We are the children of God. You. Me. And everyone else on this little rock. We are siblings. Brothers and sisters all. And not in some hippy-dippy sense, but in our blood and bones, our hearts and souls. For we are the creation of our one Parent. Every last one of us. We are bound together in the deepest of ways, whether we like it or not. We are family. And that truth matters more than anything corporate religion or the prophets of tribalism can ever devise. You may not always agree with or even like your relatives, but they are always your family. Some bonds cannot be broken. And if we listen closely, we will hear our hearts and souls demanding that those bonds be recognized and honored, even with our worst enemies. So dare to follow the Spirit's call. Claim your place in the house of the Lord. It is your home too, and one far grander than any temple or cathedral, because it is simply our family.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Friday, December 25, 2015
Today, we celebrate our Parent's grand plan: they simply decided to join us. Yes, God became one of us, in all our idiotic glory. They wanted us to be able to feel our hands in theirs when they tell us to be unafraid. They wanted us to see that they know what it is like to walk in darkness, and what it means to hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. They wanted us to know that we are not alone. Regardless of the countless times we refuse to trust them, they will always offer us their presence. Yes, today is truly a day of good news, for upon us all, divine favor rests. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Do you believe that our Parent's words will be fulfilled? That is the challenge of Advent. They promise us peace and salvation, but not according to our timelines or expectations. So do you trust them? Are your grand plans a true manifestation of their will, or an attempt to hedge your bets? We try so hard to complicate these questions, but our choices are rather simple, just like Mary's: yes or no.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
"What should we do?" Be kind to all. It really is that simple. We get so caught up in grand plans to fix the world, that we are blind to the power of ordinary kindness. The Lord whom we long for this season came to us as a brother and a friend, not as some sort of social justice warrior-king. Yes, he baptizes us with fire, but the fire of grace, not zealotry. A fire meant to drive us to recognize all those whom we meet as beloved members of our one family and to treat them accordingly. Listen to them, even when you do not like what they say. Embrace them, even when you fear that they might hurt you. Share all you possess, and refuse to use them as tools for personal profit. And when you inevitably fail at such tasks, apologize and make amends. Yes, grace really is simple and ordinary. So as we finish Advent and begin the Jubilee of Mercy, let us "cry out with joy and gladness": for the great and holy family to which we belong; for the opportunity to be generous with our Parent's love; and for the knowledge that she is near, patiently waiting to gather us into a kingdom that surpasses all expectation.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
We are the crooked roads in need of straightening. We are the mountains and chasms blocking God's way. And by we, I do mean all of us, not just a handful of trigger-pullers and their accomplices. We all embrace tribalism. We all use violence to fix our problems. And our hearts and souls become rougher with every step down those paths. So what are we to do? Love our enemies. Acknowledge both killers and killed as our brothers and sisters. Mourn them all. Grand plans will never heal the world's ills, only the grace of hearts and souls transformed by repentance and forgiveness stands a chance. Yes, "the Lord has done great things." They became one of us, to show us the splendor of our family. And if we are truly "filled with joy," then we will celebrate every sibling, even those we fear or dislike.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
"Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth." I spent most of this week trying to shoehorn words into some grand plan for a series of Advent posts. The first one failed, so I moved on to the second, which also crashed and burned. Why? Because they were about my ways, not theirs; my paths, not theirs; my truth, not theirs. Get the picture? I wish I could say that my heart became "drowsy" from all this, because that would probably feel better than the anger that is actually there. But perhaps the anger is a better motivator for prayer, which is what I need most at the moment. So please, my dearest friend, grant me the humility to let go of my designs and the strength to remain vigilant to your call, "for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day."
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Let us be thankful today for all the moments of our lives, but most especially for those that we dearly wish to forget. The cringe-worthy ones which bring deep shame and solemn regret. The suffering ones that produce tears of hot anger and cold grief. The ones we fantasize about doing over, if we could go back in time. Life is a tapestry, and for better or worse, these experiences are part of the artwork that is you. How many threads could you pull out without unraveling everything you have come to be? We learn from failure and triumph alike. Even sin provides opportunities for hope and salvation.
Now, I am not saying that sin is good or that failure should be courted. But both are part of the human condition and they will inevitably arrive on your doorstep. Do not fear them. Do not fear the truths they will set before you. Shame can help keep you honest. Suffering can show you what matters and what does not. I have had plenty of experience with both and they have taught me wonderful things, though I cannot say that I look forward to future lessons. But I trust that when those lessons come, it will be because our Parent has something valuable to teach me. And I am thankful for such grace.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Today was the grand finale of Ordinary Time, a celebration of the Creator King of the ordinary and the mundane. And perhaps the greatest meditation on the nature of their universe was given by Thornton Wilder, through the character of Emily Webb, in the final act of his play "Our Town":
I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back—up the hill—to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners … Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking … and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths … and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.
Grace envelops us, every routine moment of our lives. We so rarely notice, however, because we are enthralled by "dominion, glory, and kingship." The world sucks us in and we swallow its delusions. We fear being small and ordinary. But if we are willing to listen to our Parent, we can rise above ignorance and find our way to a realm where there is no such thing as small or ordinary.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
"It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress." This week, we saw beheadings in Afghanistan, bombings in Lebanon, and shootings in France. It is easy to feel like we are living in the end times, to hope that our Parent will swoop in and make everything better. But that is not the hope we are called to live. No, our task is to love our neighbor, even if they be the outcast or the enemy, and to let happen whatever is going to happen. We are called to trust in the love of the cross. And to proclaim the truth that while heaven and earth might pass away, grace never will. Alleluia, alleluia.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
We are called to love our Parent and our family. But what portion of ourselves do we actually sacrifice for that purpose: our "whole livelihood" or just the leftovers? In the coming weeks, we will donate used clothing and canned food, loose change and big checks. We will bask in holiday generosity. But what if instead, we told our elected officials to go ahead and put that new affordable housing complex in our neighborhood, or maybe it was a halfway house for sex offenders. What if we told our bosses to divvy up the Christmas bonuses into equal shares for every employee, including the ones who clean up the office but technically don't work here because we outsourced their jobs to save on benefits. And what if we refused to play retailers' Black Friday games until they helped build an economy that serves our entire family, not just a greedy few. Are you willing to risk your "whole livelihood" for your brothers and sisters? Or will you devour their houses, while piously singing hymns and carols?
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Who is part of this family that we celebrate today? Yes, we know the meek and the weak are blessed. But what about the elephants and the octopuses? Are such thoughts absurd or blasphemous? Are we so blinded by anthropocentrism that we can only see animals as pets, or tools, or objects of worship? Is it possible that they might actually be our brothers and sisters, or is that merely the stuff of legend and fantasy? If we dared to embrace them as siblings, what wisdom might they teach us? About life? About our Parent? Yes, blessed are they who long to see our family's true and full face.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
A teenage boy: lost, alone, being raised by institutions. An elderly man: depressed, dependent, dying in diapers. A mother finding refuge in a strange land, hoping to build an escape ladder for her children. An accidentally pregnant woman and the unborn baby in her womb. They are our brothers and sisters, crying out for mercy to our Parent and to us. But far too often, our response is to rebuke them, telling them to be silent. How can we respect life, if we are not willing to listen to our siblings' pains, sorrows, and hopes? How can we deliver mercy, if we are more interested in ending their cries than in meeting their truest needs? It is our hearts and souls who need to hear these stories, not our minds which are looking for evidence to advance agendas and ideologies. The latter seem incapable of coming up with solutions other than death or dollars. We can do better. Our hearts and souls are full of creativity and grace. If we are willing to unleash them, they will find countless ways for us to guide and console our brothers and sisters who "departed in tears." And if we are willing to make the required sacrifices, we will all find ourselves in a kingdom full of joy. Yes, we can do great things, we can love.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
We like to believe that we are free and in control. But not a day goes by where we do not feel the urge to obey some modern version of one of the seven deadly sins. We joke about living in bondage to our smartphones, blind to the truth that our digital utopia is just the latest incarnation of mammon. We are slaves, all of us. But we are slaves with the power to choose our owner. We can keep serving corrupt masters who entice us with the sweet illusion of autonomy and other pretty lies. Or we can submit to a Lord and their family who offer us the pain and joy of sacrifice. It is no mystery as to why so few of us choose the latter. But it should also be no mystery as to which of them will in the end leave us by the roadside in humiliation. So place your trust in our Parent and their children, "confidently approach the throne of grace", and you will receive kindness beyond all measure.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
"How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" Our first inclination today will be to minimize those words, to come up with all sorts of excuses for why they do not apply to us or to our wealth. Resist that urge with all your might. Let them pierce you instead, like a "two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow." Does your wealth truly encourage you to enter into oneness with our family, to place our siblings' needs and desires ahead of your own or your tribe's, to sacrifice all that you have for the enemy who is your brother or sister?
Uncomfortable questions, but we need to go there, even if there are no easy answers. I live in a nice apartment in a nice neighborhood in a nice suburb. I know that I am wealthy, though most Americans would probably disagree. I also know that I have no intention of surrendering my wealth anytime soon. Now, I could try to minimize this truth by reflecting on the meagerness of my bounty, or my efforts to simplify my existence, or the idea that everyone deserves a nice home in a nice community. But that is the comfort of denial. I am sinning against my family and there is no point pretending otherwise, for "everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of them to whom we must render an account."
Yes, I know, everyone does deserve a nice home in a nice community. But I also know that I am not doing everything in my power to make that a reality. I might have one eye on that goal. The other eye, however, is focused on protecting what I have. Where are your eyes focused? What is wealth drawing you into? Let these questions burn within your heart and soul until they become a plea for the spirit of wisdom to come upon you. And if she does, follow her wherever she may lead, for it will certainly be a realm that gives our family reason to "shout for joy and gladness all our days."
Sunday, October 4, 2015
We do our family a disservice if we focus only on divorce today. If we "all have one origin", then all of us together are "one flesh", not just the married couples. How often do we seek to deny or even break the bonds we share with our brothers and sisters? And how many laws and customs exist to facilitate such actions, not for the sake of justice or love, but because of the hardness of our hearts? From the beginning of creation, we have been family. And from the beginning of creation, that truth has terrified us. It is hard enough being bound to those we love, but to strangers and enemies as well? Only a fool or a child would embrace a truth like that, and the latter for only a short while; we adults make sure of that. But what if we chose to live as fools? Would we open our hearts and recognize that the kingdom we crave was right there in the "bones of our bones and flesh of our flesh"? Would we come to accept that what our Parent has joined together can never be separated? May we be blessed to live like fools all the days of our lives! And may peace be upon our family until the end of time!
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Oftentimes, it feels like Moses' wish has been granted. There are so many prophets, so many voices claiming to speak for Truth. Which are genuine and which are fake? Always remember, "the precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart." But how does such joy taste and feel? Look to the martyrs. Look to the cross. Joy is the knowledge in our hearts and souls that we are walking the path we were created to walk. Such journeys are messy and disturbing. They are rarely free of doubt, pain, or fear. But they are the only ones that lead to a truly happy ending. So examine your prophets, myself included. What precepts do they announce? What paths do they encourage? Is it really joy that they are offering you, or something else? Take care, that you might find your way into unquenchable love.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
"Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us." How many of us will mutter such words to ourselves before Pope Francis' visit to the United States is over? Sure, we will lap up the mercy stuff. But what about when he challenges the "jealousy and selfish ambition" that permeates our hearts and souls? Left, right, center, whatever; none of us are getting a free pass. So how will you respond? Turf protection mode, as the wicked ones do? Or a hearty alleluia for grace that is truly sustaining?
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Fourteen years ago, we were given a cross to carry. But instead of bearing it as God did, we thought as humans do and sought to nail someone to it. We needed vengeance. Someone had to pay, even if those someones did nothing to cause our pain. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Iraq. Syria. What sort of works have we done in the last fourteen years? And what sort of faith have they demonstrated? Which parts of this era are covered by our cries of "Never Forget"? And which ones will we happily relegate to the dustbin of history? But here is the great thing about crosses: it is never too late to take them up. No, we cannot close Pandora's box. We can, however, clean up just a little bit of the death and disruption we unleashed upon the world. Yes, this will mean sacrifice of some kind. But what price are we willing to pay so that we might finally "walk before the Lord, in the land of the living"?
Sunday, September 6, 2015
"All lives matter." We do mean these words. We fail to live them out, however, because we believe in them in a conditional sort of way: yes, all lives matter, but some matter more than others. The sin of partiality is so ingrained that it has become common sense. Of course the rich matter more than the poor; it's the economy stupid! Of course CEOs matter more than line workers; it's just business! And of course white lives matter more than brown or black ones; it's the way it's always been. Some of us are essential, and some of us are kind of like extras in a movie. Where the true dignity of our family is concerned, we are blind, deaf, mute, and exceedingly lame. So let us beg our Parent to lay their hand upon us, that our impediments might be removed and our hearts and minds opened.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
We tend to think of corporate religion as the province of traditionalists and conservatives; modern day Pharisees who value rules over love. But it is also the domain of practitioners of the cult of tolerance; modern day Pharisees who value rules ahead of truth. And like their ancient counterparts, both groups are obsessed with avoiding certain external threats that they believe will defile their hearts and souls, while simultaneously ignoring "the things that come out from within" that do the real damage.
I first experienced the latter sort of corporate religion my freshman year at Berkeley. The professor for Introduction to Religious Studies banned the use of the abbreviations BC or AD for dates. Instead, we were expected to use BCE and CE, because the term "Common Era" was more sensitive to diversity than references to Jesus. Of course, the dates themselves did not change. They continued to revolve around the life of Jesus. But as long as we ignored that reality, no one would get offended.
And that is the point of this brand of corporate religion: to avoid offending believers' sensibilities, even at the cost of offending truth. In just a few decades, it has taken us from my rather minor example to the land of microaggressions and trigger warnings. Where will it take us next? Yes, language matters. But let us not delude ourselves into thinking that hashtags and politeness can ever stand in for justice or love. The cult of tolerance honors our family with its lips, but its heart is far, far away.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
We are called to be servants: to our Parent; to the person they created us to be; to our brothers and sisters, especially the ones we find most inconvenient; and to the glorious canvas upon which all this living art is pouring itself out. Yes, this truth is hard. We struggle against it mightily. But the more we chase freedom, the more we find ourselves in conflict with those whom we are meant to serve. Pick a hot-button issue, dig down to its source, and you will likely find someone struggling to rid themselves of the obligations that bind them to some other element of our family. We crave liberty; and yet over and over again, we end up oppressing everyone, even ourselves. Yes, we can taste and see so many exotic things by rebelling against our calling, but grace will not be among them.
So choose grace, right? Except we all know that grace is oftentimes the last thing we want to taste or see, because it can be bitter and humiliating. I recently began my third year of work as a campus aide at a public middle school. One of my duties is lunch supervision, which includes asking the students to clean up after themselves, and then doing it for them after they inevitably leave their trash behind. So there I was on the first day of classes, sweeping up spilled salad, when this new student wonders aloud about what it is like to be a janitor. I bristled. And then I remembered the real janitor: who gives more of himself than anyone else at that school; who remains kind and joyful, no matter how often his generosity is taken advantage of; who shares his friendship abundantly with children and adults alike; who is a servant in the noblest sense of the word. And I was ashamed. Grace shows us the ugly truth when we choose to ignore our calling, and that is always beautiful. So yes, choose grace.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
"To the one who lacks understanding, She says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!" Soon, the bishops of the world will assemble once more to discern how the Church can better serve our family. And of the many hot topics on their agenda, the policy on Eucharist for the divorced and remarried will be among the hottest. My hope is that Wisdom's call still rings in our bishops' ears as they enter into their dialogues. Perhaps then, they will realize that we have turned the bread of life into a trophy for those who have already forsaken foolishness and ignorance, when it is really needed as fuel for those who are struggling on the journey to such a destination. They need Eucharist. We all need Eucharist. So let us help one another to the table, that we might taste and see grace.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
How often do we fail to taste and see our Parent's goodness because we expect grace to be bigger or bolder? Bread and water for a weary prophet. The neighbor kid as incarnation. A simple cross. We do not think of God as ordinary, and that is a shame. For such thinking puts the Divine in a box, a pretty one perhaps but a box nonetheless, only to be experienced on special occasions. It leaves us blindly stumbling through life oblivious to the grace surrounding us, oblivious to the grace within us. So taste and see the goodness of your Lord. It is abundant. It is everywhere. And it is enough.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
"Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." These words should be in the back of our minds every time we seek to do right by our brothers and sisters. Yes, we must eat and drink to stay alive. And yes, we must make our cultures and societies more just and merciful to keep us all well. None of this, however, is what we truly need. We need to experience grace. And we need to recognize one another as family. But this latter need cannot be fulfilled through our default mechanics of law and politics. Family cannot be mandated or regulated. No, we must choose to have empathy for those siblings who have done us wrong. And then we must choose to love them.
I write these words with recent headlines in mind. Abortion videos. Police misconduct. Trophy hunts for lions, tigers, and bears. Children growing up in seedy motels. Oh my indeed. There is no shortage of evil in this world, and we must do our best to fight it. But we must never be under the illusion that we can fix it. We are called to be the kingdom, not to build one. Sometimes, oftentimes, this will not feel like enough, but it is. Faith, hope, and love are always enough, if we choose them.
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Each of us is that boy on the mountain. Each of us has something that our brothers and sisters need. Will you offer it up, trusting God to provide enough for everyone? Or will you hold it close, trusting you and only you to fill your own belly? Yes, the latter seems more logical, more American. But it is most surely not "a manner worthy of the call you have received." So each of us has a choice to make: Who will you trust to feed you? And who will you trust to answer your deepest needs?
Sunday, July 19, 2015
You are my shepherd. I know no other. I follow no other. I am your useless servant. I am your sheep. To call myself such words does me no harm. I am not left disparaged or degraded by such truths. On the contrary, to be your sheep is to walk through this life with eyes of wonder and joy. And to be your useless servant is to know that I can never fail you, never disappointment you. You guide me, guard me, and love me. There is truly nothing for which I want. Alleluia, alleluia.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
"Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation." I was so young when you took me and told me to speak for you. I didn't have a clue. Not a fucking clue. How I wish you had instructed me like you did the Twelve. Instead, you made me wander, with authority over nothing. I'm tired. So very fucking tired. It feels like all I ever do is shake the dust off my feet. But you chose me. You sent me forth. What else can I do except move on to the next place? So please, my friend, please show your useless servant mercy, and lavish me with your grace. Alleluia, alleluia.
Sunday, July 5, 2015
Yes, we are a rebellious people, "hard of face and obstinate of heart." But what does that mean when it comes to same-sex marriage? Which of us are the truly defiant ones? Perhaps the problem is that we spend too much time debating politics, when we should be pondering the essential questions. Why does same-sex attraction exist? Is it a tragic defect in the natural order of things or a manifestation of divine will? Which is a greater act of disbelief: to deny the reality of the former or the possibility of the latter? And which is a position of greater weakness: to believe that God has already revealed all there is to reveal, or to acknowledge that they have an abundance of surprises in store for us? So gaze into the hearts of your brothers and sisters, and your own as well, then answer the question.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
At the beginning of this month, my cousin died of cancer. Nicole was a few months shy of her fortieth birthday. She had prayed for a miraculous healing. It did not come. Two days after her death, the son of a dear friend celebrated his fiftieth birthday. Kevin has lived with major medical problems for almost all of those years. He was not supposed to live past four. But grace has rained down upon him. Why? Why does one survive and one not? How many in the crowd surrounding Jesus hoped for a miracle, a healing, for themselves or a loved one? Why were two rewarded, but not the rest?
Life and death. It all feels so capricious. And that notion is exactly what we need to be rescued from. But like a man struggling not to drown, we must trust the arms of our rescuer first. Are you willing to submit to your Parent's logic? Are you willing to surrender to their control? And what might they show you if you are so willing? After my cousin's death, a group of her friends took charge of all the funeral arrangements, allowing her immediate family to simply grieve. So perhaps Nicole's prayers did not go unanswered. And perhaps Kevin has a new guardian angel. Wishful thinking, or a glimpse into grace? I choose to praise our Master and to believe myself rescued. What will you choose?
Sunday, June 21, 2015
"Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" Hard questions, especially right now, but ones we need to hear. Those most affected by the terrorist attack in South Carolina certainly heard them. And we know how they responded to the challenge: with words of forgiveness and mercy towards the man who killed their loved ones. Yes, we should admire such faith. But we must also be on guard against the temptation to water it down into feel-good platitudes or quick-fix solutions. Faith is not meant to be easy or comfortable. The cross attests to as much. Our brothers and sisters at Mother Emanuel have picked up theirs and embarked upon that long, hard road. Will we join them?
And what if we did join them? What might that look like? Might it mean facing up to history we have conveniently ignored? Yes. Or banishing symbols of hatred and oppression from our public spaces? Yes. Or even perhaps the consideration of reparations to those whose lives we have plundered for far too long? Yes. And those are just the easy ones. The hard part comes when we must burrow into our hearts and minds to find those places where we simply refuse to love our neighbors, and then realize that we cannot rip out such cancers nor heal such wounds. The uncomfortable truth of sin is that we are incapable of being the family we are called to be, even as we are obliged to pursue it.
So what do we do? Do we drown ourselves in feel-good platitudes and quick-fix solutions? Or do we wake up and embrace a bold and daring faith? A faith that rebukes injustice and orders misery to be still, while knowing full well that neither will go away. A faith that loves ones enemies, even when they hold a sword to your throat. A faith that claims that, no matter how dire the situation may be, evil will never stand victorious. A faith that trusts our Parent and the strange kingdom they wish us to inherit. Yes, let us give thanks to our Master, for their grace is magnificent and everlasting.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Shoots and seeds. It is who we are and what we have to contribute to the kingdom. And it is enough. So why are we left unsatisfied? Is the builder not working fast enough? Or do we not like the product we see under development? Have any of our efforts to insert ourselves into the process brought about better results? Or do we simply end up taking two steps forward and two steps back? Perhaps now is the time to surrender to our Parent's wisdom, and just be shoots and seeds. Let us love our brothers and sisters, really love them, and trust the kingdom to grow however our Master sees fit.
Sunday, June 7, 2015
Is Eucharist for the clean or the unclean? We all know the answer corporate religion gives. They fuss and fret over who should and, perhaps more fervently, should not partake of the sacrament. But I say that Eucharist is not a reward for those who have already gotten life right, but an infusion of grace for those who need it most. And who is more in need than those who are dirty and unkempt? How can we expect anyone who is wallowing in sin to let go of such filth without a little help from the Divine? I tell you that our Parent desires a covenant with all of their children; all, not just a chosen few, or some, or even many, but every last one of us. And if accomplishing such a thing means that sacred bread and wine needs to touch unclean hands and lips, then let us sing alleluia and pass them along.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
Scripture tells us that we were created in God's image. So if they are three, plural, a we are instead of an I am, then what does that make us? If the Trinity is truth, and we take that truth seriously, can we continue to worship our sacred cows of freedom or tribalism? Parent, Son, and Spirit are bound to one another as a family of love. Like it or not, so are you and I and all the rest of our brothers and sisters. We are family; bound to one another in a sacred dance that takes us far beyond our comfort zones of tolerance, sentimentality, or utilitarian convenience. A true we are, not just a collection of I ams.
So how do we tap into our trinitarian nature? How do we act more like the family that we are? Perhaps it is as simple as being gentle to one another. Give your siblings the benefit of the doubt. Try with all your might to see the best in the person you like the least. Do less agitating and more listening. And take a lesson from some anonymous Turkish villagers who in the midst of genocide mourned the loss of their neighbors: "The Armenians were the salt of our land … that which gave us taste and aroma is gone … may God look after us all." Yes, may We Are look after those she has chosen to be his own, those whom they have blessed with the greatest of all inheritances: family.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Veni, Sancte Spiritus. Ask and she will come. But he will not bring the gifts you expect, and certainly not the ones you want. Just yesterday, the Church honored our martyred brother Oscar Romero. What does his sacrifice mean given the violence that has consumed El Salvador since his death? Where is the peace, justice, or love? Are we ready now to bear the truth of the kingdom, or must we continue to hide from its fire? Will you take up your cross knowing full well that it will not change the big picture of this world one bit? Will you see the kingdom as it is, not as you want it to be? And will you run to that kingdom and embrace all the strange beauty it has to offer? Veni, Sancte Spiritus.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
I am going to take a break from blogging this Easter season. My mind aches, and I have finally been given permission to rest. I will resume my task for Pentecost Sunday. In the meantime, please hear in my silence a cry of thanksgiving for the delightful ordinariness of divine mercy.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
And so the forty days are over. We spent our time in the tomb, but now the stone has been removed. What do you see as you walk out into the sunlight? Does anything seem different than it was before? Is the world still the world, or has something wonderful appeared in its midst? Are your neighbors still just neighbors, or do you suddenly have more brothers and sisters than all the stars in the sky? Have you simply been paroled for one more year? Or have you risen with our Brother to a state that defies all our rules and explanations? And are you merely going through the motions because this is the day the Church has made? Or do you truly have reason to rejoice and be glad?
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Yes, we are clueless. The crowds with their cloaks and leafy branches. The disciples and their sense of when to be indignant and when to fall asleep. The naked young man running for his life. And Peter, so brave, until he knows the stakes. Even Jesus, very human Jesus, who believes himself forsaken, if only for a moment. Despite our prayers and rituals and lovely theologies, we understand neither the kingdom, nor the Brother who lights a path to its doorstep. We still expect truth and grace to conform to certain rules; not our Parent's rules mind you, but our own. We remain as blind as those who cried out for Barabbas or who pounded in the nails. Such is how we enter this holy week. But it is not how we have to exit it. The tomb is an invitation, not just a memory. Will you accept it?
Sunday, March 22, 2015
"A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me." Let this be our mantra as we enter into the last of these forty days. We cannot hope to be free of sin in this life. But we can plead for a heart that refuses to avert its eyes from our sins or to pretend that they are anything other than what they are, even as we commit them. And we can beg for a spirit that calmly bears both the just guilt of our own evil and the unjust suffering brought on by our neighbors' disobedience, even as we strive to wash them all away. Now, these might not be the gifts we long for at Easter, but they are the ones we need if we hope to enter into the mystery that is divine mercy.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
"Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!" But we do forget. Babylon enchants us, even those who see it for what it is. We adopt its ways, even as we try to transform it. We are lost. Which is why we so desperately need these forty days. They are a time for silence and tears, that the fog might be cleared from our hearts and minds. And when it has, we might remember that Zion is not a place, but rather a promise, an oath of love from Parent to child that can never be taken from us.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Sometimes love means picking up a whip. No, this is not the sign we demanded, nor the wisdom we were looking for, but it is the truth we must proclaim. Our Parent's love is not fluffy or weak, nor does it suffer fools or tricksters. Its purpose is to refresh our souls, not to coddle them, for God desires us to taste a joy that never loses its sweetness. Which means we oftentimes need to hear a resounding chorus of "You shall not." Such grace might not be music to our ears, but it is, without a doubt, proof that something wonderful awaits us. So let us invite the divine whip into our hearts for the duration of these forty days, that we too might be consumed with zeal for our Parent's houses.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
How many of us cringe at the thought of Abraham offering up his only son to the Holy One? And yet, how many of us gladly sacrifice our brothers and sisters in service of far pettier deities? Lust. Greed. Fear. We would much rather listen to them than any angel of mercy telling us to stay our hands. So let us spend the remainder of these forty days in mourning for those siblings whose souls and bodies we have maimed and destroyed. Let us pick someone each day and weep for them. The friend whom we threw under the bus. The enemy whom we judged as deserving of our wrath. The stranger whom we wrote off as collateral damage. And through our tears we might hear a voice proclaim, "These are my precious children. Love them." And then, perhaps, we will finally be ready to listen to our Brother, and to join him in walking beside our Parent in the land of all that is.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Yes, "this is the time of fulfillment." And yes, "the kingdom of God is at hand." There has not been a single day, since before the dawn of creation, that our Parent has failed to deliver on their promise to shower us with love and truth. And the greatest of all their gifts is our brothers and sisters, who form a realm more dazzling than all the stars in the sky. But so many of us find this news too good to be true. We feel surrounded by hate and lies, and constantly mistake siblings for enemies or strangers. Which is why we need forty days in the desert; forty days to be stripped of anger and fear; forty days for the scales to fall from our hearts and souls; forty days to see life through divine eyes. And at the end of these days, when we finally emerge from the wilderness, perhaps then, we will believe.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
"Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned." Yes, we have sinned. I have sinned. For these forty days, let us take a reprieve from marching and shouting and agitating about our neighbors' sins, no matter how horrendous they may be. And let us instead expend our outrage on our own sins, no matter how minuscule they seem. Let us dive deep into remorse and be overly generous with our amends. And then perhaps at the end of these forty days, we might actually feel that divine mercy that each of us so desperately craves. Yes, let us be merciful with one another, for we all have sinned.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
We are unclean, every last one of us. Not because of anything we have done, but simply by virtue of who we are: creatures who ooze insecurity, anger, and paranoia. We have endured this affliction ever since that first moment when consciousness emerged in the tiny brains of distant ancestors on some African plain. We awoke to something overwhelming, and it produced a stain that we seem unable to wash away, no matter our centuries worth of ritual, prayer, and art. And yet, it is all an illusion, a trick in our overheated minds that constantly mistakes "reality" for what is real. We are blind, not unclean, and our Parent is eager to restore our sight. But they also know that we need to make the first move, we must crave healing, and therein lies the challenge. How many of us wallow in our supposed filth, because it feels easier to subsist in the dirt, rather than live in the light? How often do we gaze upon our world, soak in its pain and misery, and think to ourselves that joy and love are nothing more than fairy tales? Who among us is bold and brave enough to kneel before God and beg to see all that truly is? Will you turn to Them in your time of darkness, and be filled with the light of grace?
Sunday, February 8, 2015
It is easy to be pessimistic about life. Misery and mayhem have never been in short supply. Neither have drudgery, nor chaos. Brokenness has always appeared to reign supreme in too many lives and too many places. So what are we to do? Numb ourselves with amusements? Give in to our fears and doubts? Or perhaps surrender to something else instead? Faith. Beauty. Wonder. The kiss of a cool breeze. The dance of a pair of butterflies. The splendor of the most ordinary flower. We do not need miracles to heal our hearts and souls. No, our Parent has provided us with so many lovely balms, but they tend to go overlooked because they feel too simple and pollyannaish. And maybe they are. And maybe that is the point, that the purpose of our existence is not to indulge our schemes and dreams, but to merely bear witness to something we can barely describe. So will you drown in the sorrows of the so-called "real" world? Or will you live in the hope of all that is wonderfully real?
Sunday, February 1, 2015
We are constantly deluged by voices claiming to speak for God. So how do we know which ones are real and true? What signs should we look for as evidence of divine favor? Do we hope to be dazzled with supernatural powers? Or are we content to settle for the merely superhuman? What about those poor schlubs who possess neither popularity, nor institutional credentials, nor the proper lifestyle, nor a resume full of righteous deeds? Do we dismiss their words out of hand, or give them an opportunity to penetrate our hearts? How many prophets pass our tests, but spew more bile than love? And how much grace do we walk away from, because we could not prove its value in advance?
Which brings us to the elephant in the room: why should you believe that my voice is genuine, that the revelation I share is Truth, that I speak for our Parent? I have no proof, only words. But they are not really my words. They are a song I see in the eyes of the middle schoolers in my detention room, full of rudeness and disrespect, but also promise and hope. A song that screams from the mountains that climb above my hometown, a blinding sign that the kingdom is far grander than our little dog and pony show of an existence. A song I did not compose, but one whose lyrics I cannot help but write, for they are ripe fruit bursting from every nook and cranny of creation. How can anyone not hear this song or taste this fruit when it is so overwhelmingly omnipresent? They are yours for the taking, but you do not take them, do you? And so God asks a poor schlub like me to try to open your eyes. And so I offer you words, just words, and ask you to "harden not your hearts."
Sunday, January 25, 2015
We always think that we have God figured out. And they are continuously reminding us that we really do not have a clue. Justice. Mercy. Salvation. The kingdom. None of these are what we expect them to be. If there is something for which we need to repent, it is probably our assumption that our Parent is as petty and provincial as we are. Yes, "teach us your ways, O Lord," for we are in desperate need of your truth, confounding though it may be, and this is indeed "the time of fulfillment."
Sunday, January 18, 2015
"Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will." Such words are never far from my lips or my heart, yet that divine will remains as mysterious as ever. And this is good; it is as it should be. Our Parent does not have a ten-point plan for us to execute, much to our disappointment. No, they simply ask us to listen and to look, and then to share. They offer wonder, not clarity or certainty. It is different than what we expected, as it was for the first disciples. But once the shock of the cross wears off, perhaps we too will find ourselves somewhere beautiful. Yes, amazing things happen when we trust in God's plan, as strange and mysterious as it might be. So, "here am I, Lord; I come to do your will."
Sunday, January 11, 2015
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD." It is important for us to remember this, especially when life seems most vicious and cruel. There is much about this world that will never make sense to us, but that does not make it senseless. Every moment of every last life is a seed that in time, be it centuries or millenniums, will produce the most sublime fruit. This is not just a lucky reality that our Parent happens to be able to see, it is what they intended from long before time began. And it is how they can proclaim that each of us, even those we find most foul, is their beloved child, with whom they are most emphatically pleased.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
What has this child done to deserve such adoration? Yes, there is hope of deeds to come, but those things lie far off in an uncertain future. All we have for sure is his existence, and that is enough. God is here with us, with all of us, and that is enough. We forget this too often and too easily. We expect love to be something more, something busier, than simply showing up. Perhaps that is why we look around and see a trash heap or an amusement park, instead of the rose garden that is actually there. So open your eyes. Your king awaits. And her mere presence is everything you need.