Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice!

imagesAt a time that stood in the shadow of notorious papal scandal and other church corruption, a time of great distrust of the church, a saint came along to who would change some of this. This man had a great desire to counter these feelings of suspicion and a lack of trust, and replace them with a love of the Lord. If you were walking around Rome in the 16th century you might have spied him, perhaps standing in a piazza or on a street corner. He might stand out because he was frequently seen wearing absolutely ridiculous clothing and sometimes with half of his beard shaved off. What a sight! It was in this way that St. Philip Neri helped to change the course of church history, and bring many souls to know Christ.

While Neri is known for his extraordinary evangelizing, it was this offbeat approach that helped change lives. By joyfully using his extraordinary sense of humor, St. Philip left a huge imprint upon the church and the world. All this was accomplished by Continue reading

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Believe

c63d87b84b0f6d444b27419971cceb5f“They should make a postage stamp with him on it,” one guy told us at his wake. “I owe him everything,” said another. “He believed in me. He changed my life.” This is from a column in the December 4, 2015 issue of Commonweal magazine, entitled “Keeping the Books, Owen McGowan, RIP” by regular contributor Jo McGowan. These are words that were said about her father Owen, who died in August, and they reveal a moving tribute to a great man. I was particularly struck by the sentence, “He believed in me. He changed my life.” It reminded me of Jesus, the one we await this and every Advent.

Not long after reading the column, I opened an email from a friend who does the work of the saints – she teaches at an inner city elementary school. The email contained a link to a video that I present in this link. By the way, I can only share the link, I can’t get the video to embed. It will give you a pop up saying that if you are not signed into your TWC account, you can only view a limited number of videos; just click watch video and it will bring you to the site.) In any case, if you did not or could not watch the video, the story is about an after school mentoring program at the school where my friend works. My friend is Christine Hannan, and she is in the video. The program pairs adults with kids for five years, helping them to learn how to read. The story blew me away. Five years is a long time for a person to give, but imagine what that may yield! Not only does the child have help with reading, but the child also forms a powerful and consistent bond with an adult who is focused on them. In the end, I was reminded of the power of what happens when people believe in us.

If there was any doubt of God’s belief in humanity, the incarnation of Christ, born as a vulnerable infant in challenging circumstances should have clarified the obvious. However, many still struggle – whether they don’t believe that God believes in them, and in daily life, that no one believes in them.

In Advent we are called to this quiet waiting, and every year it can become more challenging. For example, consider this:

Two things immediately spring to mind, well – immediately after I shake the creepy Orwellian doom feeling out of myself. One is that our capacity as humans for waiting is at this point grows ever more culturally eliminated. The second is that it is no wonder so few people believe in God. Why bother when if you are in a position to have all the economic wherewithal to access the mighty drone wonder, who needs to pray? Pfffft! Jesus may be shoved aside by the brilliance of Jeff Bezos and his never ending desire to reinvent the world. That is not always a bad thing… but, just think about how his ingenuity can steal our attention from others – and from God. People worry about our president making himself into some all powerful king? No worries there, Bezos seems to move forth with that with almost no scrutiny. But I digress! I am not here to pick on a rich and powerful man who can fulfill your every dream. He can spur on the economy and fulfill your dreams very well –  long as you can pay, that is.

Anyway, my point being – if we can have our material goods delivered by drone, who needs to pray, when one can simply pay? Why wait, when immediacy is a click or two away? And why bother waiting for God who will soon appear as a baby, when due to your frustration boils over not being able to afford the goods or the cost of the drone flight? There are many barriers to God in the material world, but the material world is where we are, as we watch and wait for the very incarnation who wishes to join us here. Jesus comes into the world, illuminating the darkness. He does not to eliminate our every problem or pain, but he is here be one with us in it.

Whether or not you believe in God, God believes in you. Whether or not you believe in Jesus, Jesus believes in you. The act of believing, having faith and hope in another is a vital step on the pilgrimage of Advent, as well as the pilgrimage of life. With faith and hope in Christ Jesus in his one of his least powerful looking forms, as a child, we see a new light that guides us on new paths. We must find ways to twin waiting and belief, fueled always by the One who believes in us, and who in great mercy – waits for us, as we wait for him.

As we go forth today, maybe we can bring a little light into the darkness by doing what we learned about Owen McGowan doing in the first paragraph – believing in someone. Today, may we come to know more deeply, that someone believes in us.

 

Still waiting

adventcandlemotionweek2Thank you for the great response to Saturday’s post about the “gunrack in the manger.” As you can tell, I was full of angst, and while things are not “better,” I am deeply comforted and well informed by comments here, comments at the Albany Times Union version of the blog, and on Facebook. I do not get a lot of Twitter love, but I don’t put a lot into it either. (Oh, there’s fodder for another post!)

Another longer post coming on Monday, but for today, a song. It is the Second Sunday of Advent, light another candle, sink into the sheer, even-if-anxiety-inducing, luxury of sitting still and… waiting. Even if it is just for the length of the video. Enjoy the quiet and the song.

A gun rack in the manger?

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
-Matthew 10:1, 5A, 6-8

With no plan to post today, some things came up during my prayers earlier, so I am going to put them out here for you. There are lots of readers, but few commenters. That’s fine, I don’t blog for comments, but I am curious what you think and always grateful to see that someone has written something. You all know what I think, I want to know what you think.

During my prayer, I was very aware of how anxious I am right now. The violence of the world has many of us on edge. How I’d like to present myself as cool, calm, and collected, but honestly, I feel extremely shaky. To be clear about this, it is not the incoming violence that I am afraid of. Really – seriously – not at all. There is no fear in my heart from potential acts of terrorism, not one. Maybe it is because of my life, I feel like I have stared enough evil in the eye for several lifetimes – and I think that gives me a certain perspective. As the old  Sondheim song “I’m Still Here” goes:

“Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all
And, my dear, I’m still here
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here”

What then am I afraid of? I am afraid of our responses to all the violence around us. Afraid? No, honestly – I am terrified. What have we become? For those among us who claim to be following Christ, I think that we are doing a completely, and I do not use this word lightly, sh*tty job. And we are getting worse.

So here we are in Advent, and instead of Advent peace and waiting, we have cries all around saying that we should arm ourselves and be ready. This is absurd to me, completely absurd. Let’s take this a step further and look at ourselves as Christians who may see what is commonly called “pro-life” as the Cardinal Bernadin (of blessed memory) model of “the seamless garment.” All life is connected and all life is worth dignity and respect. ALL. LIFE. ALL. Sorry, I do not mean to shout, but I get very frustrated about the parsing of what lives are worthy. That’s another post though, back to today.

respect-life-2015-469x346So if we are followers of Christ, how is it better to take up arms in order to be “ready?” Ready for who? Ready for what? Yesterday I had a conversation with someone and the notion of an armed citizenry walking around with their guns struck as both as patently absurd – and extremely dangerous.

Returning to Advent, back to waiting, back to creating room in our hearts for the coming Christ I can’t help but say – will you prepare your nativity so that it includes a gun rack? Seriously, I cannot for the life of me reconcile the idea that arming ourselves keeps us safer. You want to hunt? Go ahead. Guns for target shooting at a range for sport? Have a great time. But an armed household? I’m lost here, help me. Do not understand.

So what on earth, now that I have ranted, does any of this have to do with today’s Gospel? Let’s take a look again…

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Jesus gives his disciples authority to over unclean spirits, to cure every disease and illness. OK, got that. Then Jesus sends them out to find the lost sheep. OK, got that. Cure, raise, cleanse, drive out. Got it.

gun_80So what is the problem? Well – I’m not sure how responding to violence with violence fits in with this message. And no, I’m not talking about the response of first responders at this moment, I am talking about you and me packing heat, “just in case” and making decisions to use said “heat” on our own. I’m having visions of road rage, parking lot power plays, and someone grabbing the last early morning doorbuster sales going sour because of the easily availability of a gun. I’m worried that people will start shooting others because they think that person’s faith is a filthy cult and that they must be a danger. I’m worried for mentally ill people at either end of the firearm. I’m just worried.

As we approach the celebration of enfleshment of God, coming as a helpless infant and becoming a man who dies violently – how do we respond? I am really struggling with the fear within me. And yet I know that the only way forth for me is in the hope of Christ.

IMG_2529We are a people in darkness and we know that we have, we do, and we will see a great light. Can we please lay down our arms and go about the real work that we have been given? I’m so anxious, but I’m trying not to be. How can I be this anxious when I see what I have “given without cost.” Today, may I go and “give without cost” to all whom I encounter. Will you join me in Christ? Because I cannot bear the thought of the gun rack in the manger, and please – I cannot do this alone.

This post is dedicated to the children of Sandy Hook, holy innocents for whom we did so little. I am so sorry that we failed you and continue to do so by more shooting, more guns, more fighting and more death. Forgive us, dear children. Forgive us, Lord.

sandy-hook-child-victim-collage(I am not kidding about what you think. Please respond in the comments. All comments must be approved, so feel free to write one that you do not want approved, but say that up front – I really just want to know. I hope that people speak up. Forgive typos etc, this was really written and posted quickly.)

Wait for the Lord

11806545_800_800Today, a short post. This music was in my head, so I am sharing it here as we all come together to pray and wait in Advent. Wait for the Lord by Taize. If this is a busy day for you, may this be 5 minutes (almost 5 minutes!) of peace for you. Advent waiting sometimes means carving out little moments where we can, as we wait for the Lord.

Not mine, dear friend

IMG_0423_0 ¡Presente! Today is the 35th anniversary of the martyrdom of Maura Clarke M.M., Jean Donovan, Ita Ford M.M., and Dorothy Kazel O.S.U. in El Salvador.  These words from Jean Donovan, the one lay missioner among the sisters speaks to their presence the violent and war-torn land.

The Peace Corps left today and my heart sank low. The danger is extreme and they were right to leave…. Now I must assess my own position, because I am not up for suicide. Several times I have decided to leave. I almost could, except for the children, the poor bruised victims of adult lunacy. Who would care for them? Whose heart would be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and helplessness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.

During this time Continue reading