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

 

 

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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

 

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Corned Beef and the Samaritan Woman

As I write this post [March 15th] more than 80 Diocesan Bishops have granted a “Corned Beef Dispensation” for Friday, March 17th — the Feast of St. Patrick.  [By the 16th — increased to 114 Dioceses.]  Recognizing the tradition of many of the faithful enjoying food and beverage on the annual feast — which tends to fall on a Friday once each decade — and to, perhaps cause qualms of conscience, these bishops have freed Catholics from the Lenten practice of not eating meat on the Fridays of Lent.

In other words, the practice is important — the tradition is important — community customs are important ——— but, none of these are “written in stone.”  There is something beyond the practice, the tradition, community customs are important — but something must be bigger.

In the Gospel [John 4:5-42] Jesus visited with a Samaritan woman — He, a man, a Jew — visited with a woman, a Samaritan, a woman — married five times and living with a man, not her husband.  Wow — talk about breaking custom and tradition!!

The disciples were amazed that he was talking to a woman.  Yet, no one asked why he was talking with “her“.

What Jesus did was more than grant a dispensation from eating meat on a Friday in Lent. What Jesus did was to go BEYOND the social customs, to go beyond the accepted PRACTICE, to go beyond what was thought to be RIGHT —- to see a person, to see her need, to see her goodness, to see her potential.

Many of the Samaritans of the town, the scripture tells us, came to BELIEVE IN JESUS because of the WORD of this woman who testified —-somehow — in someway the power of who she was and the power of her experience caused others to see and hear beyond what people THOUGHT OF THIS WOMAN — what people believed her to be — a sinner.

Imagine if Jesus had said:  You know, I see her over there by herself.  I want to talk to her, but I am afraid of what people might think of me — for talking to her, because of what people think/know of her.

Imagine if Jesus had said — You know, I think you are valuable — your are worthwhile and I would like to spend some time with you —- BUT FIRST, YOU BETTER GET YOURSELF RIGHT WITH THE FATHER — CONFESS YOUR SIN TO THE PRIEST, DO YOUR PENANCE — and then, we will talk. 

Imagine if Jesus had said, I am sure you have a lot of good qualities — but this lifestyle you are living separates you from the body.  And BEFORE I GIVE YOU ANY WATER, you better get that annulment —- actually you might need a few annulments — and THEN, I will give you some water. 

I cannot imagine Jesus saying any of these things.

Yes, the law is important.  Order is important.  Law & Order are both important.  But, if the law is not giving life, something is wrong with the law.  Jesus — bishops who are dispensing from  Friday abstinence on St. Patrick Day — saw that the “Sabbath was made for ‘man’ and not ‘man’ for the Sabbath.”

People — Churches — that focus on Jesus — and that embody Jesus —- radiate Joy and Life.  The law doesn’t, in itself, give life or bring joy.

St. Paul [Romans 5:1-8] reminds us that we have been justified by faith [in Jesus] and not by any law.  Jesus gives us access to grace — which gives us a hope that will not disappoint.  Faith in Jesus — not adherence to the law — brings the fullness of life we so desperately crave.

In the Book of Exodus [17:3-7] the Hebrew community had not come to faith in God.  So, when things got hard, they grumbled.  The folks began to wonder if slavery would be preferable to being thirsty — if going BACK TO WHERE THEY WERE might be better than possibly dying of thirst.

For the forty days of Lent — we do what we can — THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT — UNDER THE GRACE OF GOD — to come to Jesus and to drink of the life giving water he alone can give.  We go beyond the law to the giver of the real law.  We go beyond the practice of religion — to the person we worship.  We stand in tradition in order to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

In recent days, Cardinal Tobin of Newark, NJ stood with an immigrant who lacked legal status in our country. He went to court with a man from Mexico who came here 21 years ago seeking a better life for his family.   Cardinal Tobin “sat” with a good man offering him the love of Jesus and the hope of faith.  He went beyond what the majority of our people think is the right thing to do to do what, I believe, Jesus would have done.

I pray that the 80+ bishops who have given a dispensation from eating meat would have sat with the Samaritan woman.  I pray that my faith goes beyond the minimum and the external.  I pray that I see the good in every person and in every situation.  I pray that I not grumble with the going gets tough because I walk with the ONE who goes beyond even the laws of nature — to rise from the dead.

hjm

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Who is to blame: The woman or the serpent?

While in Washington, DC recently, I had a chance to visit an exhibit entitled, “The Art of the Q’ran.”  One part of the exhibit compared and contrasted the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden.  In the story we are familiar with, Adam and Eve lived in paradise with one commandment — do not eat of the tree in the middle of the garden.  Tempted by the serpent, the woman eats of the fruit—- from there, we know the rest of the story — Adam and Eve are banned from the garden because of what they did.  Eating of the fruit was the ORIGINAL SIN resulting in pain, suffering, work, and death for us all.  Adam and Eve bore the blame for the sin and we suffer because of it.  God does promise a Savior.

In the story in the Q’ran, there are similarities:  Adam and Eve, a garden of paradise, command not to eat of the fruit and the serpent tempting the woman.  But — from there, differences begin.  In the Q’ran, God blames the serpent and forgives Adam and Eve.  Rather than the story of Original Sin —- it becomes the story of ORIGINAL MERCY.

For me — this was “new news” — and a new insight into an old story.

The results are the same in both story — the world is broken.  Pain, suffering, and death result.  But, rather than leaving the garden shamefacedly [Genesis], Adam and Eve leave the garden lifted up and boosted by God’s love.

We have just marked the beginning of Lent — with ashes in the sign of the cross.  The ashes a reminder that we are sinner — the shape of the cross, a reminder that we have a savior.

Do we focus on our sin and the need to control ourselves?  Or, do we focus on what we can be with the power of God — with our minds and hearts aligned with the heart and mind of God?

In the Gospel [Matthew 4:1-11], Jesus faces temptation while in the desert.  He aligns himself with God, the promise of God, and the power of God.  Do we focus on — preach about — the power of temptation ——- or do we focus upon and preach about the awesome power of God and the JOY that comes when we stand with God.

Most of us would agree that Ash Wednesday is the day of the year when more people attend church than any other day of the year.  I saw an estimate that 60,000 people were present to receive ashes at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York.

Here in Lake Charles, one of our Methodist Churches offered “Ashes on the Go” at three locations — drive through ashes.  I heard of a young priest [not in Lake Charles] who began his homily by telling people that if they intended to leave after they got ashes, they should leave NOW.  If they were not going to stay for communion and the end of mass, it would be better that they leave NOW.

As a priest for so many Ash Wednesday services — I know there is frustration when people come “just for the ashes.”  But, at 67 years old — and stepping back to look from a distance — I see how inviting one approach is and how limiting is the other.

I do not reject external religious practices.  But, how do we know what is in the heart and why one is doing what they are doing?

I think of Adam and Eve leaving the garden shamefacedly and Adam and Eve leaving the garden knowing they had done wrong —- but knowing they are forgiven and ready to begin again.

Temptation is real, but temptation is not a sin.  Temptation is real and needs to be taken seriously.  But, standing with God — and supported by a community of believers [church] we can deal with any temptation and any failure of the past.

In the Q’ran’s version of the story, it seems the focus is on the mercy of God — and the presence of God — in the Genesis, we seem to see a focus on the disobedience of man/woman, their shame, and the blame put on them for the rupture of the world.

We pray: Be merciful, O lord, for we have sinned.  And God says, “turn to me with your heart.  Rend your hearts and not your garments.”

We journey dealing with a challenge to turn to God — not to please God, but to be happier people.  Sin is an empty promise.  Mercy is rich — and brings us to fullness of life.

It really does not matter if Eve is at fault — or if the serpent is at fault.  What matters is that with God, life is good and we are happy.

hjm

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The 365 gifts of a new year

The song, “Mary Did You Know?”, led to a discussion after Eucharist on Christmas Eve.  What did Mary really know?  Those of us in discussion believe that Mary knew a general “outline” of what was going to happen and who this special child was who came into her life miraculously.  But, the specifics of what was to be were revealed to her over time.  How else, we reasoned, would his “being lost” in the Temple come to her as a surprise — or the statement, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”

As a new year begins, we have a general outline of what is to unfold — and even some specific events are scheduled — a trip January 4th, a wedding January 21st, another wedding February 17, a summer vacation trip July 8th, on and on and on …. but most of what is to be — is unknown to us.  And, even though there are events on the calendar, full knowledge of what is to happen at those events is yet to be revealed.

Imagine a H-U-G-E tree in your front yard — and under the tree are 365 boxes.  All the boxes are wrapped well — some better than others, but all are well wrapped.  The boxes are of different sizes and shapes — adding to the mystery of what is within.  For, we all know that a small box might actually contain a more valuable present than a much larger box.

Well, think of the tree as the year 2017.  And the boxes under the tree are the 365 days of the year.  As a new year begins — that is what is before us — 365 gifts.

There is a clear reminder to us though — we can only open one box per day — and the box to be opened must be the box prescribed for that day.  It is not fair — or possible — to try and open July 2nd on January 2nd — July 2nd must be opened on July 2nd — no matter how tempting it might be to jump ahead.  What is prescribed for that day, must be lived that day —- for on the 8th day following his birth, as was prescribed by the law, the child Jesus was circumcised.

Mary — the mother of God — allowed life to unfold before her — treasuring in her heart, pondering in her heart and mind — with faith — what was happening around her.

Hopefully we will be blessed to open all 365 gifts in front of us in this new year.  We are taught early on in life that we should “live one day at a time” — and in reality, that is all we can do.  What we choose — is to live it fully, half-heartedly, or with barely interest.  We can choose to ignore the gift in front of us — and to waste it carelessly.

In faith, I trust that that what the Lord said to Moses is true for you and for me:

The Lord will bless us and keep us.

The Lord will let his face shine upon us.

The Lord will be gracious to us.

The Lord will look upon us kindly and give us peace.

We can look to the Lord everyday and call out “Abba” — father.  For, we are sons and daughters of a loving God — not a slave to a tyrant god.

Regardless of what has happened in 2016, God — Emmanuel — has been with each of us and has brought us to this place and to this time.

As 2017 unfolds — see the gift of today and the hope for tomorrow.  See those 365 boxes under the tree and treasure each and everyone of them.

hjm

 

 

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“With Child”

As foretold by the Prophet Isaiah [7:1014], the “virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” . . . as a sign that God is present and attentive.  The Gospel [Matthew 1:18-24] proclaims the news — carried by an angel — to Joseph that it was by the Holy Spirit that Mary had conceived a child — and will bear a Son, Jesus, our savior — and God present among us.

Over the past days we have celebrated the Feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  We have reflected upon Mary, favored by God, and the means by which God has come into our world and our lives.  Mary, a willing servant, an instrument of God — allowed herself to be “used” for good, the greatest good.

And, while we in faith reiterate our faith in God and our admiration for Mary as a faithful servant — let us also hear the message of the angel spoken to each of us — each of us is “with child” — each and everyone of us is being called to bear fruit, and to bring new life into the world.

The days of 2016 are fewer and fewer — and while there no doubt will be surprises and the need for us to act kindly and lovingly — the opportunities to initiate good and to deliberately set a life giving course are drawing to an end for this year.

But soon, a new year will begin — and within each of us are possibilities to show that God is with us — there is a call from within to save myself and those around me from sin — the diminishment of life.

It matters not whether one is 27, 47, or 67 — it matters not whether is male or female — it matters not whether one is married or not —- each of us is capable of being good and doing good.  We have the chance to make the world around us a better place.

We all know that holidays like Christmas are quite different when a child is present.  We have seen over and over that when a couple welcome a child into their home — when grandparents care for a child and guests come over — conversation and discussion shift to the child in the midst of everyone.  We are in awe of the beauty of a child — and the miracle unfolding before us.

God is not finished with me yet ….. and I am quite sure, not finished with you, either.  There is a story to be told, a work to be done, an effort to be exerted.  There is a child within me and within you —- there is new life yet to be born.

As I moved from parish ministry to community ministry — especially with the students in charter schools, some called it my “encore career” — I see it now as “new Life” bursting forth.

The angel said to Joseph, “do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home … for she will bear a son.”  So, too does God say to me — do not be afraid to take _________into your home — for this is what I see is to happen.

It might be quite clear to me — to you — what this new task, this new challenge is.  Perhaps — it is not so clear or completely unknown.

This past week, the story of a Santa Claus in Knoxville, TN has gone viral on social media.  This Santa received a call from a nurse in a hospital where a young child was soon to die.  The child wanted to see Santa Clause.  The nurse called — Santa came with a toy.  Santa told the young boy, that he was Santa’s # 1 elf.  The boy was barely able to hold the toy — smiled — and died in the arms of Santa.

Santa Claus could have found many reasons not to go — maybe the child would be afraid.  Maybe Santa would not know what to say.  Maybe it would make everyone sad.  But he went — and everyone was changed — the boy, Santa, and those who watched from the hallway. New Life and a new light shined in a place of darkness.  The goodness within this Santa came forth in visible, tangible form.

Within us all is new life — let us not be afraid of what is asking of us.  Let us not be afraid to take on what we do not understand.  The sign that God is with us still is that good people, good ol’ ordinary men and women — do the work of God — they bear Jesus into the world over and over and over again.

hjm

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A smaller church? Likely. A holier church? Depends on who is the judge!

I am going to reflect on repentance — and on what it means to repent.  But first ….

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia gave a presentation on October 20, 2016 at Notre Dame University.  I read the entire six page transcript.  On the WHOLE, it was a good, inspiring speech … in my opinion.  He spoke about fidelity, courage, and commitment.  As a speech, it merits reflection — and a grade of A….again, in my opinion.

What garnered most of the media attention was a section of the speech in which he applied principles to the living of the faith.  In particular, his comments reflected his belief that our Church [the Roman Church] would become a smaller church in the future … and at the same time, a holier Church.  Here is what he actually said:

Obviously we need to do everything we can to bring tepid Catholics back to active life in the Church.

But we should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness.

Losing people who are members of the church in name only is an imaginary loss.  It may in fact be more honest for those who leave and healthier for those who stay.  We should be focused on commitment, not numbers or institutional throw-weight.

Archbishop Chaput reflected on the threat posed by what he said was a secularizing culture and a progressive political agenda that “bleaches out strong religious convictions in the name of liberal tolerance.”

Archbishop Chaput is part of what is often referred to as the “cultural warrior” wing of bishops, i.e. those who see the Church at war with the world and what they consider to be a secularizing sector of tolerance, which they see as weakness.  Perhaps these bishops make up about 50% of the Church’s ordained leadership today.

Whether one looks at data from groups like the Pew Research or Gallup surveys — or looks at data collected by most dioceses each year when they take a worship census … that is how many people worship over a 4-5 week period each year … attendance is down and continues to decrease each year.  Some parishes show dramatic losses — often dependent on the priestly leadership, message preached, and style of worship.  Other parishes show increases — based on the same standards — priestly leadership, message preached, and style of worship.

I have NO DOUBT that the number of people who worship regularly will continue to decrease.  The Roman Catholic Church will get smaller and smaller.  Perhaps the same is true for other denominations — you tell me.

But — will it be holier???????  Depends on the standard by which we judge.

I believe no man on earth can be the true judge of who is holy.  I believe that God alone judges holiness.  And no one can see in the heart of another.

If the standard by which holiness is judged is the parable of the separation of sheep and goats — then that is one standard of holiness.  In a similar way, the commandment to love God above all and neighbor as self is the standard — we can sense one form of holiness.  If the person who gives a cup of cold water to the least of all — is seen as holy, then we have another view of holiness.

On the other hand — if holiness is determined by how one dresses for worship — how one holds his/her hands, if one goes to mass every week —- if communion is taken on the tongue instead of the hand — then we have another standard of holiness.  If a holy, good priest is one who promotes 40 hour devotions and spends hours in the confessional, that is one standard of judgment.

I believe 100% that abortion is wrong — it is the taking of innocent life.  I also believe that if EVERYONE who is against abortion would be for adoption — and HAD SIGNED UP TO ADOPT A CHILD — there would be fewer abortions.  While many people wait for infants, there are not too many people —- Catholics included — ready to adopt 2, 3, 4 year olds — or teenagers — or children with special needs.

As one who works in the court system — I know that children are placed in foster care, in care of the State, because there are not enough PRO-LIFE homes to adopt them.

In his address, Archbishop Chaput spoke of his admiration for Muslim women who wore a hijab or the burka in public.   He saw this as a commitment to faith and public witness.  This may be true — but not always.  What if the woman wore the burka only because she feared her husband’s wrath?  What if she bore resentment against a dominant male society that restricts women’s rights to education — or even to drive?  How holy would that be?

What about the Archbishop of a huge diocese —- who wears French cuffs and likes the mass in Latin — who has a $500,000 ADDITION made to his weekend home — so that it would be ready for retirement —- is that holy?

BEFORE WE SPEAK ABOUT REPENTANCE, we need to recognize what is it that we see as holy.  To repent means to turn from sin and to turn to good.  To repent is to walk out of the darkness into the light.  To repent is to heal the break in our relationship with God.  To repent — is to turn from ________ and to turn to ___________.

What is it that excludes one from the ONE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH?  birth control? being gay?  living in a gay relationship?  divorced and remarried without an annulment? drug use? internet porn?  cheating on taxes?  missing mass? using drugs? is it disagreeing with a teaching of the hierarchy?

Can one be part of the ONE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH and support the trillion dollar program to build the F-35 fighter bomber?  can one be holy and at the same time pay slave wages to their workers —- while looking down on the immigrant worker hired to clean their yard/pool?  what about the FACT that too many Black children cannot go to Catholic schools because they cannot afford tuition?

Who is any man or woman, bishop or archbishop —- to say who is holy and who is not?

In the Gospel of Matthew [3:1-12] John the Baptist preached in the desert saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  He went on to say,

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.  And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Bear fruit …. produce good fruit.  This is the evidence of holiness God seems to desire.

When Jesus asked Peter if he loved HIM, Jesus went on to say — feed my sheep — tend my lambs.

It seems to me, that the leadership of the Church in America is too quick to blame the declining number of worshipers on secularization — a failure of parents to teach the faith to their children — a hedonistic society — giving in to self-satisfaction — the glamorization of sex.  Maybe this is true.

What do those who favor dogmatic orthodoxy think about Jesus eating with sinners, going to the home of a tax collector, spending time with the woman at the well?  How would they translate Jesus teaching of “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

Perhaps, though — there are other reasons why people are not going to church with the same frequency as the past.   Like — a holier than thou clericalized leadership which sees itself as better than the people they are called to SERVE.  Maybe it is a leadership who has no understanding that the spirit is given to all in baptism.  The Spirit is given to the CHURCH AS A WHOLE for the guidance of all in the Church — lay and ordained.

I am called during this second week of Advent to repent — the same call is given to Pope Francis, to all the Cardinals and Bishops, and to each person on earth — people of faith and no faith.  None of us is worthy for the Lord to come under our roof …. but we pray that the Lord will “say but the word and our soul will be healed.”  We are all called to repentance…… proven by good fruit.

I must leave behind all that is not loving, caring, just.  I must become more loving, more caring, more just.  I must build relationships and not walls.  Finding common ground is not the same as being wishy-washy or indifferent.

I will not judge your holiness.  I ask you not to judge my holiness.  There is only one who will judge.  God.  And, I am not God — and neither are you.

hjm

 

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