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.

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Possessed by possessions and positions

imagesJesus is very clear about one thing in today’s Gospel and if I am honest, it makes me super anxious. I wrote a reflection about this in the current Give Us This Day, but honestly, I just reread the Gospel and it has me in a twist all over again.

We must renounce all of our possessions. I look around our house and think about how much stuff I would love to get rid of, but then I am very slow to actually do so. Sure, I read the articles and books that tell me to spend 15 minutes a day doing one thing. 15 minutes? Are you joking? It would take me a lot more than 15 minutes to figure out where to begin. While I have ditched many an object over the past few years, including letting go of a ton of books, I still have too much stuff. It is a slow work in progress.

Then I think about what Jesus might want me to renounce along with the multitude of books, tchotchkes, and more. What can I declutter from my soul itself? What thoughts, feelings, and more possess me, making no space for Christ himself? That will be the much more difficult portion of renouncing, that much I already know.

This of course is the greatest challenge, to let go of what possesses us both in soul and spirit as well as in our material lives. What a work in progress this is, one I will wrestle with forever. When I think about it I can see clearly that all I need is God, but when I look around I see that I have a lot of baggage that grew out of my wants. Until I dislodge the possessions of obsession, inaction, and distraction, this is going to be a difficult journey…

The journey

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photo Tom Kiefer

Today’s Gospel reminded me of the now well documented photographs of objects confiscated from those who have been apprehended at the border, El sueño americano by Tom Kiefer. For those with any doubt, this has been verified. The rosaries received a lot of attention, but all of the items truly struck me, including the copies of El Nuevo Testamento that was so important to have. There were also the other items, the everyday things like combs, toothpaste, and so forth, as well as items from children.

As if it were not enough that we took away rosaries and New Testaments, now we take their children too. I can’t help but wonder what God thinks of all of this. Ultimately what we have really stolen from people is what little hope and dignity they had left after fleeing lives of extraordinary poverty, extreme and violence, lives with no future. If we stole their dignity and their hope, then I think we are really in trouble.

Right now I am thinking of the martyred apostles sent forth by Christ, unwelcome, considered unwanted and dangerous. To this day, many are killed bringing the light of Christ to others in dangerous places. We all know we cannot take anything on that final journey home to God whether we are an apostle or a beggar, a prophet or a king. In the Kingdom we arrive with only ourselves. Our hope for the Kingdom is for our dignity and integrity to be fully restored in the presence of God. Don’t you think that kind of reconciliation and restoration, at least to some extent, is what God asks of us here? This is our journey in Christ, to go out into the world as beacons of hope and light in his name, disciples always bearing the light of that same Jesus Christ who welcomed, healed, and saved all.

We must hope, we must act

e6853ca75a8d9a974982737f90230aa3During times like these, I cannot help but think of Bl. Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop gunned down as he celebrated the Eucharist. Romero will be formally recognized as a saint on October 14, 2018. A tweet from Tobias Winright, Ph.D. prompted me to look for this particular scene from the film Romero, starring Raul Julia as the Salvadoran archbishop gunned down while celebrating the Eucharist. (I will add that you will see a representation of assassination in the video, be advised.)

In his last passionate homily on March 23, 1980 Romero said:

“I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, to the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, the dignity of the person, cannot remain silent before such abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are worth nothing when they come about stained with so much blood. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuously, I beg you, I ask you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!”

On March 24, 1980 he was gunned down as he consecrated the Eucharist.

We cannot remain silent before abomination, and we must at some point choose to follow God before all else. We must also, if we heard today’s Gospel, choose to love our enemies. Romero fought for justice, with hope for peace – which would include loving those very enemies that we fight. May the Blessed Romero intercede for us as we discern and make our choices for present justice and future hope. We cannot wonder who the next Romero is, we must be our own next Romero, whatever the cost.

Bawana yu Nawe

Bro Mickey Swahili Mary

Reprinted with permission of the artist, Bro. Mickey O’Neill McGrath, OSFS

“Bawana yu Nawe” is Swahili for ” the Lord is with you.” If we believe in God, if we follow Christ, do we believe that the Lord is with us, but not with others?

Today on Sunday, January 14, 2018, Pope Francis presided at mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Among other things, he said this:

I wish to reaffirm that “our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”

How are we called to do those things in our own lives? The first thing might just be to pray, especially if we feel fearful or challenged, and to ask God to open the door to our hearts. As that door opens, the first migrant enters – it is Christ himself.

That is what is meant by the words “the Lord is with you.” With YOU. With ME. With EVERYONE. That literally means every single person, every single human born unto this earth. Everyone, without exception. What we do with that migrant Christ who presses in need upon the door of our heart is up to us.

The Lord is indeed with us all, but it is up to us to let God in. What will we do? Block the way, or fling wide the gate? Will we cite laws and resources? Will we claim fear of the “other?” Or will we, as Pope Francis asks us to, “welcome, protect, promote, and integrate?” These are all verbs, requiring action. We can sit and fret, or we can get up and do what the apostles did in today’s Gospel – get up and go, follow Christ. To do that means to bring down the barriers of fear, and to spring into movement. It does not mean we will not be afraid as we go, it means that we know the Lord is leading the way, so we will follow. Remember –“Bawana yu Nawe.”

UPDATED Innocence and perspective

See below for update!
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Things on my mind today… how we easily pick and choose those for whom “the dignity of all human life” matters for and who it does not matter as much for, and also Odoardo Focherini. The phrase “dignity of all human life” no doubt brings forth images for you, and meaning.  I’m guessing that you may have never heard of Focherini, unless if you, like me, read about him in today’s Give Us This Day.  Reading about him on today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents reminded me that perspective and context are everything, and that makes picking and choosing our moral precepts problematic.

Liturgically in the church today is the day when we recall the massacre of the Holy Innocents by Herod. Enraged to learn that the magi had deceived him, old Herod decided it would be a good idea to just go ahead and murder the children of Bethlehem. You know, he was throwing a wide net “just in case.” We wouldn’t want any dangerous babies around, would we?

Obsessed as I am with matters of immigration debate, the irony is not lost on me and I find myself with a bitter taste in my mouth. Last week on December 21 it was reported that the White House was considering a policy where children would be separated from their parents in cases of undocumented human beings crossing the border illegally. You can read about that here. Honestly, reading terms like “family units” or “unaccompanied alien children” (also known as “UACs“) makes me sick to my stomach. This is how dehumanizing human beings, all born with the dignity of human life in them, takes off.

If you find yourself feeling Continue reading

Invitation

imagesI’m feeling very nostalgic for the 80’s these days. Although I was inching my way to 30 and beyond as the decade progressed, it was a time when I arced through many galaxies on the journey to becoming who I am today. And yes – without a doubt – God was woven into every element of every fiber of this time.

You may wonder why I say that… Well, I lived in the juiciest years of that decade as an executive by day, but dressed all in black and skulking around dark, smoky, loud, generally unsavory nightspots when the sun went down. I stayed out too late, I smoked too many cigarettes, I definitely drank too much. And I danced and danced and danced, imagining it happiness at the time.

There were many happy moments, but happiness was what I sought. Happiness was an elusive pursuit, always bolting around the next bend before I could grasp it. And how I tried to gather it up in clenched and greedy fists, fueled by a heart that was Continue reading