Our Parent really knows how to live it up. Instead of spending his first years on Earth as a pampered monarch in waiting, he chooses a life on the run, getting hauled all across the Middle East, one step ahead of mortal peril, utterly dependent on others. Why? Because while we fret over power dynamics and lines of authority, our Brother proclaims with his very life that family is all about dependence and subordination. We belong to one another, just as much as we belong to our God.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
"Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord." Woo-hoo! God is here to fix all our problems and clean up our messes! It's like a fairy tale come true; if fairy tales included crucifixion. Now, I'm not trying to be a buzzkill. Today is a day for rejoicing. But as we celebrate our good fortune, let us also remember that grace comes on God's terms not our own. So do not expect our Savior to adhere to our blueprint for the kingdom. He has her own plan in mind for what we need.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
"God is with us." What sort of sign do you need to believe such a claim? A virgin birth? A man rising from the dead? A mighty church? How about an angel appearing in a dream, commanding you to do the illogical? Or a righteous man choosing to quietly obey such dreams? Is it any wonder that Joseph goes so unappreciated? What did he ever do, except believe. How unextraordinary.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Why must we be patient? Are we waiting for God to act? If that was case, surely, two millennia would have been plenty of time for them to make whatever is to happen, happen. So we must be waiting for something else, perhaps something internal rather than external, like the scales falling from our eyes, because if anything ever required superhuman patience that would be it. The splendor of our Parent surrounds us, but we refuse to see it because it does not resemble our vision of the kingdom. What fools we are! How many times must we be told that the kingdom flips our expectations on their head, whatever those expectations might be? Yes, a season of patience is exactly what we need.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
The kingdom is for all of us. Jesus came and is coming for all of us: Jew and Gentile, Christian and Pagan, believer and unbeliever alike. There is no "chosen people" among our many tribes, just one family of the one God. Let us prepare our hearts during this Advent season to receive the gift of such truth, for we so desperately need it. Right now, millions of us are in mourning for Nelson Mandela, a man who tried to teach us the truth about our family. We are rightly celebrating his life and his work. But this very same week, we also buried the ashes of 1,464 brothers and sisters whose bodies went unclaimed. If we lived the truth of our family, none of those siblings would have their remains lying in a common grave. We would be memorializing each one of them as loudly and proudly as we are now doing for Mandela. But we do not do so, because according to our scales Mandela was important and unclaimed persons clearly are not. The truth of our family tells us that our scales are ridiculous. None of us are any more or less important than the rest of us, for we are the one family of the one Parent. Such unquenchable truth is straining to be born once more. Will you prepare to live it?
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Wake up! Get ready! "The day is at hand." I wonder how many Black Friday commercials used those very same slogans? Given the willingness of so many of us to sacrifice Thanksgiving for the sake of consumerism, it seems clear whose cries penetrate our hearts and minds. But what will that choice truly cost us? "One will be taken, and one will be left." Is that because our Parent only loves half of us? Or is it a prediction that too many of us will have our faces so buried in the feed trough that we will never even notice God standing in front of us? Perhaps it is generous to believe that only half of us will be in the latter category. Yes, "one will be taken, and one will be left." Which will you be?
Sunday, November 24, 2013
As we dwell on the nature of true kingship, let us also consider what it means to be a good subject. Are we willing to embrace that title and everything that goes with it? To fall in love with our lord's sovereignty? To freely choose the life of an obedient servant? To give ourselves over to their will so completely that it becomes our own? To surrender control of our impotent little lives and become one with our master? To take our place at their side, not as slaves, but as cherished members of a royal family? To serve our king with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind?
Sunday, November 17, 2013
The End Times: parochialism at its finest. We will bathe in "the sun of justice". They will be reduced to nothing more than "stubble". Such hopes are understandable. But are we looking for redemption or vindication? And is the kingdom a home for the chosen few who have persevered or the entire family, including the proud, the persecutors, the collaborators, and all the rest of the weaklings who do evil? Does anyone need God's "healing rays" more than them? No one should be denied such grace.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
What sort of life will the resurrection bring? Are our assumptions about that life any less ridiculous than the scenario offered up by these Sadducees? We cling so furiously to this blade of grass known as human civilization, that we conjure up visions of the afterlife consisting of more of the same only prettier. But our Parent is the God of all that is living, not just the few grains of sand we happen to know about. Whatever they have in store for their children is going to be more magnificent than we can possibly imagine. And when their glory appears, our joy will truly be full.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost." But why are we lost? Perhaps it's because we refuse to acknowledge our lowdown, dirty sinfulness. Or maybe it's because we buy into that story a bit too enthusiastically, especially when the lowdown, dirty sinner is our neighbor. How many more times and in how many more ways must God express to us their love and mercy before we finally believe it? "For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made."
Saturday, November 2, 2013
"God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." Our Parent does not see us for who we are during our brief moments on this planet, but for who we will be over an eternity spent in their embrace. Can we, just for one day, make this vision our own? My prayers today are for Erich Priebke, the Nazi war criminal who died last month in Rome and was denied a church funeral. Now, I understand the challenge of loving our enemies while we breathe the same air, but to refuse them mercy and compassion after death? Such spitefulness is shameful! Like it or not, Priebke and all those like him are our brothers and sisters. And we do not get to disown them.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Today is my favorite holy day, because today we celebrate our family. We are all saints. We are all holy. Not because of anything we might do, but simply because of who we are: "the children of God." Our common calling is to recognize and acknowledge that truth. Once we do, everything else will fall into place. Yes, most truly, blessed are we, for ours is a holy family.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
What's not to like about today's readings. Good things are in store for the poor, the oppressed, and the faithful. Plus, a divine smackdown awaits the arrogant and greedy! But what makes us so certain that we are part of the former category, rather than the latter one? "The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites." Believe it or not, that includes you too.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
"Our help is from the Lord." But help with what? Mowing down our enemies, or loving them? Proving the ignorance of heathens and heretics, or hearing the hopes and dreams of our brothers and sisters? Obtaining the satisfaction that we demand, or spreading the justice that our family deserves? Truly, what sort of faith will the Son of Man find on earth when he comes?
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Is anyone surprised that ten were healed but only one returned to say thank you? Were the other nine ungrateful or just eager to get the priests' blessing? Who can blame them for going with the practical choice? After all, whose approval most impacts our day to day living? And whose mercy is it safest to take for granted? How many of us choose faith while we still have other options?
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Who among us aspires to be an unprofitable servant? Most of us would be embarrassed or offended if branded with such a label. Even slackers and bums would likely reject it as too subservient. And that is why faith is so hard for us. We are a prideful and impatient people. We set out from an early age to conquer life, to mold it according to our dreams. Some of us are foolish enough to think that we have actually succeeded in those endeavors. But whether we are alive to witness it or not, all of our feeble kingdoms collapse eventually. Only one kingdom lasts; only one kingdom matters. And we serve that kingdom by surrendering control: of our time, of our will, of our very lives. Rarely will such faith make sense from day to day, but it will move mountains, not merely trees, when it counts. So let us strive to be our Creator's unprofitable servants, for there is no higher honor than that.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
"Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'" Clearly, threats of exile and torment don't work either. We live in a world where the rich men are even wealthier, Lazarus and his kin are far more numerous, and the majority of us accept it all with a shrug because none of us really believe that there is some eternal great chasm in our future. Our Parent is too loving and merciful for that. They'll make it a win-win for everyone in the end. Good news, right? But what if that means sharing a banquet table with Lazarus and his kin for all eternity? And what if they start asking awkward questions, about whether we were sickened by their condition, or what we did with the scraps from our tables? Even worse, what if they already know every detail of every good we received in our lifetimes, including how we used or didn't use those blessings? What if they ask us why we refused to love them like the brothers and sisters that they are? And what if they respond to all of this by showering us with more love and mercy than we ever gave them? Perhaps exile, torments, and chasms are the easier fates after all.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
"You cannot serve both God and mammon." And there it is, the truth we do not want to hear. We so desperately want to believe that we can have our toys and our games, and still be righteous people. We insist upon it. But life just does not work that way. Look around you! Is there any doubt that we possess the resources to care for every single one of our siblings? So why do some drown in luxury, while others waste away from hunger, disease, or violence? Perhaps because most of us are happily comfortable, so why should we rock the boat? The cold, hard truth is that we have chosen to serve ourselves, not our family. And no amount of largesse tossed into our favorite charity bucket can ever alter that reality. "Never will I forget a thing they have done!" Time to face the music.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
God loves losers. They choose a tribe of rebellious malcontents to be his people, select the foremost sinner to be her apostle, and pine obscenely for a handful of lost souls despite a plethora of devoted followers. So why are we so fixated on being winners? Who are we trying to impress? When will we get it through our thick skulls that power, wealth, and fame mean nothing? All our Parent cares about is that we exist. We miserable losers exist. That is enough. Enough for an eternity of love.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
"Who can conceive what the LORD intends?" Certainly not those who insist on approaching God with human ears and minds. Jesus tells us to reject family, friends, possessions, and even our own lives. But such statements do not compute with our logic in regards to the Prince of Peace and the King of Love. So we search and search for hidden meanings, ignoring the possibility that our Brother meant what he said and said what he meant. He is inviting us to join him on a most excellent adventure to realms unimaginable. How can we embark on such a journey while clinging to mere dust? Of course we should hate all that holds us back from the cross! And of course that same cross demands from us the most sublime love of neighbor and self! Do not expect Truth to look consistent to your eyes. Challenge yourself to view all that has been, is, and ever will be through your Parent's instead.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
How powerful is our desire for honor and prestige that Jesus must co-opt that obsession in order to teach us about humility? But more importantly, what have we ever done to deserve such honor or prestige? Is there a single human accomplishment that cannot be traced back to the good fortune of acquiring some divine gift? Be it physical creation or immaterial inspiration, everything we and our ancestors have ever possessed or known came from acts of grace. Even in caring for "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind", we are nothing more than middlemen. God created this home for all of us. Should we praised for sharing that gift with our brothers and sisters, or shamed for having to be talked into doing so? We really don't have a clue, about ourselves or the kingdom, do we?
Sunday, August 25, 2013
"Lord, will only a few people be saved?" Let's be honest, most of us are relieved by Jesus' answer. Sure, we might have a nagging doubt about being "strong enough" to get in on the first try, but that's what Purgatory is for. What we really want to know, however, is if "those people" will make the cut. You know, the ones whose membership in the Scum of the Month Club nobody quibbles over. Surely we won't have to sit next to them in the kingdom. Right? It's only fair! Yes, we are all God's children. But some of our siblings are just utterly incapable of being "trained" by our Parent's discipline. Why shouldn't they get locked out? That's what "evildoers" deserve! Right? And there it is. We will always and forever be the elder brother, fuming that the Prodigal One is back in the house. After all, what truly matters is being in God's company and listening to their word. Right? So by all means, let us "strive to enter through the narrow gate." But let's also strive to not be too surprised or disappointed when we find out that our Brother failed to mention that the kingdom's back door is a bit wider.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
"Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." The great temptation today will be to minimize these words. Don't. Instead, embrace them in all their uncomfortable glory. God does not send prophets to pat us on the back and affirm our life choices. We have plenty of self-appointed guru-cheerleaders for that. No, a prophet's job is to bring us Truth. And rare is the person who welcomes that little gift, for Truth always takes us to places we'd really prefer to avoid: accept your penance, sacrifice for your siblings, love those you despise. The prophet knows that some will refuse to make the journey. They know they are bringing chaos into our family. But they are servants of Love. And love can never thrive in a kingdom of ignorance, even if it is a peaceful one. So let us be grateful for our demoralizers and dividers. They serve us well.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
"Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." Just a cliche. Just a lead-in to more important ideas. Certainly not something to dwell on. But what if you did? What if you took a good look around your home today? What if you really examined your treasures? Are they necessities, luxuries, mere toys? Where exactly is your heart located? And are you proud to be at that place?
Sunday, August 4, 2013
If these readings do not trouble you, then your head is buried in the sand, or elsewhere. Our culture, our civilization, our very lives are nothing more than the pursuit of vanities. They might help our time here to pass more pleasantly, but they will soon crumble to dust, never to be remembered. Just look around you. We have been graced with the ability to know the beauty, wonder, and glory of Creation. But we choose to spend our days chasing wealth, conflict, and amusement. We choose the path of the fool. It need not be this way, however. "Seek what is above." We can choose to let go of vanity, bit by bit, drop by drop, until nothing remains except something wonderful. We may be called fools, just as our crucified Brother was. But if we are to be fools one way or the other, then let us be fools "rich in what matters to God." And as much we might like to play dumb, to pretend we are ignorant of such riches or confused as to where to find them, we are not. Love. Love your Parent, your neighbor, yourself. Love. It really is that simple. Do not let vanity tell you otherwise.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
"Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me." Yes, God answers all prayers. If we ask, we will receive. If we seek, we will find. And if we knock, a door will open. But the room beyond is rarely the one we expect. Just look at the life and death of Father Stanley Rother, who was murdered on this date in 1981. He went to Guatemala to serve God's people, wound up on a death list, then made his way back to the U.S. and safety. But the people needed their priest, so he returned. They asked; he gave. Fr. Stan knocked on doors few dare to approach. And while he is not yet an official saint, is there any doubt about the home he was welcomed into? God is not a magic genie, fulfilling our every wish and desire. No, grace is a much better gift, for it satisfies our true needs, always. So let us be bold enough to seek, knowing we will find the unexpected kingdom. Brother Stan, pray for us!
Sunday, July 21, 2013
"You are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing." We were created to be witnesses to something breathtakingly wonderful. That is our purpose, no more, no less. Most of the time, however, we choose to ignore that purpose. Driven by ego and fear, we busy ourselves with the drama of human civilization. We mistake survival for meaning, then must denigrate the truth, because otherwise our extraordinary efforts would appear as foolish as they really are. Fortunately for us, grace never stops calling, so it is never too late to choose "the better part."
Sunday, July 14, 2013
"For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you … No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out." As much as we like to pretend otherwise, we know perfectly well who our neighbor is and how they should be treated. But just like the priest and the Levite, we can always come up with an excuse to justify walking on the other side of the road. We get so invested in our ideologies and assumptions, that refusing to give mercy and love can actually feel like righteousness. And sometimes, we get so consumed by an indignant sense of justice, that we do injustice to our brothers and sisters. Perhaps you have seen evidence of that phenomenon this weekend? There is good news, however, because it turns out that the Samaritan is not a foreigner after all. No, it is a truth "very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."
Sunday, July 7, 2013
"The kingdom of God is at hand." Its beauty would take our breath away, if only we were not so blind. But we are, so our vigil continues. We wait for Isaiah's vision to be fulfilled. We wait for the promised comfort, which all the while lies before us, just waiting to be claimed. We refuse it, because it looks like "the marks of Jesus" rather than the paradise of our dreams. Perhaps we will envy Sodom's fate one day, for our stubborn blindness does far more damage than any divine punishment could.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
God is one harsh taskmaster. No goodbyes. No setting your affairs in order. No delays whatsoever. Just do my bidding. Now! We have a number of choice words at our disposal to describe bosses who behave in such a manner. Do they apply to God too? Or does our Parent simply know us better than we might be comfortable with? After all, how many of us rush to answer when God calls? They know how frightened we are by such a summons and how eagerly we look to postpone our duty. They may not hold these failures against us in the end. But forgiveness after the fact does not rescind a calling in the present. Nor should we expect them to hold our hand while we, however innocently, avoid it.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." The funny thing about crosses that we always seem to overlook is that they are the work of human hands. We transform them into cosmic drama or divine burden, when they are really just a simple human tool for punishing those who disturb our false sense of peace and normal. And that is what Jesus did, and what he challenges us to do as well, because we were created to live by a much different standard of peace and normal. A cross is just part of the package.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
"Your sins are forgiven … Your faith has saved you; go in peace." But how many of us actually do go in peace? How many times did the nameless woman seek out Jesus, even after this encounter, desperate to feel clean? We want to believe in the happy ending, that grace triumphed over her fear and guilt, but how often does it work like that for us? The challenge of sin is not God's reluctance to forgive, as that exists only in our imagination. No, the problem lies in our inability to live within that place of forgiveness, that state of grace for more than a brief moment.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Miracles are my biblical pet peeve. We are so enamored by these stories, but what did our ancestors truly encounter here? Death was not eliminated, after all; merely postponed. And grief was simply transferred to other faces, shedding other tears, at other times. These were not moments when God "visited his people", for she was already there, already in their midst. But we refused to see, so they did something that we could not ignore. I cannot rejoice at this, however, because all I can think about is the grace we have rejected while praying for something dramatic to happen.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
There is a vulnerability in our need for food and drink that cuts to the core of our existence: We are dependent beings. Why do we try so hard to avoid this truth, when it is so beautiful? It means that we are never alone. We are always intertwined with some form of life, some part of our family. And God chose to place themselves right in the middle of it all. They could have been an aloof creator, showering us with provisions from afar. But no, they chose to become vulnerable and dependent, to share in our beauty, to bind herself to us as a friend and not just a parent, to give his very self as sustenance for our deepest need. Eucharist is more than meal, or magic, or symbol, or solemn vow of remembrance; it is consummation of a bond of sacred dependance.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
The Trinity: such sublime truth. And such silly fools we are for trying to make sense out of it. Why do we insist on turning poetry into physics? Why do we let our brains rule our souls? That is the original, Original Sin. "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now." Will we ever be ready?
Sunday, May 19, 2013
The real gift we celebrate today is an invitation to participate in the sharing of grace. But is that a gift we want to accept? Are we willing to serve every last one of our Parent's children, or only those who please us? I say that all of us will receive our measure of grace, whether in this life or the next. But if it is the latter, be not surprised when you are seated at table next to the sibling you left in shackles.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
"Why are you standing there looking at the sky?" Are you trying to figure this one out, as if God just handed you a puzzle to solve? Or are you gazing in awe and wonder, now that life has been revealed to be far more glorious than you ever imagined? Are we so intent on turning mystery into something logical and reasonable, that we fail to enjoy the sheer beauty of the irrational?
Sunday, May 5, 2013
"Not as the world gives do I give it to you." That should be obvious, given the Christmas and Easter stories. But just like the first disciples, we continue to try to get Jesus on our terms. Which inevitably leaves us disappointed, because grace does not look or feel the way we expect it to. In our minds, peace will only arrive once our siblings stop killing one another. Under that definition, we are going to be waiting for a very long time. But if we want peace now, rather than later, all we need to do is trust. "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." Alleluia! Alleluia!
Sunday, April 28, 2013
"This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." The Christian life is that simple, and that impossible. Ask yourself, do we love the people of Dhaka as much as we love the people of Boston? We want to say yes, but the truth looms inconveniently before us. Would we allow anyone in Boston to suffer the fate of Dhaka's garment workers, just so that we could have cheap clothing? And they are only a handful of our billions upon billions of brothers and sisters! We cannot love them all. So we divine loopholes in the commandment to limit those we must love. But then inconvenient truth looms once more. Do we really think Jesus meant for us to love only some of those billions upon billions of siblings? But then what kind of God demands the impossible from their disciples? One who knows that love is in the effort, not the success.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
We are God's. There is an intimacy to this truth that is beyond the bonds of family or lovers. We are entwined as one, but one what? What analogy can possibly due this relationship justice? But we are curious little monkeys, so we bang away at our descriptions, drawing some in while repelling others, filling our world with chaos and noise. We have drowned out God's voice and dulled their touch. We refuse to share his love, her grace, then scream to the heavens in agony when the predictable pain and misery ensue. We beat those who fail or hurt us, forgetting that we are entwined to them as well. And the best of us repeatedly try to fix the unfixable, while swatting the hand of the wise child who is tugging at our sleeve and furiously pointing at the simple, obvious, but somehow inconvenient, good news … We are God's, and nothing can take us away from them.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
"Feed my sheep." But what shall we be fed? I say to you that the works of human hands and minds can never provide the nourishment that we need. This is not the truth we want, but it is the Truth that Easter reveals. So let us continue to obey our ideologies, follow our gurus, and generally live life on our own terms, but let us also not act surprised when we continue to find ourselves starving.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Why are we so obsessed with "signs and wonders" of all sorts? What does any of it tell us, let alone prove? Does Jesus' appearances, or the apostles' healings, or our technology, or a pope's gestures somehow alter the nature of Love? What more do we need to see other than the creation that already surrounds us? Can we not hear the chorus of voices, human and not, singing the story of our Parent? Wake up! "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."
Sunday, March 31, 2013
"Seek what is above." That is why Jesus came to be. Yes, "doing good and healing" was part of the package. But any old martyr can promote those things. If that was the reason for his life, God could have called it a day at the end of Good Friday. But that is not what happened. We go through this life as if on a snipe hunt, constantly striving to build our fantasy realms. The resurrection slaps us awake and directs our gaze to the only kingdom worth seeking, and the one already in front of our face.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
"Let there be light." Who is this God? How many Egyptians does he kill to free his chosen few? Yet he refuses to lift a hand against the Romans, or the Nazis for that matter. She demands the sacrifice of Isaac as proof of Abraham's obedience. But then sacrifices her own son as a sign of love. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD." No kidding. But is God the changed one or are we? Did our Parent just mellow out over the millennia? Or have their children grown up, albeit incompletely? "Let there be light." But are we willing to be amazed by it?
Friday, March 29, 2013
"The LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all." For many of us, today is just one big guilt trip. The day of doom-and-gloom that we must endure before we can have Sunday's joy. But what if today is one of joy as well? My favorite gospel adaptation is the movie "Judas", which tells the story of Jesus from the title character's perspective. It ends with an untraditional sort of resurrection scene. Peter, Andrew, and James arrive at the tree where Judas is still hanging after having committed suicide. James grumpily questions why they are doing this, coming to minister to the one who betrayed their master. Peter's response is one of the best summaries of the gospel ever written, "Because Jesus would've wanted us to." So they cut down their friend and pray the Kaddish over his body. Radical love; that is what the cross gives us, and that is worthy of rejoicing, not guilt. God does not want to scold us today, they want us to stand up for our siblings, all of them. "So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." Amen.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Tonight, we remember death; death that makes us free. But which of these deaths do we trust most? Yes, we honor Jesus' gift of body and blood. But we act out God's final plague upon the Egyptians on a far more regular basis. "Do you realize what I have done for you?" Obviously not, for how long was it before the Israelites were slaves to a foreign power once again? Freedom attained through violence does not last. God humored our petulant selves for a time, but they had to tell us to grow up at some point. "I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do." What will it take for us to finally surrender our fear and "wash one another's feet"?
Sunday, March 24, 2013
We are as clueless as the first disciples. How many ways must God find to tell us that the suffering servant is the greatest of us all before it finally penetrates our think skulls? How many of us are so utterly amazed by Pope Francis, as if we never knew anyone like him? “Stop, no more of this!” We are meant to imitate him, not be enchanted by him. And not just him either. Today we celebrate both an ancient gift of self-sacrifice and a more recent one. Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Oscar Romero. He died proclaiming that we are all God's children, every last one of us. He died while sharing the bread and the cup with our brothers and sisters. He did not want praise. He wanted us to embrace one another as family. Why do we insist on humiliating, and violating, and killing each other instead? Why do we still choose Barabbas? Brother Oscar, pray for us!
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The logical choice was to walk away. Who could have blamed him? But he didn't, and that has made all the difference. He is the unsung hero. The man in the background. And the Patron of our Church. He sought righteousness, not prestige. And reminds us of our duty to serve God's family with all our soul and strength. It is fitting that our new pope, Francis, is inaugurated on this feast today. As we enter into this new chapter of our history, may we all strive to resemble our Patron ever more closely. God's will, not mine. That is the lesson of Joseph's life. May we never forget it.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
"Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Popular culture uses the story of the adulterous woman to promote a vision of tolerance and non-judgmentalism. That may feel good, but is it really what Jesus meant to teach us? Yes he does not "condemn" her, but he also tells her "from now on do not sin any more." Sounds like a judgment to me, and an order to boot. In the fantasy world of pop culture, Jesus waves away her, and our, sin as if it never happened. That is denial, not reality. What Jesus offers to her, and us, is true mercy, not the fantasy version. He gives what God delights in giving: a second chance. "See, I am doing something new!" And he also tells the Pharisees, and us, that if we want the grace of that second chance, we must offer it first to our brothers and sisters. No, this is not the easy road of denial and tolerance, but it is the only road that leads to love. So let us do something new for ourselves, and help our siblings to do the same.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
"Taste and see the goodness of the Lord." When we read the tale of the Prodigal Son, how many of us overlook the elder son? How often is he relegated to a supporting role, whose existence is simply to heighten the drama of the father's actions? And yet, who is the believer more likely to resemble: the humiliated son returning with his tail between his legs, or the self-righteous son furious that he must share his father's grace with one so utterly undeserving? Shouldn't he have to work off his debt first? Shouldn't he have to prove his remorse? Shouldn't the little brat have to do something to earn back the family's love? Does "the message of reconciliation" we preach come from God or from our own very conditional hearts? Our Parent desires union with all of her children, every last one of them. Will we stand outside the banquet hall, stupidly protesting their generosity?
Sunday, March 3, 2013
The paradoxes of our God. They are "kind and merciful," but fail to "bear fruit" and it's "cut it down." Should it be any other way? After all, what good are we if we fail to bear fruit? It's certainly a truth we seem fond of, with our "makers vs. takers" ideologies. But is the fruit we value what God desires to eat? Does she have a hankering for our money and power? Or does he prefer something a little more kind and merciful? Is repent or perish a threat to the abused children of a harsh parent, or a warning to the lemmings who stubbornly refuse to see the looming chasm? "Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall." Yes, indeed. But fall we shall, and fail to bear fruit we will. And when we do, whom will God be: the landowner demanding we be cut down or the gardener pleading for one more year? Perhaps it will depend on which one we were when we dealt with our brothers and sisters. If we're lucky, God keeps asking for one more year until the landowner gives up or dies.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Today we shall sing these words, "Your presence, O LORD, I seek. Hide not your face from me." But after we do, how many of us will look around and see that face staring right back at us? Far too few, unfortunately. Some will close their eyes and wait for the miraculous. Others will stare at their shoes and hope that God is not really listening. But a few, far too few, will look and see God right there in our brothers and sisters struggling to love as best they can. We do not need to vacate this planet to become a citizen of heaven. We do not need to wait for the end times to witness God's glory in one another. But we do need to help our family open their eyes and raise their heads.
Friday, February 22, 2013
How fortuitous that we should celebrate this feast as the Church prepares to elect a new occupant for said chair. Today's readings remind us that when Jesus gave "the keys to the Kingdom of heaven" to Peter, he was hiring a shepherd, not a doorman. Peter and his successors are tasked with getting us into heaven, not keeping us out. And not just some of us, but every last one of us. So let us pray for a Church and a pope who will eagerly and kindly serve all of God's flock.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
We are not strangers to this temptation, for all of these scenes are but one temptation, one we have a more difficult time resisting than our brother Jesus: to bend God's will into a fulfillment of our own desires. God's path is too hard, so we do whatever's necessary to make the journey more luxurious. God's path takes too long, so we cut deals with whomever we can to create the true utopia. God's path is too mysterious, so we walk away from her when he won't prove their love to our satisfaction. Oh, we do all this under the flag of goodness and righteousness, but the problem is that neither our luxuries nor our utopias seem to last very long, so inevitably we're left in the dark and cold struggling to find our way back. There are no shortcuts around God's will, no matter how appealing they be.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Today, the Church marks us for all to see. And yet, Jesus tells us in the Gospel that we should not wear our faith on our sleeves, or our foreheads for that matter. The Church picked the readings, so why the double message? Perhaps it is to remind us that these ashes are not for our co-workers, our neighbors, or any of the strangers we meet today. They are for ourselves. They are not meant to be worn on our skin for a few hours. They are supposed to reside in our hearts for the next forty days. So you might as well wash them off quickly, for God knows if they truly stuck.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Isaiah. Paul. Peter. Time after time, God chooses the sinner, not the perfect, to be their prophets. Is she a sucker for a good redemption story? Or maybe he just finds them to be more fun to work with? Perhaps they are the only ones who can see grace in all its glory. Whatever the reason, it certainly looks like preference, not coincidence. And that is good news indeed! For if God chose them, then he could choose us as well. "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" Here I am, I say; send me!
Sunday, February 3, 2013
It's all about love. The prophet's job is to speak the Truth of Love. So why then does the prophet face rejection? Because we don't understand love any better than those who drove Jesus out of Nazareth. Do we believe in the kind of love of which Paul speaks, or the fantasy of butterflies, rainbows, and all things sparkly? When we are injured by another, do we follow the path of revenge or redemption? When we are the ones causing harm, do we seek out denial or atonement? When confronted with evil, do we turn away and engage in happy talk or look it squarely in the eye and place our trust in grace? Do we embrace only the likable or even the ugliest of God's children? Does love mean for a few, or for some, or for many, or for every last one of our brothers and sisters? And when we fail to love, do we accept reality or dare to hope? Yes, "Love never fails," because God never fails.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." How many of us would be bold enough to utter these words? And yet, did the Spirit not descend upon us as we were anointed in Confirmation of our baptismal vows? Are the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed no longer children of our Parent? Are we under no obligation to bring freedom, vision, and good news to our brothers and sisters? Is it not our duty to shout from the rooftops about the grace all around us that our siblings refuse to acknowledge? I pray that we are as bold as our Brother.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Why was Jesus hesitant at Cana? He foresaw the outcome: "His disciples began to believe in him." He knew how impressed we are by flashes and bangs, and that from then on miracles would become the required element for purveyors of faith. Even today, a saint isn't really a saint until he or she has performed a couple of miracles. What nonsense! If you're waiting for a little razzle-dazzle before you will listen to the voice of God, you're going to be very disappointed.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
“You are my beloved Child; with you I am well pleased.” These words were not for Jesus alone. They were meant for him to share. In Baptism, you and I are claimed for all time by our Parent. We are not family because of some random cosmic lottery. We are chosen.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Oh, how we love our tribes. They give us strength and identity. They make us special. But today, our Parent tells us that the era of tribalism is over. The Truth, whether we like it or not, is that we are one people, one family. It is not easy to let go of the tribe. We may feel weak and vulnerable. But if God was willing to become an infant to deliver the message, what excuse could we possibly come up with that justifies our failure to reach across the divide and grab hold of our brothers and sisters?