-42     

 

Many years ago I travelled to Romania, arriving soon after the fall of the dictator Ceausescu. I went to Romania to volunteer in an orphanage near the Black Sea.

I was not spiritually prepared to deal with what I witnessed within the walls of the institution; where human dignity had long since been obliterated by pain, death and neglect.

 

On my first tour around the facility I noticed a little 5 year old girl sitting alone on the floor in the hall. I was told to ignore her she was nothing, had no speech and no abilities. Yet, I was drawn to her. I sat on the floor next to her with a simple, two part puzzle and as we explored the puzzle, Aurelia opened my heart. .

 

 That mute, damaged little girl became my spiritual intermediary. Through my almost instantaneous love of her, I was able, through Aurelia, to love the other children, to see beyond their wounds, bent bodies and disease and to hold them and to behold in them the beauty of their being. Aurelia, through a most ordinary act brought me face to face with Christ.

 

Today’s lesson asks us to begin a meditation on the call to Discipleship; a call to get ever closer to God. The call to be Christ’s disciple is not reserved to a select few. For you and for me, and for all Christians, this call accompanies our Baptismal commitment.  We should therefore not be surprised to see regular, ordinary people as disciples acting out God’s will in ordinary and extraordinary ways.

 

Scripture begs us to consider the manner in which individuals come to be Disciples of Christ. God is always the one who initiates a relationship but it does not always occur with direct communication with god. There are many times when intermediaries play an important role in our spiritual development and help move us towards Jesus.

 

. The readings today also outline some basic steps to the call to Discipleship.

 

It begins with an invitation, then a period of discernment, and finally Transformation born of deepening faith. This call is not a linear one-time event but recurs time and again throughout our lives as we are ever re-introduced to the eternal, infinite mystery of God’s love. At any point in this movement toward him, God gifts us his word spoken through the voice, the actions and the example of others: people who we meet at just the right time. Think of the many moments in your life when a friend, a child,  your wife or husband, or even a complete stranger, has moved you closer to Christ and your call to Discipleship

 

“What are you looking for?” This is a question that all people are presented with. And have we not each entertained this question and explored it with others?

 

 But it is more than a question, when Jesus asks, for, he is posing an invitation, the first call to Discipleship. An invitation to enter into Christ for the answer to,” What are you looking for” is offered to us in the person of His divine being.  

 

  Jesus says, “Come and see”, initiating the discerning process of Discipleship. This is a time to talk, to listen, to question and to share your hopes and fears. We often turn to our friends, our community, we turn to prayer to help discern. We cannot do it alone.

 

And the third stage, Transformation.  Our encounters with God are transformative. Through this experience comes faith. With Samuel a bond is forged between him and God. His responsiveness, his willingness, his desire opens him further and further until he gives himself over and accepts God’s will and through his words becomes an effective intermediary to bring others closer to God.

 

Simon is so altered in his very being, by his call to discipleship,  that he needs a new name to describe who he has become; Peter.

 

But neither Samuel nor Peter travelled far along the road to discipleship on their own.

 

 Samuel was spiritually inexperienced and needed council to attune him to the importance of the event and to teach him to listen to God.

 

Peter arrives at discipleship after a cascade of events and the help of several intermediaries. John directs his own disciple, Andrew, to Jesus. And then it is Andrew who brings Simon Peter to Christ.

 

. God’s invitation can come to us at any time; in the vigor of youth or with the wisdom of years. For many of us it can be in the most ordinary of events that God calls us and we may be deceived by how simple it is. We need each others help to explore, validate and honor our path to discipleship. We need each other to say, Stop, you are walking passed a grace filled moment.    Ultimately it is our goal, and God’s will, to bring one another to Him. 

 

Discipleship begins and ends at this sacrificial table. God has extended to you, and to all, an invitation to partake of eternity and receive the blessing of unequalled love through the body and blood of his son. As you come forward keep in your heart the image and names of those who have helped you on your way towards Christ.

 

Taste the bread, drink the cup, and be transformed as Disciples of Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Homily for my Mass of Thanksgiving

This is the text of my first Homily.

 

Mass of Thanksgiving, June 01, 2008.

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Deut 11:18, 26-28, 32   Romans 3:21-25, 28   Matthew 7:21-27

 

Deacon Gregory Burch

 

 

I once had occasion to spend a day walking about an Island off the New England coast. On that day full of the subtle smell of beach plum riding salt air we came upon a grand old light house, perched high on the edge of a shorn cliff. For generations this lighthouse had cast a protective beacon upon the waters of the sound. Over time the erosive power of the wind and rain and steel gray seas that churned and attacked the shore, had undercut the high cliff leaving the lighthouse in risk of ruin.

 

The islanders faced a hard choice. They recognized the lighthouse’s beauty, its necessity, its link with each of them. So, to watch the tower  wrench the landscape and topple into the sea, or, to work to save it? And many islanders, compelled by some internal calling, chose the path of saving over ruin.

           

With great sacrifice the crumbling earth, beneath the tower, was replaced and supported  with a solid frame work of hardened timber. Then, ever so slowly, that great beacon was inched away from the perilous precipice to a sure footing of safety.

                  

Today’s readings are also all about choices. About our internal calling to choose.  

 

We have listened to Moses. Never one to mince words Moses presents to us a world, and the choices we must make, in stark contrast. To choose between a blessing or a curse.  Accept God’s word, covenant with Him, be grounded in faith, or … be cursed, separated and alone. Yes or no. Black and white.  

                                

But aren’t our lives more apt to be filled with many shades of gray? Seldom do we face a great, unambiguous, choice between totally accepting God, or rejecting His precepts.   Rather, we are constantly faced with many small, seemingly inconsequential, choices.  Things we may discount and wave away.  It is the little things that day by day threaten to erode us and we start to slip into a lonely sea.

 

It’s the little things that erode us.

When have I said something hurtful that best remained un-said?

How often have I chosen silence when it was time to speak out?

Have I chosen inaction when my support, my love, was most needed?

Have I squandered a relationship, with a friend or family member, for pride or envy?

Isn’t it sometimes easier to shade the truth?

 

Oh, and the rain fell. And the wind blew. And the waters rose. Left to our own devices we often whip up the wind and struggle against a tide of our own making.

 

 

 

Today I have mounted these steps to address you for the first time. I stand here in awe, in great humility and with unbounded thanksgiving. I marvel at the unseen hands that have guided me here, that have built, with great sacrifice, a timber framework of time-seasoned wood,  to shore me up when the bottom slips away. I know, only to well, how easy it is to shade the truth, to choose self before others. And sometimes I did not even know that I was making a choice.

 

Yet as the foundation fell from below the tottering edifice that I called my self, and the sands of my misshapen beliefs were carried off by the wind, unseen hands embraced me. And what I once thought was made of concrete, became mud and washed away. And what I found left in place to support my whole being was a frame-work of ancient wood, the wood of the cross.

 

How is it possible that I can be here before you wearing a Deacon’s stole, or that any of you are here, worshiping before God, for all of our poorly conceived choices? Because we do not have a God of retribution but a God of reconciliation. A God of Love. We are being called to make the choice of true discipleship. Not because the laws are written on a pair of stone tablets, but because it is inscribed on our hearts.  

 

The same symbols we have used to describe our self-erosive choices are matched, in kind but greater in force, by the healing action of God in the world. When the tears of our hurt threaten to wash away a gully below we remember the waters of the flood that purified the earth and we are healed by the flowing font that springs from our baptism. When the harsh winds of life chills our hearts we are warmed by the breath of wisdom, the Holy Spirit that rippled the waters of creation.

 

As I gaze upon you I have one more image. You are the fine people of the island. This Catholic Church is our lighthouse and Christ the beacon that shines upon the waters of the sound. A man-made tempest is pounding at the footings. But you have come together as a community, working shoulder to shoulder, and have embraced Holy Family Parish and secured it firmly upon the wood of the cross. Each of you, responding to an inner calling, has chosen to be here, today. 

 

Jesus always lays before us choice, but nuanced, subtle and made deeper by His presence. When all is washed away, when we have shed those false cements with which we paste our selves together, we discover that it is the cross upon which we stand.

 

Soon we will gather around this banquet table and be nurtured by the gifts prepared for you and me. As we mingle our selves with Him, through the mystery of his body and blood, as we taste of eternity, may we come to realize that Christ resides in our every choice.

 

 

 

Ordination May 31, 2008

After four years studying at St. John’s Seminary, Gregory was ordained a Deacon in the Catholic Church by the laying on of hands. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, celebrated the Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Gregory has been assigned to our home Parish, Holy Family in Concord. From time-to-time, we will share with you on these pages some of his prayers and homilies as he grows through ministry.