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Third Sunday of Easter

April 16, 2018

PEACE IN THE OPPOSITE

What are the themes we hear in our Easter Readings?  What kinds of things come up as listen to the stories of the early church now forming? (I mentioned a few last week:  all was in common, the loved one another, awe and wonder)  Today we hear two, if not more:  community and peace.  In these early days, we hear how the apostles came together – often in fear, which can be quite similar to awe.  And so when Jesus came among them, he said, “Peace be with you”.

Peace is one of those tricky words – a lot like love.  Peace doesn’t mean no conflict – peace means that we will not lose our ground should conflict occur.  Peace does not mean clear sailing or an easy path; the peace of Christ means that though bad things may happen, we trust that all will be as it needs to be, allowing our heart and mind to be at ease.  Peace is like standing in the eye of a hurricane – the calm in the chaos.

Community, Awe, and Peace.  This is Easter.  This is the effect of the resurrection.  This is redemption of our sinfulness.  Because as we have explored before – our sin leads us to believe that we are alone, that we are disconnected from God and each other.  Healing occurs when we know that we belong.  Grace is found in our connection to each other.

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2nd Sunday of Easter

April 9, 2018

A COMMUNITY OF AWE

I recently just finished reading “Barking to the Choir” by Jesuit Father Greg Boyle.  He is the priest who founded Homeboy Industries in South Los Angeles, which has become the largest gang rehabilitation program in the US.   In this book he reflecting upon the Acts of the Apostles – which focused on our first reading today.  He writes that when you read through Acts, a few things begin to stand out.

“See how they love each other” – not a bad gauge of health.  “There was no needy person among them.” A better metric would be hard to find. But he writes there is one line that stopped him in his tracks, and it caused me to open up my Bible because I just couldn’t believe I had not noticed this before.  “And awe came upon everyone.

Julian of Norwich thought that the truest and most authentic spiritual life was one that produce awe, humility and love,but as hard as love and humility are, awe might be the most difficult.

In spite of God’s magnitude, we have managed successfully to domesticate God.  How often do we settle for purity and piety when we are being invited to an exquisite holiness?”

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Easter Sunday 2018

April 2, 2018

MIRACLES ARE THE STUFF OF LIFE

Do you ever stop and wonder what part you would have played between Good Friday and Easter Sunday?  Where would you have been as they raised Jesus on the cross and laid him in the tomb?

Would you have stayed to watch him die?  There with the crowds?  Would you have heckled and jeered?  Would you have cried?  Would you even have stopped doing what had to be done?  Because lets be honest, only a few took the time to lay Jesus in the tomb.  Only a few even bothered to go there at all once he had died.

For all of our celebration that is today, I think we sometimes forget what a rather unassuming day this was . . . when it first occurred.  No one got together.  No businesses were closed.  What would become the most dramatic moment in human history occurred without any real consequence.

 

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Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday) 2018

March 30, 2018

THE NECESSITY OF CONVERSION

Thomas Merton wrote, “The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God. To know this truth, is to pray for our own discovery.”

Tonight, we recognize that love and mercy – that identity made to us through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the connected imperative to serve others – to offer ourselves as “bread for the world.”  Fundamentally, we celebrate the necessity of conversion.  We recognize that Christianity is a transformational religion – that we cannot be Christian and stay as we are.  This is at the heart of the Eucharistic and what we participate in every time we celebrate the Mass.  To come here is to lay down the part of ourselves that is in need of change so that we may live as Christ lived.

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5th Sunday of Lent

March 19, 2018

THERE IS A KIND OF DEATH IN HOSPITALITY

In our first reading today, we hear that God is doing something new:  a new covenant is being written, different than what we previously known, and established in the hearts of everyone.  It will no longer be the responsibility of a select few to teach or defend the law, for everyone will know God.

As I reflect upon these words, I am reminded of Rabbi Abraham Heschel’s own thoughts about our relationship with God.  He said, that we die when we cease to be surprised.

God is a God of surprises.  As soon as we think we know what to expect, or have all the answers, over and over again, God breaks through and shows us something new.

Unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains but a grain.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit.  As we continue to think about our own Lenten theme of letting go, the question is what do each of us need to let go of in order to produce better fruit?  The question is also for this worshipping community:  what do we need to let go of in order to produce better fruit?

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Parish Mission 2018 (Part Three)

March 15, 2018

GENEROUS DIALOGUE (Part Three)

(This Mission was presented at St. Albert the Great Newman Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico)

Many years ago, I was speaking to a student about confession.  He just did not see why it was necessary to confess his sins to a priest, when his sins were really just between him and God.  After we spoke about how our sins are always communal and that the priest represents the community, he paused and said, “but I don’t feel community when I go to church.”  I just paused and acknowledged how very true that feels.

For all of our talk about the church as a community, most of us walk in, sit in our pew, and have almost no interaction with the people around us.  Earlier I mentioned that in his book, Community, David Block distinguishes between Citizens and Consumers.  Citizens are those who are willing to be held accountable for and committed to the well-being of the whole.   One who produces the future, not wait, beg or dream for it.  Consumers are the antithesis of a Citizen.  They give power away.

I dare say that, for many people, church is where we exercise more consumerism than citizenship.  However, this is also a good reason for this:  because it is hard to belong without the opportunity for creativity and generativity.

Book References:

  • Block, Peter.  Community:  The Structure of Belonging.    San Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.  2008, p. 63.
  • Carrón, Julián.  Disarming Beauty:  Essays on Faith, Truth and Freedom.  University of Notre Dame Press, 2017.
  • D’Antonio, William V., et al.  American Catholics Today: New Realities of Their Faith and Their Church.  Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2007.
  • Ryan, C.P., Robin.  Young Adults and the Catholic Church.   Presented at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois.  September 17, 2010.
  • Pope Francis.  Amoris Laetitia, 37.
  • Heschel, Abraham.  God in Search of Man:  A Philosophy of Judaism.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (June 1, 1976)
  • Tippett, Krista.  On Being:  The Opposite of Good is Indifference. Interview with Arnold Eisen.  September 21, 2017.  https://onbeing.org/programs/arnold-eisen-the-opposite-of-good-is-indifference-sep2017/
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Parish Mission 2018 (Part Two)

March 14, 2018

GENEROUS DIALOGUE (Part Two)

(This Mission was presented at St. Albert the Great Newman Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico)

The best image of God, for me, is that of a parent who carefully watches over you ensuring that you have what you need to find your own way, and then eventually releases you into your own autonomy.    Sadly, I don’t think this is the notion of God that is passed down, even in our churches.  Most of the time, I find people hear what that student heard.  Is it any wonder why people no longer feel the connection to God or religion as they once did?  In our hyper-connected world, people are not interesting in investing in that which divides us.  In a world with so much uncertainty, they are looking for that which we all have in common and which grounds us.  This is God, but it is often not the God of people’s conversations.  Thus, it should not be surprising if the world rejects this God, because as Robert Wright has suggested, we have evolved to know better.

Years ago, I used to be a regular lecturer in a comparative religions class.  While it was impressive to see these students analyse that study the various tenants of the world’s major religions, I frequently reminded them that religion cannot be understood through the mind, but through the mind and the heart.  For any religion to make sense in one’s life, it must be experienced.  If it is a narrative of faith, religion is more poetry than prose.  It is like saying you have experienced a country our culture by reading about it.  Until you visit and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells; until you speak with the people that call it home; it makes very little sense.

Book References:

  • Tippet, Krista.  Becoming Wise:  An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.   Penguin Press, 2016.
  • Wright, Robert.   The Evolution of God.  Back Bay Books, May 2010.
  • Hines, Mary.  “Dr. Terry Eagleton”  Tapestry.  Interview.  Toronto:  CBC,  November 9, 2009.
  • Hines, Mary.  “Fear”  Tapestry.  Interview with Rabbi Harold Kushner.  Toronto:  CBC, January 10, 2010.