The passion of our time.

When I heard of the Supreme Court’s decision adding sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, my first reaction was: All humans deserve the opportunity to seek employment free from discrimination.

Yet, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and president of USCCB lays out the concern.

I am deeply concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively redefined the legal meaning of ‘sex’ in our nation’s civil rights law. This is an injustice that will have implications in many areas of life.

By erasing the beautiful differences and complementary relationship between man and woman, we ignore the glory of God’s creation and harm the human family, the first building block of society. Our sex, whether we are male or female, is part of God’s plan for creation and for our lives. As Pope Francis has taught with such sensitivity, to live in the truth with God’s intended gifts in our lives requires that we receive our bodily and sexual identity with gratitude from our Creator. No one can find true happiness by pursuing a path that is contrary to God’s plan. (emphasis added)

Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and, without exception, must be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect. Protecting our neighbors from unjust discrimination does not require redefining human nature.

We pray that the Church, with the help of Mary, the Mother of God, will be able to continue her mission to bring Jesus Christ to every man and woman.

So (early warning) what follows is my way-too-long struggle to sort all this, as I talk with Our Lord.

——————

“During these times…”

I’m so tired of hearing this phrase, Holy Lord. I hear it drone out from both the sincere and the sanctimonious to initiate some monologue on masks or medicine or malevolence.

And yet, today, right now, in this time and place, You are offering us a way to sooth some of the pain and suffering of Your Son. You’re offering us an opportunity to share Your love and to find new ways that include all of Your people in Your grace.

All of us

All of us
We fallen,
We sin-filled,
Even we aspiring saints.
The ignored, the ignorant,
The neglected, the negligent,
The elite and the alone;
The famished and the fed;
The despised and the despicable.
All of us are Your beloved children, Holy Lord.

But, not all of us know You or Your love.

We, the privileged

We, who know You — we, who have been baptized into Your truth — we are the privileged ones of this world.

Through no fault or action of our own, You chose us. Just as we didn’t choose our parents or the country of our birth, or our station in life, we didn’t choose to know You, Holy Father, or Your Son. We were chosen. You found us right where we were and and called us to You.

This is true privilege.
This is the real job opportunity.
For in You is the freedom and love
That passes all our understanding.

Too often, we forget that You’re the source of everything good in our lives. We believe that our good fortune is something we’ve earned, something we deserve, maybe — through some right of birth or heritage or even our own hard work.

But, no. These are all gifts of Your grace. You decided where we were born and when. And You selected our parents. You gave us the talents to succeed in our work and the strength to awake each day to embrace our lives. And You have given us the times in which we live.

In these times

Your gift in this time for those of us who know and love You is the blessing of sharing Christ with others, those less privileged, those needing—longing, possibly—to know You and to love You, too. Our gift is the opportunity to be an active part of Christ’s body — Your hands and heart — here on earth.

It’s that simple…and that profound.

What does this mean in action in this situation, Father? What does this look like on the holy ground of Your love?

Down here amongst Your unruly children?

Surely, we must share Your love through the way we live our lives. But what if we are asked to act—or made to act publicly—in ways that defy — or even defile — Your love for us, ways foreign to Your teaching?

We learn early that we are to hate the sins, love the sinners. But in this time we are being told that in order to love the sinners, we must approve of — love, even — their sin.

How does a religious school, for example, allow into its midst individuals, who, gleefully, often vociferously, reject one of Your most basic, Your most foundational gifts — the beautiful gift of who they are as beloved male and female children of God, who they are as Your beloved creations?

How does the religious institution function within the dichotomy of You and Not You? God and not God? How do we ease the friction, act with mercy, heal the wounded, protect the innocent, help You to call the willing?

Where is the opportunity in this, Holy Father? Where—what—is Your gift that You seek to have us give?

Your Word in action

Sister Marilyn taught 2nd grade at my daughter’s Catholic school years ago. For decades she faithfully helped to prepare young Catholic girls and boys for their first communion. Our family was not Catholic at the time. I spoke with Sister once about how excluded my daughter felt from the first communion ceremony that eventually followed for all her classmates.

Sister corrected me, ‘Oh no, we don’t exclude anyone or leave any one out. Everyone is welcome to be part of the church and to participate in the beauty of what we believe.’

And there’s the nut of it, isn’t it, Father? The Church universal. The body of Christ. Living, yet unchanged and unchangeable. Broken, yet complete. Sacrificed, given away, that our souls might be sanctified through our faith in You and in Your Son.

You’ve created us to be free. You allow us to choose in what and in whom we believe. As Christians, we believe in You, Holy Father and in Your Son, Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit — that beautiful breath of love shared by Father and Son.

But so many others don’t know You or believe in Your Son. Too many have not even been introduced.

How, Father?

How do we embrace these others, Father, who reject our faith and insist that it must change in order to conform to their devices and desires.

How do we share Your love with those who have no faith and who hope only in themselves?

How do we share Christ with them, who demand that we deny You and love them first?

How do we — under the force of law — share the truth of Your love that You have shared with us?

How can we do anything good, anything pleasing to You, without speaking with love and affection to these others — these hopeless, hapless creatures whom You love?

How do we do all this, How do we do any of this except through Your grace, full of faith in You, knowing that Your hand is at work in this, as it is in all things?

You never said it would be easy

Indeed, You showed us the terrible pain of Your Son’s passion and told us to ‘follow Him.’

Even Mary and Joseph, when directed by Caesar Augustus, submitted to an arduous journey to Bethlehem in order to participate in a government-required census. Our Holy Mother was pregnant. She and Joseph were poor. But You chose that time for them to leave their home and family who loved them to carry Your Word-made-flesh to this distant place. And once they arrived, they weren’t welcomed or made comfortable. They weren’t treated lovingly. Indeed, there was no room for them — or for You.

But there, in that mean, inhospitable and humble place, is where You and Your love broke into our world.

You chose Mary and Joseph to carry Your light of hope first to the world’s poor and lowly. You even provided a bright light to guide the way of the world’s wise and kingly. They traveled their own difficult and dangerous journeys to Your Son, Jesus Christ, coming from far-away lands — from places that did not know You; from traditions foreign to Your Word. And yet, they came bearing their own gifts with which to honor and adore You.

Just as You sent the light to guide those foreigners to You so long ago, You are, even now, preparing us in this time to be the light of Your love to those who don’t yet know You. Those whom You are calling to Yourself. Those others in our midst.

And just as Sister Marilyn taught us year’s ago, You don’t exclude anyone from the beauty of Your truth. Nonetheless, like Mary, we each have to consent to Your will. When called by You, each of us has to say our own grace-filled, faith-filled ‘Yes’ to You and to Your Son.

Just say ‘Yes’

Now in this time of turmoil, my child, be My Light by how you live your life. Give witness to the truth of My love. Then, share the gift of love that I share with you. I’ll show You how.

To share and uplift other believers? Yes.

To make room for You, Lord—God’s own Word-made-flesh? Yes.

To be love for all those others among us—the least, the lost and the hopeless, the revolting, the reviled, and the wretched? Yes.

To include in our work and in our lives these other ones—forgotten for too long, ignored too fully? Yes.

For how else might they come to know Me?

Must we strengthen our resolve? Yes.
Understand Your Word better? Yes.
Prepare to share Your love with those who hate us and You? Yes.
Learn to be holy not just in our homes and our protected enclaves, but in public for all to see — to be Your light in our world’s darkness? Yes.

Are we ready?

As others scream and slur,
As they deface and disparage You,
As they have and surely will again,
Will we run away, like Peter and the others,
Will we deny You, again and again?
As they seize and distort our speech,
As they defame Your gifts,

Are we prepared? I pray so.

Will we turn our other cheek, Father,
The one of love offered,
Only to be rejected and scorned,
As You were? As Your Son was?

As others point at us with their accusations and allegations;
As they brutalize our hearts with their hatred,
And fill our world with their idols,
Are we prepared, even so, to include them in our lives,
But not give them our souls,
All for Your love of them?

Am I prepared? I pray so.

Loving heart to heart

The killing of George Floyd, the righteous anger, the protests against allowing whatever caused this awful murder to stand, the dark forces of opportunistic riots and looting, the hatred and loathing — it all makes me so sad, Father.

Where are You in all this?

How did we get here? What now? What can we do? What can I do?

You’ve placed several suggestions along my way in the last few days:

o Find ways to bridge the divide, to walk with others, to listen, and to help them carry their crosses;

o Erase the margins separating us from those other ones that You love, Holy Father;

o Stand in awe of their strength, not in judgement of the burdens they carry;

o Focus not on how awful things are, but on how I can help make things better for just one other of these other ones;

o Learn to feel a deepening sense of gratitude for the gifts and graces You’ve already given us — by way of our birth, of our country, of our neighborhood, of our circumstance — gifts we did not earn or deserve, and through this;

o Strengthen our conviction to share these gifts to help others where they are right now…where we are right now;

And what about all the government programs created to help people less fortunate, families in need, the homeless, the addicted, those living in alone and in fear, those living without hope?

Help me to remember that government can never be the whole solution. Well-intended social aid is both a demonstration and a reminder of the generous spirit of this country, an example of what we want to stand for as a nation.

But the exchange, too often, tarnishes the mutual love of a gift freely given and graciously received. Maybe not always, but too often — and almost by its nature — such public aid preempts heart touching heart. The personal charity that blesses both the giver and recipient, too often, goes missing. And in our increasingly secularized world, aid programs erect a barriers between giver and recipient. Instead of love offered, love returned, love passed on to others, we are left with a cold, dehumanizing transaction where the dignity of the recipient is stripped, the giver feels extorted and coerced, and the life-giving breath of God’s grace is choked out.

Without Your participation, Holy Lord, evil enters and upends the beauty of our intent. More and more fingers of corruption and agents of self-dealing insinuate themselves, stealing the essence of the gifts and passing on only foul, despoiled remnants of Your original love.

And the demons dance with glee. As they sew chaos and confusion on our streets, disdain and division into the hearts of Your innocent, unsuspecting ones, they delight in our impotence and misunderstanding.

We need You, Holy Father. I pray that You send Your firm, but gentle touch to heal us, Your steady hand to guide us. Send us, I pray, the healing light of Your love. Make it shine so brightly in our world that evil quivers in submission, releases its hold on us, and yields way to Your hegemony. Oh Lord of all things, unite us into one body, one love, in and through Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lived and died that we might live in the fullness of Your glory.

In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.

Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good afternoon, Father. Thank You for this beautiful day that You’ve given us in Your mercy and Your delight.

My daughter continues to be sad about her favorite pet’s and other’s recent deaths in her life and she’s still suffering from the flu. Now upon her return to work, she is feeling as thought she’s still ‘running on empty,’ emotionally, and very unappreciated and taken for granted.

And she probably is being taken for granted. Poor sweet girl. You know what’s going on, don’t You, Father?

So, what is the message You’re sending her? Can I help carry it to her for You? I felt at Mass this morning as though I had an insight from You that might be helpful for her. If it is Your will that I should talk with her about this, please help me to recall and recapture the thread and then, to find a way to express it to her that is pleasing to You and that resonates with her.

I tried to think about what You want for her to understand. It seems as though life has been piling an extraordinary number of challenges on her lately. At the same time, I feel as though there’s always a message from You somewhere in the midst of our strife — similar to the pony in a room full of horse manure — and maybe that’s the analogy that will resonate with her. She’s familiar with this story from childhood.

Where’s the blessing for her in all that has gone on in her life over the last several weeks?

I considered this morning that if I were to name my daughter’s greatest passion in life (so far), it would have to be service and caring for those too weak to care for themselves…animals being somewhere near the top of her list. She has always wanted to do things for people and she has always cared about rescuing people and animals in trouble.

I don’t think her motivation starts out being service or rescue in order to be recognized as a server or a rescuer. But like so many of us, when the recognition of our good works doesn’t come, the gratitude for our help isn’t expressed, we can become disappointed, dis-spirited. Not only that, but later, when we need others’ help in return or the understanding of another or just someone’s patience while we make our way through our own misery and sorrow, then, when our favors are not reciprocated, resentment and anger can well up in us.

Often, since we didn’t give or serve or rescue or exercise patience for the sake of recognition in the first place, the anger and resentment are followed quickly by guilt for being the one needing another’s understanding,…and yet…sigh.

It’s a nasty circle of neediness and dependence, Father. You understand. You’ve watched this tendency in us humans to look to other humans for our sense of well-being. It’s been like this ever since You created our first parents and they failed You in the garden. But today, even as You promised them back then, we have only to lift our eyes to You to find You watching us. We only have to call on Your name to be reminded that You know and see everything we do — each act of kindness, each act of forgiveness, each act of patience, each act of service in aid of another — You see it all and You bless us each time with Your love and Your comfort.

So why, right now, are You allowing her to feel so unappreciated, such sadness?

Is it Your way of helping her to lift her eyes to You? To seek only Your appreciation, Your blessing. To recognize that the only faithful, constant, true love we will ever experience is Your love, the love You have for us. To know, with everything that we are, that it is You who sends us out into the world, to serve You, Lord, as You bless others through our actions and our words.

Yours is the blessing, not ours. It is You who gives, You who serves, You who forgives. We are only Your vessels through which You act here on earth. So often, Father, others whom are blessed by You through us do not even realize they’ve been blessed. They may even think they deserve all that they’ve received from us. But still it’s Your blessing, Father, not ours. Yours to give. Yours to judge. All Yours.

So, are we to simply act to allow Your blessings to flow through us without any attachment to the quality of others’ reception, any expectation of a favor returned?

Yes, I think so. If they appreciate us, so be it. Glory to You, Lord.

If they do not, no worry, no shame. We have already received our reward by virtue of allowing You to break into our lives and to use us.

Our reward is Your presence here with us as we follow our passion — in M’s case to serve and to rescue.

In Your compassion, Father, — literally translated as You being with us in our passion — You are with us, around us, walking next to us, helping us to carry our burdens (all the elements of our passion — our fervor, our joy, our rage, our misery, our sorrow, our ecstasy, our suffering), helping us to carry the crosses of our passion.

What I sense You wanting her to understand — because she is so close now to lifting the veil that obscures Your beautiful mystery — is that You’re right there with her. All the time with her.

She has only to look up with her spiritual eyes, to clear the film blurring her spiritual vision and there’ll You’ll be: arms out-stretched, longing to enfold her in Your warmth and Your loving embrace, excited to explain to her all the ways in which You are calling her to Yourself, all the ways in which You envision using her here on earth in service to You, aching to share in her pain — for that’s what passion is really, isn’t it, Father? pain? When others ignore her or disregard her service or her contributions or her insights or when they scold her for her goodness or try to entrap her in their lies and misrepresentations, just as they did with Jesus, Your Son, when he walked here on earth with us — aching to help her know how very good and beautiful she is, how beautiful her heart is in Your sight — both in our physical reality and in Your spiritual sight.

Your way is so simple, Father, yet so difficult: Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.

And when people here on earth don’t respond or worse, respond in hurtful ways, we must turn to You again and again and yet again. Love You. Trust You. Look to You. Rely on You.

All is Yours, heavenly Lord. All goodness, all righteousness, all beauty, all truth. Thank You for allowing us to share in this spiritual reality with You, Father, and to come finally to rest in You, to come finally to find our peace in Your grace.

I pray all this in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thank You, Father.

Divine anticipation

That feeling.
That sense of excitement.
Of an inexplicable, almost physical knowingness.
Signaling something momentous is about to happen.
Something extraordinary.

I have naught to do but wait
In the full incredulous knowledge that
You are at work and
About to reveal Yourself
In my life,
In the world,
In Your perfect answer to prayer.

Your answer will be thrilling.
Filled with such beauty and perfection.
A tapestry.
So complex
So vivid
So complete
Surpassing any of my dreamy fantasies.
Fulfilling desires I didn’t know I had,
Confirming dreams, I’d not dared to dream.

Thank You, Father.

Love Song

Words don’t flow the same way, Father, when I speak to ones other than You.

The point of my story is too easily lost, when I lose sight of You. And my purpose dims, when my eyes turn from You.

I only want to write to You, Father, My Heart.

My words are meaningless and so much cacophony without You as their recipient.

I have no value, I offer no value, Father, that does not originate with You…

That does not long to return to You.

I love You, my Holy Lord, and ask only that You show me how to love You always and more completely.

Focus on Love

As we begin our final march toward Calvary, I pray each of you have enjoyed a fruitful Lent. I began reading the Word Among Us earlier in the year. It provides the daily readings and accompanying meditations for U.S. Catholic Mass.

One meditation instructed that we should ‘focus on Jesus on the cross and imagine the LOVE that put Him there.’

As I read this, I realized that I always focus on all the sin that put Him on the cross, and maybe most especially, on my sin that added to His pain and suffering.

It feels entirely different to consider too the love — His love — with which He sacrificed Himself and forgave us.

Meditating on His love builds to my sense of sorrow and penitence, adding an even stronger sense of humility. I found with that humility I experienced a growing desire to allow His love to fill me so full that through His grace it will just spill over and pour out upon all I meet.

Blessings on you and yours this Easter. I pray that your journey brings you closer to Him and His peace.

Focus on love

I pray this finds each of you enjoying a happy and fruitful Lent. I have begun to read the Word Among Us, which  provides the daily readings and accompanying meditation for U.S. Catholic Mass.

The meditation last Wednesday (February 17, 2016) instructed that we should ‘focus on Jesus on the cross and imagine the LOVE that put Him there.’

As I read this, I realized that I always focus on all the sin that put Him on the cross, and maybe most especially, on my sin that added to His pain and suffering.

It feels entirely different to consider too the love — His love — with which He sacrificed Himself and forgave us.

Meditating on His love adds to my sense of sorrow and penitence an even stronger sense of humility. I found with that humility I experienced a growing desire to allow His love to fill me so full that through His grace it will just spill over and pour out upon all I meet.

Blessings on you and yours this Lent. I pray that your journey brings you closer to Him and His peace.

Choosing to be chosen

Prodigal Son ImageOur priest’s recent homily touched on being chosen by God. Each of us is. Not all of us know it.

Many have never heard His call. Some hear it, but turn away. For some, recognition happens all at once. For others, God’s call is revealed more slowly and in stages. Continue reading

We are all called to be saints

No, this isn’t a belated April Fool’s joke. Although when I first heard that we – all of us – can be saints…are called, in fact, to be saints, I had a similar reaction: ‘You must be kidding! Me?’

But, what I am slowly coming to appreciate more fully is that God’s most important call to each of us is to be saints – each in our own special way, each in our own individual circumstance. Our only challenge is to learn to say ‘Yes, Lord, I’m willing. Show me how.”

Maybe you won’t have as hard a time as I did hearing these words and taking them seriously, but let me share what some writers who actually know what they’re talking about have to say about our call to sainthood:

In discussing Saints, People Like Us, Henri Nouwen says,

Through baptism we become part of a family much larger than our biological family. It is a family of people “set apart” by God to be light in the darkness. These set-apart people are called saints. Although we tend to think about saints as holy and pious, and picture them with halos above their heads and ecstatic gazes, true saints are much more accessible. They are men and women like us, who live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. What makes them saints is their clear and unwavering focus on God and God’s people. Some of their lives may look quite different, but most of their lives are remarkably similar to our own. The saints are our brothers and sisters, calling us to become like them. (Nouwen, Henri J. M. (2009-03-17). Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (p. 328-9). )

He went on to describe that:

The saints are God’s holy people. The apostle Paul speaks about all those who belong to Christ as “holy people” or “saints.” He directs his letters to “those who have been consecrated in Christ Jesus and called to be God’s holy people” (1 Corinthians 1: 2; see also Ephesians 1: 1). This sanctity is the work of the Spirit of Jesus. Paul again says, “All of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3: 18). As saints we belong to that large network of God’s people that shines like a multitude of stars in the dark sky of the universe. (Nouwen, Henri J. M. (2009-03-17). Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (p. 330))

Fr. James Martin S.J. in his book My Life with the Saints, quotes Thomas Merton to say,

“For me to be a saint means to be myself.”

And Merton says in his own book, The Seven Storey Mountain:

And they were saints in that most effective and telling way: sanctified by leading ordinary lives in a completely supernatural manner, sanctified by obscurity, by usual skills, by common tasks, by routine, but skills, tasks, routine which received a supernatural form from grace within, and from the habitual union of their souls with God in deep faith and charity. (Merton, Thomas (1998-10-04). The Seven Storey Mountain: Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition (p. 62))

So this is my Easter gift to you…the good and joyful news that Christ lived among us, died for us and rose again to be with the Father. He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to live within each of us. To be with us in times of trial and triumph. To guide and direct our hearts along our journey. To call us to walk with Him in sainthood, as He shares the truth of His love with the world.

It’s simple. Just say ‘yes’ to God

Thank you, Lord, for guiding me (at last!) to the answer I’ve been searching for now for so many years.

For decades (all those years before my children and husband), I’ve wondered why I jumped from relationship to relationship. I would start out delighting in showering someone with all my energy and affections, only to tire of them after a year or two. They weren’t the real problem. I always knew there was something missing in me.

Even though, I was told repeatedly in many different settings that God loves me (“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”), the meaning of the message – how it all works on the ground – for some reason just didn’t connect.

But, praise God, I finally got it.

It was in a Bible study I attended (nearly 25 years ago now). In it, we focused for nearly eight weeks on the lesson, ‘We love, we are loved by others, we are Beloved (loved unconditionally) of God.’ That class was an important turning point for me. In fact, my angel put in a brief appearance during one particular meditation to rejoice with me and invite me to continue my search. I sensed at the time, even as it was happening, that I’d graduated to a deeper level of understanding.

I’m loved by Him unconditionally and, because I am (we are), I am not only able to love others without the expectation of reciprocity, but I’m able to accept what they offer as gifts from Him through them…without wanting more…or less.

Henri Nowren in The Inner Voice of Love, describes it this way:

…Only when you know yourself as unconditionally loved—that is, fully received—by God can you give gratuitously [without need]. Giving without wanting anything in return is trusting that all your needs will be provided for by the One who loves you unconditionally…

…The danger is in pouring yourself out to others in the hope that they will fully receive you…

…A lot of giving and receiving has a violent quality, because the givers and receivers act more out of need than out of trust. What looks like generosity is actually manipulation, and what looks like love is really a cry for affection or support.

Well, this morning, in passing this book on to a young friend of mine (with whom I have always felt a sense of déjà vu, as her life challenges seem so familiar), I finally realized I’ve received the answer to my long-standing question – “where the hell did all this come from!?” Hell, indeed!

My family studied a host of books on religious thought – everything from the Bible to Buddhism, the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads, and Islam. Along the way, I ended up with a very fuzzy sense of God and no real understanding of His love.

But what I didn’t realize until this morning was the cause-and-effect connection between my lack of understanding of God’s love and the failure of my early relationships.

I not only had a very limited sense of His love for me, but I had a strong sense that I could figure it all out on my own – outside church teaching, outside community … outside … period. The road less traveled, maybe…probably because it’s so circuitous and rough and rocky. What a sad, unnecessary waste of time.

Who knew there is a more direct route?

I guess, for me, it always seemed too simple. (Editor angel: You even used to joke back then that you wouldn’t want to simplify anything you could over-complicate!) What I wanted most in my youth was to be seen as capable, adult, self-sufficient.

Sure enough, one of my big life lessons was formed: I got to learn that caring for oneself is not ‘all that,’ as my kids would say. I was ‘outside’ going it on my own all that time, while I could have simply given into God’s love – believed I was loved fully and unconditionally by Him – and skipped all the intervening pain and hardship.

It’s that simple. And that tough for some of us.