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Posted by on Oct 31, 2010

Who is Zacchaeus in Our Lives Today?

The Gospel reading for today, the 31st Sunday of Ordinary time, Cycle C, is the story of the tax collector, Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus lived in Jericho. He was despised by the people of the community because he was a tax collector. Being a tax collector in those days meant that he was free to extort as much as he could get from the people and had only to send a portion of it to the authorities at higher levels of government (ie, Jerusalem and Rome). He was the chief tax collector, taking money from all the tax collectors under his supervision and from his own work as well. The gospel notes that he was a wealthy man.

Now Zacchaeus was curious about Jesus and when he heard that Jesus would be passing through town, he went out with the crowd to see him. We do the same today when celebrities come through our own towns. However, Zacchaeus had a problem. He was a short man and there were lots of people in front of him. So he climbed a tree to get a better view.

Jesus saw him in the tree, stopped and called him by name to come down, saying that he (Jesus) would dine at the home of Zacchaeus that night. The people were horrified and scandalized. They asked if Jesus really could know who Zacchaeus was, that he was a terrible sinner? But Zacchaeus was touched by the healing love of Jesus in that moment and volunteered that he would return fourfold all that he had stolen and give half of his possessions to the poor. Jesus told all “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Lk 19:1-10)

This story got me to thinking. Who is Zacchaeus in our lives today?

It’s easy to point the finger of blame at celebrities who are promiscuous or who drink too much or who use illicit drugs. It’s easy to look at politicians who misuse their power. It’s easy to say that those who provide or seek abortions are great sinners. It’s easy to scapegoat people whose sexual orientation does not match our own.  It’s easy to gloat when a minister is caught in some sin he or she has denounced from the pulpit.

But I don’t think that’s the lesson we need to draw from this account. We need to look at ourselves and see the areas in which we fail. We need to ask ourselves who we cheat, from whom do we steal, whose hearts do we break? To some extent each of us is Zacchaeus.

Then I suggest we go a step further. Who are the people in our lives whom we blame for what is wrong in society? Who are the people we would choose to block from access to the goods of life? To whom would we deny education, health care, food, clothing, shelter?

Do we blame undocumented immigrants and seek to exclude them and their children from the goods and services they need to live full, healthy lives? Do we suggest that the children of the undocumented who are born here should not be citizens by birth, thereby denying them the protection of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution? Do we look down on the laid off teacher, the unwed mother,  or the disabled worker who receive unemployment, food stamps and Medicaid? Do we insist that people who can’t afford health insurance should just not get sick and/or need preventive care services? Do we say that only the well-to-do should be able to stay home with their young children and that mothers in poorer families should have to put their children in day care for long periods of time and work at minimum wage or less trying to earn enough to cover rent, food and childcare? Do we assume that all children of minority groups are probably gang members? Do we expect that the poor are somehow less intelligent and deserve to live in poverty?

I suggest that perhaps Zacchaeus takes many forms in the United States today. Some people we treat as if they were public sinners (Zacchaeus) because they are less fortunate or have made poor decisions in their lives. Somehow we are inclined to believe that those for whom all is going well are holy and specially rewarded by God for their good lives and that the opposite is true for those in difficult circumstances. Some of us are Zacchaeus in our world because of choices we have made that hurt others.

The good news is that Jesus came to bring salvation to us all, in whatever way we may personally be Zacchaeus and to whomever we treat with scorn or exclude as if he or she were Zacchaeus.  And why does Jesus come to bring this salvation? Because “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost” and because the Lord will “overlook people’s sins that they may repent.” (Wis 11:23)

Good news indeed. May we be open to receive that salvation ourselves and to support others whom we might otherwise push aside as unworthy of the grace and blessings of the Lord.

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Posted by on Oct 12, 2010

Remembering to be Grateful

“… One of them, realizing that he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in  a loud voic; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’ Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.'” (Lk 17:15-19)

This story of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers reminds us of the importance of expressing gratitude for the gifts we have received. I admit, I’m not very good at doing that as often as I should. Life gets so busy and there are so many pressing things that must be done, that days can go by and suddenly I realize that I never got that “Thank you” card sent or that phone call made. So if I owe you a thank you, please know that I have sent it many times mentally and in my prayers. I’m just not at all good at actually getting the stamp onto the envelop and the letter written to go with it.

Still, the reading is a reminder that in our relationship with God, it’s also important to express our gratitude. God doesn’t need us to say thanks, we need to say thanks. To the extent that we look at things with a spirit of gratitude, we are more able to deal with the hard times and challenges of life. None of us gets through life without experiencing them. They’re necessary if we’re to grow in wisdom and grace along with age.

One of the things I’ve learned in life is that I can choose how I will respond to the unexpected, especially the unpleasant unexpected things that happen. I can react with anger, frustration, jealousy, rage, … or I can try to smile (even through tears), laugh, forgive, wait patiently to see what good thing is coming next, etc. My immediate reaction is not necessarily going to be my final one, I’ve learned. When the negative ones jump up first, I can choose to set them aside and focus on the positive ones. It’s not easy when the really hard things happen – things like illness, injury, loss of jobs or loved ones. But at those times it’s especially important. Only by opening to the gift of God’s presence in those moments can we allow God to act freely and bring good out of them.

When I was much younger, I read a book called Praise the Lord Anyway, by Frances Gardner Hunter. The premise of the book was that God wants us to be joyful and grateful, even when we can’t see what good can possibly come of the situation in which we find ourselves. It’s good advice and even scriptural. St Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” (Phil 4:4)

As I go about my work this week, I pray that I’ll remember to be grateful and joyful as I receive God’s gifts and the challenges that life brings to me. Whatever they may be, experience tells me that God will be there to bring good out of them if I just keep my heart open to hear and be grateful. May the same true for you.

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Posted by on Jun 18, 2010

Father’s Day – 2010

Father’s Day – 2010

 
 

"Let's play Sandwich!"

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
Madeleine L’Engle

I have known many fathers in my years. Each is unique. Each brings his own special gifts to his family, friends, and associates. Some fathers love to hunt and fish. Others are gardeners. Some come home and watch TV. Others get lost in a book. Some pack up their families and go traipsing around the country every chance they get. Others are content to stay in their own community, considering a picnic at the park a fine outing.

Regardless of the particulars of each man’s habits and preferences, there are some characteristics that I think are common among fathers. Probably the first is that they really had no idea what they were getting into by fathering a child. (I must say that in my experience, mothers don’t know this bit of reality in advance either!) Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of men have willingly entered into the path of fatherhood. And then the adventure began …

Fatherhood requires a willingness to be more than the progenitor of another human being. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable and to learn as you go. Parenthood brings out the best and the worst in each of us. We learn as we go along – making mistakes, making amends when possible and doing some things right the first time (even if by accident). We find out what deep darkness can lurk within us. We also find out what depths of patience and love can be tapped, especially if we remember to call for help from the Father of us all. We delight in watching our children discover the world and their own identities. We sorrow with them when they fall and help them get back up and try again. We grieve with them when something precious ends and can’t be regained.

To a child, the father is a powerful figure. He stands so tall and is so strong. He picks us up and twirls us around and the world whirls too. He comes home happy and the household sings. He comes home frustrated and tired and the household … Well, we hope the household reaches out to reassure and comfort him. Doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s the ideal. Sometimes he gets angry. Sometimes he laughs when he feels like crying. Sometimes he picks a flower to say, “I love you.” Sometimes he just lets his child crawl all over him and pull at his chin whiskers and ears.

Fathers come in many sizes and shapes. Some are old. Some are young. Once a man becomes a father, he never stops being a father, even if his children move far away or are estranged from him.

Being a father means being vulnerable. Vulnerable to love. Vulnerable to having your heart broken. Vulnerable to losing a precious person. Vulnerable to finding precious meaning in small, everyday ordinary activities.

Vulnerability is not necessarily a bad thing. Only hearts that are open and unshielded can receive the gift of love that is pouring into the world each day, keeping all in existence.

So as we approach Father’s Day and celebrate the lives of the men in our lives who have given their lives to us in so many ways – those who have physically given us life and those who have given us faith, hope and encouragement as “father-figures” or teachers or godfathers – let us be grateful and supportive of them. They have learned and continue to learn the great secret that by opening themselves and becoming vulnerable, they receive the greatest blessings of this life – the love and wonder of sharing in the work of creation with our Father.

Thank you to all of you men who have accepted the joys and challenges of being fathers to your children and to those who have come to you in need of a father’s guidance. May the Lord’s rich blessings be always yours as you do your best to share what you’ve learned and help the next generation along on their journey as well.

Happy Fathers Day!

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Posted by on Dec 31, 2009

Father’s Day – 2010

New Year’s Greetings and Wishes

New Year's Eve in Rio

New Year's Eve in Rio

It’s New Year’s Eve in Santa Cruz. A year has nearly ended and a new one is fast upon us. On top of that, the first decade of the new century is coming to a close. So much has happened in the past 10 years – for all of us. Some has been good. Some has been bad. Some has been just normal. That’s the way life goes.

Still, as Christians, we live with the belief and hope that God is in it all and brings good out of even the terrible times of our lives. The God who couldn’t bear to sit back in isolation from all of creation and from the human beings He created entered into our lives and history, to bring us all back into union again. It’s not up to us to become perfect and worthy of God. God became one of us and in doing so, made that re-union possible. We just have to let go of anger, jealously, hatred, fear, and all the other negative energies which we so easily hold onto and nurture. God will even help us let go of them.  It’s all a free gift!

So, at this time of a New Year and a New Decade, may the Love and Peace and Joy of God fill each of our hearts, so that no room remains for harboring the negative, life-draining spirits that lurk among us. May we look at each other and at ourselves and see the Face of God looking back at us. May we rejoice in the beauty of creation and of each person. May we trust that when the hard times come, as they certainly will, God will be with us personally, holding our hand and helping us through them. And may we move forward with confidence that we are loved and lovable, just as we are. Of course, there’s room for growth in love, patience, faithfulness, joy, and so forth, but we are each loved NOW, by our God who is absolutely crazy about us and just wants to hold us close in a huge, big hug.

What great good news that is!

Happy New Year.

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Posted by on Dec 14, 2009

An Advent Gift

An Advent Gift

Terry Hershey is one of my favorite columnists/bloggers. I look forward each week to his Sabbath Moment column. Today he offers this prayer. I suggest we all make it our own.

Our Prayer (and, Christmas gift suggestions)

Lord, in this Advent season, may we give
To our enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, our heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To our self, respect.
Amen.

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Posted by on Jan 31, 2009

Father’s Day – 2010

January Reverie

 

pussy_willow_branch

Pussy willows blossoming,

Monarchs dancing in the sky,

Sour grass and wild radish blossoms

Punctuating fields of wildly growing grass,

January on California’s Central Coast.

Praise and Thanks to Thee,

Great Lord of all Creation!

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Posted by on Nov 26, 2008

Father’s Day – 2010

At Theologika.net We Give Thanks

Thanksgiving has arrived and we at Theologika.net find ourselves with many reasons to be grateful. It’s been about a year and a half since our blog “went live” and just over a year since our search engine began organizing trustworthy, useful information for our readers to use in their work and their own spiritual journeys. In that time, we’ve met some amazing people and discovered some truly wonderful resources.

At this time, we’d like to express our gratitude to some of the people who first supported and encouraged us in our work. These include Dr. Megan McKenna, Timothy Radcliffe, OP, Armand Nigro, SJ, Thomas McDermott, OP, Terry Hershey, Bernard Tyrrell, SJ, Bosco Peters, and Patrick Conway, M.Div. Each of these people has helped with recommendations of people to contact, books and authors who should be included, reflections on questions we have asked for blog posts, or tagging materials to add to the search engine. To each of them we are grateful.

Others have followed these initial supporters. Jesse Manibusan, Faustino Cruz, SM, Kenan Osborne, OFM, Br. Bill Short, OFM, Sr. Krista Aiken, OSC, Mother Marija, ocd, Michael Fones, OP, Sr. Barbara Long, OP, Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam, and many, many others have shared their thoughts, prayers and best wishes with us.

In writing blog posts about the founders of some of the religious orders and other saints of the orders, I’ve reached out to a lot of members of those orders. Many have responded and I am grateful to them for sharing their thoughts with us. Those who have responded include Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Poor Clares, Carmelites and Vincentians. In the coming year, I hope to contact others to share insights about the gifts their brothers and sisters have brought to the Church.

This entire enterprise could not have begun or moved so far forward without the support and encouragement of Rajesh Setty, Vijay Peduru and Paul D’Souza of Suggestica, Inc., owner of the RawSugar technology that powers our search engine. We are also indebted to Naveen Lakkur of Compassites.net and his team who work behind the scenes to design the site and keep it working. Thank you to all.

And to our readers … we thank you for taking time from your busy lives to read our thoughts in the blog posts, share your reflections with us, and use our search/discovery engine in your work, ministry and personal spiritual journeys. Without you, there would be no reason for our enterprise. Thank you.

May the Lord bless and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you. May the Lord be gracious to you and grant you peace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Posted by on Nov 25, 2008

Father’s Day – 2010

The Last Week of the Year – From the Feast of Christ the King to Advent

Feeding the Hungry in Jesus' Name - Baton Rouge

Feeding the Hungry in Jesus' Name - Baton Rouge, LA

Last Sunday we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King. The Gospel reading was from Matthew, speaking of the judgement of the nations on the last day. The King, a.k.a. The Son of Man, invites “the righteous” to enter the kingdom saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” When they ask when they gave him this service, He assures them, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers [and sisters] of mine, you did for me.” He goes on to tell those who are not invited to enter the kingdom that when they denied this same care to the least, they denied it to Him. (Mt 25:31:46)

At this time of global economic crisis, with millions of people facing financial troubles they never expected to see, and other millions finding resources that were never enough in the first place becoming even more limited, these words ring loudly. They are a challenge to all of us – those who have just barely enough, those who still have plenty, those who have not enough at all. How do we recognize the Son of Man around us and what do we do to reach out and help?

I suggest that we look at this time as one for affirmation of hope and trust in our King. We have a King who cares so much about all of us, who loves us each so deeply, that He was willing to live among us and share in all that we experience. He was willing to challenge unjust structures and interpretations of the Law. He spoke up for God’s “little ones,” however old they were, who couldn’t speak up for themselves. He insisted that we are all created for the freedom of God, a freedom that allows us to do what is right and good for those in need, without worry about whether it is approved by those in power or authority. A freedom that lets us give of the little we have to help those with less. A freedom that can lead to the cross, but also to the joy of new life.

In the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving this week. Churches, schools, even gyms have been collecting food for weeks to share with “those less fortunate.” Many will offer dinners on Thanksgiving for those who are homeless or have no one with whom to share a meal. It is a special time when we reach out to each other in care.

The outreach will continue through Christmas. Gifts will be collected again at churches, schools, banks, and gyms for children and adults who might not receive a gift otherwise. Food baskets aren’t prepared and distributed for Christmas dinner, but collection of food for food pantries will continue throughout the year.

Then one calendar year ends and a new one begins – with hope and expectation of better times to come. It will be a time of especially high hopes in this country, as we see the beginning of a new presidency. And I wish all the best to those who will govern us. It’s not an easy job in the best of times – and these are not the best of times!

But what do we as people of faith bring to the party?

As Christians, we begin our new year at the end of this week. The first Sunday of Advent is next Sunday. A new year. New hopes. New expectations. New dreams.

Let us together move into this new year with a commitment to hope, to service, to caring for each other. Most of us will not ever have the chance or the means to effect dramatic change in this world. But remember, the little things are the ones that can be HUGE for an individual or a family. A gift of food, a gift of a smile, a gift of a kind word, a gift of hope, a gift of time for a visit. All of these affirmations of the value of the other person help ease the burden of hard economic times. Jesus wants to live in us and through us. We are to be His face, His voice, His touch to those around us. And when we reach out in service, we reach out to serve Him. When we graciously accept the loving help and kindness of people who reach out to us as well, we receive His love as well as return it to them.

As we move from the Feast of Christ the King into the new season of Advent, let it be with hope, trust and joy. Our God is with us. The Kingdom has begun. “Whatever you did for one of these … you did for me.”

(Picture from http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/16945146.html in Baton Rouge, LA.)

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Posted by on May 28, 2008

Father’s Day – 2010

What Keeps Me From Seeing?

 

I like to take a walk in late morning each day. It helps clear my mind and stretch my muscles before I plunge into the work and activities of afternoon and evening. Living beside Monterey Bay, I never know what I’ll see on my outing.

Today, when I arrived at the water’s edge (actually at the cliff beside the water!), I got a wonderful surprise. I could see all of Monterey Bay – from the Lighthouse at Point Santa Cruz, around past Santa Cruz, Capitola, Aptos, Moss Landing, to the flatter lands where the Salinas River enters the Bay. Then the Big Sur mountains rise up behind Monterey and go out all the way to the ocean.  The water was calm – very few waves for the surfers. The kelp beds were spreading out to enjoy the sunshine. The sea lions on the rock were chatting among themselves. Sea gulls soared over the water. I could see it all.

In “the olden days,” when I was a girl, I would never have thought that seeing all the way around a bay was anything special. I grew up in Eastern Washington state. We had clouds or sunshine. Sometimes we had fog. But you could always see across the river! And normally, you could see the surrounding mountains too.

Living on the coast, we never know from day to day whether the fog will be in or not. Even on a sunny day, the fog often sits in the middle of the Bay, blocking the view of the other towns and the mountains. But today it is clear. The smoke from the Summit fire is gone from the sky. The clouds we have are high and moving inland. The fog is sitting way off the coast, barely visible from land. And the view is stunning.

It occurs to me that the spiritual life is something like our views of Monterey Bay. Like the Bay, God is always present here – within us, among us, around us. I exist only because God has imagined me, given me breath, breathes through me, loves me continually into being. Yet all too often I don’t notice. I don’t see the beauty all around me. I miss the “love notes” scattered all around me – the flowers, the birds, the native bees in the weeds, the smiles of young mothers and their babies, the laughter of teens and the comfortable togetherness of retired couples out for a walk. I don’t see them for what they are, or worse, I don’t see them at all. I move through my life’s conversation doing all the talking, forgetting to look and listen for the presence of the Divine.

Today I pray that I’ll remember to open my eyes, ears, heart, mind to notice God’s presence. I’ll remember to ask myself, “What keeps me from seeing today?” I’ll remember to be grateful. I invite you to do the same. And maybe while we’re at it, we could also stop gratefully for a moment and ask, “What keeps us as a people from seeing today?”

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Posted by on Mar 26, 2008

Father’s Day – 2010

St. Mary at Easter Tide

rejoice-monica-stewart.jpg

The Blessed Virgin Mary has many beautiful titles. St. Mary at Easter Tide is my very own. Scripture is very silent about the Mother of Jesus after the Resurrection. We know that she is present in the upper room when the Spirit comes upon the Apostles at Pentecost. At the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel tells her nothing about her future, except that her Son will be destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel. Mary’s first post-partum visit to the Temple portends a life of sorrow. According to Simeon, a sword will pierce her heart seven times. This most beloved young woman is left to ponder these things in her heart.

There are many good years together, until He leaves to find his cousin John at the Jordan. Then things go from bad to worse. Her friends and neighbors toss Him out of Nazareth. Jesus dies a horrible death; His mission a failure; her maiden’s vision becomes a bitter delusion. In his final words, Jesus entrusts St. John and Mary to each other – a final testament that seals the depth of grief.

There is no record of how Mary hears the news; of how she reacts. Who tells her? Jesus Himself? It seems that this duty falls to us. The noonday prayer echoes a wonderful joy – Regina Coeli laetare alleluia! Queen of Heaven Rejoice alleluia! … Resurexit sicut dixit! He has risen as He said (he would)!

Even though the words echo from my childhood at “Mid-century,” how well I remember and still experience the delightful childish skip in our hearts and step that we shared at Easter Tide. These are not the inspired words of the Gospel in the Hail Mary, nor the briefest of summaries of the Mystery of the Incarnation in the Angelus. For a prayer, Regina Coeli seems strangely out of character. There is no formality, no reserve. In our joy, we proclaim the Good News to the Mother of the Word Incarnate. God has turned our mourning into joy, but how could we ever begin to fathom what his news meant to the woman whose faith gave birth to us all?

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Posted by on Mar 25, 2008

Father’s Day – 2010

Easter Monday: Whale Watching With Angels

light-house-pt-santa-cruz.gif

I had read in a book way back in grammar school at Holy Cross School in Ventura, CA, in a time that is now referred to as “Mid-Century,” about boys hiking in the Alps on Easter Monday for a traditional lunch at high altitude with the angels. That custom may or may not have been true, but the thought of having lunch with the angels has always intrigued me. Perhaps, because my patron is St. Raphael the Archangel, the thought has always been somewhat appealing. After all, if you were an angel, wouldn’t you want a little break after all the hullabaloo of Holy Week?

Circumstances prevented me from wandering into the Santa Cruz mountains looking for angels to share ham and Easter eggs. The day was perfect, with a mild breeze, as I headed out across Lighthouse Field to Point Santa Cruz. The sky and the water were dazzling as I headed west up the coast along the ocean before it rounds the Point into Monterey Bay. There was excitement in the air. Whales migrating south to the Sea of Cortez around the tip of Baja California were passing by 100 to 300 feet offshore. They showed some interest in a kayak heading in the opposite direction, but continued on in graceful arcs, undulating effortlessly in the current as they coursed through the water.

It was a strange moment. The moment the houses along West Cliff, the roiling waves and sunlight all got stretched onto an impressionist canvas. I could see the brush strokes, the layering of the oil, the weave of the canvas. My neighborhood of almost 20 years became completely magical, serene, and spirit filled. I had pounded this walk many, many times before and it was always striking, even when cares and illness were heaviest on my heart, but today it was literally unreal.

Well, I guess my patron Archangel and his buddies were not waiting for me in the redwoods after all. It wasn’t the picnic with the angels that I had imagined as a boy. Whale watching with the angels on Easter Monday is something else.

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Posted by on Mar 22, 2008

Father’s Day – 2010

Good Friday: Identifying with Christ or Christ Identifying With Us?

christ-of-maryknoll.jpg

For those who love Christ, remembering His passion and death is always an occasion for sorrow. However, such human acts as compassion are never simple. The pain of the impending loss of a loved one – anticipatory grief – can be worse than the actual loss. In fact, when death finally comes, we often feel guilty about experiencing relief. My friend Jim lost his father when Jim was in eighth grade, after a protracted two year battle with cancer. When we talked about it a couple of years later, Jim confessed that he still felt more relief than grief.

Of course, we couldn’t experience compassion without a close identification with the other. This becomes very complex in the person of the Christ. He did not fight his enemies. He did not curse. He did not condemn. He forgave. He blessed. This human-divine reaction to an injustice that is almost as inconceivable as it is enraging provides no adequate psychological outlet for the post-Freudian soul. How can we proclaim and fight for justice if God Himself did not? Tragically, the consolation in the Gospels and the wider testimony of the New Testament – that no evil, no matter how overwhelming, how senseless, can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus – escapes us. (Romans 8:38-39) Instead of experiencing this Passover of the Lord – the Blood of the Lamb on the door posts and lintel of our home that spares us from the Angel of Death – we run out into that night of despair by focusing on the ways we have been complicit with that evil.

When we hear that we are saved from a life defined by suffering and pain without meaning and no exit, we can think that we were saved from something we deserved. “Evil as you are … who among you would give his son a scorpion when he asked for bread?” (Loosely taken from Luke 11: 11-13) is a stark reminder to the disciples that Jesus could not conceive of His Father wanting anything less than we ourselves would want for our own children. Just as our children are all too much in our own image and likeness, we are in God’s. The teaching and life of Jesus in this regard is at odds with the vengeful patriarch of the Old Testament who punishes and chastises. (Lest we be tempted to think that Jews hold or held onto to this concept, we should remember that Jesus was not the only Jew who presented a view that had grown beyond it. The are interesting similarities between Jesus and his contemporary, Hillel the Elder.)

Enter God’s protectors:

“Ah hah! Now he has said it on his very own blog! Your own words condemn you. God doesn’t care about sin, you say. There are no consequences, no punishment, no reckoning. You present a God who is merciful, but not just. If Christ did not die for our sins how was the Father appeased? How is he the sacrificial victim?”

The Blogger Offers a Parable:

Once upon a time, there was a wonderful teacher who healed by word and touch and saved people from all kinds of physical, psychological, and social maladies. He made the mistake of speaking truth to power and telling religious and civil leaders that outward observance only made them into whitened sepulchers. They waited for the right time and got a close friend to betray him, and they took him off to Guantanamo, and then transferred him to a third world country, where he was tortured to death by specialists trained at the School of the Americas. Like so many thousands of his time, he was supposed to have become one of the disappeared. Fortunately for us, He didn’t stay dead and he didn’t stay hidden. Strangely though, he left again, said he would return, and in the meantime the were supposed to wait for a Holy Wind to make everything clear.

Yet His disciples wanted an explanation. If He was truly God’s Son, how could this have happened to Him? If he really was the Messiah, how could he have failed? He was just as maddening as those parables he used to tell them. Where are the answers? It was like one of those Eastern religions. “The question is the answer.” And that other junk the Beatles found in India, under the influence of something other than the great American mystic, Jack Daniels.

God finally sent them someone they could understand – sort of. “Like, well, yuh see, dude- God don’t need sacafices, ” The voice of the aging surfer was hoarse with too many years of funny cigarettes, his faced etched with too much salt and sun, his eyes opaque while he waited for the waves to rise. “It’s like, all ’bout love. All God wants is love. The torture and sufferin’ part, that’s what we do to us and each other. Man, like the Teacher Dude, the Guru Guy, like he couldn’t hang out forever. ‘Cause like, you guys were all brain dead on a kind a gnarly bad trip. Like he let it happen. The tube was closin’. Like there was just the wipeout; like really bad at Mavericks. He did it to show y’all that if yah stay in the water and go for it, sooner or later it’s gonna happen if ya stay true to the search for the Big One.  Dude, got some extra change? My old lady’s on me for the rent, like ya know.”

The words of reproach, as the seeker turned away, were familiar. “That sucks man. What a waste. I came to hear some guy explain some @$#%?! blogger’s crappy parable. I could’a been watchin’ the game on my big screen.” So he zipped up his jacket and marched straight home, out of the saving mystery, ignoring the glory of the sky, the dazzle of the water, and the carpet of color and bird song all about him.

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Posted by on Mar 20, 2008

Father’s Day – 2010

Holy Thursday on the California Coast

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Holy Week on the California coast, from Pt. Mendocino above San Francisco to the Mexican border, is a place of spring time sun, deep blue skies, and blossoming flowers. At the Equinox, the ocean loses its grayness and picks up more yellows, subtle greens and muted turquoise. The salt air becomes more pungent, as the kelp forests put on new growth to accommodate the explosion of trillions upon trillions of sea plants and animals. The succulents and coastal chaparral burst out in purples, roses, and pinks, peppered with the bright yellow of sour grass blossoms. The Santa Cruz redwoods seem to stretch, fresh washed from the winter storms, looking forward to the morning and evening fog that gives them sustenance and flourishes their layered ecosystems that change every 20 feet upward, dancing in the dappled ray filled sunlight of the forest canopy.

It is a time of happiness and rejoicing. Sunglasses come out, flip flops slap the pavement, and shorts replace the winter denim, even though the day time temperatures are barely in the mid-60s. It is the coming of First Summer, before the Fog Season that begins on Memorial Day in late May and ends on Labor Day in early September. On the Central Coast, we host our first guests during Spring Break and settle in to enjoy the peaceful days before our June to August onslaught of shivering, fog-bitten visitors and their much welcome tourist dollars.

Aren’t we supposed to be down or at least subdued during Holy Week? How can we rejoice Saturday evening and Easter if we have somehow not rationed that joy? We should at least lament our unfaithful adherence to our Lenten resolutions – right? Christ’s terrible torture and death stayed the arm of a rightfully vengeful Father, so shouldn’t we show at least some token of fear for not being swept out into hellfire? If God’s Spring and Passover are any indication, maybe Cotton Mather had it wrong. Maybe we are a lot more than “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.”

If we, and all creation, are the overflowing love of the Trinity, are we the products of a God who can somehow demand the death of the the Eternal Word Made Flesh, God’s very immediate recognition and instantaneous self-acceptance, who shares the eternal dance of the Three in the joy of the Holy Spirit? Yes, much of the language that shapes our souls is a reflection of the fallen world where the Word “pitched his tent” – the actual Greek expression we use in the Creed. Yes, Jesus died and saved us in his rising from the dead. Yes, Jesus is the Lamb of God. Yes, we are the reason, we are his motivation for sharing our lives and submitting to the capital punishment of being tortured to death by an occupying superpower. Perhaps, the gravest sin of pride is to even think that we were the cause. Yes, God as Love couldn’t bear to leave us to the fate of hatred, despair, and alienation.

Why should people celebrating their rescue be glum, depressed, lost in narcissistic guilt? Why is this night different from any other night? It is the Passover of the Lord. If we are not washed in joyful Spring, can we share the Passover meal? Can we have any part in Him?

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Posted by on Feb 2, 2008

Father’s Day – 2010

Feast of the Day: The Presentation of Christ in the Temple – February 2

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St. Joseph & Prophetess Anna; St. Mary, the Christ Child, & the Prophet Simeon

The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is February 2 and is known in the West as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Around 450 in Jerusalem, people began holding lighted candles during the Liturgy on this day and it became known as Candlemas. The feast has always had more prominence in the East. However, it has been celebrated in the West since the 11th Century. It marks the formal end of the Christmas season.

The presentation commemorates the ritual purification of Jewish mothers on the 40th day after birth and the redemption offering for first born sons. (Luke 2:22-40) At the temple, the Holy Family meet Simeon who had prayed for the coming of the Messiah and had been assured by God that he would not see death until he had seen the Savior of Israel.

28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
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so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
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and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
38
Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.

40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

There is really not much more to say, except to note the gratitude of Simeon and Anna and the bewilderment of Joseph and Mary. For those of us who have had the joy, bewilderment, and sleep deprivation characteristic of new parents, the experience rings true. So do the words of prophets in our lives – those strange outsiders who many times see our children more clearly than we can.

As glorious as the Canticle of Simeon is, there is a prayer that I learned when I was a new father:

“Lord, please help me to see my children the way other people do.” It is always unsettling – always a revelation.

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Posted by on Jan 20, 2008

Father’s Day – 2010

“Behold the Lamb of God” — “I did not know him.”

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The “Book of Signs” in the Gospel of St. John begins with the story of John the Baptist – the Baptist’s statement of his own role in preparing the way of the Lord and his witness to the role of Jesus. John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and told his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God …” He also admitted to them, “I did not know him … but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.'” (Jn 1: 29, 33) Based on the Baptist’s testimony, Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, and John, son of Zebedee, followed after Jesus and became his first disciples.

How truly even today we do not recognize the Lord came clearly to me about this time seventeen years ago. My husband and I had two wonderful sons, and we had been hoping to have another child. Everything seemed to point to it being the right time and I had become pregnant as we hoped. Then in mid-January, it all fell apart. The baby in my womb died. We found out the news on a Saturday, but there was no need to do anything immediately, so the decision was made to wait until Monday to arrange for further treatment.

We went ahead and took down our Christmas tree. We had the birthday party for our firstborn, with most of his classmates attending, as we had planned. And on Monday morning, as symptoms of the miscarriage appeared, we went to Kaiser and I had the procedure to complete the process.

It was a very difficult time. We had very much wanted that child. And it was not to be.

The previous year, we had received a free overnight stay at a nice hotel up in the California wine country, to be used at a time of our choice. So we decided to go there a week or so later. That evening, I went for a walk through the courtyard by myself. I was praying. It wasn’t easy to pray during those couple of weeks. I asked the Lord, “Where have you been?” And I received his response in a series of images of faces that came into my mind. The couple who had stayed into the evening after the birthday party, so we wouldn’t have to be alone with our sorrow. The nurse who did the preliminary exam and shared that she too had lost a baby, but now had a healthy child. Another nurse who held my hand and told me it was OK to cry, as the procedure began. The doctor who was so kind and gentle. My parents, who sent flowers. They had never sent flowers before that day, but they did when I needed them. The other relatives who sent cards and plant arrangements. My son’s teacher, herself a young widow, who came after school and spent a couple of hours with me, just being there.

As all of these images and memories came to me, I knew where Jesus had been. He was right there, in his body, the People of God, the Mystical Body of Christ, about whom I had learned as a child. He was with me.

Behold the Lamb of God. Like John the Baptist, I did not recognized him when he came in person through all those wonderfully kind and thoughtful people. But the Lord is kind, and, like the Baptist, I got a second chance to recognize him – in the images of their faces that came to me that night.

Where is the Lamb of God in your life today? Keep your eyes and ears open. He is here, hoping you’ll recognize him in those around you. He’s here, too, hoping you’ll be helping him today to reach those who need his touch today.

Behold the Lamb of God!

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