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Posted by on Dec 2, 2023

Beginnings, Endings, and Continuity

Beginnings, Endings, and Continuity

One year comes to an end. Another begins. One story comes to an end. Another begins. One way of living ends. Another begins. We see this pattern again and again in our lives. But what about the transitions? Is there anything that remains from the year or story or way of living that carries over into the next?

We have reached the end of a liturgical year, a series of fifty-two weeks of remembering and celebrating the love of God reaching into our human lives. A new year begins for us on the fourth Sunday before Christmas – this very Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent. Do we start from scratch somehow or is there a seamless continuity between the celebration of Christ the King and the beginning of Advent?

The word we use for this time comes from Latin, from a word meaning arrival. Something or someone is coming or arriving. In our Christian tradition, we look for the coming of Christ into our world, both at the end of time and into our own personal time. We also await the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God and son of Mary.

Do we start with a totally clean slate then? Not really. Jesus was born into human history. Just which day and which year we don’t know. Parents didn’t go to the Court House and record births in those days. Even the presentation of a child at the Temple didn’t get recorded in any way that we can reference officially. The early Church chose late December for the birth date to coincide with the Roman celebration of the return of light at the solstice. Since Jesus is the Light of the World, it made sense to celebrate his coming at that time. It also made it easier not to be noticed while celebrating the coming of a person who was crucified for treason!

So then, Jesus has already come into human history. He has promised to come again at the end of time. When that end of time will be was originally thought to be very soon after his Resurrection. But that too turned out to be a bit delayed. Of course, in terms of the age of the universe, it’s barely a blink in time, but it’s a long time for humans.

The ancient Hebrews waited for a very long time too, with many ups and downs along the way, for the coming of the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah asks the Lord why he lets the people wander away, harden their hearts, and no longer respect his will. He reminds the Lord that he could come in great power and punish them, blowing them all away like leaves carried away by the wind. And yet he concludes, “O Lord, you are our father, we are the clay and you the potter.” We humans and all the world are the work of the Lord’s hand. (Is 63:16b-17,19b; 64:2-7)

St. Paul gives thanks to God for the people of Corinth in his first letter. They have been filled with grace, a share in the life of God, through Christ Jesus. They have received all the spiritual gifts they need as they wait for the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, they wait, and as they wait, they live the teachings they have received. (1 Cor 1:3-9)

Jesus reminded his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert!” Like servants whose master goes on a journey, it’s still necessary to keep watch and be prepared for his return. (Mk 13:33-37)

And how do we keep watch and remain prepared for the master’s return? What have we been taught? What have we been hearing in the past few weeks? Care for the hungry, the thirsty, those in need of shelter, clothing, health care, and all the basic necessities of a dignified human life. All of these are the activities to which we are called as children of the Father and siblings of our Lord Jesus, sharers in the Kingdom of God.

Here is the continuity. We have come to the end of a year of living and learning the ways we are called to serve the Lord. We begin a new year of learning as we prepare to celebrate his coming. And in this time of transition, we are reminded that resting on our laurels and trusting that we have learned enough and all is well is not enough. We must continue to learn and practice what we have learned already. And then we must remain alert so that we recognize the Lord when he comes into our midst.

Happy New Year. May this be a year of joyful growth and surprises as we find the Lord in every corner of our lives.

Readings for the First Sunday of Advent – Cycle B

 

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Posted by on Feb 19, 2023

Be Holy

Be Holy

Be Holy.

Two simple words, but what a challenge to obey them! The Lord instructed Moses to speak to the community of Israelites and tell them, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”

What does it mean to be holy? The book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew scriptures. In this book, the many rules and regulations for how the people are to live are laid out. In this particular chapter (19:1-2, 17-18), there is a listing of things (in verses 3 -16) that many of us would recognize as part of the Ten Commandments. We don’t hear that whole list in the selection for our reading today, however, only the command to love our fellow humans as we love ourselves. Hatred, anger, revenge, grudges – all are prohibited because they are not the way of love.

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount also refers to the law as set forth in the books of Exodus and Leviticus when presenting the instructions for his followers. (Mt 5:38-48) He mentions the injunction that allows taking “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” from those who harm others. We hear that and are appalled at the thought of such punishment. Nevertheless, this statement from the ancient Law was actually a huge step forward in its time. It limited revenge for injuries inflicted on others to no more than what the one who was guilty had done to another. No more killing an entire village because one member had injured someone from another village or insulted someone more powerful!

Jesus takes it a step further. “Offer no resistance to the one who is evil,” and gives concrete examples from life as experienced in his community and by those to whom he spoke. For example, Roman soldiers were allowed to require people to help transport things for a mile, whether it was convenient for them or not. Jesus says, give them two miles rather than one mile. Some have suggested that in this, he was actually giving people a way to protest the law that required one mile. It put the soldiers into a difficult position, because they were left to explain why the person had carried the burden for two miles! Had they broken the rule themselves and forced the extra service? Whether that was it or not, the idea of giving extra service to the soldiers of a hated conquering nation was quite unheard of.

Then there’s that little bit about loving enemies… What a crazy idea. But Jesus insists. Anyone can love people who are friendly and treat them well. It’s much harder to behave lovingly to those who treat us badly. Still, Jesus points out, God doesn’t treat those who do evil badly. God treats all with the same gifts of sunshine and rain – the things they need to live.

If we love only those who love us, we are like everyone else. But to go that extra step (or mile) and be good and kind and loving to those who hurt us – well that is beyond the norm. That enters into the realm of the divine, the realm to which we are called. The realm of the Holy One.

St. Paul reminds the people of Corinth and the people of the world today that we are the new temple of God, because the Spirit of God lives within us and within our community. (1Cor 3:16-23) As part of that temple, we ourselves are holy too. But how to be holy? It’s not through the ordinary wisdom for getting ahead in life. In the eyes of God, that is foolishness. We are called to embrace God’s foolishness – that of caring for others, loving enemies, helping those in need. Every member of the community has a responsibility to every other member. Each person belongs to us as family, we belong to Christ as family, and Christ to God. Here we find ourselves again, called to be holy, because God is holy and we belong to God.

So as we pass our days this week and enter into the holy season of Lent on Wednesday, let’s remember to look for the ways in which we get to practice the holiness of God by being loving and forgiving, patient and kind to all those we meet each day.

Readings for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

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Posted by on Jan 22, 2023

A Voice Calls to You – Do you hear?

A Voice Calls to You – Do you hear?

Have you ever received a phone call, a text, or a letter inviting you to an event or an activity that you would never have considered attending? It might even be an invitation to something that you didn’t know existed, something so totally out of character for you that you are surprised anyone would ever associate you with that!

My initial reaction in these moments is to decline. “No, I can’t possibly do that.” “I don’t have time.” Usually I don’t say, “Are you crazy? Why would you think I would ever be associated with something like that?” I may be thinking that, but I try to be polite as my mother taught me.

Nevertheless, there have been times when I didn’t say no to the invitation. Invariably, I have learned something important in the process.

I was never into rock and much of the contemporary music of my day as a teen and young adult. As a result, the thought of attending a Grateful Dead concert never entered my mind. Yet as an adult in the late 70s and early 80s, I was working with a group, the Seva Foundation, that was trying to combat preventable blindness in Nepal. (I discovered I was not good at fundraising in the process, but that’s another story.)

One of the folks with whom I was working knew someone from the Grateful Dead and was able to instigate the planning of a benefit concert that included some members of the Dead, along with many other folk and rock artists who were well-known musicians and activists. We were invited to attend as well.

That night, as we stood in line at the will-call ticket booth, a young woman ahead of us, clearly rather “spaced-out,” approached the booth. She went up to the window and warmly greeted Jahanara, who was handing out the tickets. Jahanara smiled and greeted her in return. It was clear the young woman was not there to pick up tickets, but it didn’t matter to Jahanara. There was a warm smile and a wish for a happy evening. Then the young woman walked away peacefully.

I have often reflected on that encounter. I don’t know that I would have had the grace that Jahanara exhibited that night. I might instead have been irritated that the young woman had wasted my time and that of the folks in line. But I think Jahanara’s response was the way Jesus would have responded. I have never forgotten that moment of grace.

Liturgically, we are in a time of hearing about the events in Jesus’ life that led to its climax with his passion, death, and resurrection. We have heard about John the Baptist’s testimony. Today we hear about what happened after John had been arrested by Herod but before his execution. (Mt 4:12-23) Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum and began his journey of preaching: “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Capernaum is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s a very big lake and many folks made their living as fishermen. As he walked along the lake, he saw Andrew and Simon throwing their nets into the lake. He called to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” That seems a crazy thing to say and they responded in an even crazier way. They left their nets right there and walked on with him. Then they saw two other brothers, James and John, in the boat with their father Zebedee. Jesus called them as well. They left their father and went off with him.

These were absolutely outrageous things to do. Totally irresponsible and unheard of. Yet because they heard the invitation and responded, they became witnesses to the greatest event of salvation history – the reconciliation of humanity with God.

Most of the time our own encounters with strangers don’t seem to have cosmic implications. Most of the people we meet on the street or in the grocery store are pretty ordinary folks, with ordinary lives and hopes. But I think we make a great mistake if we assume that because they seem ordinary, there is nothing special about them. Each of us is here for a reason. We mostly have no clue what that reason is, but God has a reason for each of us to be here. There is someone we are to greet. Someone with whom we are to share a smile. Someone who just needs to be seen by another person and treasured as one of God’s special ones.

When Jesus comes into our lives, it’s not generally going to be with trumpet blasts and fanfare. Very likely it will come in the form of an invitation to do or try something that we would not ordinarily do. Who would ever have thought the I would go to a concert and enjoy the music of the Grateful Dead? But I did and it was a wonderful experience. And in the process, I saw the Lord reaching out in kindness to a young woman who needed to hear a gentle word that night.

Jesus continues to walk among us, mostly unseen. He is present in each one of us and wants us to reach out to each other and to those we meet, sharing the great love the Father has for each of his children. We too are called to leave our ordinary “nets” and follow along with him. He will make us fishers of men, women, and children too.

A voice is calling. Do you hear him?

Readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Posted by on Oct 30, 2022

Recognizing and Responding to the Imperishable Spirit

Recognizing and Responding to the Imperishable Spirit

“Your imperishable spirit is in all things!”

A grain of sand, a drop of dew, a spider’s web, a mighty redwood tree, a blade of grass, a thunder cloud, a little child – all are created by God and all bear within them the Lord’s imperishable spirit. All of creation is poured forth, bursting out through the dance of love that is our God. Everything carries a bit of that energy of love that brought it into being.

We stand in awe of the wonders of the earth as we pause at the edge of the ocean just before a storm, or on the rim of the Grand Canyon, or walk amid the redwoods in California. We marvel at the wonder of a newborn baby, with such tiny fingernails and ears. We rejoice as new life sprouts from the earth when the seasons change and rains come to water the ground. We stand in silence as we contemplate the passing of those we love from this life to the next.

The world is full of mystery and that mystery is filled with the presence of an imperishable spirit.

It’s no wonder, then, that peoples around the world have recognized this presence. Most, if not all, peoples historically have told stories of how things came to be, why things don’t always go right at first, how important it is to respect and care for the life around us. Religious myths and rituals abound, giving expression to this sense of the closeness and immanence of the creating spirit. In some of these, the spirit is benevolent. In some the spirit is spiteful. In some the spirit(s) behave very much like humans do.

In our Judeo-Christian tradition, the One who is our creator is infinitely creative, loving, forgiving, patient, persistent, and inventive. In the Book of Wisdom (Wis 11:22-12:2), we hear of the impressive power and might of the Lord, as well as his unlimited love and compassion. “You have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.” The Lord loves all things – we know this because he would not have created anything he didn’t love. Nothing is hated, all is preserved, because all belong to the Lord.

So, what does the Lord do if part of creation doesn’t want to behave in a loving, responsible manner? How does the Lord deal with all of us humans, who so often have our own ideas of what we want to do and let our emotions rule our actions far too often? Like a patient parent. Little by little. With stories and humor. By letting us experience the consequences of a wrong choice and being there waiting with a big hug when we come racing back to the safety of Mom or Dad’s arms. By playing peek-a-boo with us, popping out around door frames, or into rooms, or out from under a table – figuratively – catching us off guard and helping us laugh as we recognize his presence once again.

As the wise one wrote, “… you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!”

It was true in ancient times and remains true today.

St. Luke gives us an example of the way God works with all of us. (Lk 19:1-10) Jesus was traveling up to Jerusalem. (Jerusalem is on a mountain, so no matter from which geographic direction one approaches, one must go up to Jerusalem.) This time, he was coming through lands we now know as the West Bank of the Jordan River, east of Jerusalem, passing through the city of Jericho. The road was part of an important trade route that was well-traveled – not always in complete safety.

Jesus planned to continue his journey through Jericho and stop at another place closer to Jerusalem. Crowds of people gathered to see him. His reputation as a healer and worker of miracles preceded him.

One of the residents of Jericho was named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in the region. He supervised the other tax collectors who worked in the city and surrounding regions. As was the common rule, he was allowed to demand as much as he could get over and above the quota of taxes he had to send to his superiors in Jerusalem. Accordingly, he demanded that those under his leadership send more than he was required to collect. They too were allowed to collect more than they had to send to him. It was what we would see as a totally corrupt system. They took it for granted as just the way things were done. For the Romans, it was a way to get revenue collected by local people without having to send folks out from the comfort of Rome.

Zacchaeus was a short man. He wanted to see Jesus too, but you can be pretty sure that no one willingly moved aside so he could get to the front of the crowd and watch. He was stuck back behind, where he hadn’t a chance of seeing this famous man who was passing through town.

Then he noticed a sycamore tree along the road up ahead. Sycamores were common trees in the area, providing fruit and shade in a hot land. Racing ahead of the crowd, he climbed the tree, so he could have a good view.

When Jesus got to the tree, he called out, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” This was totally unexpected. Zacchaeus quickly came out of the tree and greeted Jesus with joy. Bystanders were totally upset by Jesus’ action. “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” This was the worst kind of accusation. Staying in the home of a sinner tainted the guest with the guilt of the sinner. How could Jesus do such a thing? Didn’t he know better? Did he really know who this man was?

But Zacchaeus responded in a way no one in the crowd expected. He stood before the Lord and made a promise of restoration and justice – “Half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” This was more than anyone might ever have expected. Four times more returned than stolen? Half of his considerable wealth given away?

Zacchaeus had become a wealthy man because of the extortion of extra tax money from his neighbors. He certainly had invested it again and again as he grew in wealth. To give away even more than he had taken was a recognition that the harm he had done was not measured only in the money taken. It also had to be measured in the suffering inflicted.

Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house… the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” The Lord doesn’t give up on anyone. He keeps reaching out until we respond in love too.

St. Paul reminds the people of Thessalonica and us that he always prays for us, that we may be worthy of the Lord’s calling and faithful in all our endeavors, so that Jesus may be glorified in us and we in him. This is the will and gift of Jesus for us. (2 Thes 1:11-2:2)

Rumors of the coming of the last days were spreading (as they sometimes do today as well) and upsetting the community there. Paul told all of us that we are not to worry about when and whether the end of days is upon us. We are not to fret about rumors of terrible things to come. We are instead to focus on living in faith.

“Before the Lord, the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew…” Wisdom again.

We are important because we are part of this wonderful creation that is filled with the imperishable spirit that is in all things and brings all into being. We are conscious of our existence and able to choose how we respond. Recognizing this special quality shared with us, the Lord comes in great patience and love, teaching us bit by bit, and leading us to believe and follow him in love.

We are so blessed to be part of this wonderful world. May our eyes be opened each day to see the beauty of God peeking forth from all around us, embracing us and healing us, so we will be ready when it comes time to meet face to face, to run into the loving arms that await us.

Readings for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Posted by on Aug 28, 2022

Hard to be Humble?

Hard to be Humble?

Well over forty years ago, my husband and I liked to go square dancing once a week. We were with a club of mostly older couples, though there were a few younger ones too. The caller was an older man, rather small, with plenty of grey hair – truly ancient… As is done in square dancing, he sang the words of the song, as he inserted the instructions telling us all what to do next in the dance.

A new song at that time was It’s Hard to be Humble, by Mac Davis. We all enjoyed it as our caller sang the chorus, “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ‘Cause I get better looking each day …” It went on in that vein for several lines, concluding, “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, But I’m doing the best that I can!”

Humility, as exemplified in the song, is a tricky thing. There’s the false humility that has a person denying their talents and strengths, because speaking of them has brought, or might bring, charges of boasting. There’s the opposite of humility, in which people consider themselves or their talents to be so much greater than those of their peers that no one can possibly measure up to their standards. Humility does not mean denying one’s gifts and talents. Nevertheless, the fellow boasting of his humility in the song does not particularly impress his listeners as being all that humble.

Part of the challenge with humility is in the multiple meanings of the word when we use it in speaking of our relationships with God and with other humans. Sirach, a Jewish teacher of wisdom around 200 – 175 BC, wrote originally in Hebrew. When it was translated into Greek, the word for humility used is one that can include courtesy, gentleness, and consideration of the feelings of others as part of its meaning. It’s not just knowing one’s own strengths and weakness, it’s also being gentle and careful with the self-image and feelings of others.

Since humility is multifaceted, Sirach presents his insights through a series of proverbs. (Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29) He points out that those who behave with humility will be more loved than those who give a lot of gifts, but do it in a way that makes the recipients feel less worthy. It’s not necessary to seek wisdom in new ways of thinking or in philosophies from other cultures and traditions. Paying attention to the ways God reaches out through the lowly and through the wonders of nature will result in more fruitful growth in humility and wisdom. This is where the humility pleasing to God is to be found, because God is present with the poor. As the Psalmist points out, God is father of orphans, defender of widows, releaser of prisoners, and the one who provides a home for the needy and those who have been driven from their land. (Ps 68) It is with the humble of the earth that the blessings and rewards of humility will be found.

St. Luke presents Jesus speaking of humility in practical terms. (Lk 14:1, 7-14) Jesus has been invited to dinner at the home of a leading Pharisee, an influential man. Everyone is watching him closely to see what he will do. He, in turn, is watching the other guests, observing their efforts to select places of honor at the table. (The table was probably U-shaped, with the places of greatest honor being on the shorter side that joined the two longer sides. The places of lowest honor were at the far ends of the long sides.) As they select their places, Jesus tells them a parable – he presents a picture of a better way to behave both as guests and as hosts.

Imagine a wedding feast to which you have been invited, he tells them. Don’t make the mistake of sitting at the head of the table or other place of honor. If someone more distinguished arrives, you will be told to move to a place of less honor at the table. Do yourself a favor – select a place at the end of the table’s long sides. Then you may be the one instructed to move closer to the wedding party, to the places of honor. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Then Jesus speaks to the host (and to the rest of us). Invite the folks who are normally ignored to celebrate with you at your banquets. They can give you nothing in return, but God will repay you on their behalf, because of the kindness you have shown, the humility of your service.

In all of this, it is God who lifts up and exalts those who act with kindness and compassion, those whose lives demonstrate humility.

The kingdom of God, according to the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, will be seen in “the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a) The old law was given to Moses in a terrifying manner at Mt. Sinai – with blazing fire, darkness, storms, and the blast of trumpets. The voice that spoke was terrifying and those who heard begged for it all to stop. But the new covenant is found at Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. Angels are gathered at the festivities. So are those enrolled in heaven through baptism and those whose spirits have been made perfect through the experiences that purify their very lives. All are joined and reunited with God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, whose blood “speaks more eloquently than that of Abel” (whose blood shed by his brother cried out to God from the earth).

It’s not easy to be truly humble. Fortunately, we get lots of opportunities to learn humility. As we come down off our pedestals and open our hearts to hear the stories of those around us, we grow closer to our God, who lives intimately with those at the bottom of our human societies. With quiet smiles, gentle words, patient listening, and generous hearts, we meet our God in those whom we encounter on our journey through life. May we be always open to receive God’s smile in return from those whom we serve.

Find the readings for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C.

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Posted by on Aug 21, 2022

Workouts in God’s Gym

Workouts in God’s Gym

In towns and cities around the world today, we find spaces dedicated to the development of physical strength and endurance. With so much of the labor in our contemporary society being done with minimal physical exertion, people do not develop the same degree of physical strength as the majority even of children did in the past. For example, those who manually milk cows twice a day will typically have greater hand strength than those whose task it is to attach the cow to the milking machine and let the machine do the work, to say nothing of those who pick up a jug of milk at the store on the way home from work at a desk job. Those who must grind the corn to make the tortillas for their family’s meals will typically be stronger than those who may simply open a bag of corn bread mix and stir it into muffins or who buy a bag of tortillas at the grocery store.

Both men and women go to gyms and spas to work out and/or relax. There are machines to exercise specific muscles and others to promote general fitness. Pools for swimming, hot tubs and saunas for relaxing, free weights for lifting, and stationary bicycles are all features of these locations. For those who want to go a step further, there are classes and personal trainers to guide them to a higher level of performance.

For children, there are other options to develop strength and coordination. Schools have times for playing outside. Older grade children have physical education periods or games classes. There are the after-school sports as well: swimming, soccer, football, basketball, baseball, fencing, water polo, and so forth. Those not inclined to sports may sign up for dance classes or other physical activities, including riding their bikes or skating.

We take for granted that these activities will not necessarily be easy or non-tiring, especially if there is a coach involved, who will challenge participants to move past their normal comfort level and increase their strength.

With this need for physical activity and training in mind, the words of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews take on a different sense than if they are taken at face value. (Heb 12:5-7,11-13) At face value, it sounds as if the Lord is a hard task master, quick to punish harshly: “… those whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.”

Part of the challenge we face in understanding this teaching is our tendency to use the word discipline to refer to punishment. I think this is an unwise practice, though it is very widespread. People are much less likely to object to disciplining a child than to punishing the child. It’s generally the same action, but discipline sounds more positive, less harsh, so we use that term.

In this reading, the word translated as discipline is also used to mean “training,” “correction,” and “guidance.” We are the children of the Lord, sisters and brothers of Jesus, who passed through a time of tremendous trial and suffering on his return journey to the Father. We too are called to learn how to be God’s children, following the model of Jesus. The Father treats us as a loving parent would, guiding and correcting our actions, so we learn better how to make right choices and live as channels of divine love in the world. In many ways, it’s like the work of a personal trainer or coach, helping us keep going and developing increased strength at each step along the way.

Now does this mean God gets mad and punishes us, as we human parents all too often do with our own children? No. God does not punish us or strike out in anger against us. God is love. All God has to offer is love and, as a result of that, the freedom to respond in love or not. When we choose not to respond in love to the people and events we encounter, we experience the consequences of our decisions. God does not jump in and put up shields to stop the response of those we have harmed or failed to help. They are also children of God, loved equally and equally free to respond with love or not. We experience the consequences of our behavior. With any luck at all, we learn better ways to respond.

Like any parent, sometimes I think God chuckles at our insistence on doing things our own way and sometimes God cries because we have hurt others or have ourselves been hurt because of our own actions. But through it all, God is there, like a good parent, coach, or trainer, helping us to meet the challenges we face and grow stronger in love and wisdom. God encourages us to hold on and keep trying. Every time we goof up and make a mess of things, God is there to provide the strength needed to try again and again.

Does God only care about a few human beings, or only those from certain cultures or genetic lines, or religions? Once again, the answer is a resounding “NO!” Isaiah speaks again and again of the fact that the God of Israel is truly Lord of all peoples on earth. (Is 66:18-21) In symbolic language, Isaiah describes the gathering of peoples from all the known world, led by witnesses of the Lord’s glory, who proclaim that glory among the nations. Peoples from all the nations will travel to the Lord’s holy mountain, Jerusalem, as an offering to the Lord. As the Israelites carried their offerings to the temple in clean, purified vessels, the animals who carry the travelers are like purified vessels. All come as offering to the Lord and they become God’s family in all senses of the word. Some will even be selected to serve as priests and Levites (assistants to the priests in the temple), roles historically limited to direct descendants of Aaron and Levi.

The circle of those who train in God’s gym or grow as God’s children increases to include all peoples of the world.

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” How exclusive is the Kingdom? How hard will it be to be saved? Is there hope for us? St. Luke tells us Jesus addressed this question from someone he met on the way to Jerusalem. (Lk 13:22-30) “Strive to enter through the narrow gate…” Jesus replies to the questioner. It’s not easy to be a child of God. It takes practice and persistence to learn God’s ways. Like athletes in a race, it takes conscious effort and endurance to get successfully to the end of the race. Simply calling oneself a friend of Jesus is not enough. Those who reach and enter through the narrow gate will be those who act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with God (as we hear elsewhere from the prophet Micah 6:8). Those who enter will come from all the nations of the earth. Those with the least glory and honor in the eyes of the world, as measured by wealth and status, will be found in numbers among those entering through the narrow gate.

The journey to God’s kingdom is not easy. It is not limited to only a few. Indeed, all are welcome. But it is not guaranteed that all will be ready to enter the gate. There is much to learn as we go through life. Many lessons we must learn. Sometimes we learn easily. Sometimes we’re more hard-headed and it takes longer.

Today let us rejoice that God is a patient parent, a loving coach, who helps us grow to be true children of love – children whose lives are such that the life of God can pour through to others in our world. In those areas we find difficult, may we receive the grace to open our eyes and see the better way God has for us to open to love and share it. When we get discouraged, may we hear the Lord speaking to us through the voices of family, friends, and companions on the way. Then may we again take heart as we move forward step by step. When our hearts freeze and refuse to love, may we experience the gentle touch of the Lord’s hand, warming our heart so we can again embrace each other and our loving, divine parent: our God.

Welcome to God’s Gym. Enjoy your workout!

Find the readings for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C

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Posted by on Mar 2, 2022

A Clean Heart Create for Me

A Clean Heart Create for Me

The holy season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. This is a time of preparation and growth. In just six and a half weeks, we’ll arrive at Easter. In the northern hemisphere, Spring is fast upon us. Here on California’s Central Coast, it is in full swing. Trees and flowers are blooming. Birds are getting ready to fly north. Butterflies bring flashes of color to the landscape. Citrus trees are heavy with ripening fruit. And while we don’t have the cold, cold weather seen in so much of the world during Winter, the longer and somewhat warmer days are awakening itchy fingers, ready to plant the warmer season flowers and vegetables. It is a time for growth and renewal.

The readings for this day speak of renewal, of God’s mercy, of recognition of our failings, and of ways to till the gardens of our hearts, making them fertile soil for receiving the gifts our Father has for each of us.

The prophet Joel (2:12-18) spoke at a time of swarms of locusts and a great drought that caused crop failure and famine in the land. This was seen as a time of loss of divine favor due to the sin of the people of Israel. But through Joel’s words, God calls the people back – to conversion through prayer and fasting. The reading concludes with the observation that the Lord took pity of his people, stirred to concern for his land.

Psalm 51 calls on God to be merciful, to wash away our offenses, cleanse us of our guilt, and put a new spirit within us. “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” The joy of salvation and a willing spirit come as gifts from God. And we pray, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” Praise and thanksgiving grow in the soil of a newly renewed heart.

St. Paul, in a second letter to the people of Corinth (2 Cor 5:20-6:2), begs them to be reconciled with God, for the sake of Christ. Christ gave himself so that humans could become the “righteousness of God.” But what is God’s righteousness? God is merciful and gracious. God is slow to anger, rich in kindness, relenting in punishment. These are characteristics of God, revealed by Joel in our first reading. This is the call of the followers, the sisters and brothers of Jesus. To be images of the God who loves and forgives. Again, something that can only grow from within the heart of each person. It doesn’t really come naturally to us.

Finally, Jesus gives us very specific instructions (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18). Summed up briefly: Don’t perform righteous deeds where people can see them! Be discreet in your life of faith. Give of what you have, but do it quietly, secretly. Pray quietly, by yourself. Wash your face, wear your regular clothes. Don’t do anything to draw attention and praise to yourself for your good deeds.

Why not be open and even brazen about doing these good deeds? Shouldn’t we be good examples to others? Because God is hidden and can only really be approached through the heart. God is love. God reaches quietly out to the heart of each and every person. It is only in the garden of the heart, just as it was in the Garden of Eden, that we meet and walk freely with our God. And when we are consistently meeting and walking with our God, there will be a certain something that is attractive about us, something that draws others to walk with God themselves.

“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.”

Pope Francis has some suggestions for us this year. More challenging than giving up chocolate or TV or desserts, perhaps. Perhaps not. Certainly worth considering. What fertilizer does my inner garden need? What weeds need to be removed? What flowers and fruits will grow from my heart this year.

Welcome to Lent – the season of growth and renewal as we prepare for the great mystery of redemption.

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Posted by on Jun 15, 2021

A Mustard Seed Story

A Mustard Seed Story

Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed in the gospel of Mark always brings a smile to my face.

When I was a girl, my mother always made dill pickles. She used the same recipe her mother, grandmother, sisters, and brothers used. But each family’s pickles tasted a bit different.

No one knew why that should be until one of my aunts, who was a home economics teacher, decided to experiment with the ingredients. She made pickles one day using the same batch of cucumbers and dill from the garden, and the same brine. Then she put identical amounts of all but one ingredient into the jars. Each jar had one ingredient in a larger amount than the other jars did. Several months later, when the cucumbers had matured into dill pickles, she tasted them. The key to the spiciness of her pickles in comparison with those of all the rest of the family turned out to be the amount of mustard seed she put in the jars. She used a heaping measure of the seed. Others used a level one.

The mustard seed we all use(d) for pickles is a relatively large seed. It’s far from being “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth” as is the seed described by Jesus in St. Mark’s gospel. However, these mustard seeds were the only ones I had ever seen.

When I began teaching fifth and sixth grade religious education classes, I included this parable among the ones I shared with the children. I brought some of the seeds with me to class and asked them to glue them into their books on the page on which they had written a bit of the parable and drawn a picture of a tree with birds in it. I always cautioned them not to eat any of the seeds. Invariably, one of the boys would taste one anyway. He would then need to race from the room to get a drink of water! They asked why I had given them something so spicy and I would remind them that I had told them not to taste them.

Still, I wondered about the description of these seeds as being the smallest on earth. I knew that lettuce seeds and snapdragon flower seeds were much smaller.

Then I met Paul. Paul was from India and came to live with us for a while. He introduced me to South Asian foods, including curries, chapattis, and other delights. One of the ingredients he used was mustard seed. This was a tiny brown seed, not much bigger than the period at the end of a sentence. It was not the big yellowish one we used for pickles. It gave a lovely richly spicy flavor to the food, though it was subtle when used appropriately in the recipes.

When I met this variety of mustard, I began to understand the parable of the mustard seed. A tiny little seed could indeed make a big difference in the flavor of a food. It could grow into a much larger plant as well. Birds and other animals could thrive in its shelter.

Was the mustard seed of which Jesus spoke really the same as these mustard seeds used in cooking? Maybe not. There is a plant known as a mustard tree that grows in the Middle East. It has yellow flowers and tiny seeds. It’s more of a shrub than a tree, but it can grow to be up to 20 feet tall

Whether or not the seeds we identify as mustard seeds for cooking are the same ones Jesus mentioned is really not the important thing. What matters is that very small things can grow into much larger ones and have an effect far greater than their size.

The kingdom of God is truly like the mustard seed. It appears in very small and unobtrusive ways. No one would think twice about it or about the prospect that it could be important in any way. Yet as the poor receive food, clothing, shelter, opportunities, respect, health care, and other necessities of life, as justice (the right order of things) is restored, the kingdom begins to blossom and grow. God works with tiny things to bring about great wonders. A shoot from a tree can grow into a massive new tree high upon a mountain. A tiny seed can grow to be a beautiful flower or a tall tree sheltering birds and other creatures. And the harvest of justice marks the arrival of the Kingdom of God.

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Posted by on Aug 4, 2020

What is God up to that is New?

What is God up to that is New?

By Dcn Ed Callahan

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”(Matt 4:17)

As we, the people of God, attempt to navigate these strange times, we may be left with a feeling that nothing is or will be the same again. This Covid-19 event is having such far-reaching effects in our daily lives. We are wearing masks and keeping social distancing. People are suffering because their businesses are changed or closed altogether. We can’t go to the cinema or the theater; sporting events are altered or canceled. Gatherings are discouraged. Even our worship services are altered or even closed! It leaves us wondering how we are to be Church!

Metanoia

The verse in the header was mentioned in a book I’m reading by Richard Rohr. He reminds us that the word frequently translated as repent, convert, or reform is the Greek word metanoia, which quite literally means “to change your mind.” Rohr notes, “It is not a moralistic or even churchy word at all; it is a clear strategy for enlightenment for the world. Once you accept change as a central program for yourself you tend to continue growing throughout all of your life.”

Rohr teaches us that our egos make us resistant to change and self-examination – we are comfortable with our institutions and conscious assent to the ‘right beliefs’ about God and about ourselves and our ‘rightness.’ We are content with our religious group and how we worship. This is our unchanging touchstone in our life. But now we must remember that Jesus himself was all about change.

Sometimes we are loath to change our outlook. We are not open to change in ourselves or our church life. But Jesus, speaking to Nicodemus, says, “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

How is the wind blowing in our lives today?

Right now we should be discerning the workings of God in the world. Our question may be, What is God doing now that is new? How do I participate in God’s work? This would be more mature spiritually than stomping our foot that things are just not the same.

Each Christian has the opportunity and the duty to work with the Spirit as it seeks to transform the face of the earth. How are we living our faith? Are we doing any of the Corporal Works of Mercy? Just one person will do for each of us. Are we doing the Spiritual Works of Mercy for another person? Reaching out to one person will do.

We will get back to our worship, but when we return to our spot in the pews are we changed? Have we allowed the Spirit to change us? Have we participated, accomplishing our little part of transforming the whole world? Have we died to ourselves and set our ego aside?

God will never be diverted from his mission to Humankind. He is Love, Mercy, and Justice and against Him and his people nothing will triumph.

So, What is God up to that is new?

Image: Detail from Giovanni Guida’s 2020 painting, “God Fights the Corona Virus”

 

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Posted by on Jul 23, 2020

The Wheat and the Weeds

The Wheat and the Weeds

By Dcn Patrick Conway

Each spring my wife and I like to get a couple of bags of California wildflower seeds and plant them in our yard. It’s exciting to see the sprouts coming up out of the ground, and there’s the anticipation of wondering what kind of flowers will be revealed.

We’ve learned, however, that the seeds we’ve put in the ground aren’t the only things that will grow in our flower beds. There are other seeds in the soil, as well as some that travel by air and take root. And the precious water that we put on the seeds that we want to grow also causes the unwanted ones to grow.

The problem is, when the flowers and the weeds are coming up out of the ground, we can’t tell the difference between the two. We’re not botanists! So we have to wait until everything is full-grown before we know the difference between the flowers and the weeds. And even then we may not be able to pull up the weeds, because their roots are intertwined with the flowers’ roots. And we’ve also learned that some flowers are late bloomers. We’ll think for sure that they’re weeds until suddenly, beautiful flowers appear. Good thing we didn’t pull them up!

Jesus uses these truths from nature in his parable of the wheat and weeds to teach us essential lessons about the spiritual life, or “the kingdom of heaven” as he calls it. And since this is one of the rare times when he explains the meaning of the parable to his disciples, like he did with the parable of the sower and the seed, we need to pay close attention to his explanation.

Jesus tells us that there are good people and evil people in the world. The good people are the ones who allow the good seed of God’s word to grow in them and to bear the flowers and fruit of loving and compassionate actions. The evil people are the ones who allow the bad seed of the devil, lies and suggestions to do evil, to grow in them and bear the thorns and poisonous fruits of destruction and death.

That is Jesus’s explanation of why and how there are good people and evil people in the world, a simple and straightforward statement. And since it comes directly from Jesus, we have to take it as truth, because he never lies to us.

Just one problem …

The problem is that historically as well as today, when Christians hear this, we often, if not usually, use it to justify our attacks on those whom we believe to be evil. It’s quite an ugly history, and sometimes it has taken the form of imprisonment, torture, and death, other times verbal condemnation and ostracization.

Anthropologists and others have studied this phenomenon, which some call the “scape-goating” mechanism in societies, in which the so-called righteous ones project their own inner evil on some group who are different and not as powerful, and they say, “These people are the problem! Let’s get rid of them! They’re all bad.”

We’ve seen that tragic story play out time and time again in various places around the world, including in our own country today, and always with destructive and deadly results.

And the irony of this is that the so-called righteous ones end up being the real evil ones, because they are not nurturing the seeds of God which cause us to bear the fruit of love for all people. Instead they nurture the divisive, destructive, and deadly seeds of the devil. Jesus comments on this in chapter 7 of Matthew’s gospel: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” He’s talking to those who call him “Lord,” in other words, Christians. We always think that we’re the good people, but Jesus tells us that when we act like that, we are in fact the evil ones.

Our self-righteous Christian crusades against the so-called evil ones, whether they be military crusades or crusades of moral indignation, always end up making the world a worse place, not a better one.

And this always happen when we don’t listen to the commandment that is in the parable. We hear the explanation that there are good people and evil people in the world, but we miss the central commandment. And the commandment from Jesus is: “Don’t go around trying to attack and eliminate all those whom you believe to be the evil people in the world. You’ll end up destroying everyone, and you’ll end up being the evil people yourselves. I have a plan for getting rid of evil people, and my way is through love and conversion. For I desire not the death of the sinner, but that he live in my love and mercy forever.”

The commandment to us is simply to leave judgment and condemnation to God. We’re not competent in this area, in case you haven’t noticed. We’re not spiritual botanists who can tell a good plant from a weed. And you never know when a weed is going to turn out to be a beautiful flower.

And besides, the truth is that we ourselves have both wheat and weeds growing in the garden of our soul. If we are honest and humble, the Holy Spirit reveals to us both our goodness that God has planted in us, but also our sinfulness, planted by the enemy of our souls.

So what are we to do?

This is our work, the work of tending our own inner gardens, directed by the Holy Spirit, who gives us the courage and grace to change the things about ourselves that we can change, the humble peace that surpasses all understanding as we live with our faults and weaknesses, and the wisdom to know the difference between what we can change and what we just have to put up with – in ourselves.

This is essential if we are to be true followers of Jesus and children of God – that we learn to love sinners, because that’s what Jesus does, that’s what God does – and the main sinner that we have to learn to love is ourselves.

One saint put it this way: We should be very patient and humble in putting up with the faults of others. After all, they have to put up with us.

If we don’t learn to love the sinner who is us, then we will never learn to love the sinners who are around us, which means that we will never learn to love anyone, because everyone is a sinner. And we will continue to think that we’re better than everyone else and to persecute those whom we believe to be the evil ones. Then we end up being the evil ones ourselves.

Let’s not do that. Let us follow the path of true Christianity and ask the Holy Spirit to show us ourselves as God sees us, “a mixture strange of good and ill” as the hymn says, to be merciful and patient with the sinner that we are, and to be merciful and patient with everyone else.

The great Saint Teresa of Avila, whom the Church calls a doctor of the soul, says this: “If we can endure with patience the suffering of being displeasing to ourselves, we will indeed be a pleasing place of refuge to our Lord.”

As we receive him in Holy and Loving Communion, may he and all sinners find in our humble hearts a pleasing place of refuge.

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Posted by on Jan 13, 2019

Success or Significance?

Success or Significance?

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas season.  Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan signaled the formal beginning of His mission.

For today’s gospel scene we see the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in visible form.  For the evangelist Luke, contrary to the three other evangelists, the baptism of Jesus is not important in itself, for he does not even describe it.  He is more concerned with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus.  And after this initial scene, Luke will be at pains to mention the Holy Spirit as often as possible in connection with the ministry of Jesus.  Seventeen times in his gospel he will mention the Holy Spirit in connection with Jesus.  This is Luke’s way of telling us that Jesus was inspired (inspirited) in all his actions, empowered with his heavenly Father’s energy, enabled always to act as a beloved Son fulfilling a beloved Father’s wishes. And so, it is not a mere coincidence that, with the appearance of the Holy Spirit in this baptism scene, the son-ship of Jesus is emphasized, “You are my beloved Son.”  Essentially, Jesus is a Son in his innermost being.  And the Holy Spirit is the burning fire of love which unites him to his heavenly Father.  For him to receive the spirit is to experience his son-ship at a new depth.  It is the Holy Spirit that leads Jesus to accomplish his mission and made the Father say, “with you I am well pleased.”

I remember two years ago, I was on a vacation back home in the Philippines.  After celebrating Mass at my home parish, one of my friends from high school came up to me for a small chat.  He grew up in a poor family but worked his way to success with sheer talent and perseverance.  He is a self-made man.  He heads four businesses today that are making good money.  “There’s nothing more I can ask for, Father. God is good.  He has given me everything that I need and more,” he shared with me.  But after a short pause he added, “except that I never knew if my father was proud of what I have accomplished.”  His relationship with his father has been strained since after college.  After that conversation, it hit me.  The human heart is not made for success.  It is made for significance.

Success is a matter of doing.  Significance is a matter of being.  And since we are not human doings but human beings, it makes sense that our heart yearns for something more than just success.  It yearns for significance — the significance of meaningful relationships, mission, and yes, affirmation.  Success does not always lead to significance, but significance always leads to a deep sense of success.  Like the voice from the heavens that affirmed Jesus in His baptism, every human heart longs to hear the words, “in you I am well pleased.”

Isn’t it a wonder that, according to studies, almost eighty percent of substance abusers are successful people, and almost fifty-five percent of these successful people end up committing suicide?  Without meaning to pass judgment, could it be that significance was missing on top of their successes?

The Baptism of the Lord reminds us not only about Jesus’ mission, but our very own mission to make a difference, to be a significance in the lives of others by showing them what really matters in our Christian lives.  So that like Jesus, the Father would say to all of us, “In you I am well pleased.”

Fresco by Giotto di Bondone in the Scrovegni Chapel – 1303

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Posted by on Jun 14, 2018

More on the Examen

More on the Examen

Ignatian Spirituality.com offers more information about the Examen.

“The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.”

Prayer of the Examen is characteristic of Ignatian spirituality and is included in the Spiritual Exercises. Members of the Society of Jesus pray this prayer at least twice daily, at noon and at the end of the day.

Steps in praying the Examen include:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

 

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Posted by on Jun 14, 2018

Fun Resources for Learning Serious Psychology

Fun Resources for Learning Serious Psychology

 

Disney Pixar and Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development

Discerning God’s Will – God’s dream for us requires an in-depth knowledge of how people grow and develop. In particular, if we are going to understand ourselves, which is our first step in responding to God’s grace, we need to know where we are in our development. We also need to see what went right and what went wrong in our own growth and development.

James Fowler’s Stages of Faith Formation

Our faith also has stages of development based on our human development. Many adults can reject their faith because they don’t realize that their faith formation is still that of a small child. On the other hand, there are many people who are religious churchgoers that are still clinging to a childhood faith for a variety of reasons that are not healthy.

 

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Posted by on Jun 14, 2018

Resolving to do Better – Looking Forward – Examen: Fifth Point

Resolving to do Better – Looking Forward – Examen: Fifth Point

This seems like the easy part. I simply tell myself that I will do better next time. That’s okay as far as it goes, but how will I change? How can I change?

It’s all about hope.

Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ is known to Los Angeles gang members as “Father G” or simply “G”.  Fr. Boyle sees all their problems as arising from a “lethal absence of hope”. His response is to provide them with hope and jobs in Homeboy Industries. Terry Gross’s NPR interview with Fr. Boyle tells the story of how empathy renews and restores hope.

In his most recent book Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, Fr. Boyle tells the story of what miracles empathy can work since it confers hope.

 

In God’s Presence, Conquering Addiction through Dance is the title of Elizabeth Delancy’s dissertation. It is a study of how black women have surmounted addiction by moving in God’s presence. Although, it is a little technical, it documents how this works. Resolving to do better is the key dynamic of reconciliation. It is the celebration of a brighter future. It is the combination of hope and optimism.

Hope conveys a certain practicality of steps that can be taken to move forward through crisis. Optimism is more expressive of a personality style. It expresses itself in positive emotions and actions. Hope and optimism are key foundations for our internal dialog, the messages we consciously hear and repeat within ourselves.  Sacramentality in dance, movement, writing, gesturing, and conversing is fundamental to the reunion of friends, the healing of relationships, and our life in God.

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Posted by on Jun 13, 2018

Asking for Pardon / Getting Rid of Shame – Examen: Fourth Point

Asking for Pardon / Getting Rid of Shame – Examen: Fourth Point

According to Brené Brown

Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is, “I am bad.” Guilt is, “I did something bad.” How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?” How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.

One of the key challenges in even looking at our behavior and our relationships is not guilt, but shame. Our thoughts and feelings can run off the rails and we think, “I did something bad. That means that I am bad.” Guilt becomes confused with shame. That’s why shame is such a big part of addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and bullying. According to Brene Brown, shame for women is, “Do it all. Do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat.” For men, shame is, “Do not be perceived of as weak.”

Shaming is something we see often with pets. When a dog misbehaves we are tempted to say, “Bad dog!” We don’t say,” You chewed my slipper. You did something wrong, but you are a good dog.”  However, that can be very confusing and threatening for the dog. According to animal behavior specialists, it is much clearer if we say, “No chew!” when the dog is chewing a slipper. “Good dog” should be an ongoing message that is conveyed by the way we handle the dog.

Invalidating or shaming others is a fundamentally evil act, since it contravenes God’s view of us and all creation as fundamentally good. For someone to take on the view that they are bad is to identify with evil, to identify with non-being. Some people can reject the notion that they are bad but respond by defining the people who are shaming them as fundamentally bad. Through this fundamental rejection of a person, we make them something completely apart from us. They are the other. This unfortunate behavior in ourselves and other primates makes it possible for us to destroy members of our own species and even our own families. David Eagleman explains in an episode of The Brain how genocide occurs when we turn off our empathy.

Asking for God’s pardon is an acknowledgement that we have not lived up to what we actually are. Yes, we have done something wrong, and we feel bad about what we have done, but we know that we are loved and good because God sees all that he has made and says that it is good.

The important thing in this step is not to get overwhelmed. Pick one area that you would like to work on in consultation with your spiritual director and reflect on it over time – or not.

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