Sunday, April 19, 2015

Surrender your Shame


A wise person knows what it means to forgive –he was bullied by his supervisor for many years at work until he finally left his employer for another job. He offered three somewhat earthy bits of practical advice that are worth sharing. He said, "I'm not very good at spiritual discipline, but after being called by a friend to practice what I preach, I sat alone in my study and made believe I was a priest in the confessional. I said out loud, 'Boss, in the name of God, I forgive you.' I felt kind of foolish at this creative hypocrisy, but it did get the juices of forgiveness going. I felt the caricature I had made of the boss change. Oh, a year later when that same boss drove past my house I had to go through the whole forgiveness process again. Forgiveness by fallible creatures is repetitious." That's real wisdom. For us weak creatures forgiveness indeed turns out to be a repetitious affair. 

The second bit of wisdom he offers is this: "Don't forgive too fast." By that he doesn't mean to harbor lingering revenge. He means that we have to allow time for the hurt to surface, for the hatred to be visible and recognized and acknowledged to the point when perhaps we can say out loud, "I hate you." It is only when the hurt, the enemy, is out there and regurgitated that we can feel its full impact and come to terms with forgiveness. That's what our friend means by saying "Don't forgive too fast." Otherwise our forgiveness is too shallow. It hasn't grabbed sufficiently hold of the evil.
And finally he gives this delightful advice: "It's good to remember that when you pray for your enemies it doesn't automatically make them your friends. They are still your enemy. They're still out to get you. They still hate your guts." And he adds for emphasis: "They are still your enemies and you'd better guard against them because they might wallop you when you're down on your knees." But that's their problem.
And yet, despite our Lord's example and his command to forgive, there are people who cannot bring themselves to offer forgiveness. And there are people who cannot bring themselves to accept it. Some people get so caught up in their own guilt that they cannot accept forgiveness, even from God. They feel there is no hope for themselves either in this world or the next. They spend their time hugging their guilt to themselves, thereby blocking out the forgiveness of the Christ who is on record for forgiving others. 

There was a mother whose daughter had not talked to her in ten years. It seems that the mother’s son-in-law was a real pompous jackass. She remembered attending her grand-daughter’s high school graduation and this son-in-law asked to see the girl’s diploma. When he looked at it, he said to the graduate, you’re too stupid to graduate from any school. Crude and rude, this mother had no love for this man’s illusion that he was better than God.

Then on Holy Thursday she gets a call from another daughter to call her estranged daughter. She was aware that her daughter had a serious operation, a stroke and multiple medical complications. She called and only got the answering machine and left a message to call back. To her surprise and delight, this daughter called back and they had a pleasant conversation for 45 minutes. It was like they had been always been friends. She learned that her daughter survived a life-threatening surgery and had a cadaver vein transplanted that saved her life. They promised to stay in touch. When I asked this mother how did she felt after ten years. She was grateful she had forgiven her daughter for not wanting to talk to her for ten years.  

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we allow the grace of God’s mercy to reach inside our souls to surrender the shame and forgive ourselves and one another. Fr. Matt

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Grass


This story is about a single mom with five kids.  Easter was one day away, and she had yet to fill the Easter basket for her children.  She only had one that they could share.  So she got the eggs, and some small goodies, and then she remembered.  Easter grass!  She didn’t have any!  So she ran to the store on the Saturday before Easter, and they are all out.  She ran to another store, same thing.  She went to every dollar store that she thought might have some, but no one did.  She had waited too long.  She returned home feeling really bad.  She wanted a special basket so much for her children.  She said, "God, what am I going to do?"  In her distress, and still trying to figure out how to make their basket look “grassy” there was a knock on the door.  There stood the neighbor’s boy, with a plate of Easter cookies.  He said, "My mom thought you might like some cookies." Her eyes almost popped out of her head, and her eyes filled with tears. Not so much because she had a plate of cookies, but because underneath the cookies, on the plate, was a pile of green Easter grass!  She believed God smiled as she took that grass and excitedly put it in on her children’s basket, and filled it then with the others treats she had put away. She would never forget that moment! 

What are the Easter moments in your life that you will never forget? Like the time you found your first Easter egg hidden against a tree in your backyard. Or, the news that your baby with a defective heart could be healed with surgery and live a normal life.

There are many Easter moments where God helps us find the joy and happiness that brings us peace. Today, Christ is risen. So too, our grandparents and parents, our sisters and brothers and all who have died for we believe that “love is stronger than death.”

Come to think of it, if God can find a little Easter grass for a good mother trying to make Easter special for her children; how much more will your Heavenly Mother bring you the joy that comes with the Resurrection.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that despite another snowy, cold day on this Easter morning, our hearts are filled with the warmth of your promise of eternal love. A Blessed Easter to all my Sonshine Friend!  Fr. Matt

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Who Do You Want By Your Side?


Besides your spouse or best friend, your kitty, dog or horse, I wonder if there might be one religious or holy person you met in this life that you would request to come to your bedside to say some prayers and keep you company.

One person that comes to mind is a retired bishop whose humble personality I admire very much. Just yesterday, while driving him home from the Chrism Mass, we decided to visit a Polish meat market to buy our smoked and fresh kielbasa for our Easter baskets. This shepherd has been a priest for over 50 years and he served as bishop of parishes around the world. However, here we are in a meat market simply waiting our turn to be waited on and out of left field he says to me this reminds him of a story.

There once was an old lady who came to church to pray to the Blessed Mother. The janitor of the church was inside the church standing behind the statute of Our Lady. He started to speak to the old lady pretending to be Jesus and telling her what she prays for. Pray for your pastor, pray for the sick, pray for your neighbor. Finally, the old lady shouted back at the voice: “Shut-up, I talking to your mother.”

Here is this man of God with a sense of humor, visiting with the people in the market, telling one lady about how good kisha is with scrambled eggs. To another lady she shares the history of Poland colored eggs and says they cost $4.95 each in the store but he bought his in Poland for a buck.

No longer burdened by the responsibilities of administration, he enjoys his priesthood and better yet enjoys being in the company of ordinary people sharing with them how beautiful they are in the eyes of God.

Tonight on Holy Thursday, we will pick up a pail of water—cleaner than the well water used by Jesus and take a towel to wash the feet of one another. Remember this story because nobody would have ever foreseen in a million years. He washed their feet.

What I like about this retired bishop is that he never wanted to be Godly in the way you might imagine. He understands that only humility can love and be loved. So when my time comes, and this bishop will already be in heaven, I humbly ask that he reach down from heaven and pull me up with him and Jesus. That’s the best kind of friend you can have in this life.

God loves us into eternity as we pray: “In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. Father, into your hands I command my spirit.” (Psalm 31:2

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends at this Easter Season that they know someone as kind and humble as the bishop to be by their side at the hour of death to bring them Your heavenly peace.