Lost In A Hail of Bullets

Of the at least 17 deadly mass shootings that occurred so far in 2019, the first 10 took place through May. At that point, even though there had been more such incidents in the first five months of 2019 than in the same period in 2018, the number of fatalities was exactly the same: 51 victims killed. Now, two months later and more than halfway through the year, the total number of victims has risen to 102 total victim fatalities.

Richard Rohr, noted American author, spiritual writer, and Franciscan friar, said that “The root of violence is the illusion of separation–from God, from Being itself, from being one with everyone and everything. When you don’t know how to consciously live out of your union with Love, you resort to violence, fighting people who are not like you. Contemplative practice, being with your True Self, being honest with who you are inside, talking to God, and listening for the answer, teaches you to not make so much of the differences, but to return to who you are beyond your nationality, skin color, gender, or other labels. It brings you back to your True Self, who you are in God.”

To create peaceful change, we have to start with ourselves – sweep in front of our own house, so to speak. We first have to get the “Who” right. And I don’t mean “Who” out there – I mean the “Who” reading this page right now. Gwendolyn Brooks, former Illinois poet laureate, used to ask her students when they were writing poetry:  Who are you? And how do you feel about yourself? As Rohr says, most of us, particularly pragmatic Americans, lead with strategic questions–what, how, when. These are secondary questions. Before we act or react, we need to wait–wait for communion with all persons.

Rohr likes to say that everything belongs. That means everyone belongs. I am asking myself: who do I feel I am not like? Who do I automatically create separation from? Who do I dismiss because I am uncomfortable aligning myself with their ways of being? This cuts violence at its very roots. It keeps us from fear – which is the core of our problems. Fear of the other, and fear of ourselves and fear of what it means to truly love and be powerless.

 

 

Failure’s Lessons

What’s to be learned through failure, through being humbled by our own faults? Generally that’s the only way we grow. In being humbled by our own inadequacies we learn those lessons in life that we are deaf to when we are strutting in confidence and pride. There are secrets, says John Updike, which are hidden from health.  This lesson is everywhere in scripture and permeates every spirituality in every religion worthy of the name.

Raymond E. Brown, offers an illustration of this from scripture:  Reflecting on how at one point in its history, God’s chosen people, Israel, betrayed its faith and was consequently humiliated and thrown into a crisis about God’s love and concern for them, Brown points out that, long range, this seeming disaster ended up being a positive experience:  “Israel learned more about God in the ashes of the Temple destroyed by the Babylonians than in the elegant period of the Temple under Solomon.”

What does he mean by that? Just prior to being conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, Israel had just experienced what, to all outside appearances, looked like the high point of her history (politically, socially, and religiously).  She was in possession of the promised land, had subdued all her enemies, had a great king ruling over her, and had a magnificent temple in Jerusalem as a place to worship and a center to hold all the people together.  However, inside that apparent strength, perhaps because of it, she had become complacent about her faith and increasing lax in being faithful to it. That complacency and laxity led to her downfall. In 587 BCE, she was overrun by a foreign nation who, after taking the land, deported most of the people to Babylon, killed the king, and knocked the temple down to its last stone.  Israel spent the next nearly half-century in exile, without a temple, struggling to reconcile this with her belief that God loved her.

However, in terms of the bigger picture, this turned out to be a positive. The pain of being exiled and the doubts of faith that were triggered by the destruction of her temple were ultimately offset by what she learned through this humiliation and crisis, namely, that God is faithful even when we aren’t, that our failures open our eyes to us our own complacency and blindness, and that what looks like success is often its opposite, just as what looks like failure is often its opposite.  As Richard Rohr might phrase it, in our failures we have a chance to “fall upward”.

There’s no better image available, I believe, by which to understand what the church is now undergoing through the humiliation thrust on it through the clerical sexual abuse crisis within Roman Catholicism and within other churches as well. To recast Raymond Brown’s insight: The church can learn more about God in the ashes of the clerical sexual abuse crisis than it did during its elegant periods of grand cathedrals, burgeoning church growth, and unquestioned acquiescence to ecclesial authority. It can also learn more about itself, its blindness to its own faults, and its need for some structural change and personal conversion.  Hopefully, like the Babylonian exile for Israel, this too will be for the churches something that’s positive in the end.

Humiliation makes for depth; it drives us into the deeper parts of our soul. Unfortunately, however, that doesn’t always make for a positive result. The pain of humiliation makes us deep; but it can make us deep in two ways: in understanding and empathy but also in a bitterness of soul that would have us get even with the world.

But the positive point is this: Like Israel on the shores of Babylon, when our temple is damaged or destroyed, in the ashes of that exile we will have a chance to see some deeper things to which we are normally blind.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser

Embracing Christ’s Suffering

Pope Francis spoke about the sacrifice of the cross, explaining how as followers of Christ we must embrace suffering, because it is through the suffering and death of Christ that his love is made known to us.

“Always, even today, the temptation is to follow a Christ without a cross, rather, to teach God the right path,” the Pope said. Like Peter we maybe say: “No, this will never happen.”

“But Jesus reminds us that his way is the way of love,” Francis said, and there is no true love without Christ’s self-sacrifice. We must embrace suffering, because as Christ told his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Christians cannot be absorbed by the world’s vision to live an easy life, but rather to go “against the current,” pointing out the challenge to self-centeredness found in Christ’s words, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my cause will find it.”

“In this paradox is contained the golden rule that God has inscribed into the human nature created in Christ: the rule that only love gives meaning and happiness to life,” Pope Francis said.

Spending our time, talents and our energy only to save and take care of ourselves actually leads to loss, to a “sad and sterile existence,” he explained. Whereas, if we live our lives for the Lord, set on fire with love, then our lives will be fruitful and we will have genuine joy.


Psalms for Lent Week One


PSALM 25

Lord, I come before you in prayer.
My God, I trust in you. Please do not let me be humiliated; do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me!
Certainly, none who rely on you will be humiliated. Those who deal in treachery will be thwarted and humiliated.
Make me understand your ways, O LordTeach me your paths!
Guide me into your truth and teach me. For you are the God who delivers me; on you, I rely all day long.
Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O Lordfor you have always acted in this manner.
Do not hold against me the sins of my youth or my rebellious acts! Because you are faithful to me, extend to me your favor, O Lord!
The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live.
May he show the humble what is right! May he teach the humble his way!
The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant.
For the sake of your reputation, O Lordforgive my sin, because it is great.
The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live. (NET)

REFLECTION

The prayer begins with an entreaty that starts in a general way (vv. 1–3) and then becomes specific: the psalmist wants to be instructed by the Law of God, and to be forgiven (vv. 4–7). He then goes on to reflect on the way God does things, contemplating God’s goodness (vv. 8–10) and then (after a brief interruption to request forgiveness: v.11) describing the good things that the Lord does for those who fear him (vv. 12–15).

As well as petitioning for pardon and divine protection, this psalm pleads with the Lord to instruct the heart of man and help him follow the Lord’s ways. When making the same petition, the Christian relies on Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit of Truth from heaven who “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:2, 6; cf. 16:13) and asks the Father for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

Identity

Identity. Gender. Love. Chastity. The world is a difficult place for teens, and young adults.  It has become increasingly hard for parents and educators to help teens and young adults discover the truth about their bodies, their sexuality, and their unique call to love.

In an age of “selfies” and egocentrism, YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body, cuts through the noise to present an authentic view of the human person. It presents all people with the extraordinary story of their creation as unrepeatable individuals. But the program doesn’t stop there. This series introduces teens to the truth that life is not, in fact, all about them; it is about going out of themselves to be a sincere gift for others.

This post presents everyone with an opportunity to hear from someone who has struggled with the gender identity. In Hudson’s Story, we hear about how those who have homosexual attractions are still sons and daughters of God first. While not shying away from the reality of his feelings, Hudson shares how he has found his true identity in Christ.

This is a wonderful program that touches today’s real-life challenges in an appropriate and relevant manner and is one that I recommend all parish formation teams investigate.


Another Way

Each week we look back at the past week’s Sunday homily and spotlight one of the nuggets to help us re-connect to the message as we seek to stay focused on the Lord.

This week, our Mission Connection comes from Fr. Michael Rubeling (with a little assist from singer James Taylor) on his talk given for The Epiphany of the Lord. Fr. Michael shares his thoughts on the Magi and their returning home “another way.”  How might that apply to our lives?

Let’s take a listen.


Something Out of Nothing

 

If you are like I am then you most likely act out a certain cycle every year. Each Jan. 1, you make New Year’s resolutions, keep them for a while, and then, eventually, sometimes by Jan. 2, break them and fall back into old habits.

If you are like I am then you also have a certain sense of why this is going on . . . even as you are seemingly powerless to change things. Old habits, especially bad ones, are hard to break.

Aristotle said that habit is second nature, it replaces instinct. Augustine, who knew more than most about the difficulty in breaking old habits, once put it this way: “I longed to give myself wholly to you, Lord, but I was bound by my own will, as by a chain. Because my will was perverse it changed to lust, and lust yielded to become habit, and habit not resisted became necessity. These were like links hanging one on to another—which is why I have called it a chain—and their bondage held me bound hand and foot.”

In a former time, before we had psychological words such as obsession, dysfunction, and neurosis, this was called being possessed by a demon. There was more wisdom and accuracy in that than our age sees fit to acknowledge. In our bad habits, we are indeed possessed!

Given all of that, it is no big wonder that we so easily break new resolutions. The wonder is that we continue to make them, knowing our own histories. Why do we? Why do we continue to want to make new resolutions when we know that, barring miracles, we will not, in the end, succeed in keeping them?

Robert Frost says that there is something inside of us that hates a wall, that wants it down. That is also true for the wall of bad habit and the part that wants it down is the best part of us. Stated positively, there is something inside us that hates our own moral fat, that refuses death, even in this sense.

There is something inside of us that is driven to the higher, that refuses to settle for second best, that wants to sing the new song that the psalmist speaks of, that believes in the possibility of resurrection. There is something inside of us that needs to keep on keeping on.

Thus it is a sign of health that we keep making new resolutions, despite a life-long history of failure. Why? Because in striving to renew ourselves in the face of our own falling we are making an important act of faith:

First of all, in making new resolutions we are saying: “I believe in a God who continues to love me, even when I can’t live up to it.” Every time I pick myself off the floor after a fall and begin again with some hope in my heart looking for a new start, I am saying the creed in a way that is considerably more radical, in terms of expressing actual belief in God, that is my too-easy Sunday recital of it.

To make a new resolution is to believe in God.

But it is more. To make new resolutions is to express faith in the God of the resurrection. To try for a new life, for a fresh start, precisely when bad habit has kept me so long in a certain helplessness, is to say: “I believe in the resurrection and the life!”

Why do I say this?

Martin Luther once put it this way: “Just as God in the beginning of creation made the world out of nothing, so his manner of working continues unchanged.” For anything to really change, including our capacity to live beyond our own wounds and selfishness, God still had to defy the impossible.

Our inner world, akin to the physical world, is, to all outward appearance and to our own feeling of it, a closed system, determined entirely by history, by cause and effect. Within it, certain things are possible and certain things are impossible. What has been will continue to be.

There is, it seems, and so says Qoheleth, nothing new under the sun. The case for the impossible is pretty strong, especially when the judge knows the history of failed resolutions.

That is where faith and the resurrection enter in. As the angel Gabriel tells Mary: “For with God nothing is impossible.” Somewhere, deep inside of us, in that place where we want to make New Year’s resolutions, we still carry that faith. In that place, we still say the creed and still believe in the resurrection. Because of that belief, because of new year’s resolutions, God can still make something out of nothing!

– Fr. Ron Rolheiser

2017 Tops in Catholic Social Media

Recognizing bold and effective evangelization in the new public square

The Fisher’s Net Awards is a way to encourage and recognize churches, ministries, and apostolates who have drawn from the Church’s rich history of using art, design, and technology to reinvent the proclamation of the Gospel for a modern age in the new public square.


TOP BLOGS

Yes, blogging is still a thing. This category recognizes the best Catholic blogs and their bloggity blogging bloggers. Here are the 2017 picks.

Carrots for Michaelmas carrotsformichaelmas.com

Fr. Z’s Blog wdtprs.com/blog

Life Teen lifeteen.com/blog

One Peter Five onepeterfive.com

Our Franciscan Fiat ourfranciscanfiat.wordpress.com

Shameless Popery shamelesspopery.com

Simcha Fisher simchafisher.com

These Stone Walls thesestonewalls.com 


TOP WEBSITES

The internet continues to be the place where people of all walks of life gather to exchange pieces of their lives. We share ideas, pictures, stories, movies, and more there. It is truly the new public square and undoubtedly where the apostles would go to proclaim the Kingdom if they were commissioned today. Here are the best overall 2017 websites.

Church of the Resurrection corlansing.org

EpicPew epicpew.com

EXALT exaltplano.com

Impacting Culture impactingculture.com

Migrants + Refugees migrants-refugees.va

St. John XXIII Catholic Community stjohn23.org

Those Catholic Men thosecatholicmen.com

Word on Fire wordonfire.org 


 

TOP PODCAST

With technology what it is today, anyone can have a ‘radio’ show. If you’ve got interesting things to say or interesting people to ask, this is an amazing way to share your Catholic identity with the world in a time when it’s desperately needed. Here are the 2017 picks.

Catholic Stuff You Should Know catholicstuffpodcast.com

How-to Catholic madetomagnify.com/category/podcast

The Art of Catholic matthewsleonard.com

Catholic Hipster catholicdrinkie.com/hipstercast

Catching Foxes catchingfoxes.fm

Coffee & Pearls sterlingjaquith.com/coffee-and-pearls

The Liturgy Guys liturgicalinstitute.org/the-liturgy-guys

Pints with Aquinas mattfradd.com/pints-with-aquinas

 

His Gift and Our Gift

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

In this wonderful season of hope that is fulfilled through the incarnation of God in his Son Jesus, the “Word becoming Flesh”, we joyfully receive the gift that is above all other possible gifts. Yet, in this time of celebration, many broken souls and relationships are trapped in a season of despair and a lack of hope.

As people of faith, what is our task in this world as it relates to reconciling one another? There are so many divisions that exist in this world. Noted priest, author and professor Henri Nouwen, asks us to consider what we intend to give as our gift at a time when we are receiving God’s gift of Jesus. “All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.”

I would suggest we reflect on Henri’s words, and hopefully find that path of reconciliation with those we have hurt, or possibly accompanying others in finding the healing of reconciliation in this season of hope, joy, and peace. In Jesus, God and God’s love “hits the streets.” In this broken world, where can we bring God’s love and reconciliation as our gift?

Reflecting Reflections – Day Nine

St John Abby

Someone has put it memorably: “Nothing is so rare as the moment when we want to be where we are, doing what we are doing.” Attention, being truly present, can transform even the simplest moments of life. The present and what we are doing deserves respect. Our talk gives away how little we prize the present: We ‘catch’ a bus; ‘grab’ a bite to eat; ‘dash off’ a letter or a report; ‘run’ to the store; ‘get through the week.’ But this present moment and place are where God and others are, where real life is. Diana Eck says: “To be aware, alert, attentive is the greatest spiritual challenge we ever face, even the only one.” Could be.

Living Faith

Come to me. Matthew 11:28

How do I come to Jesus? Do I seek to run with the task and fail to be one with him in that task? I know that when I accept his initiation to come, he brings me into a personal relationship with him, where I enter an inner place of peace he has promised all will receive. It is the kind of peace that quiets the mind and heart and surpasses human understanding. It doesn’t tell me that I won’t continue to experience frustration, trials, and suffering, but I know that with him, these burdens become lighter and more bearable.

Henri Nouwen

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  Isaiah 11:6

The marvelous vision of the peaceable Kingdom, in which all violence has been overcome and all men, women, and children live in loving unity with nature, calls for its realization in our day-to-day lives. We must remind one another constantly of the vision. Whenever it comes alive in us we will find new energy to live it out, right where we are. Instead of making us escape real life, this beautiful vision gets us involved.

Magnificat

Come to me. Matthew 11:28

Ann Voskamp brings another perspective to the above statement: “Jesus will go to impossible lengths to rescue you.” Sin is many things but most importantly it is separation from God. It is a willful movement away from him. And what does God do about this action on our part? He hastens to have us return. He unceasingly calls us back to communion with him through repentance, that opposite path of distancing. Stop running from him – stop – for he seeks to embrace you in his love.

Give Us This Day

In working for the Church, I often find myself fighting to do the good and realize that it’s too much about ‘me.’  As Dr. Carolyn Woo so clearly noted in her service for Catholic Relief Services, we have to put away our pride and anxiety and realize we are not only working for God, but we are also working with God.    Eventually, through prayers of pleading and frustration,

Psalm 127 reminds us that all is in vain if God is not part of our endeavors. When our work or other worries weigh us down, we can learn from the wisdom of St. Pope John XXIII, who at the end of a day would say: “I’ve done the best I could in your service this day, O Lord. I’m going to bed. It’s your church. Take care of it!”

Richard Rohr

How can my life be a reflection of divine love in this time and place? The classic Christian phrase for discipleship—the imitation of Christ—means that we were made by God to become like God, loving all others, loving universally. —Sallie McFague

Jesus told us, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” He called us to a presence that is a broader and deeper kind of knowing than just cognitive thinking. Thinking knows things by objectifying them, capturing them as an object of knowledge. But presence knows things by refusing to objectify them; instead, it shares in their very subjectivity. Presence allows full give and take, what Martin Buber called the “I/Thou” relationship with things as opposed to the mere “I/it” relationship. Buber summed it up in his often-quoted phrase: “All real living is meeting.”