Keys given can be taken away

Earlier this week I joined two members of our Charter School Board to be interviewed by a member of the State Legislature about our views on education in the State of Louisiana. One of the questions asked was, “What role can preachers play in improving the plight of education?”

I was the first to respond.  I answered: Ministers can play a huge role.  But they don’t.  The legislator asked, “why not?”  My answer — They are too busy building their churches instead of building the kingdom.  In other words, they stay in the sanctuary rather than going into the street.

One of the Board Members pointed out that in the 60’s and 70’s, the CHURCH was on the front line in the civil rights struggle.  Ministers of all races and religions walked arm in arm in the streets.  Priests in collars and nuns in habits joined Protestant ministers and Rabbis standing up for those in need.

A blog in the National Catholic Reporter this week by Pat Perrelieo bemoaned the lack of a visible Catholic presence  the anti-violence rallies following the violent rally in Charlottesville, VA.  He in a sense said that priests were hanging out in sacristies instead of walking in the streets.

We have REAL  issues affecting the lives of people — health care, immigration, and the rise of racism.  To make people jump through hoops to have a child baptized or a family member buried is of no matter to the majority of people today.

In the Gospel [Mt. 16:13-20], many clergy will find reason to preach on the “giving of the keys” and a mandate to Peter as the first “pope”. They will emphasize the teaching authority of the magisterium.

In Is. 22-19-23,  though, is the reminder that with privileges, or with a mandate, comes responsibility.  If a person, a group, or a Church does not live up to the responsibility given, then the mantle will be taken away —- given up —-and given to another.

I believe God has passed on to men and women a teaching and leadership role.  However, I have witnessed with my own eyes those who “thought they were in charge” teaching and preaching with hollow words to smaller and smaller followings.  Such is the case in all of life.

How often do we see a starting quarterback lose his role as a starter, because he does not perform up to expectations?

How many times does a parent remind a child that driving is a privilege and that if it is determined that the privilege is misused, then the keys of the car [the cell phone, the computer, etc.] will be taken away?

It is wonderful to see that Cardinal Daniel Dinardo [Archbishop of Houston and President of the National Conference of Bishops] has appointed an ad hoc Committee to work against racism — and to work for equality.

How great is was to hear the words of Cardinal Blasé Cupich of Chicago directing the priests of the Archdiocese to preach against racism last weekend —- with a specific charge that “Racism is a sin.  White Supremacy is a sin.  Neo-Nazism is a sin.”

And now —as the African proverb states, “Those who pray need to move their feet.”

Begin locally — and move out —

  1.  Parents — if you do not parent a child — someone else will:  television, video games, a peer group, a gang leader — parents have been given charge over children — those who abuse the privilege will lose it.

2.  Pastors — if you do not feed the flock, some other pastor will — if you do not create a welcoming community and life-giving worship — someone else will.  Who attends public-school board meetings?  Who attends city council meetings?

Don’t get upset when some young, hot-shot preacher starts getting attention for his social activism.  Seize the moment and lead.

3.  Voters — let’s hold those we elect, accountable.  If our leaders are not making the world a better place, let’s get someone who will.

4.  Each of us has a share in God’s call to lock and unlock — to bind and loose — if we neglect our responsibility given in Baptism, the work will not get done —- and we will see “evil” prevail.

Most of us have literally lost [misplaced] our car keys at times.  It is frustrating to try and remember where we set them down.  It is much more serious to lose or misplace our duties that come with faith.

hjm

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Church MUST Speak LOUDLY

No ONE is superior to anyone else.  There is no such thing as a being SUPREME to anyone else.  One only “thinks” s/he is a SUPREMACIST.

We are all equal in God’s eyes —- there is not black or white, American, European, or Asian — there is not Catholic, Jew, Muslim — when it comes to who is # 1.  We are all equal.

Last weekend’s horror in Charlottesville, VA unfolded as most preachers prepared for weekend worship — in most churches and places of worship there may have been a moment of prayer and an expression of disbelief — but, in most places, weekend worship was planned.

NOT SO THIS WEEKEND …. the horror of last weekend has been followed by statements from political leaders that have added fuel to the fire and only made things worse.  This weekend, I CANNOT IMAGINE A TRUE RELIGIOUS LEADER who will not speak to what is happening in our country!!!  The WORD OF GOD must come to bear on the events of the world.  Our faith cannot be expressed or lived in a vacuum.  We cannot pray unaware of what is happening around us.

In Isaiah [56:1, 6-7] God tells us that his house is to be called a house of prayer for all peoples.  God tells us that the “foreigners” who come to him … will be brought to the mountain of the Lord.”

Paul speaking to the Romans — speaks to the GENTILES as apostles to the Gentiles.

In Matthew [15:21-28] Jesus speaks to the CANAANITE WOMAN — responding to her plea for pity — rewarded her faith — and said that he was sent for all the [lost] sheep.

This is not a weekend to think about monuments and the removal of monuments — this is not a weekend to balance history —- these days are to come.  But, we can have NO FUTURE discussion without believing …..

I am no better — and no less than — any other person.

My faith and my Church are no better — and no less than — any other faith or Church or mosque or synagogue.

We are all equal in God’s eyes.

AND, anyone who tries to put another down — to say that they are inferior to me or my group or my beliefs is WRONG.

Black, white, Hispanic, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Democrat, Republican, Independent, recent immigrant or long-standing family — we are all equal.

I believe we are at a unique time in our nation’s history.  Our President speaks bizarre words that are dividing us — fanning the flames.  Nazis and Neo-Nazis do not stand for anything that will make us a BETTER nation.  WHITE — OR BLACK — Supremacists do not live as if we are all equal.  Anyone who incites violence — anyone who pokes the bear — is not of God.

Villages and towns with centuries of history were built around a city square with a church in a prime place — the church was the center of town — not literally and symbolically.  The Church must claim that space again — by speaking and living with moral authority.

As Roman Catholics, we must admit that at times we have added to this sense of “me better than you.”  We taught that there was no salvation outside the ROMAN Catholic Church.  Any other “church communion” was a Church only in a sense that it shared in the apostolic nature of the ROMAN Catholic Church.  We had a special road to heaven — as the ONE HOLY, CATHOLIC, AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH.

Yes, the President, the Pope, the Governor — they have special privileges due to their role in society — they have special claims to respect.  BUT, as MEN AND WOMEN — they are no better than me or you.  PRIVILEGE DOES NOT COME FROM THE ACCIDENTS OF BIRTH. 

Fear of losing what someone thought they had — privilege, special rights — is driving people to do violent things.  Losing a sense of being in the majority, is causing some people to try to protect something they never had.

Finding someone to BLAME for my problems and misfortunes is another explanation as to why people do unreasonable things.

Why would God make me — or you — better than someone else?  Why would God make me less than you?

If the Church — people of faith — do not lead, who will?  Will it be the men and women with the Confederate or Nazi flags?  Will it be those who yell, “The Jews will not replace us!” or “Blood and Soil, Blood and Soil.”  Will it be the PRESIDENT who tries to assign blame equally to everyone?

It MUST BE US.

As we pray for a cessation of violence — as we pray for calm in our streets — our hearts must be set on the truth.  NO ONE is superior to another.  Race, Creed, gender, nation of origin, sexual orientation, skin color —— mean nothing to God.  Why should they matter to us?

HJM

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

When a Church does not embody Jesus

It is often said that “children are a reflection of their parents.”  And, sometimes this is true.  BUT, we all know that — for some reason — it is not always true.  Despite the best efforts of parents — some children [us???]  don’t follow the example, the teaching, or the sacrifice of their parents.

The same can be said of Jesus —- despite his best efforts, a whole book of this teachings, and his example — not all of his disciples follow the path he walked.

In the Gospel of Matthew [10:37-42] Jesus says to his apostles:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for MY [emphasis added] will find it.

I believe this strongly.  We cannot allow anyone or anything come between us and our commitment to Jesus.

Our commitment is to Jesus.  Our commitment is to the KINGDOM OF GOD.  And, there will be times when our commitment to Jesus may cause a strain in a human relationship, even within our family.

But, is it NOT TRUE always that the same can be said about our commitment to a church?  There will be preachers, no doubt, who will use this scripture text to call for a commitment to “THE” Church — even if causes problems within the family.  Just because husband/wife or dear friends do not go to Church — does not mean we should not go to Church.  And this is true, if the Church and the preacher embody Jesus.

In addressing the new Cardinals this week — and all the Church — Pope Francis said there were times when there was a great distance between the heart of Jesus and the hearts of his disciples.

In the scriptural text that follows the above cited text, Jesus speaks about what it means to be a disciple: And whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple — amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.

A 63 year old friend and co-worker recently died following an on again-off again, 8 year battle with cancer.  She was not a church-goer.  Something(s) happened along the years that created hard-feelings.  I tried to offer hope and consolation in the fact that she had faith in God — and always said, “it’s in God’s hands.” She never complained about her “fate” or asked the question, “why?”  I pointed out that John 3:16 tells us that those who have faith IN JESUS will have life eternal.  The Scripture does not say, s/he who has faith in the Church will never die — it says FAITH IN JESUS.

Yes, I believe in the goodness of Church, worship, community worship v. personal prayer, etc.

But it is not true, it is not right — in my opinion — to say that decreased church attendance reflects a loss in faith.  In fact, I know many people who live a battle — KEEPING THE FAITH when the Church does not seem to embody JESUS in whom we have faith.

A speaker at a recent gathering of priests in Atlanta, said that our nation — our Church — are in a fight for its soul.  When health care for the poorest of our people is in jeopardy — when Catechesis and canon law seem to be of greater concern than service and community — we are losing our way.  We must “catechize to energize” — preach a living message that burns the hearts of those who hear it.

So what do we do?

  1.  Re-affirm our faith in Jesus as Lord.  Reaffirm our commitment to Jesus as the one who has and will continue to save me.
  2. Listen to the voice within that will guide me, lead me to what is true.
  3. Use our God given brains to THINK — does this make sense?  does this seem reasonable?  is this what Jesus really wants in this time, in this place, and for me.
  4. Spend our financial resources on things that support the mission of Jesus — give that cup of cold water through local institutions providing the presence of Jesus.
  5. Gather with like minded people — not to be critical or cynical — but to be supportive and proud that the work of Jesus is not being diminished in our midst.

In the mid 1980’s I remember a discussion with a Bishop [now deceased] concerning the vocation situation in the US.  The bishop told me that I was “attempting to write theology pro ecclesia when in truth, theology was to be written pro Christus”.  My only problem with that thought — was an apparent sense that Christ could not speak through the “Church as a people” and that theology was to be written as Christ spoke though the Church leadership.

The PEOPLE OF GOD are a source of the voice of God — the embodiment of God.  I believe in authority and I believe in structure —– otherwise, we would and will have chaos and everyone merely following feelings.

But the words of Pope Francis this week —- the heart of Jesus was often far from the heart of the disciples are powerful.  Just maybe the disciples do not always realize who is in their midst —- just like the guys on the road to Emmaus.

Let us listen — and let no one come between us and Jesus.

 

hjm

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Who is welcome at your table?

We serve them because we are Catholic, not because they are.

We serve them — the homeless, the hungry, those seeking education, the ill — not because they are Catholic, but because WE ARE.  This is a paraphrase of a response given by the late Cardinal James Hickey to a question regarding the expenditures for social services to those who are not Catholic.  As we celebrate the FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS, these sentiments are worth our reflection as to whom is welcome at the table of the Lord.

Unlike our recent celebrations of Pentecost and the Trinity, this weekend’s celebration is uniquely Roman Catholic.  The feast of Pentecost and the belief in a triune God are beliefs we share with other Christian Churches.  Our understanding of Eucharist — and who is shared in the form of bread and wine — is[almost] unique to us.  We profess real, substantive presence.

And yet, I would believe that within the Catholic tradition, there are a variety of understandings of what Eucharist is —- and what it means as we receive Eucharist. Eucharist should be a sign and source of unity — often it has become a sign of difference.  Eucharist should effect what it symbolizes.

Catholic teaching is that  —- by the power of the Holy Spirit — bread and wine BECOME the body and blood of Jesus.  We proclaim the real presence — a presence that does not end when mass is over — thus the reserved presence is kept in a tabernacle.  I believe this.

After Vatican II, I was a part of a Church that saw the celebration of the Eucharist as a community event — with the priest facing the people, he led the community in worship. While recognizing the priestly power to consecrate the Eucharist, the congregation joined the priest in praying Eucharist.

Today, there are those who want to emphasize the priest’s role of praying to the Father on BEHALF of the congregation who watches the priest —- sometimes with his back to the people.  Rather than people standing together in worship, the people are to kneel as the priest spoke on their behalf.  Eucharist has in some places become a time of adoration rather than a time of sharing.

Some priests have encouraged [required] communicants to received the Eucharist on their tongue and kneeling.  At least one bishop has shared his expectation that, by later this year, this is the way communion should be received in the diocese he “leads”.

Some bishops and some priests  withhold Eucharist — communion — from political leaders who hold positions differing [in conflict] with the official teaching of the Church.  Such actions have made some of us ask, “Was Eucharist a reward for doing good —- or was it food for sinners on the journey?”

What about the Church’s teaching that Catholics who have received a divorce — and remarried without an annulment?  Should they be excluded from the Eucharist? The Catholic Bishops of Germany seem to be leading the discussion calling for a change in the protocol for “divorced and remarried” Catholics with regard to receiving the Eucharist.

What about Catholics who are in same gender relationships?  Should they be excluded from the Eucharist?  In May, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark welcomed more than 100 members of the LGBTQ community to a MASS at the Cathedral in Newark.  Sitting in folding chairs around the altar, Cardinal Tobin welcomed these openly gay men and women to the church.  There is no evidence that the Cardinal offered any criticism of these men and women’s lifestyle.  I cannot imagine that anyone was excluded from communion.

Personally, I cringe when priests [most younger than me] find it necessary before communion to remind congregants that Catholics in “good standing” with the Church can receive communion — others can come forward with a blessing — or remain in their pew and “receive spiritual communion.”

When serving in the Black Community, I heard stories from parishioners who had to “worship at the ‘white’ Church” before the “colored people” had a church of their own.  These Black Catholics sat in the back and went to communion AFTER all white parishioners had gone to communion.  Imagine how “welcoming” that was.

Look at the Scripture readings assigned for mass this weekend:

From the Book of Deuteronomy –8:2-3. 14b-16a – Moses refers to the manna from heaven as a “food unknown to you and your fathers, . . .” in others words, ‘mysterious’ food.  People were fed with bread of which they did not know — fed for the journey, even though they did not understand what this bread was about.

From the Gospel of St. John — 6:51-58 — Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life and goes on to say, “. . . unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”  Does this mean that unless someone holds the Catholic understanding of Eucharist is, unless people literally take the host consecrated by a Catholic priest, they cannot have life within them?”

Just think —- o.5% of the population in Japan [that’s right, 1/2 percent of one percent] is Roman Catholic.  Does that mean that 99.5% of the people are ineligible for eternal life because they have not received “Catholic communion?”  Hmmmmm, don’t think so.

Does someone become in eligible for communion because they “missed mass” last weekend?

We serve “them” not because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic.

  1.  Let us cherish our own tradition and understanding of Eucharist.  Let’s make sure our heart and mind are aligned with Jesus whom we receive.
  2. Let us picture the heavenly banquet table.  Who do we see there?
  3. Let us think of our family table — people with whom we gather at holiday times.  Do we agree with everyone on everything?
  4. Is our Church-community welcoming to all who enter — are people greeted, both “regulars” and visitors?
  5. Do visitors have a way of asking for information about the community —- if they wish more information?
  6. Is the music upbeat and reflecting of a living spirit?
  7. How welcoming do you consider your parish and diocese to be of ALL PEOPLE.

Our words of welcome must be EMBODIED by a spirit of welcome if we are to be a Eucharistic people.

We serve because we are Catholic.

hjm

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Church must LIVE Pentecost and not merely remember it!

FEAR is the enemy — not the “secular” world.

One thing that no one can ever truthfully say about Pope Francis is that he is afraid of the new or the different!  Beginning with the choice of his papal name, his decision to forego the papal apartments, and shopping for his diabetic-shoes himself at the local pharmacy —  to washing the feet of Muslims and women — to nominating Cardinals from countries that NEVER had previously had a Cardinal — Pope Francis encourages those who desire a more “modern Church” and frustrates those who want to return to the “glory days” of the past.

Pope Francis wants to engage the world as it is — too many bishops want to DO BATTLE WITH — to fight — the “evil, secular world” in which we live.

Pope Francis wants to be with people “where they are” while too many bishops fear listening and only wish to speak — because they alone hold “Divine Wisdom” due to their episcopal rank.

The secular world is not the enemy — fear is the enemy.

When more than ever can we see how a fearful, timid group of MEN who hid behind locked doors were empowered to go out into the world — than Pentecost.  Our celebration this weekend is a call to LIVE PENTECOST and not merely to remember it.

In an op-ed piece published on NCR‘s online edition [May 30, 2017], Tom Smith reflected on his “inability to get the institutional church out of his system”, while at the same time feeling frustrated with the church’s leadership —- which he says —- seems to focus on those who have an emerging, yet still immature spirituality.  The Church, it seems — in my view — needs to help these poor souls rather than engaging people on an adult level.

Smith asserts that he and others are able to deal with ambiguity, mystery, “both-ands”, expandable morality, spontaneity, informed conscience, and to deal with personal, spiritual experiences.

While — too many Church leaders insist on dogmatic and doctrinal rigidity, “either-or” moral absolutes, frozen liturgical practices, and protecting the structure of the hierarchy.

In a sense, the Church is self-centered — when the Church of Pentecost was mission driven and other centered.  Pentecost was and is — all about being new, different, energized.

Fear is the Church’s enemy — not the “secular” world.

It is indisputable that church attendance continues to drop.  There is no argument that the decrease in the number of ordained leaders is a HUGE problem for the Church.  Parishes are being closed or combined — priests are being asked to cover more physical territory.  The laity believe that most international priests are “nice people”, but too hard to understand and that they get nothing out of mass.

To this leadership responds: people are not committed, they have lost a sense of worship — these “people” were never true Catholics anyway.  Young men are growing up in a hedonistic society and it is hard to recruit in that world — people should not come to church to GET SOMETHING OUT OF IT — but to worship God and to give to God.

Jesus himself was “something” new —- something that had never happened before — the Son of God, born as a man — born by virgin birth.  Jesus walked on water, calmed the storms, and multiplied loaves and fishes.  Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well and praised the good Samaritan.  Jesus forgave sinners and called others to do the same — he scorned the religious leaders who sought places of honor and dressed in fancy robes.  Jesus died — and Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus was about doing the new — being new.  Otherwise, we might be some form of Judaism.

PENTECOST was about the old way of doing and being giving way to a new way — where people of different nations could hear the word spoken in their own native tongue.  The WORD OF GOD —- relatable to people from where they came.

Too many bishops and too many young priests probably proclaim that they are restorantinists — set about restoring the Church to its previous glory.

BUT — the Spirit cannot be — will not be stifled.  Men and women who listen to the Spirit, will keep the Church alive.  Priests who listen to the Spirit “with them and within them” will keep HOPE alive.  Bishops in tune with the Spirit will keep the flame of faith burning brightly.

So …..

  1.  Not all change is good— and not all change is bad.
  2. Growth requires change —- no one, no thing that is growing looks the same as it did a year ago.  If you are not changing, you are dead.
  3. Change does not mean giving in — change may well mean growing up.
  4. Change for the sake of change is not wise —- change for the sake of THE GOOD is wise.  REMEMBER:  there were no deacons until the Church realized there was an unmet need.
  5. Piety is not about looking holy —- it is about being holy, i.e. caring, loving, compassionate.  The law itself does not save.

What change do I fear?

What might the spirit be asking me to change?

Am I hiding in fear or open to change?

Am I living faith-fully?

We have met the enemy —- and yikes, it is us!

hjm

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Easter 2017 — Unlike any Easter Before

Easter has both a universal message for all times and a particular message for the moment.

At Easter we proclaim that light overcomes darkness, good conquers evil, and life wins out over death.  The message of resurrection reminds us that we might be down now, but we will get back up [RISE] again.  This is a mystery celebrated year after year.  It was as meaningful in the Year 1000 as it is today.

At the same time, it is a message proclaimed and heard in the moment, in the situations in which each of us finds ourselves.  Easter 2017 is unlike any other Easter.

For some folks, there is someone who was with us last year at this time who is not here this Easter.  A family member or a dear friend has passed from this life since last Easter.  They were physically present last Easter to hear — along with us — the message of hope and joy.  And now, they will not hear the message in the same way.

For some, there is a new job.  Maybe they were unemployed last year and living in hope — maybe they lost there job, were unemployed, and then found a new job.  For some, they may still be seeking a new job.

Some in our midst are experiencing new life because of a new relationship — they have entered into marriage — a new child or grandchild has been born.  The “circle of life” has been widened and the cycle of life has been renewed.

For some, Easter 2017 brings the feeling of the “darkness of the tomb” — they have not yet experienced the promise of resurrection or the hope that comes with new life.  They are pondering before the tomb — and still waiting for the miracle to occur in their lives.

For some, Easter 2017 challenges them to look beyond a coming moment of loss — and to see that what is before them is not the end — but a new chapter.  These are folks who may be facing retirement — or the need to down size and leave the family home to move to a retirement community or a care facility.  In faith, they know they are going to be ok, but still, there is fear and wondering.

Easter is always Easter — and yet, some Easter are more different than others.  We need to take the message of the first Easter and to allow that message to wash over the life events of 2017.

Our nation, under different leadership than a year ago, faces issues of health care, immigration, and international terrorism.

AND, WITH OUR PERSONAL STORIES AND NATIONAL CONCERNS — we profess that

Christ yesterday and today; the Beginning and the End;

the Alpha; and the Omega.

All TIME BELONGS TO HIM; and all the ages.  To him be glory and power; through every age and for ever.  AMEN.

And, we pray in the light of a new fire,

May the Light of Christ rising in glory

Dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.

We are called to turn our eyes FROM our situations TO LOOK upon Jesus — who had risen from the dead TO LIVE AGAIN.

May the Light of Christ rising in glory

Dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.

Because Jesus had risen from the dead we are challenged to NOT give into fear and hope-less-ness — to hold on with hope and to walk in the glory of the Risen Jesus.

Recalling a history beginning with creation of the earth and all upon it — remembering the faith of Abraham –being reminded of how God answered the plea of the enslaved to send Moses to lead them to freedom —

God once again calls us — with our feeling of being forsaken — to a new relationship.  God invites all who are thirsty to come and to drink freely — and to cherish that which is lasting.

Baptized into Jesus we have been baptized into his death.  United with him through death, we are also united with him in RESURRECTION.  For almost all of us — the Resurrection we are called to embrace in 2017 is a resurrection we have embraced many times over.

Maybe it was being bullied in grade school — or a high school relationship that crushed our hearts.  Maybe it was being excluded by a group we so wanted to be a part of.  Maybe it was being abandoned or scorned by a parent.  Maybe it was the darkness of poverty.

Is there a place of darkness or death in your life at this moment?  Where does the power of resurrection and new life need to reign?  Where does the miracle of Easter need to be seen this year?

All of us know what it is like to die and to rise.  AND WE WISH that was only a part of our past.  But, we know deep within, dying and rising, dying and rising, dying and rising IS LIFE.  It is not just a part of life — it is what life is all about.

Life is a story — the story of dying over and over again — and rising over and over again.

Physical death — is in reality the last of many experiences of dying.

Today — we are renewed in body and spirit to stand in Jesus — and to move from darkness into light, from death into life, from fear into hope.

I/We are once again to live.

hjm

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To see into the heart

How someone see something often depends upon one’s viewpoint, perception, or vantage point:

Is the glass half full or half empty?

Did my team just blow a ten point lead and a sure victory — or the did the other team mount a great comeback?

Was the judge’s decision a fair interpretation of the law or a case of legislating from the bench?

I might think a meal lacks quality — and the man who hasn’t eaten since yesterday finds it a great treat.

The scripture this weekend challenges us to have an eye test — or rather a vision test.

In the first Book of Samuel [16:1, 6&7, 10-13] it is written:  Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.  Not as a man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.

St. Paul [Ephesians 5:8-14] reminds us that we were “once in darkness, but now we are light in the Lord.”  We are light —- IN — the Lord.

In John’s Gospel [9:1-41] Jesus heals the man born blind — and later says — “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

This past October I had cataract surgery first in my left eye and then in the right eye.  After about 4 weeks I saw clearer and brighter.  I thought the colors on television were great — after surgery, the colors were brighter.  The smaller print was sharper — for some vision, I see even better without glasses.

If only there was such a surgery for the heart and soul.  If we could only see from the standpoint of the other —- then maybe there would be a little more compassion and understanding in the world.  If I was assured others were willing and able to see from my standpoint, maybe I would be a little more honest and less defensive.

Some challenges are too great — as a 67 year old white guy —- I can’t quite see like a 67 year old black man raised in the inner city of Detroit.  For sure, I have no concept of what it is like to see the world through the eyes of a man or woman who lives in a refugee camp with their children having escaped a war zone in South Sudan.  I have no idea what it feels like to be “invisible.”

I am fortunate to have lived and worked in Chicago for almost three years — in a parish that had traditionally served the Black community.  I am fortunate to have seen so much of our country — to have traveled across Europe, in Russia, in the British Isles, South America, and to Cambodia.  Having lived and studied in Guatemala for three months gave me greater in-sight into the life experience of many in Central America.

There seems to be such discontent with political leadership — or the political system — because so many feel that leaders — or the system — is blind to their plight.  A person — or a group of people — who feel unseen or ignored by those who claim to see will lead to anger, unrest, and a loss of hope.

I watch [see] the debate about affordable health care with the full knowledge that I have great insurance —- insurance that has benefitted me well for so many years. The challenge is to see what life — my life — would be like without insurance — in the past, present, or the future.

A great challenge for the week ahead would be to hear the challenge and to live the challenge given in the first Book of Samuel: not to judge by appearance.

Judging by appearance is the natural thing to do — but my natural sight is not so good.  It is better because of surgery and CORRECTIVE LENSES.

We see someone whose hair color is not in “God’s color chart” — and we judge.  I am guilty.  I believe that to earn a job one must be “mainstream”, but hair color does not determine one’s goodness.

We see someone whose pants sag and we are offended — and we judge.  I am guilty.  I believe you dress for success, but sagging pants does not reflect one’s goodness.

If only — if only — I would take a little more time to try and see into the heart of the other.  My opinion may not change and may not need to change —- but just maybe, I will come just a little closer to NOT writing them off — AND PRAYING FOR THEM AND HOPING GOOD for them.  Maybe my openness might bring the change I see as needed. Maybe I will be just a little less convinced that my viewpoint is the right one — and give the other a chance.

Churches are torn these days because so many SEE homosexuality itself as a sin — while many in the same congregation  SEE homosexuality as a non issue.

Churches are called to offer contemporary worship services and traditional worship services because of how people SEE “real, true” worship.

Families are experiencing tension because some see that we are following a good national political path —- and others see us walking a path to destruction.

What assimilation of immigrants means is SEEN differently across our country.

So, what am I saying:

  1.  Take a deep breath — see with my eyes and with my heart — into the heart of another.
  2. Try and see things from the viewpoint of the other, i.e. walk in their shoes for a few days.
  3. Prayerfully ask:  what might God be seeing here?
  4. Prayerfully ask:  could I possibly see things differently?
  5. Finally, walk in the light — i.e. is the path I see before me leading to light or darkness.

hjm

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment