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.

What really matters

felicity and perpetuaApparently my efforts to blog more frequently during Lent have not been realized. *sigh* Oh well, so it goes. The inconsistent blogger returns and hopes that you are all well.

Today I received an email from Forward Today, part of Forward Movement, which is a ministry of the Episcopal church. Like many email things, I do not read it every day, but today I did read and what a gift I was given.

In the church, today is the feast when we remember Perpetua and Felicity along with their companions. They were early martyrs of the church. Author of the post, Rev. Scott Gun is an Episcopal priest and the Executive Director of Forward Movement.  He writes:

Perpetua was a catechumen, not yet baptized, when she was summoned to appear before the Roman authorities. She refused to make a sacrifice in honor of the emperor. At a public hearing, she said, “I am a Christian.” She was sentenced to death, to be martyred in an arena by wild animals. She faced death bravely, urging those around her to remain steadfast in faith.

This Lent one of the things that I have prayed and meditated upon is those who have been persecuted. Many in the United States believe that they are persecuted because of certain laws that seem to infringe upon faith. When I think of that versus the plight of the Christians in the Middle East who are seriously persecuted, I want to shake my head. Because freedom of religion is understood by many  in a particular way in this country, it kind of distorts things. Yes, people may be infringed upon, but persecuted? We kind of live in the belief that our right to practice holds a meaning, but what about when our right tramples someone else’s right? It is a problem.

Anyway as I read on and took in more of Rev. Gunn’s words, I really had to pause:

It might be tempting for us to read a story like this and think of it as little more than a fanciful legend. But it is more than that. For one thing, the blood of those martyrs, along with the blood of countless others, had the opposite effect from what the empire’s authorities wanted. From their witness, the church was made stronger. People were inspired by the way Christians faced death, clinging to their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ until the end.

If fanciful legend is what we think, then we are in trouble. If comparing our contemporary issues with being killed for our beliefs, we are in even bigger trouble. How do we discern what really matters? Rev. Gunn gets to that:

We certainly do not face persecution for our faith. But there is another danger. It’s easy to make sacrifices to false gods. Do we worship the accumulation of wealth? Do we choose to remain silent while others suffer injustice? Do we treat our churches are social clubs rather than outposts of God’s kingdom? Do we honor power and might over love and sacrifice?

Some may disagree with the persecution part, but I stand by my understanding of what this means, and my understanding follows that same way of thinking. Yes, persecution can start small and get big, but small is not the persecution part. Is your life in danger for your faith? Or are you challenged by how the world is not in sync with your beliefs? If it is the latter, then that is where we are called to find God and seek what really matters.

These words bear repeating Continue reading

Lent, like Christ, will find you

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We need not search for Lenten practices, since they will find us. Sometimes a Lenten practice comes in the form of illness, the death of a loved one, a family dispute, or a financial setback. Trials and hardships come in the course of daily life, unexpected and unwanted. Our part is to deal with them as best we can, with faith, acceptance, trust, and peace. –Sarah Schwartzberg, OSB

Here we are, a little over a week into Lent. I was talking to someone who felt like she did not choose something “hard enough.” I was reminded of a time when I was on a pilgrimage; not the Camino, a long, long time ago. It was 1990 and I had not yet returned to church, but I was doing an imitation of a part-time, self-styled catholic-esque person. God  however had other plans for me… but that is another story for another day.

On this trip a group of us were hiking up a very steep and rocky path on a hot day. One woman decided that she should do so on her knees and it did not take long for her to start bleeding, but she pressed on for a bit. At the same time an older man with a cane could not continue; he was in tears feeling as if he were failing God.

Like a spectral figure, suddenly an old nun came along behind us, moving at a pretty good clip. Where did she come from? Anyway she surveyed the bloody knees and walked in front of the young woman, stopping her from going forth. Looking down she said Continue reading

Looking at Lent, continuing the Camino

First Yellow Arrow St Jean.jpgLent begins this week. Each year many of us make an effort to begin Lent and to stick with whatever we have chosen to give up or take on.

Perhaps last year was too close to the completion of my Camino for me to see this as clearly, but this year I am profoundly aware of the magnetic pull of my Camino as I pray about entering Lent. The two journeys parallel paths are ever closer together, one journey completed, another about to begin. That Camino and Lent are related is not unusual; what is different is how I am experiencing it this year. It is more of an invitation or call, it is less of an idea. It is from deep within, thus so much harder to ignore.

All is know as I prepare to depart is this… my expectations for what will happen and what will happen are likely to be markedly different. This year, may I surrender ever more easily to where theflechas amarillas (or yellow arrow way markers of camino) lead me to, rather than my own dogged persistence about where I “think” or “feel” I should go. Head and heart are required during any spiritual sojourn, but trusting God to lead is the challenge.

How do you imagine your Lenten journey as it approaches?

Endless mercy

EDIT CalzadillaThe day we walked to #calzadilladeloshermanillos was one of the toughest in #spain🇪🇸 The #challenge of walking the #meseta got me, more mentally than physically. The #caminodesantiago was no game. God have mercy, I cried! How #bleak things seemed. Today’s 1st reading from #daniel expresses my #prayer that day, & my prayer today. The #gospel from #matthew reminds us however that the #mercy of #god is present. There is a price… we are to offer our mercy to others, full stop. There’s the toughest #camino challenge- how to do this. The road may seem barren, bleak, endless, but is not. Refreshment is ours when we open ourselves to receive the #love of #christ and then lavish it upon others. Especially to those who are the hardest to #forgive . Do that however and the #fountains of mercy that #jesus offers flow perpetually. #lessons of #lent

(This is a copy of today’s version of my daily Instagram posts of Lent.  I’m enjoying doing this, and I’m grateful for the good feedback that I have received. Today please be merciful to someone you would prefer not to show mercy to. This is what is asked from us, and it is so challenging to respond to God in this way.)