New Wine in Old Blood Vessels

01/16/2018

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the wineskins, and the wine will pour out, and the wineskins will be lost. Instead, new wine must be put into new wineskins.” – Mark 2:22

Except when you get a VAD. Then you get new wine into old, brittle wineskins. Not sure if anybody thought about that…

Dad, Mom, and everybody Easter Sunday 2016 (03-27-16) _MG_8398

Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016 – Dad with his LVAD batteries holstered

I can’t hear (read) this Gospel any more without thinking of Dad, my dad, Norb Kwiecinski. He got a new lease on life in February 2014. An LVAD, a Left Ventricular Assist Device because his left ventricle was failing. It couldn’t sufficiently empty blood from his heart any longer. And he was dying.

450_300_mayolvad rendering of LVAD courtesy Mayo Clinic

Rendering of a Ventricular Assist Device, courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Lack of blood supply means lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen means dying a slow death.

The LVAD gave him new life. It pumped blood through his body for him. But that lack of blood flow for so many years meant veins that had turned into old wineskins. And Dad’s new wine, in the form of a vibrant, fresh blood supply, was too much for the old wineskins to handle.

After being discharged from his four-month journey through intensive care, five staredowns with death, and an incredibly intense physical rehabilitation, Dad became a frequent visitor at the hospital.

Why? He constantly needed more blood. Where was it going?

Despite numerous tests, there was little evidence of a single source of a leak. It wasn’t showing up. So why did he need blood? Where was it going? Was his body like an old automobile engine, burning oil?

My humble, yet considered theory is that his arteries and veins — and especially the fine, delicate capillaries that deliver blood to the extremities and up to the skin — had become brittle from years of poor blood flow. When the LVAD powerfully and efficiently delivered blood, this force was more than these delicate tissues could handle. And the blood was absorbed into the body. It had seemingly disappeared. But it really hadn’t.

Is that really what happened? Is this really the explanation for why Dad consistently needed blood transfusions?

Nobody can convince me otherwise. No one else had a better, more plausible, more scientific explanation. And my theory seems to make sense.

Anyway… today’s Gospel triggered these memories today. Always happens. And the memories of those troubling, yet exhilarating and joyful months come flooding back into consciousness as if they happened yesterday.

I love you, Dad. Still miss you like crazy. Still blame you for my coffee addiction. Still ask you for help with the simplest home repair projects. And I still hear you say, chidingly, “atta boy” when I finally figure it out.

And we have the most serious man-to-man philosophical discussions… well, sure, they’re slightly one-sided. But they’re real. And really serious.

#dadupdate

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Santana and the King of the Ninevites

02/17/2016

What do Santana and the King of the Ninevites have in common?

Would you believe that in some parallel universe, Back to the Future-ish, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure sort of way, the King of Nineveh may have been channeling the Latin rock group, Santana, when he proclaimed to the Ninevites “you’ve got to change your Evil Ways…?”

No?

Me either.

But hey, that’s the that immediately coursed through my brain matter as I listened to today’s reading from Jonah:

The irritable, reluctant prophet, Jonah begrudgingly accepts God’s call to trudge through Nineveh to warn the people of God’s imminent wrath. The King gets word of Jonah’s warning and proclaims a fast for humans and animals alike. He dons sackcloth and dives into the ash heap, hoping against hope that God relents.

Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh: “By decree of the king and his nobles, neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.

Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath, so that we shall not perish.”

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.   –  Jonah 3:7-10

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls the generation of the time “an evil generation,” and today’s Gospel concludes with Jesus saying:

“At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”  –  Luke 11:32

What about our generation? Do we need to repent? Will we? What will happen to us?

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read and listen to my thoughts. My commitment during Lent 2016 is to post a daily video reflection to help you and me on our walk through the season and toward Easter Sunday. I will also explore other matters of faith and also health and fitness to keep us fit for the journey. Click here for my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/davekwiecinski

I appreciate your help and encouragement. Please let me know how I can help you. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.


The only thing you can control

02/16/2016

What is the one thing over which you have complete control?

There is only one thing.

You can’t control what others think. You can’t control what others do. You can’t control how others treat you. You can’t control what others say. You can’t control what happens to you. You can’t even control your thoughts!

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:7-15), Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray and then has instructions for them on forgiveness.

Who do you need to forgive?

Here are my thoughts on the Gospel and on control.

And maybe a word or two about eating a good breakfast.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read and listen to my thoughts. My commitment during Lent 2016 is to post a daily video reflection to help you and me on our walk through the season and toward Easter Sunday. I will also explore other matters of faith and also health and fitness to keep us fit for the journey. Click here for my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/davekwiecinski

I appreciate your help and encouragement. Please let me know how I can help you. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.


The “Big Bang” and the Vast Universe

10/27/2015

Scientists and philosophers throughout the ages of recorded human history have debated the questions:

  • “How did the universe come to be formed?”
  • “Was there a beginning?”
  • “Will there be an end?”
  • “Is the universe spherical or flat?”
  • “Was The Big Bang really a BANG?”
  • “Is The Big Bang Theory at odds with Creationism?”

No way am I going to get into a discussion about all of that today, but maybe some day. Today, let’s consider the formation of the Universe and the Kingdom of God. And let’s stick with the basic essentials.

NASA has their own, scientifically dense, explanation of The Big Bang.

A site called (what else?) Big Bang Theory has a more layman-friendly discussion. They even pose the question about the existence of God and how that theological discussion integrates into the purely scientific theory.

The scientific theory rattles the mind. It can be confusing. It tends to overwhelm us in its complexity. Or its implications.

But does it have to?

Must we be confused and overwhelmed by the concepts?

Let’s consider one fact, mind-blowing though it is, about the universe.

We’re told the universe sprang into existence at a single moment in time. We’re told that at the beginning, the matter (particles, etc.) that make up everything we know was “infinitesimally small” and “infinitely hot.”

We’re told that the universe expanded and cooled to what we know today and that it is currently expanding every second with no signs of that expansion slowing.

Digest that for a moment.

The universe sprang forth from something very, very small.

–   And it is expanding.   –

2012-09-15_06-37-25_922

Did Jesus tell us this?

Today’s Gospel (Luke 13:18-21) gives us a clue.

Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”

Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”

Pretty cool, huh?


Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating. And for still not posting daily.

This is where Kit Kat is buried. R.I.P. little buddy.


What If You’re Divorced?

08/14/2015

I am divorced. And in the deep recesses of my being, I still allow that to define me.

Today’s Gospel is a difficult one for me.

a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife

Why did it happen?

The reasons are layered and complex. I was (and probably still am) blessed with a certain level of naivete. Socially, I’m clumsy. If I don’t come across that way, it’s not because I don’t feel that way.

Never, ever, in a thousand years… in a million years… did I ever even suspect that Sue and I would become a statistic.

and the two shall become one flesh

That’s not an excuse. I do not excuse myself.

Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.

Okay… so what made me think that it was permissible to separate what God joined together?

I never did. I don’t think it is permissible for any of us.

Just like I don’t think it’s permissible to live contrary to any of God’s laws.

Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”

He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”  They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” – Matthew 9:3-12

No other gods. No idols. Keep the sabbath. Honor Mom and Dad. Don’t kill. No adultery. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t covet. Don’t covet (yes, apparently we need more than one reminder of that one).

So… how good are you at adhering to those?

I suck at it. Pardon the vernacular.

How do we resolve what Jesus told the Pharisees?

I don’t know.

I know what the Catholic Church teaches. Sort of. I know they permitted me and Kathy to both seek (and have granted) a formal annulment of our previous marriages, thus giving us permission to marry each other — in a second sacramental union (for me) — and still participate in the sacramental life… receiving Holy Communion, having our sins forgiven in Confession.

Have I resolved all this in my own mind?

No.

That is clearly because I am an imperfect, flawed human being.

My ways are not His ways.

Okay, this is supposed to be a quick meditation. Not a sermon. Not a book. So…..

Has anything helped me overcome my guilt?

A handful of years ago (was it five, six, more?), I discovered the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. If you are familiar with me and this blog, you know that.

Jesus was born into this hellhole to save us from ourselves.

We’re the ones who have taken His Father’s glorious creation and created a cesspool, made a mess of just about whatever we’ve laid our hands on.

We are imperfect human beings.

We will sin. We will be immoral. We will offend others and thus offend God.

We will.

Today.

Reflect on that before you nod off tonight. And ask forgiveness.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm:

His mercy endures forever. – Psalm 136 (all verses)

The Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared to human beings. The Lord, Jesus Christ, has made Himself known and spoken clearly to human beings.

Mary gave us the Holy Rosary.

Jesus gave us the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

He promised that even the most hardened sinner, if they will say the Chaplet even once, will be granted His Divine Mercy.

It’s stuff like that, folks, that engages my consciousness, that gives me hope, that permits me to forgive myself, that keeps me strong.

I don’t know if my words do that for you. But I want them to.

If you’re struggling with something, I don’t have all the answers. But I do have empathy. I’m capable of praying for you (or with you). And I believe with every ounce of life that my/our prayers are heard and answered.

Don’t forget to listen. Never forget to listen. The answers are there. We also suck at listening.

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Today is also the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

You did not choose me, but I chose you… John 15:16a

St. Maximilian had a lifelong devotion to Mary. He wanted to start a radio station. Instead, he was captured by Nazis and died in a concentration camp.

He chose one thing. The Lord chose another.

Decades later, Mother Angelica spearheaded EWTN. How much more powerful and meaningful is the legacy of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe because of his experience and suffering at the hands of enemies of God than if he got what he chose?

I pick up my pen and tap on my computer to get these words out. Yes, I choose to write. I choose to press “Publish.” I can’t help but feel in some way the only reason I’m doing this is because He chose me. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just supposed to get you to think.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating. And for still not posting a meditation daily.

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Even a Perfect Seed Needs TLC. And Good Soil!

05/07/2015

Dad can grow anything. He has the green thumb in our family.

Last year, when he realized he was going to be in the hospital for such a long time, one of his biggest worries was “who’s going to take care of my plants?”

They survived, thanks to the joint efforts of Mom, sister Stephanie, daughter Martha, and even a small assist from me.

Dad recently got home from the hospital after another of what seem like regular monthly visits since his discharge a year ago May.

It was Fat Tuesday. Easy to remember. Mom was scheduled for an outpatient procedure that morning. Dad was going to go, but just home from the hospital hours before, we thought the best place for him would be at home. My sister, Karen, was picking Mom up for the procedure. Kathy had the day off and I rearranged my schedule so we could spend the time with Dad.

He agreed, albeit reluctantly, to stay home.

Kathy and I got to the house after Mom and Karen had left for Lutheran General. Dad was already hard at work, carrying each of his orchids from their perch in the sun near the southwest windows over to the sink for their weekly drenching.

His orchids are beautiful. Without a doubt, he has the green thumb.

One of Dad's orchids.

One of Dad’s orchids.

I, on the other hand, tell everyone that I have crispy brown thumbs. I didn’t inherit Dad’s touch with plants. But he was able to coach me up — from the confines of his hospital bed — just enough to keep his precious babies alive.

TLC is part of it. Good soil is also essential.

In the Gospel for Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter (John 15:1-8), Jesus continues teaching the disciples that he is the true vine and God is the vine grower.

In Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI (copyright 2007, Ignatius Press), Pope Benedict uses the analogy of Mary as the willing soil, accepting the seed of God, the seed that becomes Jesus.

What a perfect analogy of the importance of Mary in the life of every believer!

Even a perfect seed needs the right soil.

Jesus taught us about seed that falls on different types of ground, too. Remember? So this analogy makes perfect sense, right?

The Word became flesh.

Pope Benedict explains that seed “assimilates the earth’s energies and changes them into itself.”

“Mary, the holy soil of the Church, is an essential part of Christ. The mystery of Mary means precisely that God’s Word did not remain alone. Rather, it became Man in the soil of His mother, and then fused with the soil of the whole of humanity returned to God in a new form…

“To be soil for the Word means that the soil must allow itself to be absorbed by the seed.

Mary’s maternity means that she willing places her own substance, body and soul, into the seed so that new life can grow.”

Without Mary, God’s Word remains apart from Man. Or maybe Man cannot assimilate to God’s Word.

Mary’s willingness to allow God’s Word, God’s seed, to meld with her flesh is essential to Jesus becoming Man. Her humble submission is an essential, vital part of our salvation.

Did you ever stop to think where Jesus got His hair color, His eyes, His voice, His stature? From the soil of His mother.

And where and how did the helpless baby Jesus learn human love and respect? From the TLC of His mother and stepfather.

If Jesus was truly human, His humanness is as essential as His divinity. His Earthly parents are truly part of Him. And Mary is truly present in His physical presence.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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God, Do You Really Understand?

05/05/2015

One of our friends — a rabid Blackhawks fan — had open heart surgery several weeks ago and started cardiac rehab.

Boom!

Out of the blue, he got seriously ill last week. It has been touch and go.

His girlfriend, Laura, has been keeping that agonizing vigil at his hospital bedside.

After Bill was hospitalized, Laura’s mom broke her hip. Her mom has been in ICU in a different hospital.

Laura had a painful knee injury not too long ago and has been convalescing.

Now she is the caregiver.

And being pulled in different directions.

Life has a way of getting in the way of our peace and happiness.

Just ask St. Paul and St. Barnabas and the other disciples who were sharing the Good News in Lystra.

… some Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won over the crowds.  They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. – Acts 14:19

That was the thanks Paul got for sharing the Good News.

Jesus tells the disciples in today’s Gospel

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” – John 14:27

Peace? God, how can we be at peace with all of the turmoil in our lives?

We can’t do it alone. We need our friends, definitely. But even they are not enough. In the dark emptiness of our most troubled thoughts, where our friends can’t go, we need more.

Life is not lived without suffering.

God sent an angel to ask an ordinary young lady to do an extraordinary thing.

He asked Mary to bear the burden of pregnancy, to give birth to His Son. To allow her offspring to be tortured, reviled, and killed. To bear our suffering and bring us peace.

There’s only one way out of this life. And it usually involves some sort of pain.

God knew that. And Jesus was His answer. Without the promise of eternal life, this life can seem like a cruel joke.

St. Faustina says in her diary (1570)

“… all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery…

… do not reject the prayer of this earth’s exiles! O Lord, (you) are acquainted with our misery through and through…”

Tuesdays and Fridays are traditionally the days we rosary-praying types reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, when we recall Christ’s passion and death, from the Garden of Gethsemane to His crucifixion on Calvary.

To help me stay focused on saying the rosary as I go about my morning routine, I regularly listen to rosaries led by Father Patrick Peyton, who came to be known as “The Rosary Priest.” There is a wonderful YouTube version of the Sorrowful Mysteries in which Father Peyton chose the theme of Loneliness.

Jesus was very familiar with the temptations, hard choices, sufferings, and sorrows of human life. He knew abandonment in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Apostles couldn’t stay awake to pray with Jesus and when the soldiers came for Him, they fled. Jesus saw how the women along the long route to Calvary wept for him and in His weakness, He comforted them. And on Calvary, Jesus felt abandoned by His Father, yet he continued to pray.

Our road may not be as physically painful as the road to Calvary. Or it might. But there is a journey we all have to take to get to Heaven. Some of us will suffer for a long time. Some of us will suffer through the pain and suffering of a loved one, maybe more than one at the same time.

Some of us will suffer loss long before our life’s journey has ended. Loss hurts. Loss of a parent or a child. The pain of divorce or the end of a relationship. Financial hardship. Humiliation. Legal troubles. Unemployment. Feelings of inadequacy.

The list is long. Life isn’t perfect.

When we suffer, we ask friends and family to pray. Sometimes they’re available to physically comfort us. Or to sit and talk with us.

If they’re not, rely on prayer. Rely on Jesus. And yes, rely on Mary. Just as you would ask a friend to pray for you, why wouldn’t you ask the mother of Jesus to pray for you, to intercede on your behalf to her Son?

Mary has no divine power. But she has a special relationship with the Divine, doesn’t she?

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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