Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent

"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

Thanksgiving Day

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

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

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

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

"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

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

Solemnity of All Saints

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.