Sunday, August 7, 2022

Check Points for a Disciple

 We’re in the second half of Ordinary Time, and sure enough, the Church brings us back to center: the Cross. It is not by chance that the Exaltation of the Cross is a central September feast. The whole of Ordinary Time is a formation in discipleship flowing from the Cross and Resurrection. So, what are the formation points for us this month?

First, we’re reminded that we can’t be part-time disciples. We need full-time resolve. Then we are given the powerful parable of the Prodigal Son, to remind us that we are to be Reconcilers wherever our families, communities, work, or retirement take us. Then the last two Sundays make sure we understand where true riches lie…inwardly and outwardly in our public lives.

But we are not to lose sight of the Cross. Why? Because the Cross is the fullness of revelation about God and ourselves. About God, because nowhere, in any other religion, is God revealed as hanging on a tree, dying. Here the hidden God is revealed through the Word, joined to our humanity as a self-sacrificing Lover. More, we are not merely told. We are shown, by life-blood being poured out in a Spirit-burst upon the unsuspecting world. Among all the world religions, this is radical revelation.

But we too are revealed. We are tortured, tormented, broken, scourged, ridiculed, thirsty, abandoned and abused. And where is God while we struggle? There…in our midst. Look at the human form of your brother and sister. There…that’s where God is. The radical revelation is complete. The union finalized. God is not safe in heaven. God is wherever we are.

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

For by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.’

It’s shocking.

It turns everything upside down.

Where is the majesty, the power, the splendor, the glory?

Head mocked for its hopes, plans, and dreams…

Hands nailed so they can’t help…

Feet fastened so they can’t come running…

Heart open like a window without shutters,

where I can run and hide anytime.

No condemnation?

No.

No condemnation.

Amen.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Continuing to Dream with Pope Francis

In June we explored Part I: A Time to See of Francis’ Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future. We learned that three conditions distort our vision of these times: They are narcissism, discouragement, and pessimism. Narcissism is drowning in your own image. Discouragement is seeing only what you’ve lost, and pessimism shuts the door on the future.

 Once we’re wise to these three ‘dis-eases’ infecting our vision, and intentionally resolving to avoid them, we’re ready for Part II: A Time to Choose. Between the third step, to heal and repair, however, there is an important middle step. We need a firm set of criteria to guide us:

  •      Knowing we are loved by God
  •       Called to serve in solidarity
  •       A healthy capacity for silent reflection, and
  •      Places of refuge from the tyranny of the ‘urgent.’

Francis then takes us back to foundations: the Beatitudes and the Catholic Social Principles: the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity and subsidiarity, and above all, discernment of what we learn according to the signs of the times. This includes the important value of unfinished thinking, when we realize we really don’t know enough about something to reach an opinion. There is always the urge to make a snap rash judgment. The result is a false certitude rather than a tentative certainty. Francis reminds us to that we can always distinguish the voice of the Spirit from the voice of the evil spirit. God’s voice always opens up possibility. The evil spirit will suggest you are worthless and can do nothing.

Because this second Part is so rich in insights, we will limit this reflection to one more topic. The pope focuses on the leading role of women. He states that women are the most affected and the most resilient in this present crisis. Beginning with a reference to the Gospels, Francis recalls that the women were not paralyzed by the tragedy of the cross. They responded, and were the first to be open to the message of the resurrection. He cites women economists who have distinct approaches to addressing financial need, focusing on areas sidelined by mainstream thinking. These women are advocating an economy that sustains, protects, and regenerates, over one that merely regulates and arbitrates. The pope goes right to the ethos of this thinking, ideas formed from direct experience. He warns against reducing women in leadership to their functions rather than their ability to challenge the assumptions of power altogether. This focus of Part II is worth reading. We will pick up other insights from Part II next time…!

Saturday, July 9, 2022

The Dimensions of Faith

These weeks of Ordinary Time are full of challenge. Among these challenges are the qualities a disciple of Jesus will need. Foremost of these  is faith. Faith is a way of seeing. Either we are going to use the lens of fear and hopelessness that the culture would offer, or we are going to
look ‘odd’ because we see life differently. We view events through a lens of faith with hope in the power of One who brings life even out of death.


So, note the dimensions of faith in the texts of these August Sundays. First, we learn that faith means ‘being ready,’ for anything. It means that as long as we are ‘on the Way,’ in Jesus, we are safe even in the midst of trauma. Then we learn that faith will divide us from even family
members who choose the fear lens. We will have to stand firm. Next we discover that some folks can be ‘in Jesus’ and not know it. They cling to God while Jesus is hidden from them. Finally, we learn that faith is humble. It does not strut around. It realizes that God is the One who gives
this way of seeing life.

 
Central to this month of August is the Feast of Mary’s Assumption. She is the First of Believers, clinging to the Word of God given her in the deepest darkness. Her Assumption shows us what happens to those who are steadfast in faith. She shines, like her Transfigured Son, beautiful
beyond belief.

 

Lord, I do believe,
Help my unbelief.
The news is heavy these days.
There seems to be no way out
of the endless problems that present themselves:
political, social, medical, religious...
we feel so powerless.
Show us that at such times we need to be
like magnets on a refrigerator door,
hanging on for dear life when we don’t have eyes to see
the force that keeps us where we need to be.
You will bring us through.
Help us to be that little spot of light in the darkness
that proves the darkness has not won.
Amen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The Goal of Ordinary Time

 We enter the ‘green’ time…the time called ‘ordinary.’ But it isn’t really ordinary at all, because we are no longer ordinary. We have renewed our baptismal new life through the Paschal celebration of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. We shine from inside out.

 We have been formed for mission and witness during these past fifty days. The Spirit has come to mark us with our seal us a disciple. So now our task in this ‘ordinary’ time is to put on, bit by bit, what a disciple will need. Ordinary time is a school of discipleship. Week by week we say, “So this is what a disciple needs…!”

 First come the big feasts: The Trinity, Corpus Christi, The Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart: Three Persons, One Body, and Two Hearts. The triune mystery lies hidden in all creation. One creature cannot be complete without another. The Body of Christ meets us everywhere, in deepest suffering, crying out to us. The hearts ask our deepest love as we live, move, breathe, and serve.

 In the five Sundays ahead of us we will be given our clues: this is what a disciple of the Word needs: his kind of peace, humbleness, presence, prayer, detachment. The basics…listen.

 I’m ready.

By your Spirit shape me.

Give me what I need.

Without your Breath I’m empty.

Sing your song in me.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Our Daily Bread?

The Easter season is a time of formation in discipleship. The risen Lord is showing us that he is going to be present…but not the way he used to be…walking, talking, eating…with the disciples. He is weening them from physical experience, and forming them for a faith-walk. He presents the intimate image of himself as Shepherd. He also describes how he will feed that constant new faithful presence. He tells the disciples that they must daily eat him. They must eat his flesh and drink his blood. At first they are shocked at this language. But soon they begin to understand a little of the mystery of how this has to do with the way they relate to one another.

The word for flesh is sarx. It means more than body, which is the word soma. It means humanness with all its limitations. But he has a risen, transformed humanness…He is no longer “limited.” So, what could he possibly mean? Ah…he is the risen head, but his Body, which we are, is still struggling in time/space, with all its “limits.” Could he mean that our “daily bread’ is the total Christ…that each time we receive him sacramentaly we also welcome each other? Could he mean that daily we must ‘eat’ one another with all those limitations, faults, and irritations? Even more amazing, could he mean that this type of ‘communion’ is going on all over the world…on the evening news, as compassion shows up in the most unexpected places? Do w know what we are asking for, when we pray “Give us this day, our daily bread…?”

 Now they see you, now they don’t.

What is this game you’re playing?

Are you ‘going to the Father?’

or

Will you be ‘with us until the end of the age?’

Or maybe the answer is, ‘Yes!’

You really have never ‘left’ have you.

You have found a way to stay with us even as you return to your Father.

And

You have found a way to feed our love quotient day by day

Each time we feed on you…

Because you bring them all, don’t you.

All my family, my friends, and yes, those I consider enemies.

They are not all to my ‘taste.’ They irritate me.

Is it really ‘all or nothing’ with you?

Can’t have the Head without the Body?

Be patient with me…

I’m still learning…

What ‘give us this day our daily bread’ might really mean.

 

Let Us Dream Part I: A Time to ‘See’

 Back in March, we reflected on the Prologue to Pope Francis’ book: Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future. We explored some of the big ideas that prompted him to dream, and then write. He ends the Prologue by saying that we need to see clearly, choose well, and act right. This month we will look at Part I, A Time to See.

 So, what would Francis have us ‘see?’ First, last, and ways…real people. Not just numbers but real people, especially the people on the edges. Francis believes that the folks on the edges can convert the rest of us. Their plight jars us out of our indifference, which he calls the ‘other virus.’ Their situations will overwhelm us but need never rob us of our hope. Their plight stirs up a culture of service in contrast to a throwaway culture.

 But Francis is a realist, and he names three attitudes that will offer escapes from really ‘seeing’ someone’s situation. They are narcissism, discouragement, and pessimism. Narcissism is drowning in your own image. Discouragement is seeing only what you’ve lost, and pessimism shuts the door on the future. In a way, he believes that COVID has actually helped us ‘see’ differently. We are beginning to see that those who have been cast aside can become the agents of a new future. The common new project that then arises becomes changing the very way society itself operates. The people on the edge become the protagonists of social change.

 Myopia is selecting what I will allow myself to see. I can then turn away because it’s better not to feel anything. “So-whatism” sets in, which blocks discernment. The media often presents this challenge. It reveals a humanity getting sicker right along with our common home.

 But really seeing stirs up not merely a green energy, it arouses a social energy. Like drops on a sponge, it forms an awareness, not a self-centered ideology which is a lopsided awareness. Francis ends by declaring that sin is a rejection of the limits that love requires. Instead, he calls for an integral ecology, a ‘digging in’ to uncover the deep changes we need to face. Once we ‘see’ properly, the next challenge is to choose. Stay tuned…!

 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Promise…

We are in the Easter glow. We have just celebrated Mercy Sunday. Once more we are invited to stand with mouths open in wonder at what the resurrection of Jesus means for each of us.

 We remember marveling in the past as we watched Star Wars when we heard the words, “Beam me up, Scotty!” Sci-fi worked its wonders when the human in the spaceship reappeared on the planet surface. We were watching a physics which we knew didn’t yet exist transport humans from one place to another. But this Easter season brings us a pledge of what does already exist.

What does the risen Jesus, seen by over five hundred people, come to tell us? He comes to give us the first glimpse of a promise.

 The risen Jesus is no ghost. He is a transformed human, wounds shining like badges of honor. He reveals a physics we know nothing of yet, a physics of what self-giving love does to the human being. He gave a glimpse of this to Peter, James, and John in the Transfiguration, when they could barely look at him for the brilliance. For just a while the veil lifted and they were shown the beauty of who they were dealing with. But then came the suffering, and that has the habit of dousing wonder and joy. But the resurrection was permanent. The veil was gone - forever. He was making them, and us, a promise. As he is so shall we be, because that is what love does. It makes you beautiful.

Is it you – really?

And it will be me…really?

Then the struggle is worth it.

I have your word for it.