Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sacred Moment

“Welcome Bishop Mack—Congratulations Confirmation Candidates.”

Earlier this year, I was invited by the chief to offer the invocation at their annual awards dinner. I could see by their faces, the men were eyeing each other and said they’ll have to watch their language and off color jokes. Priests don’t mind this stuff. You expect these awkward invitations. 

At this dinner, someone spotted me and asked point blank “Why the hell are you wasting your time in that stupid church? I finally wised up and got out.”
He goes on to spout the familiar litany of all that is wrong with religion in general and the Catholic church in particular: the Inquisition, the Crusades, the bad popes, sinister bishops, Vatican conspiracies, the clerical sex scandal, the degradation of women, dull Masses, lousy sermons, money-grabbing clerics, and so on. As I recall, the church was blamed for our six months of winter.

Of course, I am familiar with the litany of accusations. The church had and does have many problems and too often it’s a dysfunctional family. So why stay, why put up with such misery? Why? Because of Jesus’ words in the gospel. “I will give you another Advocate to be with you always.”

On their Confirmation, Emily, Grace, Zac and Nick received the Holy Spirit of Pentecost and that makes all the difference. Jesus promised to be with us no matter what we may be like on any given day, when we’re good and when we’re were bad; when we’re heroic and when we’re cowardly; when we’re faithful and when we’re not.

Now you can choose to believe or not to believe in this presence of the Holy Spirit. If you choose not to believe you can checklist the church’s problems and walk away in disgust. But if you choose to believe then you must look not only for signs of church failure, but also for the signs of the life giving spirit.

I was the unofficial photographer for our Confirmation Service, and I believe that I captured a glimpse of the life giving Spirit as He came into the hearts of our candidates. Take a close look at this sacred moment and ask yourself: “Where is Jesus present in your life?”

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and especially proud of our young people who gave us at Holy Family a glimpse of being refreshed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day Reflection


Sometimes God’s presence is best heard as a whisper in the depths of our hearts. His voice comes as a whisper. The Gardner who spoke softly to the grieving Mary Magdelen in the garden, the Stranger who walked with the despairing disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Appearance who startled the fearful apostles hiding behind closed doors, the Friend who told Thomas not to persist in his unbelief, the Cook who appeared on the shore of the lake and prepared fish for incredulous disciples, the Shepherd who pursued with determined love the lost lamb, the Gatekeeper who opens the door to abundant life: we hear all these earthy titles used in the gospels of these Sundays after Easter. Gardner, Stranger, Appearance, Friend, Cook, Shepherd, Gatekeeper–all these titles, you must realize, are the gospel writers’ attempt to convey one truth: Jesus, in many ways and guises, is alive here and now, and he is active in the “everyday-ness of our lives.

Sometimes, when the moment is just right, we do sense his presence. There are encounters in our lives, moments that challenge and change us and give us pause. There are little spiritual revelations that happen to every person. There are times when we feel the closeness of Jesus, hear our name called, and experience our hearts burning within us.

After traveling four months with her best friend around the world, my sister-in-law suffered a massive stroke preparing to come home from her journey. We were in shock when we heard the news that the surgeons we unable to help her and she died in a London hospital. Four months earlier, her beloved husband had died after losing a couageous battle with a brain tumor. Now his beloved spouse has come home to join him in heaven. How does one respond to these kinds of unexpected events? I'm still in shock and disbelief.

Jesus was one who immersed himself in our broken world. He loved people who were flawed. They were harlots, tax collectors and thieves. He loved people the others feared, the lepers and the demon-possessed. Instead of shooing away little kids. He hugged them. Instead of condemning His torturers, He forgave them. He loved by serving, by washing His friends’ feet and by healing those who were desperate and abandoned. In his 33 years, Christ turned the whole world upside down. He told us the poor are rich, the last are first, the meek are blessed, and the dead are alive. Trying to follow His path can seem frustrating–and impossible at times–especially when we feel like we’re tripping over every pebble–and boulder–on the way. But, even when we fall into the pit of doubt and shock, He reaches out a hand and lifts us back up. The untimely death of loved ones makes us sit up and pay attention. What do you hear?

I know many mothers worry about their adult children who have "fallen away" from the church. I realize that you worry about your grown children who no longer practice the faith of any tradition. You pray for their souls that they one day return to church and i believe they will.

People who experience shocking events in their life, discover something about thier faith that the childhood catechism hadn’t mentioned. The long dry spell of disbelief can produce a robust harvest. Our cynical natures fails us, and we observe the rituals of faith with fresh eyes and hear the words of Scripture with fresh ears. The "fallen away" who wander far away from Christ for many years might envision Christ as gently coaxing them to His side. One can nestle against Him as He carries us back to a safe enclosure. As a mother you pray that your child recognizes Jesus’ voice and follows Him.

Easter can became something important for your children because Easter is the belief in a Jesus who is everything He said. His story is the same as that of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus or Mary in the garden. And it’s our story, too. Even when we’re sad and troubled, the Stranger is there. Even when we’re in an arid place, the Gardner is there. Even when we’re hungry for love and trust, the Cook is there. Even when we’re fearful and doubtful, hiding behind closed doors or wide awake late at night, the Appearance is there. Even when we’ve strayed and sinned, the Shepherd is there. Even when we feel locked out of life and love, the Gatekeeper is there to let us in to both. Even when we feel Him not and our faith is weak, even when we feel alone, betrayed and abandoned by our best human friend –a spouse, rejected and hurt, Christ, in some disguise, is at our side.

Gardner, Stranger, Cook, Appearance, Friend, Gatekeeper, Shepherd and Mother: all these descriptions are saying that he is alive now, as we sit here. Like Magdalen, we hear his voice if we but listen. Like the disciples, we will recognize him if we come out from hiding. Like a faithful mom, we gravitate to the One whose voice we recognize because we know that every day he comes to be at our side: to open the gate so that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

Lord, i oray for all my Sonshine Friends are suffer shocking events at this time. Bring us close to you now, and let us hear your whisper of comfort and peace.