Resilience rising

“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,
who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?” -Acts of the Apostles 10:47

Despite being in the Easter season, I have been a bit discouraged about the state of the church. There is so much division and it is wearing me down. Yet, when I saw today’s first reading from Acts, I took heart.

Church is a field hospital, to quote Pope Francis, a place for the weary, the longing, the marginalized, the poor. Guess what, no matter our station in life, we are all of these things at various times whether we realize it or not. I’m always heartened to read this passage from Acts as a reminder that “God shows no partiality.” How could God? When I tell people that God loves each of us equally, no matter how bad we are, they often go pale and silent, or shake their heads no no no. Mostly because they feel unworthy, not because they are deeming another unworthy. I’m glad that I never fully appropriated a fear of an angry and capricious God, but I worry because so many people have done so.

Back to my field hospital imagery, I see church as a place where we come to be healed, to share, to offer ourselves completely – both at church and in life. The Eucharist is at the heart of it all, our divine nourishment. We bring ourselves as the offering as Christ has done, the broken off piece that we receive is what makes us whole and one in Christ. The dynamism always makes me tingle with excitement, even when I am at my discouraged worse! God is always waiting to feed us, tend to us, heal us, bind us up with love – no matter what. Sure we have to offer ourselves in utter vulnerability, our hearts open to reveal our wrongs that God will make right. That’s the hard part – not God.

On Saturday I was at the supermarket and ran into my former professor, friend, and priest, Richard Vosko. He lives nearby and I often see him amidst the spices or the pasta! This time he was in line ahead of me, I wasn’t sure it was him – masks! “Richard… ” I said tentatively, and he immediately said “Hello Fran!” What a delight to encounter him. He asked me how I was feel about church and I shrugged (paraphrasing here), admitting to my discouragement. Ever the people pleaser, after telling him that I still loved my job, I added that I always try to have hope.

Richard, never one to mince words, shook his head. He told me an anecdote about hope, one he has shared before – a reminder that hope is not always what is needed. Then he offered an alternative – resilience. “How about that?” he asked. Immediately I experienced an interior shift, knowing that resilience is precisely what I needed to focus on.

Trust me, I am still as Catholic as I ever was. And I do love my job, although it is exhausting as we labor on during Covid-19 and a lot of diocesan changes. As anyone who is friends with me or my spouse and daughter will tell you, I am a difficult person when I love someone or something. Critically examining everything and asking way too many questions, probing deeply. I do it to myself too. It is no different with the Church, I have issues and I discuss them with Jesus at length in prayer.

Today I awakened to a real Mother’s Day surprise. I cried when I saw what Mark and Erica had done for me. Then I went off to pray. As I did I was aware, thanks to all the moments that had preceded that one in recent days and the current moment, that it was not hope rising in my heart, but a desire for resilience. That’s what I will be praying and living with, a necessary adjustment, a refocus – a calibration actually.

My wish and prayer for you is to find resilience – or whatever you need to find, whether in nature, a pew, or even the grocery store.

“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.”

4d728183cfc6215fb97bbe073949586f“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34

God shows no partiality. God made us all, God loves us all, equally no less. God shows no partiality. As the lector for the second reading at mass on Saturday evening, I was grateful to proclaim these words, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.”

On this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we hear these words and are invited to reflect upon them. What does the phrase say to you?

Jesus gets pulled in a lot of different directions. In fact, I am guilty as charged for doing some of this pulling. What makes for a more effective argument than trying to wrap it around Jesus?

Yesterday I heard a cleric on the radio, a rather high-ranking US cleric, talk about some things that might make me think that the unemployed might be lulled into not looking for a job if their unemployment benefits continue. He also talked about how the best weapon against poverty was a two-parent traditional marriage. Does God show partiality to traditional two-parent marriages of those who are gainfully employed? I don’t believe that he was saying that, but that is how it sounded. What was the subtle undercurrent of such a conversation? Was this part of the Jesus tug of war?

Baptism-of-Christ-Giottoi-_1305-1The Baptism of the Lord is an invitation for us consider just who we are in Christ through our baptism. We are all invited, God seeks every one of us. For the baptized, it is an awesome responsibility to live in what the sacrament bestowed upon us. We are not special, we are not loved more by God. We have a responsibility to bring others into our communities. Baptism is a sacrament of initiation into a community of believers, into the Body of Christ.

Every time we start pondering who is in and who is out – or who should be out, we are violating our baptismal covenant. If “God shows no partiality,” then how do we live the same way? This is easier said than done, whether we are paupers or princes of the church.

That is why we all need to stop thinking about what we think, and return our focus on Christ. Jesus shockingly asked John to baptize him, something that John “tried to prevent.” What does Jesus shockingly ask each of us? God is full of surprises, and if we are less partial, we just may encounter a few of those surprises. And in this way, may our baptismal promises be renewed, today and always.