With Liberty and Justice for All

As we pause for prayer (worship) the Roman Liturgical Calendar tells us that this is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  It is also in the US, the 4th of July Weekend.  As we LIVE our faith, one fact should not ignore the other.

A Facebook quote seen earlier this week stays in my mind:

Freedom is not the right to do as one pleases.  Freedom is the opportunity to do what is right.

Let me repeat:

Freedom is not the right to do as one pleases.  Freedom is the opportunity to do what is right.

In the letter to the Romans (8:9-13) Paul reminds us that we are in the Spirit (of Jesus) and not of the flesh (the worldly).  Paul goes us to tell us that we are not debtors — we do not owe — to the worldly.  We have been set free — first from death itself in that we will rise to new life ——–and secondly from deadly things.  We have been set free — free for what?

To do the right thing.

The Gospel of Matthew (11:25-30) tells us “up front” that doing the right thing is not the easy thing — at times it feels like a burden — it is burdensome — it is at times hard to do the right thing.  BUT, Jesus says, he offers, he promises – that he will help us to carry the burden — if we but yoke ourselves to him.

Many are feeling and saying that this 4th of July is unlike any other — and I feel that way.  Many usual events have been cancelled — and even some firework shows are going to be broadcast “virtually.”  Beaches are closed in many places — people are encouraged to attend small, family gatherings.  Parades are rare across the country.

We are seeing that no age group or profession is being spared of the coronavirus.  We are learning more and more about asymptomatic carriers and the fact that many people who never show the effects of the virus — are infecting others.

Social unrest has been lowered from a boil — to a simmer. The unrest has not gone away.  Just like Covid-19 has not gone away.

As always — when we feel overwhelmed — or helpless — we need to go back to the thought:

To the world I am one — but to the one, I am the world.

Just last week we were reminded by the scripture that if we give but a cup of cold water to the one in need, we give it to Jesus.

I am free to do what is right.  Right here, right now, at this moment — I can pledge allegiance to the right cause, the correct thing to do, the just action.

When ten individuals do the right thing ….. one-at-a-time, a movement begins.

The prophet Zechariah tells us (9:9-10) that our king will come, a just savior is he, meek …

We do not have to be loud — just do what is right — one person at a time, one house at a time, one neighborhood at a time, one city at a time … and then we become the nation where all people are created equal and where there is liberty and justice for all.

Some will march — some will write letters to political leaders to remove statues that offend — some will create scholarships affording equal access to education — or funds for equal access to health care.

By ourselves — yoked to Jesus –we will face and overcome all that burdens us individually and as a nation.

 

HJM

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The Trinity: An Image of Unity and An Image of Diversity

Christians seem to accept the mystery of the Trinity without much question or need for explanation.  It is simply said … it is a mystery.

There are attempts to “explain” the mystery with certain images — like the three leaf glover — one clover, three separate leaves —

Or, an image of relationships —

I am a son — to my parents

I am a brother — to my siblings

I am an uncle — to my nieces and nephews.

I am only one human being, one man — yet, I am son, brother, and uncle.

Analogies help — but they all fall short.  Christians proclaim that there is but one God — yet God is three distinct, equal persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

All persons were together from the beginning — yet the Son was born in time and the Father and Son together, sent the Spirit.

We can’t figure it out — we can’t explain it — we accept it.

St. Paul taught us that there is but one body — with many parts.  The eye cannot tell the ear that the eye is more important because it can see and the ear cannot see.  The leg cannot tell the arm it is more important because it is used in walking — and while we might walk with our hands for a short time — we appreciate the role the arms play in the functioning of the body.

St. Paul goes on to say that there are many different gifts — but one Spirit that gives all gifts — for the good and proper functioning of the body/the Church.

What might God be teaching us in this mystery of the Trinity …

For one thing — that God, in God’s nature, is a relationship.  God IS A RELATIONSHIP — of different people… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is said in poetry that “no one is an island” — that we are at our fullest, our best when we are in relationship — with another, with others. Yet, one member of the family unit is not the same as the other members of the family — and none are exactly like any other.  There comes a point when we realize that we are intended to complement one another — we need another or others to complete us.  There comes a point when we realize that because we are different, we won’t think or feel or dream or scheme like the other(s).  We all think, feel, dream, scheme, plan — but differently — AND that is ok.

Maybe a second thing is to take the idea of being different a little farther into our world –and to recognize the diversity of mankind.  Any of us who have traveled know that we are just a little different — because we are from the north or the south — the northeast or the northwest or the midwest. Our food is a little different — sometimes there are even recognizable accents that differentiate us.

Then you look at the differences among nations — folks from Asia or Africa — from Europe or the Scandinavian nations.  What about the Irish and the Italians?

Our ancestors might have a difficult time with the people of Germany or Japan because of World War II.  How could we ever be friends with those nations that caused so much pain, suffering, and death all over the world?

Right now, our nation is torn — we are divided by our differences.  Differences are dividing us.  It appears to many that the pot has been near the boiling point for years and years — perhaps for decades and decades.  But now, it is boiling over and making quite a mess.

Maybe this weekend the mystery of the TRINITY calls us to go beyond our differences to seek a common ground.  We have often said — if we plan on spending eternity together, why can’t we start living and working together now —- different — very different at times — but united in a quest for peace and justice and equal opportunity.

In the Book of Exodus (34:4-9), the Lord standing with Moses proclaims that, “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity”, stands before us — a stiff-necked (righteous) people — and we want God to accept us as his own —— AND SO DOES EVERY MAN AND WOMAN OF FAITH AROUND THE WORLD — regardless of what that faith might be — or if the faith has a denomination or not.

Because we live in a country that professes to be predominantly Christian — we can forget that is not so in light of the world’s population.  Just go to Japan — less than 1% — less than 1% of the population is Christian —and we believe that God loves all equally.

St. Paul (2 Cor. 13:11-13) challenges us to mend our ways — to encourage one another — agree with one another, live in peace —–WOW, THAT IS A TALL ORDER!

But, if we begin with the man/woman in the mirror — that is the place to begin.  Let it — the quest for peace begin with me — choose not to argue — choose not to belittle — choose not to decide who is right or wrong ——- be just and fair — respect others as we want to be respected — believe that racism in any form is sinful and evil — it is not just white against black — it can be black against white — or America against everybody else.

Each of us is God’s beloved — yet no one is. God’s favorite.

Then, John’s Gospel (3:16-18) gives us one of the most known of all of the Christian Scriptures — God so loved the world — loved the world — that he GAVE his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but might have eternal life.

Believing in Jesus is much more than reciting or praying a Creed.  Believing is seeing and doing as Jesus saw and did.

As we pray for an end to violence in our country — and as we resolve to be non-violent, we pray and resolve to treat everyone as a child of God.

We are different — and differences will always exist.  We think differently and do differently.  We like different things and value different things.  We believe different things.

As ripped apart as we might be at this time — I and others — see men and women of all colors and shades of color locking arms together to march peacefully.  Those of us who lived through the 60’s and 70’s know that the diversity of the marchers is different today than it was back then.

God is not going to come down here and straighten this mess up.  He is expecting us to do it.  May the fellowship of the Holy Spirit bring us together to build a better tomorrow.

We do this: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

HJM

 

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Pentecost, Pandemic,Protests

All 50 states will soon experience some form of re-opening following restrictions imposed by Covid-19.  Hard-hit-New York is planning to enter Phase I on June 8th.

Most States, including Louisiana, appear to be ready to enter into Phase II of reopening.

As we gather to celebrate Pentecost, we are in many ways like the apostles gathered in the Upper Room.  We are poised to go out into the world — but unsure of exactly what awaits us.  We call for the Holy Spirit to come upon us with Courage and Wisdom.

We have always said that the Gospel preached in the church must be lived on the streets of our community.

Unknown to us just a week ago is that we are going out into a world not only confronting the medical, social, and economic affects of a pandemic — but now we go out into a world rocked by violent protests from coast to coast.  These protests are sparked by the death of George Floyd — a death now labeled as a murder.

For weeks many people have said that once “stay at home” orders were lifted, we would be returning not to normal as we knew it — but to a new normal.  Some have said that not only are we called to create a new normal — but we are also to experience a transformation.

When we recall the first Pentecost we remember that the followers of Jesus had been told to wait in the city until the Spirit, a new Advocate, had come upon them.  In other words,  Jesus warned his disciples not to try and take on the world, not to try and live their mission with mere human determination.  To leave from where they were to go into the world to live and spread the the good news of the Gospel, they would need divine empowerment.

From the Acts of the Apostles we learn that the people gathered — though from many different nations — some Jews, some non-Jews — all heard the message in their own native language.  In large Archdioceses like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, the Gospel is preached in 100’s of languages and dialects each weekend.  We are many different people listening for ONE GOD to show us the way to live.  We will hear the voice of God differently — literally and figuratively.  And at the same time, to realize that different is simply that — different.  Different does not make one way of hearing God better or worse than another way.  God speaks to us where we are and as we are.  We cherish the word that we hear and respect the way others hear the word.

From Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we are reminded that we are all part of ONE BODY .. we are different parts of the body with different roles to live, but still one body.  We have different gifts to share — but we work together to make the Body function well.

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything — it is that what happens in one part of our nation affects the whole nation — what happens in one part of the world affects the whole world.  Literally we are all on this journey called LIFE together.

Fr. Ronald Rolheiser says that, “Pentecost is part of a cycle of life that has five moments: Good Friday, Easter, the Forty Days, Ascension, and Pentecost.” We understand Pentecost as the culmination of the four other moments.  “On Good Friday, life is lost; On Easter, new life is received; during the Forty Days, the disciples adjust to a new presence of Jesus; at the Ascension, the disciples let go of the Jesus they once had; and at Pentecost, they receive a new spirit for the life they’re now living.”

The life we are living is not the life of March 13th when schools were closed and the first “stay at home” order was issued. Physical distancing and face coverings are going to be with us for a long time.  We still do not know how schools will function in the Fall — many questions have no answers.

On the first Pentecost the disciples went out into a world changed by the death and resurrection of Jesus.  They were uncertain of what was before them.  But, they went forth empowered by God’s Holy Spirit — the same Holy Spirit who comes to us NOW — not as the Spirit came in 2019 or as the Spirit will come in 2021 — but for now — in the situation of our lives.

The murder of George Floyd makes this blog posting different than it would have been if written a week ago.  But with peaceful protests and violent protests all across our country, we must ask, “how does this fit into a Pentecost message .. or .. what does Pentecost have to say about this tragic death in Minneapolis?”  I state clearly:  One cannot be of God’s Spirit and Racist at the same time — just not possible.

Go back to the Acts of the Apostles — we are different, but we are the same.  We hear differently, but the same God speaks to us all.

Go back to Corinthians – we have different roles to play — but we need one another.  We are different and equal. Black, white, Hispanic –Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew – we are destined for the same after-life.

 

For two and a half months we have lived under a “stay at home” order from our Governor.  Author Elise Garcia writes in NCR that the Irish have called this a time of “cocooning” .. living as if in a cocoon awaiting transformation.

Certainly the first Pentecost was a time of transformation –a time when the hearts and minds and actions of the disciples changed — it was a time when church was born.

What might the  transformation of 2020 look like?

We must turn down the volume and meanness of political debate.  Regardless of what side we are on politically, I think we can all agree — this is too much.  This is too much anger and mean spiritedness.  We deplore name calling by children — and yet so called leaders are resorting to name calling.

We must recognize that there is a racial divide in our country and we must work to see that we are going to destroy our nation and ourselves if we do not respect the dignity of every man and everyone regardless of color.  Life matters — period.  If it is Black, white, yellow, or brown — life matters.

More than ever, we need to count our blessings.  Like the early Church, we must respond to a common good.  So many of us have access to good health care, adequate food, and good shelter.  Many do not.  Sharing what we have — even a stimulus check — with those who lack the basic necessities of life would be the right thing to do.

As much as we work for healing of those affected by the Coronavirus, we must heal the hurts caused by words and deeds.  We must resolve not to be the cause of division or discord. The unrest of this week is NOT going to just go away.

To remember the first Pentecost and its roaring wind and the tongues of fire — and not to apply the lessons of Pentecost to life today is to miss the point of CELEBRATING PENTECOST.

A final word from Fr. Rolheiser:  If we are trying to live a new life with our former spirit, we will find ourselves deeply out of sorts.  We need Pentecost daily in our lives.  It harmonizes our life with its proper spirit.

Let’s get ready for Phase II re-opening as transformed people.

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Is it true? Is it False? Is it Fake? Is it an opinion or a fact?

It seems as if a new job/profession has come into existence over recent years:  A fact-checker.

There was a point in time — not so long ago — when people became skeptical about what they read or heard.  THAT can’t be true!  Oh, I don’t believe THAT?  Where did you read THAT?  Was it on CNN or FOX?  That liberal/conservative press, you have to take what THEY say with a grain of salt!

People read WIKIPEDIA knowing that it could not be considered a “encyclopedia of fact.”  After all, it was easy to edit articles or to add something to an article even if you were not the author.

Then FACEBOOK came along and we really began to question things.  One had to be careful about “reposting” something or “sharing an article” — only to find out later that you had been sucked in to sharing a false/made up story.  Did the Russians plant false stories on FB during the 2016 presidential campaign?

Long gone are the days when it was “Gospel Truth” if the preacher said it.  And “politicians”, you’d be wise to disbelieve more than you believe.

Within hours of a political speech,  FACT CHECKERS will publish what they consider to be true or mostly true — what is false — what is questionable.

A number of newscasters and reporters lost their jobs for “stretching the truth.”  What does stretching the truth really mean?  How much does the truth have to be stretched before it becomes a falsehood?

I have seen statements similar to the following on Facebook.  Which one is true?  [1] President Trump is doing a GREAT job handling the response to the Pandemic!  [2] President Trump is doing a TERRIBLE job handling the response to the Pandemic!

In reality, these are opinions based more on feelings/perceptions than any fact.

Or how about these statements:  [1] The Covid-19 scare is a HOAX created to establish a new world order!  [2] The Covid-19 scare is a global pandemic reminding us how what happens in one part of the world can affect the entire world!  Where’s the truth?

Senator Mitch McConnell was responsible enough to admit that he was mistaken when he said that the Obama Administration “let the cupboard bare” without any plan for a pandemic.  The truth is that there was a 69 page plan left for the Trump Administration.  Did everyone who read/heard the accusation by Sen. McConnell also hear the retraction/apology.  Likely not.

In John’s Gospel (14:15-21) Jesus tells the apostles and us — “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth …”

We need THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH … I need the Spirit, we need the Spirit, the world needs the Spirit of TRUTH to lead us and to guide us — first, maybe just to get beyond feelings and convictions — to see the Truth — to see things as God sees things.

But — did we hear the first part — to get the Spirit of Truth — we must first keep the commandments — and in particular, the commandment of love — where there is hate, there cannot be the truth — where there is hate — there cannot be the truth!!

In the devotional, Give us this Day, Loretta Ross, a retired Presbyterian Clergywoman, from Iowa City, Iowa writes:

… truth shimmers and is multivalent.  It dances and surprises like a good poem.  It will not be stuffed in your back pocket but squirms out, oozes down your leg, and gets stuck in the sole of your shoe.  You get home and start to peel it off and find half a dozen other things you picked up on the way.  Truth gets the giggles and tap dances.  It dresses up in gothic cathedrals and lies in the gutter on the bad side of town.  We can come to know it, but we can never possess it.  And, its subversive agenda is the total occupation of our hearts.

I suppose we can set out to seek truth, to be truthful. But such enterprises are apt to be unsuccessful.  Truth is not something we seize upon, but rather most often it leaps out from the bushes in dark alleys when we are not looking and grabs us by the throat.  It seizes us out of the clutches of misery or pride.  Truth teases us in our dreams.  It will not be manipulated, cogitated, or collated by the human mind.

Jesus said he was it and that we would know it and it would set us free.  Finally truth suffers disbelief, hurts, and dies.  And in the end truth saves — on its terms, in its time.

Wow!!!  What a beautiful way to illustrate truth.

A person of truth — like Jesus — would never turn to an opponent and say with a condescending tone, “if you were not so sinful or stupid — you would see things like I am able to see them and agree with me!”

We ought to be cautious before we speak AS IF “our side”, “our party”, “our Church”, “our nation”,  is THE TRUTH — and everyone else is wrong — or a least mistaken.

Truth dresses up in Gothic Cathedrals and can be found in the gutters of the so-called bad side of town.  It is spoken by men and women.  People who are white, black, brown, or yellow can speak the truth.  People with PhD’s speak the truth — and so do people who can’t read or write.

So many adults/parents tell there children … “you can do anything — just don’t lie to me.  I can handle anything, just tell me the truth.”

At some point in time — at some age — we must forget that lesson.  We find an excuse for “stretching the truth” or telling a “half truth.”

Truth bears good fruit.  Truth is seen in saving action.  When the people of Samaria welcomed Philip to their community, they did not just hear his words — they saw the signs of what he was doing — casting out evil demons and curing the ill.  People knew Mother Theresa was a person of TRUTH not because of what she said, but because of how she lived.

As much as we listen to what others say — we become discerners of the truth when we test their words by what they do.  AND BEWARE, others will do the same for us.  They will listen to our words — and watch for how we live and by what we do.

We remain within the Easter Season — we await a fresh outpouring of the SPIRIT OF TRUTH at Pentecost.

Let us love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul.  Let us love our neighbor — and respect what the neighbor is saying, even if we are in total disbelief — let us help those in need during this time of pandemic —– and then, only then, will we receive the SPIRIT OF TRUTH — who will show us the WAY.

Let us be men and women who measure our words with no time for a spirit of lies.  Let us be seekers of the TRUTH.

HJM

 

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Remaining Untroubled in Troubling Times

Fifty years ago (yikes) Simon and Garfunkel, an American Folk-Rock duo, released their song Bridge Over Troubled Waters.  “Listen” to the words of the song:

When you’re weary, feeling small                                                                                                          When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all                                                                                  I’m on your side.  Oh, when times get rough                                                                                      And friends just can’t be found                                                                                                            Like a bridge over troubled water                                                                                                        I will lay me down                                                                                                                                  Like a bridge over troubled water                                                                                                          I will lay me down.

When you’re down and out                                                                                                                      When you’re on the street                                                                                                                    When everything falls so hard                                                                                                                I will comfort you.                                                                                                                                     I’ll take your part; oh, when darkness comes                                                                                     And pain is all around                                                                                                                             Like a bridge over troubled water                                                                                                         I will lay me down.                                                                                                                                   Like a bridge over troubled water                                                                                                          I will lay me down.

In the Gospel of John (14:1-12), Jesus told his disciples, and he tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

Ok — maybe we will get troubled — but, in faith, let us choose not to stay troubled.

When Jesus says — do not let your hearts be troubled — he is saying — “I got this.  I know where we are going.”

When the Thomas told Jesus (again, John (14:1-12), “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”  Jesus responded to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Right now many people are getting restless.  People are READY for THIS to be over with!

Many people are frustrated by what they “see” — people they believe are not taking the situation seriously.  They aren’t wearing masks.  They aren’t social distancing.

Calling upon our faith, we are challenge to not stay troubled.  We are called to do what is best for us and those dear to us.  We cannot control what others choose to do or not do.  It may be frustrating, it might make us angry — but we are to dwell in the peace that Jesus offers and make sure he is dwelling in our hearts and homes.

In Jesus there is truth — and there is life.  If we follow him, we will not avoid all troubles or trials.  But we will prevail.  HE IS the bridge over troubled waters and troubling times.

Jesus is by our side — Jesus will comfort us —- IF WE ALLOW HIM.   We cannot figure this out on our own.  Let us place our trust in HIM.

HJM

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Listening to the Shepherd as We Walk Through the Valley of the Abnormal

During this time, it is common to hear people say:

I can’t wait until things get back to normal!  Or perhaps,

We better adjust to the new normal!  Or perhaps,

I think we better get use to the abnormal for awhile!

All of this of course begs the question:  What is normal?  Is normal whatever we EXPECT to be or EXPECT to HAPPEN?

For the youth of today, their normal includes I-phones, twitter, Instagram, computer games, flat screen tv’s, microwave ovens, fast food, and much more!

Many of us grew up with a phone on the wall with  long cord,   manual typewriter, tv’s with no remote control (limited channels), and playing outside until dark.

My parents thought walking to school was normal.  They did not expect air conditioning at school or in every room of the home. My parents considered the chance to travel through Europe and to Australia and to Alaska — to be a privilege.  They NEVER EXPECTED that would be a part of a “normal” life for someone born in the 1920’s.

So, “normal” does not mean static or unchanging.  9/11 created a new normal for all kinds of travel, especially air travel.  Those affected by Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita, developed a new normal in 2005 and 2006.

On the morning walks that have been a part of the routine of my “shelter at home” lifestyle, I think of the many things “I” have accomplished and the things I have experienced —things I have at times taken for granted.

Maybe our life-experiences give each of us a little different since of normal. Those who grew up on a farm have a different sense of normal than someone who grew up in the middle of New York City.  Growing up in the USA gives us a different sense of normal compared to someone who grew up in Poland or Nigeria.

Some expansions of the normal are seen as GOOD — other changes are questionable.

I would think that most of us have thought or said at least once over these past weeks, “I hope some of the changes we are experiencing, will be part of life into the future.”  We will appreciate what we have a little more — we will want less.  We have seen the value of shared time, shared life, family time and family life.

Those who have cleaned out closets and attics and garages have wondered aloud, “why have I kept this stuff around for so long.”

We plan more and go less.  We sleep more.

AND, SOME OF US  realize how many people live from paycheck to paycheck — and one missed paycheck can throw “normal life” off course.  When we see news report of long lines of people waiting for food, most of us realize that is not part of our normal.

We have said before, “we are living in uncharted times.  We are ‘building a plane while trying to fly it at the same time.'”

Yet in faith, we say there is someone who knew all of us this was going to happen long ago.  And, that same someone knows what lies ahead.  While we use our brains and science — we also pray to the GOOD SHEPHERD who knows the way and is the way.  I want to know what science sees and believes.  I want more testing and the development of a vaccine as soon as possible.  I also want to know what God has in store for me and for us.

I know who has the answers and who holds the future.

On this 4th Sunday of the Easter Season — the 23rd Psalm is a beautiful prayer to offer and a great song to sing in full voice.

For some folks, this is the dark valley — valley of darkness –depression and anxiety have taken grip and have led to paralyzing fear and worry.

Just saying over and over again, “The Lord is MY Shepherd”  — The Lord is my SHEPHERD,” will bring some peace and consolation.  Those few words are all the prayer we need. I need not fear anyone or anything.

In the Gospel of John (Chapter 10) we hear … the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow, because they recognize his voice.

At the present time there are many voices out there saying what is right, what is best, this is what needs to be done, etc.  Each of us must ultimately decide for him/her self what is right for them or their family.

In quiet, we will hear the voice of the shepherd speaking to our hearts and telling us what is best for us … it will just feel right … we will be comfortable.  We might be nervous, but we won’t be afraid or fearful in taking the first step — following the voice/prompting of the Spirit/Shepherd.

First — listen within.

Second — at times, the voice is heard through something someone says — it may seem right to us — or strange to us.  In the right or strange — we perceive what is best for us.

Third — the voice could come through something we see — around us — or on the news or in the newspaper — or in the actions of someone at the grocery store.  By seeing — we perceive a path for us to follow.

Following the voice of the Shepherd does not guarantee that the path will always be smooth or free of heartache.  The path of the Shepherd may call for change or lead us on detoured-route.  But, he will shepherd us to the very end.

Maybe one of the lessons we are learning at this time is that we need to enjoy the normal of today — and not worry too much about a new normal.  We prepare ourselves best when we prepare ourselves to be ready for whatever is to come.

The Lord is MY SHEPHERD … there is NOTHING I shall want.

hjm

 

 

 

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Life is Changing — Not Ending

There are two phrases from the Roman Ritual for Funerals that are so rich and meaningful for me:

The first, The ties that bind us together in life do not unravel with death … and

Second, Life is changed — not ended.

Life continues after death through resurrection.  The resurrected life is different than the earthly life.  At death – life does not end — it changes.

Our memories and the love that has joined us with those who died, are not forgotten, with death.

While some people wonder if these are apocalyptic times — most people do not believe this is the end time.  While we are living through an event unlike any other we have experience, we believe that this will end — and we will return to activities and schedule we follow most of the time.

Clearly life is changing and changing and changing.  But there does not seem to be reason or fear to believe that it is ending.

What I have seen with my own eyes —

As I take time for  walks (most days) in the neighborhood around my home, I see people that I had no idea lived in the neighborhood.  I see young couples pushing strollers with their kids or riding bikes.  I see people I have not talked with in awhile — and the walk gets interrupted for a visit —- of course, with appropriate physical-distancing —- I see beautiful yards that I so often breeze by in my car.

I see fellow Senior Citizens taking time to grocery shop during special hours reserved on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for — older folks.  Most have gloves and some form of facial covering.

I have had two Telehealth visits with doctors — and don’t feel my health has been compromised.

More time is spent on checking in with people on the phone — physical distancing does not have to mean social distancing.

AND — people sure have more time for Facebook these days. I see families engaging in game playing for which they would not normally have time.  I hear family sing-alongs and costume contests.  Beginning with Italy and spreading to other nations and to New York, people gather on balconies to sing, to play musical instruments, to pour wine from one floor to the floor below.

Schools are closed in 180 nations of the world.  1.5 billion students (87% of the children of the world) are not in school.  In-person instruction has been interrupted –perhaps like never before.

Millions of people have lost their jobs —- long  lines form at food banks.

Amazing stories are told of huge generosity — people paying the rent for those they do not know.

With people staying at home, less car traffic, fewer air flights, closed factories — air quality has improved around the world.  The Himalaya Mountains are visible for the first time in years.  LA, Chicago, and other major cities report improved air quality — an unexpected positive from this crisis.

States cooperating to share Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical personnel in states lacking the necessary safety gear — kinda’  like the early believers who devoted themselves to the communal life (Acts of the Apostles).  So often I have read and preached that Scripture with a certain sense of disbelief — a nice ideal, but not very realistic.  And yet, in so many ways, we are seeing happen — even if it just someone calling on a neighbor to see if they need something from the grocery store.

I have heard people talk about how grateful for what they have — and how much they realize how little they need.  People talk about the pain of not being able to see loved ones in a nursing home or hospital.  Grandparents miss seeing their children and grandchildren.

We all have a sense of what is important and what is not important.

Thomas did not come to faith — he did not believe — until he saw Jesus for himself — until he saw the wounds of Jesus.  Perhaps that was the moment life really changed for Thomas.

In the first letter to Peter,  we are reminded that “for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith,  more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and  honor of the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

After the “lentiest of Lents ever” — and one of the strangest of Easter’s ever — we say in faith, there is “something being this moment.”  There is something yet to be revealed — we don’t know exactly what it is — but there is something out there.  We will not live under “stay at home” orders forever.  We will return to days when there is plenty of toilet paper and all the bacterial spray we want will be on our store shelves again.

How much life will be changed — how much we will be different — is yet to be seen.

Will we be more grateful?  Will we be able to do with less so that others will have more?  Will we appreciate the presence of our loved ones — and the chance to be closer together than six feet?

In time we will see — in time we will know.  For a little while longer, it appears we will have the time to ponder.

Blest are we who have not yet seen what will be — but who believe in Jesus and his powerful presence.  He is the vaccine against fear.

HJM

 

 

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Waving (virtual) Palms

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me (us)?

The cry of Jesus during his passion reflects the emptiness and fear of so many of us these days.  A few weeks ago there was a sense among many that “a big deal was being made of something not that serious.”  After all, 34,000 people die every year from the flu.  Why are we willing to shut everything down and injure the economy.

Then as some people began to notice a radically rising trend across the country and there were statements like — Covid-19 is ten times as deadly as the flu — eyes were opened.  People began to wonder why others were going about their daily routines as if nothing were going on.

Today, I sense that people across our nation are getting more and more concerned and becoming more and more aware of the necessity of physical-distancing while staying socially connected.

I limit myself to 30 minutes of national news in the morning, 30 minutes of national news at 5:30 and 15 minutes of local news at 6.  That is enough for me to know what is happening without getting caught up in talk that can create fear and diminish courage.

Has God forsaken us?  Is God sending HIS WRATH upon us?  I would answer both questions by saying “NO”.

I do believe we are in the midst of a VERY SERIOUS medical situation that requires the cooperation of each of us.  When a-symptomatic people can infect others without ever getting sick themselves — it is important to maintain physical distance and to stay at home as much as possible.  When medical supplies seem to be running short — we want to stay well and staying well means being wise.

God is with me and with you and he is next door.  God calls us to faith–and he asks us to use our brains.

On PALM SUNDAY AS Jesus began his journey to the cross, people laid palm branches before him — recognizing him as Prophet and King.  People hailed him as their Savior.

While we pray for scientist working to find a cure/vaccine, we recognize God as the giver of all knowledge and the creator of science and medicine.  While we pray for and support doctors, nurses, medical staff, and Emergency Responders — we acknowledge Jesus as the Great Physician and the Divine Healer.  As we stay at home, we see that God is our Refuge.

Fear is useless.  Believe: All is well and all will be well.

While most of us will not get palms as we normally do at this time of year, we can bow before Jesus and hail him as the giver of our future.  We lay our lives before him as we too journey to the cross.

Someone on Facebook this week said that this “is the Lentiest Lent ever.”  We have all slowed down to wonder — to pray — to pray.  We all long for life beyond the cross — when we can begin to live “somewhat normally.”

Let us continue to reflect upon the lessons we are learning — and to think of the ways our lives might still need tweaking or change.

As Jesus surrendered to the will of the Father — let us prepare to do so ourselves.

HJM

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Lazarus speaks to a “world shutting down”

In the past two weeks we have heard/said things like this:

We are on an uncharted path …

Never before in the history of the world …

In all my years, I’ve never seen something like this …

Whether one is 6 or 96 … President, Pope, or a gentle, elderly soul in a care facility in rural Louisiana — we all share at least one thing:  we have no experience to draw from — we are in unprecedented times.

In looking at the (Roman Liturgical) Gospel selection assigned for this weekend — we see and hear the account of LAZARUS BEING RAISED FROM THE DEAD –he died, he was in the tomb for four days.  Then he was raised from the dead –not merely resuscitated, but called BACK to life from being among the dead.

When the world shuts down — stays down — and looks forward to returning to “normal”, is this not a LAZARUS MOMENT  IN OUR HISTORY.

I cannot imagine that a week after this experience, Lazarus was “living as if nothing happened.”  Wow!  Every aspect of his life — work, relationships, faith, appreciation for life, had to have undergone FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE — literally he had to see life, daily life, through new eyes.  After all, he was being given a second chance at living!!!

Each of us has had personal LAZARUS MOMENTS – loss of a job, divorce, “healing” of an addiction, betrayal, death of a child — when life was forever changed and seen in a new way.  And, we started over — we moved on, we stepped forward.

There have been national LAZARUS MOMENTS — the Great Depression, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, 09/11 —- when we as a country were changed and put on a different course.

Today — perhaps like never before — we have a GLOBAL LAZARUS MOMENT — when we are in a place we have never been before — a place of many unknowns — a place of frustration — a place of fear — a place of anger — a place of HOPE — a place of PRAYER.

We cannot allow ourselves to accept that we will “return to life” as it was before.  We cannot allow ourselves to see things as they were before.  We cannot move forward without grasping the impact of the “four days in the tomb.”

God did not create COVID – 19 to teach us a lesson.  God did not create Covid-19 to punish anyone.  God did not create Covid-19 to create international crisis.

In what is happening, there are lessons to be learned and messages to be heard.  What might they be?

Possibilities:

  1.  We can no longer say:  “that is their problem … it’s not a concern of mine.”  What happens in China affects South Korea, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the USA.  National pride is good — it is healthy.  But, there is no such thing as “us alone — or us FIRST.”  We are the World, we are the Children of One World.  We cannot build any kind of wall to protect us FROM the world.

2.   If we have enough bombs and enough planes to deliver bombs — but not enough masks and ventilators, then could it be we need to look at our spending priorities?  Are we preparing for the right “war”.

3.  Maybe — staying at home is not as bad as we imagined it to be — oh, yes, I like everyone look forward to going to restaurants, a movie, and to gather in a group larger than 10.  But quiet time, alone time ——– time away is good, too.

4.  Did we “hoard” the right things — did we have ahead of time what we needed the most?  Do I need as much as I think I need?

5. Covid-19 does not discriminate — it has infected political leaders, movie stars, professional sports stars, people of all ethnic stripes, grandparents in nursing homes, and the young.  We are in this together.  Your being cautious might save my life.  My being careless could infect you.

In time we will forget some of the lessons of the pandemic.  We might return to some of our fears and petty ways — but, I hope for awhile, like Lazarus we will see life with new eyes.  We will be unbound to live freely — not just for ourselves, but with and for others.

The most lasting changes will be unseen.  These are the changes in our hearts and our attitudes.

Jesus is saying:  COME OUT AND BE UNTIED

HJM

 

 

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Freedom from Slavery

When we were teenagers, there were many reasons for which we looked forward to high school graduation.   Graduation was a milestone — the completion of a major part of our education.

We looked forward to graduation because we thought “we could finally do what we wanted to do!”  No more “high school rules” — if we were moving out of the house — we would no longer have to live by our parents’ rules. We were going to be FREE TO DO WHAT WE WANTED.

Soon we would find out, whether we went to college or into the military or into the workforce, someone else had rules we needed to follow.  There were deadlines for school assignments, there was someone barking orders at us, or there were schedules we had to keep.

Those who entered into marriage soon came to realize that, while there were many privileges, there were also many responsibilities in marriage.  Being a WE was very different than being an “I”.  Being a couple was different than being single.

We learned:  Being free from some things did not mean we were free to do whatever we wanted to do.

It is a happy coincidence that on the weekend before we celebrate our national independence, we hear scriptures that refer to freedom and to commitment.

As our nation won independence from England, it realized that it was not free from governmental authority.  There was a King and a Parliament — now there was a President and a Congress.

“No taxes without representation” did not mean no taxes.

The freedom to choose leadership did not mean we would always have a leadership that would be universally accepted.

So, too with faith.

In our Baptism, we gain freedom from eternal death — and the promise of eternal life.  At the same time, we are given a candle to remind us, and to challenge us, that we are to be light in the midst of darkness.  We are to bind ourselves to Jesus as Jesus has now bound himself to us.  We are further challenged not to squander our gift of freedom.

In Galatians 5:1,13-18 — St. Paul reminds us “for freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”  

A slave must yield with blind obedience to the master — or possibly  face death.  A slave has no freedom to choose his/her work duties — or the hours of work.  A slave has no freedom to go where he/she wants to go.  A slave has no freedom to retire.

Christ has set us free — so that we do not become a slave to blind obedience.  Christ has set us free so as not to become a slave to any form of addiction.  Christ has set us free so as not to become a slave to any political ideology.  We have been set free so as not to show total allegiance to any person.  

St. Paul reminds us not to use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; but rather, to serve one another through love.

In a reflection published in NCRonline on Friday – June 27th, Jocelyn A. Sideco, in commenting in support of the students and staff of Brebeuf Jesuit Prepatory School, said,

The Gospel (Luke 9:51-62) invites us to see what walking with Jesus might be like…. we are called to prioritize God and God’s providence and God’s mysterious ways….Whenever someone asked about tending to a personal responsibility, Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what he has left  behind.”

The kin-dom of God requires our full attention, our full being, our full devotion.

We must be compelled to see “this” through to the end.

I consider myself a proud American.  As I age, I am more committed to “wearing the colors” to show support to our nation — to our values — to the men and women who defend our principles and our values.  The Red, White, and Blue make me proud.

I do not support the occupant of the White House — but I support our nation and for what we stand.  And, I am FREE TO DO SO.

As people of God — we render to “Caesar” what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.  We are citizens of earth for a short period of time and citizens of heaven for eternity.

We have been made FREE — we cannot surrender to slavery either for the sake of our nation or for the sake of God.

Our freedom allows us to choose — to choose as the Spirit guides us — as our conscience directs us.

We are not a slave to a political party or ideology.  We are not slaves to “liberal” or “conservative” teachings.  We are not slaves to the temptations of pleasure.  We are free to act as we believe the SPIRIT IS CALLING US.

I am NOT FREE to do as I wish or please.  I am free to act in accord to what I sincerely believe the Spirit is directing me to do.

Am I a slave to anyone or anything?  Am I living in the freedom God has given to me.  With God’s freedom, we might be nervous — but not afraid.  With God’s freedom, we might be concerned — but not worried.  With God’s freedom, we  are not beholding to a group, but clear in conscience to act as we believe to be right.

Jesus died that we might be free — let us not fall into slavery to any one or any thing.

hjm

 

 

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