God’s Question For You. November 17, 2014

“What do you want me to do for you?” Is what jesus asks the blind man in the gospel. The question is being asked right now, to YOU, by God: “what SPECIFICALLY do you want me to do for you?” This question is at the heart of life, for what we want, says much about what we value.

The man in the gospel tells jesus that he wants “to see.” He doesn’t specifically asked to be healed of blindness but only that he “sees.” When his eyes are ” opened, ” he “sees” the One who is the only answer to all prayer. The physical healing is secondary to the inner recognition of just who Jesus really is. Spiritual “sight” is much more important than physical sight. Think of people like Helen Keller who was never physically healed of her blindness but “saw” as most of us never truly “see.”

Physical healing is only one way that God uses to awaken us to God’s Presence in all of life and creation. Jesus physically healed many but certainly not all people. It is safe to say that Jesus only cured a handful of people and brought back to life from the dead three people that I can think of. The simple fact is many, if not most, people do not experience physical healings or cures, as much as inner strength and vision.

The question is a haunting one that demands much time and thought. But most importantly, patience, for God’s response usually unfolds gradually and in ways that may surprise us. God will respond…but we may not like the response.
Buen camino. Padre

Spending Time. November 16, 2014

If you have money, it is very easy to spend. We live in a culture that seems immersed in the need to spend more and more money, which is supposed to fuel the economy. For so many of us we spend money we don’t even have through the use of oftentimes many credit cards. We build “houses of ‘credit’ cards that fall apart in an
instant.

The gospel of the talents challenges us to look at how we spend our time. We can waste endless hours of time binge watching a tv series or channel surfing; we spend time shopping in malls or on the internet; we drive kids from one activity to another in a frenetic busyness; in short, we frequently spend our time in ways that keep us on the surface of life. Investing our lives in experiences that root us in creative endeavors means spending time wisely.

Turning off tv’s and computers and cell phones allows us to invest our time reading, writing, praying, cooking , exercising , playing with kids, remodeling a room, learning a language, and the list goes on. Wasting time or spending time mindlessly is a certain way to “bury one’s talents .” We can only allow talents to be unearthed and cultivated if we know what they are and spend our time letting them grow.
Spending time creatively is at the heart of a joyful and engaging life.
Right now , our teens are learning how to bake Apple pies that will we used to give to our homeless at Loaves and Fishes. What a great investment of time.

Wasting time means burying our lives and all the potential we have to making the world a better place , not so much for ourselves , but for others, especially our young people. Investing time wisely and creatively is a work of the Holy Spirit that allows the walls we build around God to collapse.

When we free God from the constraints we place upon Him… We free ourselves and the way we spend time.
Buen camino. Padre

Becoming a Prayer. November 15, 2014

Jesus teaches through the parable of the Unjust Judge to keep praying like the persistent widow who wouldn’t give in until justice was served. We are called to pray ceaselessly so that a just world is established. The purpose of persistent prayer is to create a world of justice, the foundation of which is the dignity of each human being.

Instead of just “saying” your prayers, think of prayer as sitting in the presence of the God we call Love, and say little or nothing. Just BE in God’s presence. Praying with words is important and praying for intentions is essential , but these are necessary gateways into wordless and imageless prayer. We become receptive to God and let Him do the “talking.” If we see prayer as what WE do or say instead of what GOD has to say, our life of prayer will remain shallow.

Think of it this way : instead of saying prayers, you, yourself, must BECOME a living, human prayer. This is the kind of prayer that changes hearts, minds, the world. This is the prayer that creates Justice, and only then , Peace.

Buen Camino. Padre

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There’s No Going Back. November 14, 2014

The Liturgical year is coming to a close, and the readings are a summons to wake up out of complacency, for the End Time is approaching. The end of the church year and the end of time are realities that remind us time continues to pass and our direction must always be forward. Yes, we move forward anchored in faith and community, but we must continue to move forward.

It is so easy to bemoan the times in which we live, so much so, that we yearn for a return to an idealized past that never really existed in the first place. It only exists in our imagination. There is much to be concerned about: the use of technology, family life, the value of human life and a growing materialism. In every age and time, humanity has had to struggle with something.

The truth us we can’t keep looking back. In the gospel, jesus tells the disciples to remember what happened to Lot’s wife in the Book of Genesis. She was told to NOT turn back and look at the devastation occurring to Sodom. But she turned around and looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. We will never know exactly why she turned to have a look but the directions were clear: continue to move forward….don’t look back!!!

We need to keep moving forward in a spirit of optimism and hope, that people can change and new, life-giving directions can unfold. The church can never try to “look back” to times when everything seemed so neat and clean and everyone was on the same page theologically. These times never existed. The church has lived through countless controversies and divisions in its past. It will continue to do so until jesus returns and brings chronological time to a close.

We must move forward in a unity of faith, the faith as prayed in the Creed every week, and within a community of believers. We must “lose ourself,” as jesus teaches…we must lose the self that needs to control, the self that manipulates, the self that lives in fear, the self that must be at the center of the world. As we move forward in time, we “lose” this destructive and sinful self that turns our spirits into a “pillar of salt.” And we allow the Self, created in God’ s Image, to emerge from the shadows.
This is a slow, lifelong process, a process that always leads to new beginnings, new years, new life….
ADVENT!!!! The church year ends and Advent begins… The season of waiting in Hope as we continue to move forward and not looking back.
Buen camino. Padre

Transformation of the Heart. November 13, 2014

The one experience that totally transformed the life of St. Francis of Assisi was the moment he PHYSICALLY embraced a leper. Something WITHIN him compelled him to confront the disgust he felt towards lepers; he despised even being near them. The moment he embraced that leper, that leper was transformed from an object of disgust into a human being with dignity. After the embrace, francis saw Christ in the human being he once saw as a horrible leper.

In today’s first reading, Paul has a similar experience, in that he sees Onesimus NOT as a slave but as a brother in Christ. In his own way, Paul embraced the slave Onesimus in his humanity and was able to refer to him as his child. What a magnificent transformation of Paul’s heart and this transformation occurred while he was imprisoned for his faith.

How does a leper become a human being with dignity? How does a slave, a piece of property, become a person with rights and dignity? The simple answer that takes a lifetime to unfold is CONVERSION of the heart. Francis and Paul surrendered their lives and their hearts to Christ. They allowed grace to completely transform their lives so that they began to see all of life through the lens of faith.

A saint is someone who lives under the influence of God’s grace. They experience the Kingdom as something alive and present WITHIN the human heart. Yes, the Kingdom of God is here…right now…within your heart. All of our experiences, especially our religious rituals and traditions , are meant to help us go “within,” allowing allow the Kingdom to come alive. Religion is a mean to an end , the end being an encounter with Christ, such that our worlds our turned upside down. Religion is all about transforming our hearts so that we love each and every human being and see the presence of God in them.

Let us pray that our religion and our hearts do not become like fossils, where we are surrounded by the hard rock of rigidity and isolation. For the heart to be transformed it can never be entombed in the fear of change and transformation, by its very essence, is all about change. We are pilgrims of transformation : only as our hearts are transformed will the world be transformed.
Buen Camino. Padre

Overshadowed Thanksgiving. November 12, 2014

Yesterday , I went into Starbucks for the first time in over a month. They were getting the store dressed up for Christmas by pushing their famous and best blend , Thanksgiving, off to the side to make way for their ever popular christmas blend. Thanksgiving , the most beautiful and least commercial of holidays , is now lost in the Christmas shuffle and Black Friday frenzy. How ironic that the feast dedicated to giving thanks is overshadowed, and even forgotten, by a holiday that has its roots in Christ who teaches that GRATITUDE is at the heart of life. The word “Eucharist ” means just that : thanksgiving and gratitude.

At the heart of the life of the Church is thanking God for all that has been given to us. Ten lepers are healed, made WHOLE , by the healing of Jesus. They all run away, presumably in joy, with only ONE of the ten returning to thank Jesus. Irony strikes again: this person who said, “Thank you,” was a Samaritan!!!!! A “foreigner” …, an outsider, was the only one to remember where the healing came from, or rather, WHO did the healing. The God of surprises strikes again. Or maybe I should say that one human being surprised God!!!!!!
The very source of the healing, God, seems to get lost in the shuffle, like Thanksgiving, and even the celebration of God becoming flesh and blood: the Incarnation.

A life of Gratitude is a life that never puts God on the back burner nor forgets Who made all of this possible. The nine other healed lepers were probably very good people but they were disconnected with the Source of of not only the healing but their very lives. We are fast becoming a culture of disconnected individuals who have lost a sense of a personal God calling us together in a community of “connected” individuals who radiate the very presence and love of this God.
We Christians are called to be living examples of gratitude, drawing others in by our joy in the God who wants us to do our part in the transformation of the world.
This “transformation” or re-creation begins in gratitude. How can YOU surprise God?
Buen camino. Padre

(I’m brewing my own Thanksgiving coffee)

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Servant. November 11, 2014

We remember the men and women who put their lives on the line for others…for us…in serving to defend the values we treasure: freedom to speak, worship, develop talents and follow dreams. These men and women were/are servants to a higher purpose and they would be the first ones to shun the title of “hero” , believing they were doing what they were called to do.

When we think of “servant,” images of Downton Abbey come to mind: a lower class of people working hard for little money to support the wealthy. Even in our own culture, people in service- oriented occupations work for low wages to serve the needs of others. In their own way, they are servants, making all of our lives much easier.

A “servant” has a rich and deep meaning in sacred scripture. The Suffering Servant of the prophet Isaiah is identified by Christians as Christ, who came to serve and not be served. Christ was the Servant of all servants and he us calling us who follow him to be servants to a higher purpose: to put our lives on the line for the gospel.
As believers, we ALL share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, sent into the world to be servants of gospel living.

And as today’s gospel parable reminds us, as servants we are to do what we are supposed to do as disciples and not expect rewards or titles as recompense. We are simply to say to ourselves that we are only doing what we are called to do as followers of Jesus. When all is said and done, when the talking and teaching are over…when we “shut up,” it is our actions as servants that catch God’s heart and love. Yes, our actions, in the end, are all that matter: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…”
This quote from Matthew 25, which will be etched in the windows of our renovated church, is the foundation of the life of a servant.

Today’s feast of Martin of Tours celebrates a bishop of the fourth century who was a true servant. He welcomed people into his “residence ” and even washed their feet….literally!!!!! We priests and bishops need to imitate his example and not be concerned with titles or accolades but with being Servants of and for Christ. The essence of being an
Ordained priest is not to be a “bridegroom” mirroring Jesus as Bridegroom of his Bride, the Church.
This is a metaphor, a beautiful one, but a metaphor, nonetheless. Maybe the metaphor that needs to guide our theology of the ordained priesthood is the image and metaphor, of “servant. ”
A bridegroom, by necessity, must be a male; a servant can be male or female.
Just a thought ….
Buen camino. Padre.

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