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

 

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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

 

 

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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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