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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Remain in My Love, a reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter

13746Have you ever heard someone say, “I used to go to church, but I’m not welcome now.”? These words, and variations of them, may be spoken in anger, sadness, resignation, but most always in hurt. Hearing them breaks my heart.

What church doesn’t welcome/like God’s people? God’s longing is to draw everyone in relationship with God, as members of the mystical Body of Christ in the world. All three of today’s readings orient us towards God’s invitation to all people, offered in love, and made manifest through our own participation and action.

image002First we hear about Cornelius, a Roman citizen, who prostrates himself before Peter. Without hesitation, Peter tells him to get up, reminding Cornelius that he too is human, not divine. We are all human, and Jesus – who is divinity enfleshed, came to draw us into deeper relationship with God through one another. Peter tells Cornelius that God shows no partiality, and that every nation that “fears him and acts uprightly” is “acceptable” to Him. At this point, the Holy Spirit “fell upon all who were listening to the word.” Such an event is shocking to the “circumcised” who were amazed by God’s generosity and welcome to those they considered outsiders.

This makes me wonder why God’s generous welcome remains Continue reading

Saturday Lazy Blogger Edition

Can_call_you_back_Im_with_piece_of_string_Cartoon_print_by_Leo_Cullum_Published_in_The_New_Yorker_on_17_2005It hit me this morning… I have neglected you little bloggy blog, and you brilliantly beautiful blog readers. Nothing is wrong, just my typical post Christmas slowdown. In any case, if you are a new reader, welcome. If you have been with me for long or short while, thank you. If you found your way here today due to reading my reflection today in Give Us This Day – I am grateful that you made the journey.

Anyway, the cartoon to the left kind of says where I am. January  is typically my lazy month. In reality, I have been busy here, doing some January-ish things, such as cleaning and organizing. Also, I have some talks/teaching/retreats/travel coming up, not to mention some writing deadlines, so there’s that. In the very near future I will post Continue reading

Making time for prayer #whynot

whynotThe other day I posted about New Year’s Resolutions – or lack of them. If you read the post then you know that they have never been my thing – and that I have been prompted by the Spirit to ask the question #whynot? Why not try something new or different, something that has been long desired – or recently imagined – and see what happens? Most change, as we know, comes slowly. Many times one small change can bring forth more sweeping ones over time.

One thing that seems to come up for a lot of people is the desire to pray; either to begin a regular prayer practice, or to deepen an existing one. Speaking as the world’s most undisciplined person, I can tell you that the only consistent practice in my life is Continue reading

Hungry, Naked, and Sick

10702060_765501393522463_5332331349274774028_nYou heard the Gospel on Sunday, right? Well maybe some of you did, maybe some of you didn’t. Here is a snippet from Matthew 25:

For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’

This is Jesus speaking to us, reminding us of our Christian life and vocation. It is one of the most powerful Gospels, clearly telling us what to do if we want to follow and serve Jesus.

In early 2012 I was invited to contribute a few gospel reflections to a book that was being put together by Deacon Jim Knipper; the book would be sold to benefit others and his working title for his enterprise was “Homilists for the Homeless.” While flattered, and slightly mystified to why I was invited along, I said yes – imagining one of those spiral bound books you can get made up at Staples, sold in Jim’s parish gathering space. Was I ever wrong!

Imagine my shock and surprise when the dawn began to break in my head and I realized that I would be in a book with a number of spiritual and religious giants who were heroes of mine, such as Richard Rohr OFM. Then there was James Martin SJ, whom I had interviewed by phone once, and corresponded with a little – another person who inspired me regularly. These two were the big ones for me, but there were many others. This first volume of Homilists for the Homeless gathered voices that were ordained and lay, Catholic and other Christian, male and female, to break open the Scriptures for each Sunday and Holy Day in the Catholic liturgical year. And the title? Back to today’s Gospel, the book would be called “Hungry, and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C.”

We’ve been busy since then, still hearing that Gospel in our hearts and publishing “Naked, and You Clothed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle A” last year. This November we have released our third volume in the series, “Sick, and You Cared for Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle B.”

This is new for this year - a box set of all three volumes. Available  at this link.

This is new for this year – a box set of all three volumes. Available at this link.

We’ve also been blessed richly, selling many, many books. The result has been that over $30,000 has been distributed to our selected charities for our first two years. We look forward to what the future brings and are grateful for our readers and such wide support.

16392_756880211051248_3157002784781926629_nOur list of contributors has grown since year one, keeping all the originals such as Deacon Greg Kandra, Fr. William Baush, and Michael Leach,  while adding some new voices. For example, last year we added names like Sister Simone Campbell SSS, Jan Richardson, Mary Sperry, Gregory Boyle SJ, Michelle Francl, Daniel Horan OFM, and Rob Bell. This year Deacon William Ditewig, Rev. Martha Sterne, and Margaret Blackie were added, and Joan Chittester OSB wrote our forward! All of our cover and interior art is done by Bro. Mickey McGrath OSFS. There are so many voices, names recognizable and others less so, but all quite gifted and passionate. You can find a comprehensive list of our contributors at this link.

I can’t even begin to express what an honor and privilege it is to be a part of such an august group. And that’s my ego speaking – the real honor and privilege comes from knowing just how many others are served because of these books.

Think the books are not for you because you are not a homilist, think again. We have many readers. Some use the books as homiletic resources for preachers from every tradition. Others use it to study, read, and pray. Groups and individuals use the books for weekly prayer and scripture study. I have heard of people bringing them to nursing homes and other facilities; I’m sure that they would be a welcome addition to prison libraries.

If you have purchased our books – we thank you! And if you are just learning about us, please have a look at our website. We are grateful for your purchase which puts the Gospel into action. Please “like” us at our Facebook page and “follow” us on Twitter. visit our Clear Faith Publishing website, where you will find other items for sale. We are also grateful for any social media sharing that you can offer us. Not for us, but for the sake of those who are hungry, naked, and sick. Which in the end, is all of us – completely dependent on Christ, completely dependent on one another.

Family. A belated homily for Holy Family Sunday 2014

family-valuesFamily. Now there’s a loaded word. For some of us, the word “family” conjures happiness, support, love, connection, and community. For others it can mean pain, rejection, and despair. Yet, we are often obsessed with this word, this unit, and this group of people. What is a family? And how do we get to the place where “family” lives?

The word “family” has a powerful meaning in our faith, and that meaning is more painful for some of us. Perhaps it reminds us of who and what we are not, or that we might not be as safe or as welcome as we hope.

Holy_Family4Today, we celebrate the Holy Family, awash in thoughts of Christmas. Families are meant to be places of refuge and goodness, sources of love, but family life can also be challenging. Family is an invitation from God that can bring us to many places we would rather not go.

Luke’s Gospel tells us Joseph has a dream and hears that he must take his family and flee. Can you imagine having this dream and acting on it immediately? I can’t. Yet this is exactly what Joseph does.

1526236_10152173570529516_521892448_nLike any good father, Joseph wanted to provide safety and security for Mary and Jesus; to that end, he did what he had to in order to provide those things. It would be easy to stay in the most literal territory here, and think of a father protecting his family from harm by physically moving them. But what if the dream asks us not to go out into the world, but rather to go more deeply into God’s invitation?

Hold that thought as we head into more challenging ideas from the second reading from Colossians. Some of the words from Saint Paul’s letter run like a fault line through ideological lands, causing some of us to turn away and not listen. If we are too literal, are there any worse words than what Paul writes? “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.”

What?

It is easy to get stuck here. But if we go back to the call to travel more deeply into God’s invitation, we might find something. This is an invitation to be part of God’s family. What happens when we respond to the call of that dream?

Consider today’s texts with some words from that letter to the Colossians, that are not heard today, words in the prior verses:

AMA_logoBut now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.

Did you hear that? “Christ is all and in all.” Being submissive creates a vertical power structure that may be a challenge – causing others to either submit or dominate. With Christ, everything changes! Through the dynamism of the Trinity, we are called to live in mutuality. The old model no longer functions. When we think about being submissive in this context, we might be able to see a way in which we submit to one another, finding the freedom of faithful surrender to the common good.

flight3It does seem like a stretch, but so does waking up and taking your entire family to Egypt after a dream. In fact, doesn’t pretty much everything about Jesus seem like a stretch? It does if we live in our rational heads alone.

So now what?

God sends us dreams that challenge us to surrender. Surrendering to God takes us to new and unknown places, places that may be difficult. Kind of like family life, or most relationships, for that matter! If we can let go and follow, we may understand that we are free. It is a mutuality that demands we surrender our need for power, and give that to God. This is the dream that asks us to drop everything and go to a place of love.

How do we do this? And what kind of family does God ask us to dream into reality in our world?

First, let us examine our own families… Every family is burdened with some kind of division. What can we do to heal the strife? If we have fled, is it time to return? Do we come back to the original spot, or let God lead us to new places? Can we surrender to one another in the love of Christ? Can we dream and find the courage to journey with our families? It is only through our trust in God that we have this freedom, belief in Christ Jesus, and with the movement of the Holy Spirit that we might find our way.

Second, what about our faith communities? Every worship community that I have ever been a part of has had some divisions. Whether it is over the music, the priest, and gossip – divisions exist. In Catholic parishes there is the ever-popular pre and post Vatican II split. If you notice, all of these tussles fall into vertical power structures, even if they are well intended and meant to serve the Lord. If we are the mystical Body of Christ, are we willing to be that Body in the world? And be called forth to journey to places that we never imagined we would go to, but where God invites us?

Third, our world. Big or small government, open or closed borders, love stranger or fear them, war, peace, weapons, torture, hunger, climate change, justice, and more. What if God’s dream says that we need to reposition our hearts and minds? Can we surrender, seeing all as one in Christ? Or at least trying to do this? Can we call “outsiders” our Christian family? Global family? If God created everyone we are family. This can’t simply be a happy-clappy, wake up, and love the world moment. It is the transformation that comes from our relationship with God, and through the journeys on which God leads us.

Now that’s a tall order, and God knows that. We have to start small and work outward. If we begin with the dream to take the journey, we begin first with ourselves, and then our families. The world? If we say yes to the dream, God can mold us into being a family, but we must say “yes,” even if it terrifies us to do so. God is with us in each moment.

What will you dream tonight? What will you do in response to your dream? May we all find the courage in Christ to hear God and listen; to go where we are called to go, forever changed in and by love. The journey is a risk; the decision to not undertake it is a greater risk. What will you dream tonight? And what will you do when you awaken?

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ClothedMe.Cover_.Full_-e1372305936491This homily is part of the compilation, Naked and You Clothed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle A, featuring Richard Rohr OFM, James, Martin SJ, William Bausch, Rob Bell, Gregory Boyle SJ, Mike Leach, Simone Campbell SSS, Jan Richardson, Deacon Greg Kandra, Christine Valters Paintner, Dan Horan OFM, the art of Mickey McGrath OSFS, and the writing of others, including me. This book is published by Clear Faith Publishing, and is available at this website. The book is $20 with proceeds going to charity.

If I am honest, I was most ambivalent about receiving this particular Sunday, but I figured that was what was asked of me, that was what I would do. If I occupied a pulpit, what else would I do? I would preach. After praying this came out and it was submitted months ago. I had truly forgotten all about it until I read a post at PrayTell about some of the feelings that Holy Family Sunday instills in some of us. So here it is.

Please consider supporting our project with your purchase. If you order by 12/31/13, you can get our first volume, Hungry and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C for only $16!

Thanks for reading today. It would be a surprise if everyone agreed with me, so I hope that some of you will comment.

Life & Books – Flawed and beautiful, broken and blessed

1469778_584035771669027_1808076260_nA little over a month ago, I wrote about the latest edition in the Homilists for the Homeless series, Naked and You Clothed Me; Homilies and Reflections for Cycle A. Since then we went to press, found a missing page, had to go to press again, and we are shipping. Upon shipping, we discovered the creative use of an out-of-cycle-gospel, from one of the authors… that one’s staying. Our book, life, the whole thing – flawed and beautiful, broken and blessed, right?!

Yes, indeed.

So now, broken and blessed, flawed and beautiful, I would like to tell you a little more about our book. Yes, I know – I’m in it, so I am biased. What can I tell you? I’m flawed, too. Beautiful? I’ll leave that one up to you.

ClothedMe.Cover_.Full_-e1372305936491If you are not already familiar with our series, our first book came out last year; Hungry and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C. When I was first contacted by Deacon Jim Knipper, our founder, editor, and publisher, in early 2012, he told me about his idea for a book of homilies and reflections based on the three year lectionary. What I heard was that a small book, maybe spiral bound (I have a vivid imagination, what can I tell you…) like a parish cookbook, that we could sell to raise money for charitable causes. Now Jim never said small, spiral bound, but that’s what I heard.  I went along on my merry way and began to work on my assigned Sundays, and then he mentioned something about James Martin, SJ. *gulp* Excuse me, who? And then Richard Rohr, OFM. *what the what?*

I gasped for breath thinking, “Wait? You mean THE Richard Rohr who I read when I returned to church in 1990, the one that encouraged me to stay in church? THAT Richard Rohr?” Yes, that Richard Rohr. That James Martin. And me – haha – in a book together!?! Good bye, spiral binding! I soon learned of the many well known contributors, and some less known, and then me. In a book. Together. Wheee! I was humbled, terrified, grateful, and excited.

In any case, our book exceeded all expectations, selling many copies, that benefited the selected charities, and winning awards. So now we are back for the second year in the three year cycle. We have added a lot of new authors, and retained all the existing authors. Check out the photo at the top of the post to see who is included.

Please visit our new website at Clear Faith Publishing, where you will also find Christmas cards, calendars and some books by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS.  Yes this is a shamless plug for our book (charity!), and for Br. Mickey’s work, but what can I tell you – as a human, I am flawed, possibly beautiful (that’s God’s work,not mine!), broken, and very definitely blessed.

Thanks for your consideration. And if you are inclined to share this via social media, please do! Thanks!