Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter Is Nonsense!

One Easter Sunday morning he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak. . .

"I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright.

I stopped the lad and asked, "What do you have there, son?" "Just some old birds," came the reply. "What are you going to do with them?" I asked. "Take 'em home
and have fun with 'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time." "But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?"

"Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll take 'em to them." The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?" "Huh? Why, you don't want them birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing. They ain't even pretty!" "How much?" the pastor asked again. The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "$10?"

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy's
hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free. Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story: 

One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the
Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught a world
full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!" "What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked. Satan replied, "Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'm gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!" "And what will you do when you are done with them?"

Jesus asked.. "Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly. "How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked. "Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!!" "How much? He asked again.   Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life."

Jesus said, "DONE!" Then He paid the price. The pastor picked up the cage and  walked from the pulpit.

Maybe like those birds we need to pray to God to set us free us from our doubts about Easter. For many people, Easter is sheer nonsense. Like the disciples, we can be slow of heart and slow to recall the very words of Jesus that had now come true. We share the same skepticism of the disciples who argued with the women at the tomb that this news must be some kind of joke. However, God will have none of this. Perhaps, it is time to set yourself free and bathe in the truth that Jesus is truly Risen!

God watches over us as we pray: “…as they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed, he said, You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.” (Mark 16: 5-7).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who struggle in their faith to believe the angel. Believe me, it is not nonsense. He is truly rise

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Courage of Suffering

On Palm Sunday Jesus sent for the ass and colt, signs of the Messiah from a prophecy of Zechariah in the Old Testament. It was the most courageous, the most faithful, of Jesus' acts in the whole of the New Testament. Tragedy often begins with courage.Because Jesus suffered, he understands all the suffering we go through: sweaty palms before a job interview, waiting in a hospital room for a doctor's words, loneliness, grief, physical pain and abandonment, hurt, rejection. Jesus suffered and therefore knew all of these pains we go through.

Scenes of love are found every day in the care of relatives for a sick one. This week, I am aware of parents caring for their newborn son waiting heart surgery. The sight of a mother or friend or nurse holding, with extraordinary grace, a plastic vomit bowl beneath the mouth of a son or friend or parent, is noble. The lack of self-consciousness in the washing of the feet or more private parts of the body of someone who is loved, is noble. And for me the most amazing and inexplicable part is that there is an almost tangible increase in the nobility of a person who, with dignity, allows others to do things for them that I, in my health, would rather roughly refuse and indeed now dread.

When our loved one fail to respond to treatment and say at the end, "I am thirsty," and I can see a mom, best friend, or nurse hold to their lips a cup of water, and I think about Jesus on the cross, and Mary at the cross. I have seen the Passion and I do believe that only the God who was crucified, while completely and utterly innocent of all that he was accused of, and who suffered death, could greet with open arms any patient and say to them with absolute sincerity, while smiling upon their tired face, 'Welcome into my Kingdom, my beloved daughter and son.”

Suffering is noble also in the ways it can change our life. A parishioner shared: We lost five of our relatives in one year to untimely deaths. I was feeling deep sorrow one morning after my husband left for work. I was gazing out the kitchen window, pondering the short lives of our loved ones. Suddenly I was aware of how fortunate I was to have this day ahead of me. I wondered what each of our loved ones would do with just one more day to live. Then I decided I would live this day doing what they would have done. I began by baking chocolate chip cookies to welcome a new neighbor, as my mother-in-law would have done; I donated used clothing to a needy organization, as my brother would have done; I phoned a friend I had lost touch with, as my sister- in-law would have done--all the while smiling as my grandchild would have. With God's guidance, sorrow turned to joy as, mindful of others who aren't here, I tried to help those who are lost and feeling desperate.”

God watches over us as we pray: “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” (Psalm 119:50).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends during this Holy Week as we walk the way of the cross with Jesus. With courage we must take the risk and remember the resurrection of Easter Sunday is nothing without the passion of Good Friday.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Praising God

Around this time of year, St. Patrick seems to get lost in the midst of the shamrocks, Irish beer, and green. And yet, if a person looks beyond the food and fun of the day and sees the saint himself, they will be amazed to see a man of very great depth.

Who is Saint Patrick? It is sometimes difficult to sort through fantasy, legend, and facts about St. Patrick’s life. The respect of the Irish is clear in some of the old Irish tales that are told about him. There are, however, some facts that have been documented about this saint of the Emerald Isle. St. Patrick was born in Scotland (no, the Irish saint is not Irish!) around the year 387. When he was still a boy, he was captured and sold into slavery in Ireland. At that time, Ireland was a place of druids and pagans. Patrick was placed in charge of some sheep until he was twenty. His time in the hills was a time of great spiritual experience where he discovered the freedom of being a servant of God. When he turned twenty, he received a dream instructing him how to escape his captivity. He was successful and returned to his family. At this time, however, he received a special call from God to return to Ireland to teach the people about God. Patrick studied for the priesthood and became a bishop before he returned to the land of his captivity in 433. Thousands of people were baptized by Patrick and his followers over the span of 40 years. In a sense, the entire country was turned from the barbaric lifestyle to a life with Christ because of Patrick’s courage to return to the country that enslaved him. Before he died he wrote of his love for God in the Confessions of St. Patrick. He died March 17, 461.

Every saint proclaims a particular aspect of God through their words and life. St. Patrick proclaimed his gratitude for God’s mercy. In his confessions, he frequently spoke of his own unworthiness for God’s protection. Even when he wrote about his time as a slave in the hills, cold and poor, he felt undeserving of God’s presence. He wrote: “I was like a stone lying in deep mire, until He who is powerful came, and in his mercy raised me up, and indeed again succored and placed me in His part; and therefore I ought to cry out loudly, and thank the Lord in some degree for all his benefits, here and after, which the mind of man cannot estimate.” It was this gratitude to God that caused St. Patrick to forget and forgive those who had enslaved him so that he could return to spread the Gospel to the country of Ireland.

And so, in the midst of wearing green and eating corned beef and cabbage, remember Saint Patrick, a man who was grateful to God for His mercy and who wanted to tell others about the God who provided for him.

The Gloria is an ancient hymn that praises God. During Lent we omit the Gloria. We have the habit of speaking to people only when we want something from them of if they have done something wrong in our eyes. This mentality has overflowed into our spiritual lives, and as a result the practice of praising God like St. Patrick has fallen largely in disuse. In your prayers today, take a moment to “praise God” for something specific. Praise God for his goodness. Praise God for creation. Praise God for his wisdom. Praise God for pope Francis!

God watches over us as we pray: “ I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:6).

Lord, I pray for all my Irish Sonshine Friends and those who have a drop of irish inside to be mindful of God’s goodness to us everyday. May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

A Second Chance


Many times we have been guilty of struggling with some unhealthy habit with little success. However, we pray to a God who like the gardener in this story tells the farmer to “hold on before you rip out the roots” for you just never know that there might be some life left in that tree that can bear good fruit.

The following is a letter a patient wrote and shared with me on his last visit. Take his humble words as inspiration to help you manage the bramble in your life. For God always sees the good in our hearts.

“These past few weeks have been quite an eye opener. I really didn’t realize how much I was ruining my life. Almost losing my job and respect from many close people in my life. But all that has changed. My employer has given me a second chance at work. And with the help of Dr. Matt and my coaches, they have made me realize there is another way to deal with life without having to smoke pot.

I have taken one day at a time. At work, I still do my job at 110% and if things seem to get stressful I stop and take a moment to calm myself knowing that I can control the situation. I have many people who are supporting me that I didn’t even know have my back. Many have praised me for my effort at this time in my life.  I didn’t even know that they cared. That makes me feel good. My eating habits have become healthier and food actually tastes better. Now I even sleep better and longer and I can remember my dreams, which I never did. I wake up in the morning get out of bed with a better attitude. I know each day won’t always be easy. And that where I know I will be tested by my mistress as Dr. Matt calls her, my pot, that is. And I tell myself, your better than her and you don’t need her.

I’ve also been trying to educate other people who are in my shoes. I look back on my life smoking pot and ask myself was it really worth it. All the things I could have lost. The people I hurt. The respect of family, friends, people at work. The answer is NO! I know it is not going to be easy, but the way I feel now. I know I can do it!”

Ask yourself, what do you want to change in your life, so that you can be the best version of yourself. As you seek God's mercy this Lent, know that Our Lord will give you a second chance and the grace you need to make that big change in your life.

God plants what is good as we pray: The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.” (Song of Songs 2:12-14). 
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who wrestle with sin and selfishness. However, our Divine Gardener knows exactly what we need to flourish and bloom. Let him dig at our roots and help us produce an abundant crop of kindness and patience.