Lent in the time of COVID-19

Last Thursday I offered a video reflection at the parish where I work; I will do the same on Holy Thursday. Here is last week’s video. Even if you are not on Facebook, you can watch the video by clicking the link. At the parish where I worship, I was asked to record a reflection, if they decide to use it, I will post when available.

May your Holy Week, be blessed in these unusual times. I am grateful for you all and please know I hold you in prayer.

Video link is here.

Do not be afraid

Just a short post at a busy time. While I understand the impulse, and have to manage my own desire for it, I am praying about the panic buying in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

Our focus should always be on some kind of life oriented to others, not ourselves. During Lent, the need to practice this way of living becomes even more clear. What does it mean if we give up chocolate, social media, or alcohol, but buy a case of toilet paper? Whatever our Lenten practice is, how does panic buying bring us closer to God? I’m not asking about the desire to panic buy, but rather the act itself. The desire is no surprise, the act is where we encounter something deeper. And if we have done the panic buying, how will we proceed with both the material goods and the internal spiritual journey?

My panic buying Continue reading

Even now

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God. -Joel 2:12-13Desert Heart

Even now… what a beginning. Even now… No matter what, even now, return to me. That is pretty clear, isn’t it? God seeks our return now – even now.

We cannot fix ourselves, we cannot be transformed without God and without one another. Even now, it is never too late, return by journeying through the desert. We are to rend our hearts and not our garments, a task that is so much harder. It is easy to rip one’s own garment than it is to open our prickly hearts, yet our prickly hearts with all their flaws is what God wants. God already knows our hearts, so there is nothing to fear.
Let us journey together into the desert with Jesus and see what transpires and transforms.

May your Ash Wednesday and your Lent be blessed. May we journey well together, stumbling through the desert with our desert hearts exposed and ready for healing, even now.

Hero takes a fall

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Others living up to expectations… right now that seems impossible for so many. 

The news about L’Arche and Jean Vanier shocked so many of us. Yet another hero fallen, the great man has done terrible things. If you have no idea what I am talking about, please see this link.

At first – after the shock, after feeling ill about it, I started to realize that maybe I was not shocked at all. Sometimes I think that my ability to be shocked is long gone. Having grown up in a family of abuse, having gone through quite a long and ultimately healing journey of life, I have a very distinct and perhaps quite different point of view. Long ago I had to make some peace that it is entirely possible that the most beloved humans in your life may also be the most broken ones. As a result, they may end up working to break you, intentionally or not. How do you make any sense of that? I cannot give you a map, I can only tell you that it is so hard to hold it all, but it can be possible.

How my heart aches for women who were manipulated by Vanier and then had to hear a steady stream of how great he was. I cannot imagine how any of them must have felt. What a mess and what an abuse of power.

When I read this particular news, after gut punch beyond gut punch of such news, I began to think…  what is God trying to say to us?  Beyond that I started to wonder about what is being gestated in the Spirit? And what is trying to be born? Here we are at the gateway to another Lenten season and the question screams out at me – what will die, what needs to die? Things do need to die during Lent, so that thing can be born. What is trying to be born? What do want from new life? And how will we live our resurrection?

That is where I begin my Lent, with the reminder that another hero takes another fall. As this was happening we also got news that the sainthood cause of Rutilio Grande SJ as Pope Francis declared him a martyr. Normally I would be cheering about this, but today I am not of that mind. I have long loved and admired his work and memory, but right now I feel anxious about priests, about men being declared saints. At least for the moment until we can come to some realistic place about what sin is and what grace is and what healing is. And until we can some to some place where truth is told and reparations are made in meaningful ways. I am not supposing that anyone else has abused anyone, but I am exhausted by learning dark truths that were buried in falsehoods, in woven tales, and in lies. Maybe we just need a moratorium, even for those we love and cherish, we need some time.

downloadHonestly, I feel as if I enter Lent stunned by so much information, and I enter Lent craving silence, space, stillness, and peace. And I enter Lent without much chance to get large doses of any of those things. So it goes, I will carve out the small places and spaces of solitude needed.

How do you enter Lent? Who has fallen in your life? What has died? What needs to die? Whatever it is, may your days be blessed. I will try to do some writing, but as you know things have been spotty of late. We will see what God has in store for us. Onward, onward we go – fallen heroes and all.

Hosanna and destiny

Large EDIT Palms for Palm Sunday.jpgEach week at mass we pray these words aloud in song or prayer…

Hosanna, in the highest!

Today the words take on a deeper meaning as we celebrate Palm Sunday, remembering Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

There are studies upon studies to reveal just what lengths humans will go to in order to Continue reading

New thing

EDITIsaiahLilacBud copyHaving attended a 4pm liturgy on Saturday, I heard a good homily, but I was left wanting. After hearing a young woman proclaim the First Reading from Isaiah with such gift and passion, and then to hear another woman proclaim the Second Reading with similar style, I felt so hungry – starved actually – to hear a woman’s preaching voice.

For the record, and to the chagrin of many, I do not support the women’s ordination movement as it exists today. Sorry, that’s another story for another day perhaps. Those of you who actually know me know that this is how I feel, what I believe, others – you will have to take my word for it and maybe I will go into it another time.

Anyway, these women’s proclaiming voices snapped me into a kind of openness and attention that left me vulnerable. Thankfully the homily was OK. The kind of homily an old friend might have described by saying Continue reading

Bread and desert living during Lent

downloadAs is often the case, my desire to blog is confronted with the reality of daily life – result, no time for blogging. Work has been busy, I have been dealing with a sick cat, and also working on some other projects. Oh well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That said, I have a few minutes today and I’m wondering about how your Lent is going? What are you reading? Have you altered your prayer life? Many of us have obsessed over what to give up or take on, or both, but too much obsessing means a focus on the self and not God. Essentially giving up or taking on should be about creating more space to encounter God.

For the first time in a long time I am at peace with how that is unfolding this Lent. Various things had occurred that had my typical prayer practices disturbed, resulting in limited prayer. I was not at peace with that and have struggled for some time to find a new rhythm. Lent has provided me with a way to do that. Also, I am spending time each morning reading some wonderful texts, beginning with Give Us This Day. In full disclosure Continue reading

Forgive, be reconciled – start with self

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Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Does anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Can one refuse mercy to a sinner like oneself,
yet seek pardon for one’s own sins?
If a mere mortal cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins? – Sirach 28:2-5

This morning I inexplicably looked at my phone soon after waking up but before praying. This is something that I prefer not to do as it will lead me down a rabbit hole of non-essential information and lost time – and most importantly keeps me from the quiet time of reading and prayer that begins my day.

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The news blazed across social media sites… Horrific New Zealand Terrorist Attack, New Zealand shooting, Christchurch Mosque Massacres.  Continue reading

I Need Help (First Sunday of Lent)

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“He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.” Susannah Heschel, daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, now of blessed memory.

In today’s Gospel and readings I see so many parallels to where we are today. For those among us who have some yearning to “make America great again.” Well, that may sound nice, but I can never figure out what we might actually go back to that would be so great. Greatness, if you ask me, can never be returned to, greatness – if it is to be – is found only by going forward. For others who may long for a greatness built upon justice, unity, and equality, other things can be read into today’s readings by understanding the risk of temptation – and avoiding temptation.

Jesus has been in the desert a long time in today’s reading – even if we are at the beginning of our own Lenten journey.  Maybe he is hangry! No, I’m not trying to be funny. He has been sleeping in the wilderness without the benefit of a nice tent, cozy sleeping bag, a water filtration device, and energy bars. Think about what this means. Not exactly a comfortable retreat to “get away from it all.” Quite the opposite!

Me, I love the desert, but boy oh boy,  I have no desire to stay out there for 40 days and nights! Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. And then he meets satan, the satanas – which means the tempter or evil one in general. Now Jesus must be so tired and hungry. The evil one makes three pitches which all center on Jesus Continue reading

Even now

Lent2019Desert Heart (1).jpgEven now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.

The opening lines of our first reading from the prophet Joel sound different to me today. Even now, he begins, even now. Yes, even now, despite living through many Lenten seasons, God continues to ask me to turn around – even now. And not to simply turn around, but to do so with an open heart, one bereft of all the puffery of everyday living. It is my heart, God wants, my heart and your heart and all of hearts – not simply a world that overflows with uneaten chocolate bars, untouched French fries, quiet social media streams, and less meat. Whether not God wants those things, I cannot say, but it does seem evident… God wants our hearts. Even now, forever, always says God. Just turn around please!

Last Friday night I saw Elton John in concert. Near the end of the show he did something that brought me to tears. These tears were the kind that I hope and pray leads to the weeping mentioned by Joel in that first reading for today.  Sitting at the piano, Elton talked about how in 1990 he was ashamed of himself. His life lacked any sense of logic or control, he was living in a way that made no sense and that was harmful to him and to others. It was at that point he at long last uttered three words that changed his life… I. Need. Help.

This Lent I think that the thing I need to do before creating a list of things to give up or take on, is to simply bow my head in prayer and say out loud… I need help. Maybe it is time to stop working so hard on what I can let go of, and simply let go of my pride. In that way, as I ask for help, I have given up the biggest distraction of all. In that space, God can do some work.

As my heart opens and tumbles out before God, all messy, hard around the edges, cracked perhaps, and swollen with false pride, God can do something with it. Something I cannot do on my own, even if I have a long list, a bundle of books, and a plethora of prayers to launch my Lenten journey.  What if God is not looking for my perfectly polished List O’ Lenten Desires, but only for me to say, “I need help.” And then to simmer down and accept it?

Even now, as the dawn of Lent breaks on the horizon of my soul this year, I pray that I begin by praying these three words. “I need help.”  Lent is so typically filled with a to-do list of holiness, but I think this way may be the way to go. Each day, many times a day, may I say to God, “I need help.” With that, may I surrender to God, and may the transformation of healing begin.