Action required

67960967_10157222946030256_1434263191302438912_nNo reason for not writing much lately, just not writing much lately. I was preparing for a seminar I had to give at the Hartwick Seminary Summer Institute of Theology. This was my second visit and I love working with our Lutheran brothers and sisters.

After my session I was the recipient of a ticket to see Show Boat at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown. It has stuck to my heart because of the subject matter – a brilliant musical, well produced with themes of Continue reading

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Moral courage

Today Jon Stewart showed more moral courage in this nearly nine minute speech to Congress than most people show in their lives.

Meanwhile, up the road from DC, at the USCCB meeting in Baltimore, the scene was a little different.  Bishop Robert Barron talked about why young people have left/are leaving the church. He spoke of how Jordan Peterson (sorry, not linking to his page, you will have to go look yourself) has connected to young people through social media. (Here is a link to Jack Jenkins’ report on Religion News Service.)

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At which point I had a moment. Wait, what? What? Who? Why?

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Of course, Catholic Twitter, which was on fire all day, had some fine responses. My first favorite came from Villanova professor of Religious Studies and Theology, Dr. Massimo Faggioli. That was quickly followed by a clever retweet by David Gibson who heads up the Center on Religion and Culture.

On this crock

Of course my wry laughter over their tweets was not enough for my distress over everything else – both at the Congressional hearing with Jon Stewart, nor the USCCB meeting.

It all feels incredibly frustrating, even when tempered with a little dark humor. Moral courage is hard to come by these days, in any circles. When we see it, we know it. May God grant more of it to the Church; we need it. Holy Spirit, please – lead the way.

Each one heard

266297.pToday, Sunday, June 9, 2019 is Pentecost, that great feast of the promised coming of the Holy Spirit.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

Yesterday I read this at church, and as I stood at the ambo, I was filled with a Holy Spirit moment of my own. Having practiced the reading enough to memorize some of it, I was able to look up and out at the congregation before me, I had one of those Thomas Merton moments. If you are not familiar, one day he was standing on a street corner and saw through new eyes, in a Pentecost-like moment.

42b3fc66-c2d1-4bd7-9291-7bc6f6e931fcEveryone looked the same – yet so different to me at that moment. Not unlike what we read in the Acts of the Apostles, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.” Yes, here we were, a church full of Catholics, a big church – literally and figuratively – gathered as one in Christ. At a time when I feel deeply upset and highly frustrated about the Church, I felt awash in a wave of love.

Somehow that love eluded me today as I read some things in the newspaper that were upsetting to me.  In these fractious times, as we grow Continue reading

Kol hakavod

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Flowers and signs sit at a memorial across the street from the Chabad of Poway synagogue on April 28 in Poway, Calif. (Denis Poroy/AP)

UPDATE: Apparently there was a candle light vigil at Agudat Achim in Schenectady last night. I wish I could have been there.

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Vigil at Agudat Achim, Schenectady

As we probably know, there was yet another act of violence in a house of worship. This time at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California.  This is a short video from Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, the spiritual leader of the community. He was shot and has lost a finger. His courage, bravery, and spiritual generosity is amazing. Also, we must remember Lori Gilbert-Kaye who was killed in the shooting. May her memory be a blessing.

We are all in this together, he says – we are all in this together. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, spiritual but not religious, agnostic, atheist. We are all human and we should be united – not killing one another. Yet – we do a pretty good job of hating and killing one another. Eventually no one will be left.

We should all be asking ourselves what we can do to make the world better and then get on with starting that work. One good way is to get involved in interfaith activities. Here in the Capital District I recommend the Interfaith Community of Schenectady and/or Schenectady Clergy Against Hate. If you live in another part of the country, see what options exist for you. Or begin a movement… our world depends on it.

Kol hakavod is a Hebrew phrase that is used to denote honoring someone, or respecting them for their actions.  And Rabbi Goldstein there is no better phrase to use.  May his actions inspire us all.

Burning down the house

EDITMustBurn (1)This morning a friend sent me an op-ed from the Washington Post. It was written by Marc Thiessen; in full disclosure I am not a fan of his work. Thiessen, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush, wrote a book defending “enhanced interrogation methods.” Most of us would call that torture, and it does not square with Catholic teaching, and Thiessen is Catholic. So that is where I stand on him; needless to say I did not love this column and its distinctly not Catholic gloom and doom outlook.

Today I also read a column by the editor of the Albany Times Union, Rex Smith. It too was about burning churches, but took an entirely different tack. In full disclosure once more, I first met Rex in the Albany airport in 2007, when I walked up to him and introduced myself, much to Mark’s chagrin! And years later I began to post my blog as part of the paper’s blogging platform, something I continue to do. Continue reading

American Dreams, American Lies

federalcontact-_imailAs a culture, the United States does not at large value the labor movement. In fact it excoriates it for existing in general, with images of lazy union workers and corrupt union bosses. In this country we “value” individual hard work and being a “team player” – with the team always being management with a focus corporate profits. We value people who work hard and are always busy, because they are the people will reap what they earn. Our history reminds us however, that at one point a person could defy birth class, work hard, and rise up to another socio-economic group. It became the American dream, but mostly it has become the American lie.

Lots of jobs that were once protected by unions are non-existent or they are not part of a service industry that is handled by contractors. For example, think of the numerous janitors, food service, security guards, and other low-wage federal workers. They work for a contractor who gets paid by the government, then they pay their own employees. It is not a great system. But it sure makes it look like we have fewer federal workers! And while a strike means a lot of criticism of workers who strike, the shutdown was capriciously brought forth because of the demands and actions of one person.

During the shutdown one would often hear cries of “oh, they’ll get paid when it is over!” But the problem is that the contractors most likely will never see any back pay. They lost two paychecks which has been devastating for so many of them. This article in the Washington Post was painful to read. There is a bill (that may go nowhere) but if enacted would get back pay for those contractors. We can’t ignore that another shutdown may be right around the corner thanks to the unpredictable behavior coming out of the White House.

blank email headerRight now I am doing a lot of thinking about work, overwork, underpaid work, and economic inequality and injustice. I’m also thinking about how we say our government can’t afford certain things, but we somehow can afford other things. I’m not sure where my thoughts will lead me, but I can tell you this much… justice for those at the lowest rungs, the people who are often told to “work harder” to get ahead, always seems out of their reach. And that does not make America very great at all. It makes the once cherished American Dream into an American Lie. May our elected leaders find their way back to helping those who elect them and not those who line their pockets with money and promises of power. We need more dreams becoming reality and less lies.

I’m reminded of the words of Isaiah, a reminder of God’s justice. May those who are in need, may those who were robbed of their ability to work be compensated fairly.

All you who are thirsty,

come to the water!

You who have no money,

come, buy grain and eat;

Come, buy grain without money,

wine and milk without cost! – Isaiah 55:1

 

Breaking glass

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Eighty years ago, on November 9-10, 1938 the lives of many were shattered. Like shards flying every which way, the existence of Jewish people of Germany was splintered in ways we have yet to recover from. This is the anniversary of the time of evil known as Kristallnacht. The night of breaking glass. Although they may age, and their numbers dwindle, there are those still alive who witnessed these events, such as Ruth Winkelmann and Jill Pauly.

In an almost spontaneous moment this explosive event turned the course of anti-Semitism, creating momentum that would spin out of control. – Of course, the moment was anything but spontaneous if you study the history of that time. Which also signifies the need to pay attention to the current events (like this or this) of our lives. There are so many more, many that we do not even know about.

This short post serves to remind us of how forceful the power of hatred and division is; we are living it right now.  The horrific massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh two short weeks ago, the rally in Charlottesville in August of 2017 are simply two incidents of the rise in anti-Semitism. As for prejudice against people of color, the evidence is so voluminous I hardly know where to begin. The rejection of people of other faiths, especially Muslims is ever present. As for people from other lands who seek a better life in the United States, often arriving on foot seeking refuge and asylum from extreme violence and poverty, there has been an abominable welcome. The list goes on and on, unfurling like a ribbon of infinity unraveling from a spool over all time.

Often the rejection of others is justified in tidy legalistic terms by people of faith. What dissonance this reveals, given that Jesus Christ pretty much spent his entire time of public ministry reaching out to those unwanted ones at the margins, and was himself rejected by the standards of the day. If one claims him as their God I am not sure how one reconciles this belief. I’m not here to judge, but I am curious as I cannot understand how one can believe in that fashion. God does not love white people, Christians, or any one other person more than another.

Ironically the readings for tomorrow (Sunday, November 12) are rooted in what it means to give not from your surplus, but from your very need. This can mean giving away your last bit of food to a stranger, or donating the smallest coin, knowing that your own livelihood may be imperiled by such an act. It can also mean that we are to give of our hearts in ways we simply cannot imagine.

One example of that might be something like stretching the door to our hearts, forcing ourselves to open a bit wider, in pursuit of our God. This could mean starting to see “the other” in a more loving light. Love could be a big leap, so let’s start with seeing “the stranger” at least as someone who is not a threat. That too is part of giving out of your life, not from the surplus. It is what we are called to do, at least those of us who are Christians. We must be transformed through, with, and in Christ. That is hard work, but so far Jesus has not given up on us, so maybe we should not give up so easily either. Just a thought. And trust me, I’m talking to myself as much as to anyone who reads this.  My own struggles with rejecting the other have less to do with race, color, creed, but coalesce around ideology. I’m always trying to keep that heart-door open, but man, does it stick a lot. Where is the WD-40 of grace that I need to lubricate the hinges that will enable the transformation that I myself require?

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This quote is remarkably appropriate pretty much every single day.

For this Catholic, the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht reminds me that Jesus (who was in fact born as a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a Jew – just saying) is forever knocking at the door of our collective hearts.  I’m trying to go open mine – what will you do with yours? One need not be Christian to open the heart, but must be human. When we get to that point, the Kingdom will truly be here.  In the meantime, the only glass to break is that surrounding our own hearts.