Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day

"Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream."

I am a native Californian. I went to college in Berkeley. So I know something about "noisy songs" that preach the good news, but never actually deliver. I left the Bay Area upon graduation to get away from the hypocrisy of "limousine liberals" who spout off about social justice while enjoying all the fruits that wealth provides. Los Angeles might be fake, but at least we are honest about it!

Yes, I admit it, I loathe utopian politics. And nothing seems dumber to me than the hashtag armies of our present moment. Enough with the #Resistance. Enough with #MAGA. These are not blueprints to the kingdom. They are tribal power plays, pure and simple. They will certainly benefit some, but most will be left disappointed, bitter, miserable, or some unpleasant combination thereof.

As I have said many times, the kingdom is not a thing to be built, but rather a whom to be embraced. And so, let us today declare our freedom from the faux salvation of American tribalism. In its place, let us surrender our hearts to the most profound truth that we as a people have been fortunate enough to stumble upon: E Pluribus Unum. We are indeed one family. So let us act like it.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord

"Seek what is above." There is a certain irony to our feast coinciding with April Fool's Day. Think of the values and intentions represented by these two holydays. Which does our world celebrate? And which does our culture find foolish? If we must be court jesters, let us at least serve a worthy king.

"Seek what is above." Some might see this attitude as a cop-out. We live on terra firma. We have real problems, that need real solutions. But how often do those solutions just generate new problems? And how often do they bring about the peace and joy that we crave? Do not be seduced by the demand for action. Rushing into the tomb does not guarantee an understanding of what one finds inside.

"Seek what is above." Be wary of false saviors and the kingdoms they build. They might look beautiful and taste sweet, but they never last as long as promised. Yes, most devotees of the cults of celebrity and politics mean well. They honestly strive to do good. But their focus will always be on the rewards of the here and now. Such gifts are merely dust, and to dust they shall inevitably return.

"Seek what is above." The world can be a dark and brutal place. We need hope. Our culture, however, excels at other things: virtual orgies; digital bread and circuses; intellectual dumpster fires; and worst of all, an endless supply of pharmaceuticals to numb the pain until we hit the grave, oftentimes thanks to the pills themselves. We cannot amuse our way into hope. We must find a different path.

"Seek what is above." Yes, I know, all I have given you are questions, problems, and concerns. Where are the solutions, the practical advice, the ten-point plans? If that is what you are looking for, go find a guru. I am a no-name prophet, offering foolish and wonderful grace. Take it, if you dare.

"Seek what is above." Alleluia! Alleluia!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise." It sounds like a simple request, but in truth it is my great and constant struggle. Plentiful are the words rattling around inside my brain. So few escape my lips, however. What is it that keeps my mouth closed: fear or righteousness?

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise." We live in a target rich environment for a prophet. I feel such a tremendous urgency to speak out on behalf of my brothers and sisters. But does this pressure arise from my having words they need to hear, or am I more worried about missing out on my fifteen minutes of fame? Whose kingdom do my words seek to serve and praise?

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise." Why do you delight in saying no to me? Start a new religion? No. Reform an old religion? No. Sell some books? No. Do one little miracle, just one to get some attention? NO! What is the point of opening my lips? No one cares to listen. Am I meant to babble into the void, leaving a trail of words for someone not yet born to follow?

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise." Am I crazy to delight in a "yes" to that last question? I remain on Twitter mostly for the photos taken by the residents of the International Space Station. They remind me of the difference between the great and the trivial; and that my Parent plays a very, very long game. I am a fool taking his at-bat. Let Them worry about the score.

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise." This shall be my mantra for these next forty days. I do not expect them to be anything other than the great and constant struggle of the many preceding ones. But I do pray that they bring a renewed love for my wonderful cross.

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise."

On a side note, today is also Valentine's Day. And so I dedicate this post to my wife. It is my meager attempt at expressing some of the internal dialogue that I have such a hard time sharing, to our great frustration. Thank you for your patience with my very strange calling. I love you!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)

"Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me." In just over a week, we will enter into the final year of the centennial of the First World War. There is much we can learn from that conflict, particularly about the dangers of tribalism. But more importantly, we have an obligation to love our brothers and sisters who walked into some very dark valleys. For myself, my thoughts will be with those who fought on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915, a campaign that has long moved me. It is a true example of the pointless, asininity of warfare. Yet also one that highlights the nobility, even beauty, of courage and sacrifice. The paradox of war is that conflict showcases both the worst and the best of what it means to be human. And perhaps nothing sums up the latter better than the words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk welcoming his former enemies and their loved ones back to the battlefields:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Let us pray that all who endured the Great War, whichever side they were on, might know "goodness and kindness" and that they "shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come." Amen.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Solemnity of All Saints

"When our Lord saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, he whipped out his smartphone and began to tweet at them, saying: 'Shame on them who ...'"

How many of us long for that version of "The Sermon on the Mount"? How many of us look around at our brothers and sisters and struggle to find any worthy of the label "blessed"? How many of us prefer our petty little tribes to the strange and confusing beauty of our Parent's family?

There is a certain smallness to American culture and politics at our present moment in time. Everyone is stuck in their corners, bleating about this wound or that slight; each tribe attempting to outshout the others, but none succeeding. It is more tiresome than I can possibly describe, especially standing in comparison to that which we celebrate today: the Communion of Saints, aka our family.

In saying such things, I do not deny the reality of injustice and sin. But the Beatitudes are creatures of the kingdom, not the world. They are meant to be lived in the kingdom, not the world. Yes, this realm exists in the here and now, but not as the utopia of any of our plethora of isms. It cannot be found via human ingenuity, nor built by human institutions. The kingdom is a choice of heart and soul, a path to be trod each and every day; not the easiest to be sure, but the only road worth traveling.

So how does one get there? Choose the simplicity of loving your neighbor. Choose the nobility of doing good to those who hate you. Choose the truth that no amount of "progress" in technology or ideology can ever transform the world into something other than an unholy mess. And despite the latter, choose the honor of bearing grace to your siblings, starting with the most sinful and unworthy.

This is a vision made tangible in a set of tapestries hanging in the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles: a true communion of saints, ancient and new, famous and ordinary, a rainbow of diversity, all reveling in God's light and love with absolutely no regard for "official" saintly status.

This is the kingdom. This is our family. This is who we can be, if we so choose. It is perhaps a foolish vision. But if thus, then let me be an eternal fool, for it is a vision blessedly wonderful.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

"Rise, and do not be afraid." My soul's ears heard those words a couple of weeks ago. It was the middle of the night at a beach house on the coast of South Carolina. A lightning storm was raging over the Atlantic Ocean, and our Parent told me to get up and listen. So I rose out of bed, found paper and pen, and wrote down every word they spoke to my heart.

Those words were published online yesterday as "The Third Revelation" at "The Book of We Are" website. They identify our Parent as both Creator and Destroyer, Giver and Taker. They ask us to revel in our momentary song on this rock, and to rejoice for the many dancers who will emerge in our wake. Some will be familiar. Some will be stranger than our wildest imaginations. All are our brothers and sisters. And all of us are the beloved children of our one Parent, with whom they are exceedingly well pleased. Not for anything we have done or built, but simply due to who we are: Family.

Along with this new revelation, and a complete cosmetic makeover, you will find several other new items at "The Book of We Are" website:
  • The first journal entry, "Knowing You", has been restored to its original 1992 version. The language is a bit naive perhaps, but true to my relationship with God at the time.
  • Two other writings from the early 1990s: "A Prayer of Dedication" & "My God"
  • And four blog posts, slightly edited, three from "Family of the One" and one from this blog: "A Lesson for Thanksgiving Day", "A Lesson on Faith", "A Lesson on Revelation", & "Why Am I Still A Catholic?"

I am not ready to resume regular posting to this blog, but I did feel compelled to share the above information now, rather than later. I hope you will take a moment to check it out.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

"Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us." As the Church concludes its Jubilee of Mercy, let us ask ourselves, what sort of mercy do we crave? Are we looking for something in the here and now, as was the first criminal? Or can we see the bigger picture, as did the second one? Of course we should want our siblings to have peace and justice in this life. But we should also recognize that such things are ultimately nothing more than dust in the wind. How many Sauls and Davids have come and gone, yet the world remains a mess. How many wannabe Sauls and Davids will vie for our attention, yet the world will continue to remain a mess. Our Brother did not come here to be a Saul or a David, as much as we wanted him to be. No, our Parent became one of us so that we might see the royal inheritance to which we can rightfully lay claim. And such a treasure is something that no king, president, or even pope can ever hope to produce. So what shall we seek: true mercy or a cheap substitute?