Sunday, November 29, 2015

Who am I to Judge?

Dust both sides & hinges of all doors: up & downstairs
Vacuum out bottoms of all cabinets: up & downstairs
Clean microwave & range hood & nearby kitchen cabinet
Wash/wipe down cabinets & appliances fronts kitchen/laundry
Put away Fall plates/cups-get out Christmas plates/cups/napkins
Sort coat closets—make space/hangers for guests
Wash tile & wood floors-under bench-make room for guest boots
Dust/wash picture frames & glass: up & down
Plan meals to cook—food shop
Christmas gifts & cards
Vacuum & dust guest room
Donations to Salvation Army
You’re kidding, you might be saying. So despite your grumbling that you didn’t get all your shopping done on Black Friday or Cyber Monday let me focus your attention that this is also Advent, a time for new beginnings.

This new church year is being referred to as the “Year of Mercy.” What better way to begin then to go through our list “housecleaning our souls” in preparation for the coming of Christ. But how do we do that without condemning ourselves for the sins of the past?

Perhaps the single, most-often quoted line from Pope Francis is his response to a question he was asked on a particularly-dicey issue. His, infamous-famous reply: Who am I to judge?

Although this remark is often assumed to be flighty and less-than-serious; it is, in fact, on pretty safe ground. There is judgment; except it doesn’t work the way it is fantasized inside the popular mind. According to what Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel, judgment works this way:

God’s light, God’s truth, and God’s spirit come into the world. We then judge ourselves according to how we live in the face of them: God’s light has come into the world, but we can choose to live in darkness. That’s our decision, our judgment. God’s truth has been revealed, but we can choose to live in falsehood, in lies. That’s our decision, our judgment to make. And God’s spirit has come into the world, but we can prefer to live outside that spirit, in another spirit. That too is our decision, our judgment. God judges no one. We judge ourselves. Hence we can also say that God condemns no one, though we can choose to condemn ourselves. And God punishes no one, but we can choose to punish ourselves. Negative moral judgment is self-inflicted.

Jesus teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and chastity. Only when we are living inside of these virtues are we living inside God’s spirit.

So then, this is how judgment happens: God’s spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and chastity) has been revealed. We can choose to live inside the virtues of that spirit or we can choose to live instead inside their opposites (self-indulgence, sexual vice, rivalry, antagonism, bad temper, quarrels, drunkenness, and factionalism). One choice leads to a life with God, the other leads away from God. And that choice is ours to make; it doesn’t come from the outside. We judge ourselves. God judges no one. God doesn’t need to.

When we view things inside this perspective it also clarifies a number of misunderstandings that cause confusion inside the minds of believers as well as inside the minds of their critics. How often, for instance, do we hear this criticism: If God is all good, all loving, and all-merciful, how can God condemn someone to hell for all eternity? A valid question, though not a particularly reflective one. Why? Because God judges no one; God punishes no one. God condemns no one to hell. We do these things to ourselves: We judge ourselves, we punish ourselves, and we put ourselves in various forms of hell whenever we do choose not to live in the light, the truth, and inside God’s spirit. And that judgment is self-inflicted, that punishment is self-inflicted, and those fires of hell are self-inflicted.

God watches over us as we pray: “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.” (Psalm 119:66).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we be less judgmental in our lives and let the spirit of the light guide our behavior and we be more prone to say: “Who am I to judge?”

Sunday, November 01, 2015

All Saints Day Children's Mass

 If you were not able to attend the All Saints’ Day Children’s’ liturgy at Holy Family, you missed a truly “holy experience.”

The children walked in procession led by the bumblebee cross bearer. At the sanctuary, twenty little ones sat on the steps and shared their favorite treats from Halloween night. “Hershey’s chocolate” was the kids favorite! Then Spiderman and Bumblebee read from the scriptures, while I shared the story about the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.

Each of our little ones shared how they came dressed for this special All Saints’ Day Mass. Some were princesses, a clown with a large red nose, Olaf (snowman character from the 2013 film Frozen), and my favorite a cowgirl. They learned that "Hallow" means holy and the word Halloween refers to the night before the feast of all holies, or All Saints Day. And then I shared that each of them is a “child of the light” and they are to walk in the light of Jesus.

At the beginning of Mass, I told all our parents, neighbors and many visitors that our children’s smiles, laughter and joy are simple gifts that God gives us to erase our sadness and fear.

We then walked to the side altar where our parishioners had placed photos of loved ones who have died. When I asked the children where are these people who walked on this earth with us, they shouted together “in heaven!” Once again these children became a light to the grownups in the pews and taught us that their smiles can erase hatred, evil, pain and sadness. The light in us is just like Jesus' light. This is the blessing prayer for all our children and you are encouraged to offer this blessing for your children at home.

“God who created pumpkins and people, bless our beautiful Halloween light.
This light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus shines through the darkness and turns the night into day, sadness into joy, hate into love and tears into smiles. Bless the candies that we gathered on Halloween night. Let them be a reminder that we are your sweet creations, lighting up the smiles and hearts of our friends and family. Bless the happy pumpkins we have carved so that everyone who sees them might never be afraid of the darkness because your wonderful light is with us. Our choir then sang a rendition of "This Little Light of Mine.”

If you ever get discouraged again, I ask you to come back to this Sonshine message and spend a moment looking at the following picture of a little elephant peaking over the edge of the pew saying in so many words:
“Do worry, I will be with you always.”