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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . .

27 December 2014

St. John's witness for today

   "we have seen it and testify to it
   and proclaim to you the eternal life
   that was with the Father and was made visible to us
   what we have seen and heard
   we proclaim now to you,
   so that you too may have fellowship with us;"

                              First Letter of St. John

Interestingly, over the last several days as I peruse the Flipboard categories,  I have encountered a number of articles addressing the reality of Jesus, the virgin birth, and a whole host of skeptical notions about the beginnings of the Christian era.  In today's secular world, I suspect that these are just normal machinations of folks who really don't believe in much else that the secular manifestation of "what ever feels good must be OK".  Of course, this selfish, inward view of the world really doesn't address anything but satisfying that persons  own wants and needs and doesn't even come close to addressing all of the issues we encounter each day in our society.  I think that a major problem today is that selfish, inward direct world view.  That, "what's in it for me" attitude that keeps a person so wound around  satisfying their own wants and needs that they can't  be concerned about anyone else.  

OK, OK, yes, I would be the first to admit that the "Christians" generally don't do so well either and certainly haven't set a very good example over the years, well centuries.  But, as we re-examine our lives, we can change - all of us - and place a different focus on what really is important.  I think that generally American society agrees that things are not going very well right now - violence, rich getting richer, poor getting poorer, middle class fading away, poor job opportunities, and the list goes on.  Many folks blame our current president and his administration for all of this, but I think it's more deeply rooted in the selfish, inward looking attitude of most people today.  The "me" generation has turned into the "me first" generation.

Now, you may call me naive about all of this if you like.  I do know and believe from my own  experience that caring for others before myself is highly satisfying.  Having taught in  schools and  adult ed for over 40 years, I recognize that self sacrifice to help out someone else is the only way to go.  Why do I believe that way?  Because I believe what St. John wrote all those years ago.

Indeed, he and the others witnessed something remarkable.  It dramatically changed their lives so that they couldn't keep it in.  They had  to tell others about this new way of life that they had learned.  I believe their  story.  After 2000 years of witness and looking at all of the good that sincere, holy folks have done, I just know that this way of life is really worth trying.  I don't like what the secular option offers at all.  So, yes, I really believe in Jesus Christ with my whole heart, mind, and soul.  I really believe that He walks with me every day, whether I recognize  it  or not.  I really believe that He helps me make right  choices when I rely on him  rather than my  own resources.  All I know is that this truly Christian way of life is far more satisfying than seeking all the money, power, and prestige in the world.  I've tried the other way and it just doesn't cut it.  I am more at peace now than I have ever been.  Yes, my physical abilities and energy  prevent me from doing much about it right now, but the attitude and disposition is critically important to "getting it  right".  

My only wish is that everyone would step back from all that  is going on right now in our country:  the bitter  political struggles, the  hate, the anger,   the selfish pride, the  influence peddling, and so.  Stop ! Look at what is really important in your own life.  Now, stop and look again.  Turning your outlook to others and accepting what John talked about - the real Christian life - not the one that has been perverted by secular values.  

Pope  Francis talks about this all of the time.  We really need to listen to what  he is saying!  He is calling us to care for the less fortunate, the poor, the helpless.  He is calling us to turn our backs on the glamor and glitter of modern, consumer society.  He is calling us to convert our lives from the selfish, wasteful, wanton, and destructive lifestyle; open ourselves to the Love of God, and create a new economy that really cares for all people as  being a precious gift from a loving  Father.  Wow.  Wouldn't that make Christmas really meaningful.    Well, I guess it's something to hope for and spend time working towards.  Try it.

20 December 2014

Salt & leaven

From Sacred Space on Wednesday:

And, if Jesus was totally incarnated in the world so that he could communicate the message of God’s love to the world and for the world, then we, too, must be totally incarnated. We are not true to our calling if we think that, in order to be true to Jesus, we have to separate ourselves from a material and sinful world. We cannot be the “salt” of the earth, unless we are fully inserted into it. But only when we also fully identify with the values and concerns of the Kingdom. Otherwise we are salt without taste.

This got me to thinking a little about the OFS "From Gospel to Life and Life to Gospel" motto.  I think that there is a strong corrollary between the concept of being salt and leaven and the OFS motto.  The thing that struck me when I read the passage from Sacred Space is the concept of being "fully inserted into it."  One of the things that I have heard over the years is to not to allow the world to insuinate itself into your practice of faith.  I think that too often it means try to competely avoid the  world altogether.  Now, I know that we have religious comtemplatives who do separate themselves from the world and how important that it is for them to do so.  But, we who are lay people cannot really afford to do that.  We do have to be in the world and to a certain sense of the world, because without being "fully inserted" we cannot effect the kind of change that we seek.  When you look at it, we are the only ones who can effectively reach into every corner of today's world.  That's why the Vatican Fathers emphasized our role in the evangelization of the church.  After all, if you add salt to a dish or leaven to the dough, you really mix it in to get the full  effect of its characteristics.  Interestingly, the dish or the dough doesn't change the salt or the leaven, it's the  other away around.  So, that becomes our mission.

So, we come from our faith, from our Eucharistic celebration, from our prayer, and from our study of the Magesterium of the Church into the daily lives of people.  Through our example, our words, and our witness we affect the kind of change envisioned by God - to create a more loving, compassionate, and  grace filled environment which ultimately allows us to fully praise and  worship His unimaginable greatness.  Because of our strong faith, our strong witness to the love of God, and the compassionate care for everyone that emanates from that love, we can effect change  in today's society.  We are immersed in the daily lives of our family, friends, co-workers, fellow students, and even strangers; but, when we truly act as salt and leaven, we do become "totally incarnated" in those situations and because of our overwhelming joy, grace, and love toward others, we make a big difference.  Because of this difference, we can affect all of the situations and issues that present themselves in our daily lives, even those that seem so intractable today.  So, we must step our to become salt and leaven and be "fully incarnated" in the world today.

15 December 2014

Gaudete Sunday - 2014

Most of you will recognize the title as the name of the third Sunday in Advent.  Even though I propose that we  talk about current events, sometimes these topics do overlap.  As I was listening to the homily on the TV  mass yesterday and idea struck me that seems especially appropriate for the way things have been recently in our county.  

As you all know, there have been many demonstrations about the death of young minority men at the hands of white police officers. A few days ago, I viewed a YOUTUBE clip from a campus security video of an "arrest" on an empty street in Iowa City.  It's pretty clear from the video that the officer did just about everything wrong to this young man.  But what it highlighted to me was just how agressive some of our police officers have become, when a little more tact, gentleness, and simple  kindess would probably work just as well.  Emphasizing this point was the piece on CBS Sunday Morning yesterday where a real Secret Santa gave officers $100 bills to randomly distribute to people. The piece shows the officers stopping people and then giving them the $100.  There were a lot of police personal cameras showing the hugs (best kind of interaction with the cops).  It reminded me, and really anyone who cared to draw a conclusion, that most of our trusted officers are still trusted to do the right things.  Too often we hear about the bad apples, like with the priest child abuse situation, that we forget that most, except that few, are doing what they should be and in many times going beyond to help others in their chosen field.  We need to remember that the bad new sells and that we don't hear about all of the good that is done on behalf of others.  

Now, the question is kind of how did it get this way.  One of the major issues that I continue to see is that of selfishness.  We have so emphasized personal rights that we have nearly forced everyone into the corner of being selfish.  When I was teaching I could see this transformation over the years between 1970 when I began and 2012 when I retired.  Students became more and more self centered and so rights conscious that they could indeed proclaim, "You can't touch me."  Unfortunately, our self centered nature manifests itself so easliy.  I think it's called pride.

In any event, in this season of Advent we are challenged to re-think how things have been going and make efforts to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.  For many people, that last sentence is just a bunch of fancy religious words, but let me share my idea that I alluded to in the first paragraph.  Usually, we talk about getting ready for the Christ Child as a physical fact, you know, putting the statue in the crib in our Nativity display.  But what I think that we really need to do is to prepare ourselves by turning away from our own selfish desires and find something to do every day to help someone else's life become easier to live.  Not a big revelation really, but just making that effort every day (kind of like the old Boy Scout's Motto "Do a Good Turn Daily) to make a real difference in a persons life.  Looking outward away from one's own personal needs, wants, and desires completely changes ones outlook.  It is so easy to make this change.  Folks just need to do it.  

Once a person make this shift from inward to outward, they can really begin to prepare their heart to become the manger to receive Jesus.  A generous heart is a great repository for the love that God showed us with the incarnation of Jesus.  The Great Love comes to us every day when we have that generous heart.  The incarnation settles within us and grows and makes us more loving, forgiving, patient, and kind.  What better solution to our societal enmity that this.  But, we must freely choose to make this change.  It cannot be forced by God or any one else.  Freely chosen to let our hearts become the manger that receives the Lord, not just on 25 DEC, but every day.  That is our salvation!

09 December 2014

The Lost Sheep

Today's Gospel message is the story of the 99 sheep and the one lost and how the shepherd will go look for that lost  sheep and be jubilant when it is found.  I have always found great  comfort in this scripture, because is demonstrates the lengths to which God will go to bring us  back to the fold.  I  mention this because as I read the incoming news messages from the various feeds in my e-mail, I occasionally encounter comments from someone who espouses "reproductive freedom" for women and whose comments are full of anger, emnity, maybe even hate and a real lack of compassion for those who do not believe as they do.  Part of what I find so disconcerting is the violent language that they use against their particular target that day.  The "choice" folks are so vociferous about everyone understanding their belief but do not understand the contradiction in their refusal to allow others of us to hold similarly stong beliefs about the need, the charge, the command to honor the "seamless garment of life."  Of course, the "life side" hasn't helped this discussion with its  proponents who claim violence in behalf of their cause as well.

I miss the compassionate and moderate voice of  Cardinal Bernadin who first proposed this consistent ethic of life in January, 1984, at a lecture at Fordham University and then amplified it on March 11, 1984, at a lecture in St. Louis.   Unfortunately, many of our pro-life folks have  been successful  in narrowing our focus to the single issue of abortion and all of its ramifacations.  I  sincerely believe that we need to harken back to that day in 1984 and re-exame Cardinal Bernadin's comments and fully understand just how comprehensive our belief in the life issues of today must be to fuflly realize the validity and truth of our position on life.  For God did not create a minisicule, singular entity with a narrow range of vision.  He created us in  "our image" and that behooves us to understand just how comprehensive our practice must be.  

We must include all of life in our efforts, for to do otherwise ends in the political position that we find ourselves today: a party in control of legislation who says that they suscribe to life issues, but  in reality ignore the large expanse that is Catholic Moral Tradition.  Our Tradition is inclusive.  When we narrow it down to a single issue, no matter how important, we indicate our willingness to give in on all of the other important issues that comprise our life on earth today.  With all due respect to our leaders in this field who claim otherwise, I believe that the good Cardinal had it right, much more so that any of us admit.  

Our challenge, our call, or mission is to promote the entire value of life from its natural beginning to its natural end.  WE CANNOT COMPROMISE ON THIS TENET !!!!  All of life is precious and must be protected from attacks it receives from secular society and the "throwaway culture" of today's world.  Unborn babies, poor children, homeless, unemployed, immigrants, and so on and on are part of our comprehensive and grace filled ministry.   When I look back at the charge from the Old Testament prophets, they always say "take care of the widows, the alien, and so on".  God has always been consistent.  He loves all of us equally well.  How, then, can we do any less.   When we single out a single issue (repetition  intended) we say that some are less important of our prayer, action, and ministry.  That is just not so.  Our faith is a comprehensive one - NOT a single issue.  Our God calls us to love all equally well, not just some.  

And so back to the coarse language of the "repoductive freedom" author from yesterday:  we must love her with the same gracious,  caring compassion that we do the pre-born child.  We must extend our compassion to all who need a deserve our care.  We must believe and live  a CONSISTENT ethic of life to properly fulfill our obligation to love God and others.

May God Give You Peace!

08 December 2014

Immaculate Conception - 2014

Well, today is one of those very special days in the life of the Church.  We celebrate something rather miraculous.  Today, we celebrate the fact that Mary was conceived without sin.  Now, that is quite remarkable when you look at it, because all of us are admitted sinners and she was one of us.   But to do what He has to do, God needed a special way to accomplish it.  How could He truly show us His love, without becoming one of us - fully, wholly, completely, undeniably?  So, he blessed Mary so much that in his perfection, he could enter this world and show us that love he had been showering on us from the beginning of time.

We heard in the first reading today that Adam ate the apple and then hid from God, in his shame.  Interestingly, right away God is out looking for  Adam.  Yeah,  He finds him and  boy is Adam (and us) in a lot of trouble, but already God is trying to repair the broken relationship caused by our selfish choice.  Today's celebration is just another step in the holy search for our soul - to return us to the original happiness in which God created us.

Our response can be really simple, but we usually choose overthink everything and make it all so complicated.   We could just as easily follow Mary's lead and say "OK, I will do whatever you want."; but, too often we just think that we know better and let all of those vices, you know, pride, etc. get in the way of our true relationship with God.  Wouldn't it be nice, if just once, we could let go of our selfish desires and look toward this loving, creator God who only wants us to be in union with Him in joy, peace, grace, and hope.  Why do we have to always think that we know better.?

Today, let each one of us look beyond the complexity of the theology of today's mystery and just simply accept the love given, open our hearts fully to this love, think of others for a change, and rest in the peace of this wonderful Grace.  Be nice to someone today out the greatfulness of God's love for you.  It doesn't hurt and you might just learn a new way to interact with other people.

May God Give You Peace !

03 December 2014

God's Love

"Our  culture has lost its sense of God's tangible persence and activity in our world.  We think that God is to be found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed from our everyday relationships.  But, if this were the case, if God could not act in the world, his love would not be truly powerful, truly real, and thus not even true, a love capable of delivering the bliss that it promises.  It would make no difference at all whether we believed in him or not. Christians, on the contrary, profess their faith in God's tangible and powerful love which really does act in history and determines its final destiny: a love that can  be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ's passion, death, and ressurection ."
                                                                    Pope Francis - Lumen Fidei - #17

What this says to me is that those who have become so involved in the secular style of our social fabric have turned their back on the reality of God's love being so involved in our lives that it makes a definite impression on our lives.  This is not helped by those who call themselves Christian but spend all of their time worrying about getting into heaven and all of the scrupulous activites that will get them there.  In such an effort, they overlook how each day we can and should express the ineffable love of God to each other in our reactions to other needs, compassion to their circumstances, and  activity to help improve their lives over our own personal needs.  In other words, personal faith has  become so prevalent that the faith and love of abiding communites has been shifted to a secondary level of experience.  It is the communal love of the Trinity that provides us the example of our own communal experience and how we are to interact with each other in grace, charity, and goodness.  As we move through our daily lives, we must refocus on the action of God's love in our lives and its persitent pursuit of us to become involved in the sarament of living the shared life, not ony with Him, but with each other as equals and brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are reminded today in the last two lines of Psalm 18 into day's Office of the Readings, "With you I can break through any  barrier, with my God I can scale any wall."  So when we fully cooperate with this pervasive love of God, we can defeat any obstacle to bringing this love into our world.  May God help us learn to give up our own pride and follow His gracious, generous, and fulfilling infective love.