Saturday, December 17, 2016

God is Still Speaking

In the readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent, the Lord spoke to Ahaz, and Isaiah tells us “the Lord will give you a sign.”

In the Gospel, an angel comes to Joseph with a message, just like an angel came to Mary.

To borrow from the United Church of Christ, my thought for today is this: God is still speaking.

Are we listening?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Love Wins

That's it. My reflection on the readings for the third week of Advent. Love Wins.

Patient persistence pays off. And so does seeing God in the unlikeliest of places.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Making All Divisions Cease

Reflection on scripture readings for the second Sunday of Advent.

Building on last week’s readings, this week’s first reading alludes to the day when all divisions will cease, all will know God, and it will be glorious.

Isaiah says God will not judge not by appearance, but with justice for the poor and afflicted. It is a hopeful vision. Peace on earth. Good will to all. God will strike the ruthless and wicked.  This reading made me think of Mary’sMagnificat in regard to mercy, the lowly, the hungry, the rich, etc. I think, even in this day and age, how relevant but difficult that vision is to achieve; in a war torn world, in a world of greed, in a world of haves and have nots, in a world where the way for some excludes or judges others.

In the second reading, Paul acknowledges that achieving such a vision is difficult. Being Christ-like isn’t easy, and Paul offers hope and encouragement so that we might persevere. He also gives us a command so that all those things in the first reading can be fulfilled. We must welcome others as Christ welcomed us. Jesus loved the outcasts and people in the margins. We are called to do the same. But it also means we must welcome those and be present to those whose actions cause oppression.  We must use our love, through word and deed, to change hearts.

John the Baptist, in the Gospel, isn’t worthy. He’s humble and knows that Christ can offer something he can’t.  He wasn’t self-righteous like the Pharisees and Sadducees who believe their way is the only way and that their place in life makes them superior to others.  It’s not enough to be a person of status, civil or religious. It’s not enough to say we are Christian or that we go to church, or that others are lesser for not having what we have (including jobs, education, food, money, etc.). We aren’t worthy, just as John wasn’t worthy. We must bear fruit in this world or we will be judged on the last day. We mustn’t be self-righteous. We must act as Christ would act. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Climbing the Mountain of the Lord

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge meets the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future. Christmas (and Advent) is a journey for us too as we recall Christ who was, Christ who is, and Christ who will be.  With Christmas we mark the historical birth of Christ. But we are also called to prepare to take Christ into our hearts and lives so that he is present today. Doing so then prepares us for the end times when we will see Christ at God’s right hand.

Today’s Gospel reminds us to be vigilant. We don’t know when the end time will come. We must change our ways now to welcome Christ so that we’re ready for those end times.  The second reading reminds us to put on Christ and to conduct ourselves properly.

But it is the first reading that really strikes me.  One doesn’t just turn a sword into a plowshare or a spear into pruning hooks.  It takes active involvement of parties coming together, laying differences aside. As for climbing the mountain of the Lord, mountain climbing isn’t easy. One is usually dependent on others. If we want the same thing as others - to reach the other side - we must do it together or at least acknowledge that there might be more than one path, and that neither is wrong. In doing so, we can realize the Kindom of God on the other side, but here on earth as well.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Random Acts of Kindness

With Thanksgiving having just passed, we start preparing for Christmas. A popular tradition in anticipation of Christmas is the Advent calendar, which is really a December calendar since Advent begins before December 1.While December is next week, I thought I'd put this out there now for those who like to think and plan ahead. 

Many people mark each day of November by sharing something for which they were thankful. Let's use December to do something nice for others (besides gift giving for Christmas). Let's practice some random acts of kindness!

For a pdf, click here.

If I remember, I'll tweet the daily suggestion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Be the Change

The world, and all that dwells in it, is in our hands.

Love One Another

Much of my prayer lately has been focused on the proverbial and very real question, “why can’t we all get along?”

While tensions are at an all-time high, we’ve seen for years that fear and religion are used to put other people down and oppress them. Politics, ego, and personal agendas do also.

In April of this year I participated in a retreat on compassion. We focused on the fact that we are all one with each other. We focused on seeing the world through the eyes of the other. We recognized and honored the diversity of faith traditions. And we celebrated that even amid diversity we have more in common with others than one might think. We were comforted and hopeful because all major religions, diverse as they are, pronounce some variation of the Golden Rule.

As I reflect on the Golden Rule, I am reminded that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. That’s not always easy to believe or comprehend. And I struggle when I can see it and want to believe it but am lost when the “other” doesn’t want to acknowledge it, believe it, or accept it, and we don’t know how to encounter each other in a way that honors the sacred in each of us.

The best that I can do is check my ego at the door. There is no room for ego when I open my mind and heart to understand the differences between myself and others. But I’m open to it. And it hurts when others need to be right and can’t recognize the hurt and rejection they cause by not having open minds and hearts.

In preparation for the retreat, and subsequent to it, we learned about and reflected on the Charter for Compassion. It’s an international movement that calls upon all people, regardless of religion, ethnicity, etc. to treat others the way we wish to be treated. In addition to the website there is a great TED Talk that more eloquently describes its background and purpose.

 The Charter is a real thing. I’ve “signed” it online and encourage you to do the same. Even if you don't sign it, read it and be inspired by the fact that people all over the world believe in what it stands for.

More importantly, let us find our voices. Let us open our hearts and minds. Let us reach out, welcome the stranger, feed the poor, tend to those in need and in the margins, speak for those without a voice, and see Christ in all people, including those with whom we disagree. Let our prayers and actions not just be about us/them. May they be about all of us. We can't always change others but we can be models. To quote Gandhi, let us "be the change you wish to see in the world."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

No One Person Can do Everything

In today’s first scripture reading (Exodus 17:8-13) at church, Moses received help from the men who were with him:
In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.
Moses, therefore, said to Joshua,
“Pick out certain men,
and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.
I will be standing on top of the hill
with the staff of God in my hand.”
So Joshua did as Moses told him:
he engaged Amalek in battle
after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur.
As long as Moses kept his hands raised up,
Israel had the better of the fight,
but when he let his hands rest,
Amalek had the better of the fight.
Moses’ hands, however, grew tired;
so they put a rock in place for him to sit on.
Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands,
one on one side and one on the other,
so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people
with the edge of the sword.

I was struck by the reality that Moses, a human, had limitations. He grew tired even as people depended on him. As a leader, he needed help. He couldn’t let his people down but he couldn’t do his work by himself.  

In this story, we don’t know if Moses asked for help. Aaron and Hur seemed to move into action, taking their own initiative, to support Moses. Perhaps they knew what would happen if they didn’t intervene. Moses also didn't say, "Leave me alone. I've got this, guys." He was humble enough to receive assistance. While the grace of God was flowing through Moses, God’s grace was also with Aaron and Hur. They were inspired to act. For me, the point is that while Moses always gets the credit for being a prophet and leader, he didn’t do it by himself.

In many places - a faith community or the workplace, for example - there might be an appointed leader but everyone has a responsibility (and hopefully opportunities) to share their gifts, whether they are gifts of the head, hands, or heart. Sometimes it's nice to be asked to help. But sometimes we know the right thing to do and need to just do it. Step forward. Don't wait to be asked. No one person can do everything, but many people working together can do great things.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Born out of a Revolution

During the French Revolution, religion was suppressed. For their own safety, clergy went underground and some left the country.

October 12, in the Catholic Church, marks the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar. This is a special day for the Marianists because it recalls the inspiration Blessed William Joseph Chaminade drew from Mary during his exile to Zaragoza, Spain during the French Revolution.

It was at the shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar where Blessed Chaminade was inspired to return to France in 1800 to build inclusive and welcoming Christian communities known as sodalities. From those sodalities the Marianist Family was born. The first lay community, the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception, met on December 8, 1800 and members professed their commitment on February 2, 1801. As members sought to deepen their faith and service to the church and world, the Daughters of Mary Immaculate and the Society of Mary took form and were founded in 1816 and 1817, respectively. These lay and religious communities exist throughout the world today.

I can’t imagine what Blessed Chaminade would think today. While we in the US are not in a revolutionary war, we are seeing a vastly divided country: black/white, rich/poor, male/female, national/immigrant, Christian/Muslim, and more. Call it a culture war or a battle for the soul of our country. Civility in politics and interest in the common good have been lost. Something must change.

The Marianist charism is a gift to the Church and world. Let us pray for civic and Church leaders. But let us also pray for ourselves, that we may be builders of a community (world) that honors human dignity and recognizes that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. 

October 12 is also celebrated as Marianist World Day of Prayer. Many celebrations in 2016 and 2017 will emphasize the bicentennials of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate and the Society of Mary but for all, it is a time to be united in prayer and mission across the globe.

Statue of Our Lady of the Pillar

May the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be glorified in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Happy Birthday to the Society of Mary (Marianists)

Today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels and on this date in 1817 the Society of Mary was founded by Blessed William Joseph Chaminade and seven committed men in Bordeaux, France.

Let us give thanks to those men who have committed their lives as Marianist priests and brothers to carry out Mary's mission of bringing Christ to the world.