Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Devil Tears Us Apart


The devil is either naively ignored, as some dark superstition from the past, or is immortalized in the movies as some underworld force that can throw little girls into mustard-spitting convulsions. Most people today do not even believe in the devil, either as a person or a force. What can we say about the devil?

The gospels name the forces of hell in two ways: Sometimes they speak of the devil (diabolus) and at other times of Satan (satanus). The terms are not synonymous. Diabolus means to divide, to tear apart; whereas satanus, most curiously, means almost the opposite, it connotes a frenzied, sick, group-think that accuses somebody or something. In essence what the gospels tell us is that the powers of hell, Satan and the devil, work in two ways: Sometimes they work as the devil by dividing us from God, each other, and from what is best within us. Sometimes they work in just the opposite way, as Satan. Here they unite us to each other but through the grip of mob-hysteria, envy-induced hype, and the kind of sick unity that makes for crucifixions.

At the root of both lies the same thing, envy. Through envy, the devil works at dividing us from each other. From envy we get the kind of paranoia, jealousy, sense of being wronged, and bitterness that dissipates families, communities, churches, and whole nations. The devil tears us apart. Satan, using the same weapon, works differently. Satan uses envy to pit neighbor against neighbor. The devil causes us to be distant and distrustful of each other, whereas Satan causes us to be caught up in a sick unity that comes of scape-goating, vicious gossip, and leads to excommunication of your neighbor, in-laws and friends.

In Jesus, the first word out of his mouth (“metanoia“) is a word uttered against the power of the devil: “Be un-paranoid, do not let envy and suspicion divide you from each other, God, and what is highest inside yourself!” Everything else Jesus says and does is intended precisely to lead us beyond division, rejection, and being apart from each other. The kingdom he preaches is about coming together (the opposite of the devil).

God loves us as we pray: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are the victims of envy and fall victim to Satan’s desire to divide our families. Help us to find the God in our hearts that seeks to bring us together in peace and love.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Call to Action

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The social media site Facebook now boasts some 1 billion plus users worldwide. It is the most used social media site in existence. Internet marketers discovered years ago that Facebook could be used to sell products. Although Facebook is and has always been free, advertisements appear in the sidebars, and increasingly, in the "suggested" or "promoted" posts that show up in users' news feeds of recent posts.

In December, Facebook introduced "call to action" buttons on their pages. Companies can use these buttons to ask their followers to take some sort of action—anything from signing up for a newsletter to purchasing a product. It is well known among Internet copywriters that people are more likely to take action if they are asked to do so directly. When Internet advertisers and bloggers write, a call to action is an important part of the attempt to market products and services.

The gospel stories are a call to action. However, not every one is willing to get in line to volunteer or join a church. To admire Jesus without trying to change our lives does nothing for Jesus or for us. Yet how exactly does one follow Jesus? Some say that we do this by trying to imitate him. But that posits a further question: How do we imitate Jesus?

We imitate Jesus best when we try to imitate his motivation, when we try to do things for the same reason he did. We begin by reading the scriptures and meditating on the life of Jesus. Then we pray to Christ and ask him to instill in us his desire, longing, and motivation. In essence, we pray to Jesus and ask Him to make us feel the way He felt while He was on earth.

Last Sunday, our parish was shocked when they heard that a long-time parishioner had died in Florida. This set in motion a longing to do something for the family to bring them comfort. What I noticed was motivation at its best. The doors of this church were wide open to receive family and friends for the wake. People greeted mournful family and neighbors with compassion. The people joined the grieving family members in prayer to remember the “soapbox memories” of their mother. The choir sang their hearts out and family read the Scriptures and shared their stories about their mom who gave birth to eleven children.

It was standing room only in the church and everyone was invited for a feast at the local fire hall. The hospitality team served casseroles brought by neighbors that fed a multitude. And yes, there were even spirits available in honor of their mom who loved her “happy hour.” All the children and guests toasted mom with a nip of her of favorite rye. 

So when someone asks you, what does it mean to imitate Jesus? It’s that desire to rolled up your sleeves and offer the best of yourself.

Now Sonshine Friends, this is your “Call to Action.” I would ask that you click onto Holy Family’s website: and/or
Facebook page; and share your thoughts about this community. Forward “Today’s Sonshine” to all your Facebook Friends and see if we can reach a million hits.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My First Confession


Now my memory of Fr. Alex was a happy one. He would come out of the rectory during lunch hour and visit all the kids playing outside the school during lunch. We had returned from home for lunch, no busses in those dark ages, and waited outside for our afternoon classes. Fr. Alex would simply walk around the schoolyard.  However, you knew what was going to happen. He would take your finger and squeeze it until you say “ouch.” Today, we would think there was something wrong with this priest, but back then the kids thought it was funny to have the priest come up to you and give you a squeeze. It was simply his way of being close and loving. He would smile and laugh until the bell rang announcing time to return to class.

Now we are nervous approaching the infamous “box.” We knew Fr. Alex was on the other side of the screen except this time our “ouch” would be that we were suppose to tell him when we were naughty. Sister Angela Therese, our second grade teacher, had taught us our lessons that Jesus loves us very much and wants to help us be good boys and girls. But we are still scared to go inside that dark box and embarrassed to tell the priest that we shoved the girls around until they cried or that we lied to our parents.

This Sunday morning, Miss Molly, our parish Sunday school teacher has invited me to practice with her what our childrens’ First Penance will be like. She taught the children that we confess to God via Father Matt the things we’ve done wrong. However, the children were confused when it came to the idea of asking Jesus for help but talking to me. So Miss Molly in her creative wisdom told the kids to think of Jesus was Batman who would forgive them and I was Robin, Jesus’ helper. That’s a first for me to be thought of as Robin. Come to think of it, it was a brilliant idea!

No box, no dark church for these kids when they make their first confession. Rather, the image on this Sonshine features a little character that I have used these past 40 years. This my friends is “Pickles.” Looks like a bear, but better yet when the child sits in front of me, I hand them “Pickles” to calm their fears and talk about how Jesus loves them very much and wants to help them be their best.

God loves us as we pray: “Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.”(Psalm 25:18).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who still find it difficult to seek your forgiveness. Let us surrender our old memories and focus on your desire to renew our hearts with your grace of peace and mercy.