Bread line, Lent 1 short

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Seen in Spain, during Camino.

“I gotta put bread on the table!” How often has that line, or something like it been used to justify doing things? Doing things that go against what we know is right. Whether it is not honoring the Sabbath, completing a work assignment that has moral implications, missing time spent with family or loved one… you fill in the blank. We’ve all done it. We all do it.

Today’s Gospel is from Matthew show us Jesus is in the desert being tempted. It has to be hot, challenging, and lonely. He must be exhausted, hungry and thirsty. It would be easy to give in, it would be reasonable even. Right?

But is anything about a life of faith, a life following Christ, ever reasonable in the material sense? Think about that and you have your answer. This does not mean some intense over-scrupulosity that turns self-induced sacrifice into some kind of holy-making exercise. Instead, we are asked to keep God first in our sights and choose accordingly. It means trusting God when the last shred is about to tear away. It is that simple, which indeed that difficult. And it does not always work out in the way we wish for. There’s the rub.

How often do we do what we should not? What else can we do…  we don’t want to end up on the breadline, do we?

(I’m off of social media for Lent. What I am doing is posting a photo a day on Instagram, with a short reflection. Each one posts to Facebook automatically. If you are on Instagram, check it out.)

Can we follow?

gandhiimagesOn this day in 1948, the man who did more to show the world the power of non-violent resistance and peace was assassinated. That man was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi used Jesus Christ as his inspiration and example, although he did not subscribe to the dogma of faith. He was a lifelong Hindu. His peace civil disobedience movement brought forth the freedom of India, once a colony of England.

He offers us an example to follow today. He followed Jesus more effectively than most of us. Can we follow now?

This scene from the 1981 film “Gandhi” is a powerful one indeed. Will we have the peaceful reserve that these people had? It was their fortitude as people of peace, not their weapons, that brought forth change. Can we follow this example? I hope so, because I think we are going to need it.

Ultimate measure

the-ultimate-measure-of-a-man-is-not-where-he-stands-in-moments-of-comfort-and-convenience-but-where-he-stands-at-times-of-challenge-and-controversy

This quote from Martin Luther King, whom we celebrate on Monday, has been on my mind all week. In fact I used it the other day in a post. Today, as we head towards that particular celebration of a civil rights hero, a firestorm erupted on social media.

Apparently Rep. John Lewis of Georgia had an interview with NBC on Friday and he noted that he did not see Trump as a legitimate president. You can see a portion of the interview at this link. Whether or not you agree with John Lewis, he is a man who has given his life over to the betterment of our nation. An early and active leader in the Civil Rights, one of the “Big Six” in the movement during the 60’s. At the head of this group stood none other than Dr. King. Roll Call said of Lewis, “John Lewis…is a genuine American hero and moral leader who commands widespread respect in the chamber.” Ultimately, Lewis’ leadership is not some dotted line or winding road attached to the legacy of Martin Luther King, it bears a direct connection. Connected to this is the legacy of the non-violent protest.

All of this, which you likely know a good deal of already, points to what went down on social media today… In response to Lewis’ interview, the president-elect saw no other path forward than to blast him. Hard. In fact, here it is, 7:45pm on Saturday night and as recently as 20 minutes ago, the president-elect was still tweeting about Lewis.

c2hhls9ucaaqtu2-jpg_largeThis got me to thinking about the King quote in relationship to the two men. What is their measure? John Lewis was a leader of the nonviolent resistance movement in the 60’s, (pay attention people, that is the movement that we all need to focus on!) who has been attacked by dogs and men, and who did not react with violence. Donald Trump who was busy avoiding the draft in the 60’s responds to the slightest criticism with a barrage of angry tweets.

What is the measure of  each man?

Now remember, this is a blog about the intersection of faith and life. So let’s talk faith… I am thinking about another man in another era. He was also known as a man known for his nonviolent acts of resistance. In fact his acts of nonviolent resistance were all about revealing the Kingdom of God to one and all. OK, he did get angry that time and turned over the tables, but nobody got hurt as far as we know. Mostly he Continue reading

What will we choose today?

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Tenderness or severity? What will we choose?

What will we choose today? Tenderness? Severity? We seem to believe that severity is the go to for keeping law and order, but I’m not sure it is all that simple. Many of us profess to follow the Prince of Peace. Severity did not seem to be his thing and here we all are, 2000 years later, still worshiping a man who was hung like a shameful thief on a cross. He never resisted, he did not fight back, he did not choose severity – even when it was chosen for him.Knowing that death was coming for him, Jesus responded to violence by saying

“Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”- Matthew 26:52

What will we choose today? Especially we who follow Christ? Will we “show them” who is in charge, whoever them may be… Black people, Muslims, fill in the blank, there are many “thems.” For some, out of madness and rage, out of destruction, “them” are the police. More death does not bring forth life, it brings forth only more pain, sorrow, anger, and ultimately, even more death.

What will we choose today? Will we blame all of “them” and hold ourselves unaccountable when in fact we all have a role in what is happening? Will we clasp our hands in prayer and pray for a new president to “fix” things? Will we keep saying “if there were no blacksgaysmuslimsdemocratssocialistsimmigrants then we would be ok?”

What will we choose today? And what will be on our heart as we take our last breath, whenever that may be? Will we be glad that we spent more time wallowing in despair or spouting anger? Will we be glad that we used all the power given to us by God to keep order? Or will we regret that severity won the day, leaving tenderness in the dust? Discernment is of the highest order, when we consider each moment of our own precious lives, and of the precious lives of others.

What will we choose today? Why wait for death to find out? What will we choose?

 

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.)

Pope Francis, a dangerous man, part 2

whatthewhat
So, are you still reeling from all the papal news of the past few days? My head continues to spin. I keep thinking, “What the what?” Nothing prepared me for what we are now seeing and living, which reminds me of something that I often say, but do not live very well… “There is no accounting for the Holy Spirit!”

The other day, I wrote about how dangerous Pope Francis might be. As we are told in the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 8:

“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

holy_spirit_memeThat is certainly an understatement! And how the Spirit is alive in our new pope, who clearly has not followed any pre-existing script. As a result, I continue to find him someone who is potentially dangerous. And I love that. As Jesus Christ showed us a long time ago, and as Jesus Christ continues to show us today, nothing is more dangerous than… love.

title otto preminger danger love at work dvd reviewNow before you go off shaking your head, considering this a seemingly insipid thought, please bear with me as I say few more things.  Any of us who are Catholic, or any other kind of Christian, cannot really profess our faith without the knowledge. Can we?

I can’t speak for others, but I am deeply moved by how Pope Francis is present to us. He has showed himself, thus far, to be a man who wants to be of the people, one to serve the poor. And we are all poor. I have no doubt his concerns focus on those who suffer from material poverty, but I also have no doubt that his concerns also focus on those of us who suffer from many other forms of poverty.  Like poverty of the heart, small-mindedness, division, and acrimony. Sounds like a typical day for me… *sigh*

pope-_inaugurationWhen he moved through the crowds at the installation today, he freely reached out and touched people! And I also loved that this is the first time (this is HUGE news unto itself) a Greek Orthodox Patriarch has attended a papal installation since 1054. Yes, that was the date of the East-West Schism. Bartholomew I, who leads the Christians of the Orthodox Church was present. As if that was not enough, then this happened…

Δεν μπορούσα να το πιστέψω, το Ευαγγέλιο ψαλλόταν στα ελληνικά! Χάρη στον Θεό!

I mean, the Gospel was chanted in Greek! Thanks be to God! (Greek was the language of most of the New Testament Scriptures in their original form, not Latin.) It also seems noteworthy to me, that a woman proclaimed the Epistle; I’m not sure that has happened before at a papal mass, but I could be wrong. And the liturgy of the day, St. Joseph’s Day, was celebrated, which I think is great. Joseph was also importantly highlighted in the homily. All of this is so exciting to me, and I find myself turning to many Scriptures as these moments and days go by.

My love for the Gospel is great, and I could point to many stories and parables that touch my heart deeply, but for today, I will focus on two stories that point to how dangerous Jesus was, and how Pope Francis follows suit.

zacchaeus_in_tree_slideThe first is from Luke 19, the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was the tax collector, a most hated man, who was short in stature and long on corruption. My friend Maria L. Evans and I have both imagined Danny DeVito playing him in a movie! This height challenged hustler is up in a tree watching Jesus. The story goes like this:
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”

Needless to say, Jesus appears to be a disappointment to others who have followed him, because he reaches out to the worst guy in town and wants to stay with him.”

James_Tissot_The_Woman_Of_Samaria_At_The_Well_525The other story is possibly my most favorite; the woman at the well, from John 4:4. Perhaps one of my favorite moments in this story is when the Samaritan woman admonishes Jesus for asking her for something to drink.
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.)

That piece of Scripture flashed into my mind as I watched this potentially dangerous scene unfold on the news yesterday.Pope Francis Cristina FernandezWhat is so dangerous about this? I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek as I say what I do, but I do have several thoughts about it all.

First of all, Cardinal Bergoglio and President Kirchner have a history together; one that is not necessarily a smooth one. Yet, he welcomed her, and they literally shared an Argentine tradition, una yerba mate.

mate2Drinking yerba mate is very ritualistic and it involves everyone sharing from the same cup. Perhaps you see where I am headed. This is good eucharistic theology, if you ask me. And thus, the pope, like Jesus before him, becomes a very dangerous man, by doing this so publicly, so openly, so freely, and so early in his pontificate.

Me… I really like it. That Pope Francis did this. Mate? I love the ritual, but I can’t stand the drink itself!  Now, there is a statement that could use a little theological unpacking, but I won’t go there today!

It makes me think of how fussy we can be, especially when at mass, not taking the cup, the Blood of Christ, which is equal in value and meaning, to the host, the Body of Christ. We are afraid of germs. What about the mate drinkers? They share germs. Are we afraid of germs? Are we afraid of one another? Are we afraid of Christ?

I think that this new pope may have some lessons for us along all of these lines. Lessons from a dangerous man, about someone who was really dangerous to many, but who is the savior of us all – Jesus Christ, our Lord.

With that, I leave you to ponder the dangerous power of love at work in the world.