A Tale of 2 Gospels…

Just like anyone else – I did a lot of thinking and praying about the events of last week.

And I did this through the lens of my relationship with Jesus – and particularly through the lens of the story of Jesus’ Baptism – which we celebrated last weekend. I believe I am not only called – but compelled – to do this – because just like those 3 Wise Guys from the week before that – once I have encountered Jesus – once I have been touched, healed, reconciled, called, once I have come to understand my own dignity and loveliness in His Eyes and in the eyes of His Father – and once I have surrendered to the reality that I have been ransomed and redeemed by Him to someday get me to God — I cannot go back to my old life. I must continue by another way…and so Jesus and my relationship with Him is what frames (or should frame) all that I say, think and do.

And that will be a constant battle and challenge – because the forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil will spend their time throughout my life trying to convince me that this is wrong. Flowery baloney. Mindless ridiculousness. Beliefs for only simple-minded people. People who don’t know any better. People who don’t know the ways of the world.

And well…all of that makes the events of this week look kind of different.

Knowing that God has already won – makes it a lot easier to just jump in and accompany the poor. Forget the politics. Just go do it. Nothing really belongs to us – everything originally and finally belongs to God and is on loan to us – so give it away and walk with someone else.

Knowing that God has already won does not stop me from acting with justice – but it examples clearly that I must also act with mercy. So seriously. Surrender it. Let it go. Stop stirring the pot. Whatever the pot is. No payback or retribution matters in this world – only authentic reconciliation and forgiveness. Work on that. If I cannot reconcile with the other person because they refuse – after I have asked – I must at least forgive.

It doesn’t mean we do nothing. But it does mean the something we do should be intentional. And somehow, bigger than the world we live in today. Because the world we live in tomorrow and for eternity is the one I care about.

I wasn’t online a lot of last Wednesday – so I didn’t even know what had happened until after it happened. And so I didn’t watch a lot of news until I got home that night. I to be clear, I bounced between 3 stations – one on each side of the “spectrum” and one sort of in the middle (what is the middle these days anyway…) trying to get just the basic thread of what went down. So with the understanding that I was hearing aftershock comments and reports – what I did notice across the board is that I heard an awful lot of the expression “temple of democracy.”

And for someone looking through the lens of a friendship with Jesus – that should sound a little weird.

It should sound weird because regardless of faith community — temples are for gods.

It should sound weird because democracy is not a god. It’s a good thing – but not a god.

It should sound weird because democracy is of the world. It is not our final destination.

The line that stands out to me in the gospel this week – as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – is what Jesus sees as He comes out of the water:

“…he saw the heavens being torn open…”

The God of the universe tore open the heavens to get to me.

He loves His Son just as He loves me. Just as I am. Not the me that will someday have my life together. he loves me right now and today. And loved me that much before the world began.

He’s adopted me through baptism.

That makes me an actual adopted sister of Jesus.

And an adopted daughter of God.

And my favorite line in any Eucharistic prayer in the Roman Missal:

“…that we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life…”

Co. Heirs. Eternal. Life. For REAL!

#ThatIsTheCatholicBusinessYO

Let’s act like we know who we are. And Whose we are.

That’s how we look at this past week. And this week. And the week ahead.


I had a hard time writing last week. I was having trouble leaving the events of last week without a sort of snoddy “that’s not very baptism-of-the-Lord, people,” or using the baptism of the Lord to call us to rise up and do something.

Because both would have been misguided.

[Sidebar: I did love my pastor’s homily – it was very brave – and I agree with him about the significant order of Relationship – Identity – and Mission. You can check out his homily below or here.]

But I figured out what I missing…just in time for this week – and it was: the Gospel this week.

I witnessed a lot of violence this week. Personally. Locally. And on the large scale. But I felt most compelled to do something about the violence that was the very closest to me. And I wondered what would happen if we looked more closely at the violence we cause. The violence we perpetuate. The violence we assist in committing by action or by words or by silence.

And not only the obvious physical violence.

Emotional violence.

Verbal violence.

Spiritual violence.

Sexual violence.

Financial violence.

Psychological violence.

Cultural violence.

Things feel big because we look outward and not inward. We feel helpless because we notice the big stuff first. The loudest stuff. The stuff that everyone notices — while secretly hoping no one notices the little stuff. Our little stuff. The stuff in our own lives. What can I do about reordering my little corner? What do I know to be true about my RELATIONSHIP with God? What do I know to be true about my IDENTITY? And what do I know to be true about my MISSION?


Things from God are always unitive. Things from elsewhere are always divisive.

Just like the Hunger Games — we must remember who the real enemy is.

You’ll have to trust me that last week’s daily readings were full of healings – Mark is big on miracles – especially healing miracles – but that was to nod to what I need to be doing.

Healing. And accompaniment.

For myself. And others.

And the only way to do that is to come to Jesus.

And the best way for someone to get to Jesus is when someone goes with him/her.

So – I need to be walking with people to get them to Jesus – He Who brings healing.

And trusting that those who walk with me will get me to Jesus.

And that folks – is exactly what we see this week.

Eli walks with Samuel.

Paul teaches us to walk with each other. And encourages me that everything I do with my body speaks about who I am, Whose I am, and who Jesus is in my life.

John the Baptist walks with his disciples and hands them off (BEHOLD!) to Jesus at just the right time.

Andrew walks Peter to Jesus.

It’s no surprise these readings are often used to speak about vocations to priesthood or religious life – but let’s not forget that each of us has a particular and identical vocation to holiness and mission. And this weekend – 1 month before Lent — is a self-check:

How am I doing on growing in holiness?

What do I spend my time, energy, effort, and resources on?

What am I watching?

What am I reading?

What am I scrolling?

How am I doing on mission?

How many people have I walked to Jesus?

And important to remember: in order to accompany someone to the Lord – I first must really know Him myself.

That’s the lens I will be looking through this week.

Let’s pray for authentic accompaniment.

And with great confidence — know that Jesus is here.

Let’s pray hard this week, y’all. You know what for. And if you don’t. Ask Holy Spirit to show you.

Also — fasten your seat belts for next weekend’s readings — and it’s the first “Sunday of the Word of God.”

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come…along with #Those3WiseGuys

The Magi — those 3 Wise Guys — are some of my favorite guys. And today we celebrate the (transferred) Solemnity of the Epiphany. Calendar-wise the Epiphany falls on January 6th, the day after the 12th Day of Christmas. In the United States, when January 6th is not a Sunday, we move it liturgically to the closest Sunday – which is usually the 2nd Sunday in the Christmas season.

Lots of places and countries and faith communities all over the world however, continue to celebrate Epiphany on January 6th – right where it lands – with national holidays, days off work, festivals, gift-giving, and church services. For many of these people and countries – they identify correctly the arrival of the Three Wise Guys – as the high point of the Christmas season – when someone discovers that Jesus is actually the Gift for the Whole World. You know. Our world. The weary world. The one in sin and error pining. It is Him…it is Jesus for Whom we long.

The word epiphany is such a cool word – it just SOUNDS like something sparkly and significant. I LOVE it! But I especially love what this moment – or more specifically: this series of moments — means for the world in this case.

We actually celebrate 3 epiphanies amidst this often-passed-by day in Christmastide – 1 major epiphany and 2 minor epiphanies – WHO KNEW?! Here are some fun things to consider:

Minor Epiphany #1:

This precedes the arrival of the Magi – it’s how they actually happen to set out. There are lots of ways to “do the math” on this – and there’s lots we don’t know for sure – but following the clues in Matthew’s gospel along with a little about what we know about the historical time of Jesus’s birth – and actually more from what we know about the reign of Herod, we can ascertain the following:

  • The star happened at/around the actual birth of Jesus. Not much beforehand.

[for more on this see The Star of Bethlehem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exmbuX1NffU for more actual astronomy wisdom – it’s 5-6 years old and about 70 minutes long and admittedly does not carry great audience-grabbing personality – but a fascinating explanation using computer-generated historical star-charts to see what those Wise Guys would have seen in the sky and what that would have meant at the time. Starts out slow but REALLY COOL!]

  • “from the East” could have meant any number of places. Probably the Magi were from the Persian Empire – which again – leaves a broad spectrum regarding how far away they came from. The Persian Empire at the time of Herod and Jesus would have included what is today:

Iran (about 1000 miles away), 

Egypt (about 300 miles away),

Turkey (about 600 miles away),

and parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan (about 2000 miles away).

And they walked. Or traveled by camel or some other beast. And if they generously could make it about 10 miles/day – the very least it could have taken them would have been 30 days and the longest distance would have taken 9 months to a year. And let’s think about how they would have traveled: packing for a 30-day trip or a 200-day trip would take some planning. So add on some more time there.

  • We have no idea how many Magi there actually were. There could have been 1. There could have been 30. And they likely traveled in a caravan, with servants and gamekeepers, and literally everyone else and their cousin. What we do know, however, from scripture, is that there were 3 gifts. That’s why there are traditionally 3 Wise Men. Crazy, right?! And watch for more – those 3 Gifts are a #WholeOtherThingYO!
  • Why are they wise? Wise refers to learned or educated – but also the Greek – used by only Matthew – Magi – suggests a class of “priest” similar to what the Jews would have called the tribe of the Levites – the priests of the people. Some think the Magi were like magicians (think Jafar from Aladdin), but more likely they were trusted advisors to the actual kings of their Eastern lands. Which is also why they are sometimes called the 3 Kings. They would have spoken for their royal masters. And most significantly – their advisory role did not employ magic as we know it – but was done by studying science. Specifically weather, astronomy, astrology, and the environment. And in the time of Jesus – you were either a Jew and believed in one God – or you were a Gentile and believed in many gods. The Magi would have been even a group of people outside of this. They believed in science. Facts. That which they could see.

And the minor Epiphany in all that — is that they saw whatever they saw in the sky, read it to mean the rising of a new King, and went to seek out and acknowledge this thing they thought was significant. At great time and expense. Their faith – even though they would not have classified it as faith — drove them to move. Not to wait. To go and seek out the light. #BOOM.

AND given the timing – regardless of how you do your historical or scriptural math – the Magi would have likely arrived somewhere between 6 months and 24 months after Jesus was born. Can you imagine? Traveling all that way, encountering Herod, who doesn’t seem to have any idea what’s going on in his own country, and then bringing all your peeps and your stuff and your camel and your gifts and finding A 2-YEAR OLD??? I don’t know how many toddlers you know – but the ones I know are very loud, very sticky, and regularly throw important things in the toilet.

Now – I’m not trying to say anything about Jesus particularly – but as He is fully human as well as divine – I cannot imagine He was anything less than a regular 2-year-old.

And these 3 Wise Guys still stopped at the house (Yes. House. Not stable. Not cave.), dropped to their knees and rolled out their gifts and worshipped this child of the poor. Something learned and educated men would NEVER have done. Their ability to encounter Jesus and recognize Him is The Thing! More on this later when we get to the major Epiphany.

Minor Epiphany #2:

Refers to the faith and trust in God by Joseph. With no spoken words – we love this about Joseph – he simply does his job and listens for God. And then he does the thing. Just as he trusted his dream where God told him not to be fearful about taking Mary into his home, Joseph also heeds the warning in a dream to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to hide from Herod.

This is also where we get a clue about timing. Herod calls for the death of all baby boys aged 2 and under. We know a significant amount of time has gone by between Jesus’ birth, the appearance of the star, the Magi arriving to Herod, the Magi arriving to Jesus, and the Magi not returning to Herod. That’s why the terrible decree.

Incidentally – the slaughter of all those children has both Old and New Testament references – but those babies and children are the ones we both mourn and celebrate in the Feast of the Holy Innocents – on 28 December every year. These are some of the first martyrs of the New Testament.

The Major Epiphany:

The major Epiphany we celebrate today is *not* actually the 3 Wise Guys arriving. It’s what happens when they leave. It’s in the very last line of the gospel today (Matthew 2: 1-12). It’s that the Magi – after being warned in a dream not to return to Herod – departed for their country by another way.

How extraordinary! This changes the trajectory of the whole story!

The kerygma – the Great Story of Jesus – is directly impacted by humans – and humans who Don’t. Believe. In. God.  But they came anyway. And what is more – these are the folks who were among the very first to encounter the Lord! These are who God reveals Himself to first! Not Scribes. Not Pharisees. Not the most holy or the most royal.

I ought to pay very close attention to this – because this is where I find that God does not come for me. He comes for everyone. And He starts with the Not Me.

He comes for them. Whoever the “them” is in my life.

The “them” I do not like.

The “them” I do not agree with.

The “them” I do not understand.

The “them” who are unkind to me or to others.

Whenever I think  Jesus is just here for me, “and not them,” I better think again. And I better think about who am I the “them” for?

It’s important to consider the Magi also believed in signs. And wonders. Just like us. And they have – without even knowing what or Who they are seeking – at great personal risk, expense, and energy – gone in search of More – which, incidentally – the Latin for Magis means More.

The “More” we are seeking – whether we can name Him or not – is Jesus.

And what truth this tells us about the life of a disciple!

Both Venerable Fulton Sheen and Bishop Barron both tell us in their own way that: once I have encountered the person of Jesus – I cannot go back the way I came – I have to go by another way.

My life is different once I have encountered Jesus. I can’t go back to my old life. Whatever I do from the moment I encounter Jesus Himself – I must now go wherever I am going – by another way.  And I must take others with me.

A pastor I worked for some years ago was leaving on sabbatical literally right after the last Epiphany liturgy. He probably figured he wouldn’t have to deal with any liturgical grumbling aftermath (correct) – and so he cleverly rearranged all the figures of the nativity scene facing away from Jesus. Even the camel. His homily began with, “WHAT VANDALS DID THIS to the nativity scene?!” And everybody got uncomfortable and nervous as they strained to see what had happened. And that was his homily: once you have encountered Jesus you just plain cannot go back the way you came.

And finally the Star. Clearly a sign of light. And a sign of Jesus. But also a sign of our mission: to go and make disciples. God started with nations outside of Israel…right here with these Wise Guys. They saw the light and followed immediately. Once they realized Who Jesus is – their lives were changed.

The Wise Men arrived as seekers and left as something new. Something more. Something different.

Our epiphany today is that each of us is called to encounter Jesus. To greater holiness. To Mission. To intentional discipleship. To make disciples. Seriously. Each of us is called to carry the gift of the Great Story of Jesus and what He has done in our life to someone else — regardless of whether we are young– or young-at-heart.

Who is the Star who leads me to Jesus?

Who has shed light on my journey of faith?

Have I thanked that person?

Who am I the Star for?

Who in my life am I helping to shed light for in seeking Jesus?

Where am I leading others?

For another time…the gifts, the names [Caspar, Melchior, and Balthaszar], house blessings, and other #WiseGuyShenanigans!

20 + C + M + B + 21

Make sure you got the long version! The long version is always better!!!

Stained glass window art from Holy Spirit Parish in Stevens Point, WI

From http://www.catholicmom.com on 2 February 2020 — earlier this year…when the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord fell on a Sunday…2 February is always the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord — but it shares the readings from this past Sunday’s Feast of the Holy Family 🙂

Today’s Gospel: Luke 2:22-40 

This year, since the Feast of the Presentation falls on a Sunday, everyone gets to hear the story of the day Mary and Joseph officially give their son to the church and to the world. And nobody knows except them, and God, and two other people.

Mary and Joseph effectively use their faith and obedience to God in the Old Law to escort the New Law — in the person of Jesus — into the world. We also know from this story that Jesus was born into poverty by the 2 turtle doves purchased and offered. This was the smallest, least expensive option for sacrifice available in the temple laws.

And from this story we meet Simeon and Anna the prophetess and we get Simeon’s Canticle. Now, O God, let Your servant go. And Mary and Joseph get some #StraightTalk about what this parenthood journey will cost them.

Simeon is maybe my favorite supporting character in all of scripture. He has only one scene, this one. But his role has been long-term. He has patiently waited in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He has trusted in God. He has listened and been obedient. And while he waited he remained faithful, centered, focused, present, and nothing distracts him. He shows up everyday. He is singular in his longing. He reminds me of God Himself.

A dear friend and mentor once posed a question to me in a time of difficult discernment: What if God, like Simeon, is patiently waiting for me to present myself, to give myself really and fully to Him?

Ponder:

If I’m standing just outside those temple doors, what am I waiting for? If I’m not standing close to those temple doors, where am I in my journey?

Pray:

God, I desire to present all that I am to You. I know You are waiting for me. Help me to be holy and bold and brave and authentic in all I do today.

2 Advent: The Gospel According to Kevin

Advent is my favorite season.

I think it’s because it’s a gentler, warmer kind of penitential…you know…a cleaning of the heart.

A recalculating of our direction. Time to take a good look at our physical and spiritual nests, as it were. Like Mary would have been doing to welcome Jesus.

I am a terrible housekeeper. Both kinds of housekeeper.

So I think Advent really resonates with a gentler, maternal side of me that doesn’t often come out. Or get much practice.

So in light of actual housekeeping — I bought a Roomba some time ago.

I loved it!

And everything was going fine.

I even named it Kevin, after my partner in ministry, so that I could casually mention around the office that “Kevin is cleaning my apartment.” SUPER FUN. And you can control it from your phone – so Roomba Kevin will tell me when he is finished cleaning my apartment. And then I announce it to Actual Kevin.

And everything was going fine.

And then one day, I received this text message:

And I thought to myself, “well gosh Kevin, get your life together.”

It’s possible I said that out loud. In the office. And Actual Kevin did not appreciate my candor.

And then awhile later, I got this text message:

When I got home that night – Kevin was just sitting in the middle of the floor. Turns out dark colors on the ground sometimes look like stairs/cliffs to a Roomba. So it thinks it’s about to fall. I have some black patches in the design of my living room carpet. Mystery solved. Roomba Kevin had run out of battery while waiting for me to come home – so I placed him on his charger and moved on with life.

And everything was going fine.

Until a few weeks later — I got 2 more messages like those – and didn’t think much of it. Except this time when I got home. NO KEVIN.

LIKE NOWHERE.

LIKE I LOOKED UNDER ALL THE THINGS.

KEVIN HAD LEFT THE APARTMENT.

Weird. It’s not a big apartment. And I actually did look outside both doors. I whispered, “Kevin?” Not sure why I did that. I was perplexed – but how do I admit to someone my Roomba had run away from home? No note, no text, no phone call. Also – wherever Kevin was – he was probably out of battery life. I figured Kevin would eventually pop up somewhere – so I posted my First World Predicament on Facebook and moved on.

So days later and after a record number of helpful comments (and also some not helpful albeit appropriate and clever mockery), I took another look for Roomba Kevin and found him under a dresser that had all kinds of things in front of it – thus I didn’t see him the first time – but also there were so many things piled up in that space that it would never have occurred to me that Kevin could have gotten himself in that spot in the first place…which is why I wasn’t looking where he was.

But I was overjoyed! Kevin had been found! I moved all the things, crawled under all the things, rescued Kevin, cleaned out his brushes and his dirt contraption thingy and put him back on his charger to rest and refresh. Kevin had come home.

And it occurred to me – this is how the father in the Prodigal Son story felt.

This is why he was killing the fattened calf and throwing parties.

And I was pretty pleased with myself for making this astute spiritual connection.

Except then I started thinking some more.

And I realized…I am not the father…I am the Roomba.

Sometimes I wander around picking up random stuff…stuff of the world…

…or I can only see and handle what’s right in front of me…

…and sometimes I see things in a twisted way – like the carpet…

…and sometimes I fall off the cliff…

…and sometimes I get pushed off the cliff…

…and sometimes I jump off the cliff myself…

…or I get stuck somewhere…

…and I don’t ask for help because my batteries run out…

Sometimes I even work pretty hard to get myself into places of darkness and sin where no one will find me. That place where my Roomba was — had probably never been cleaned – it was one of the dustiest, dirtiest spots in my apartment – because there was So. Much. Stuff. In the way. Why am I attracted to those places? Why are any of us?

The astounding difference between me leaving Kevin there and the father in the Prodigal Son story is that I blew things off and went days without looking. The father in the story and God our Father – is always the first to notice that I am missing and is always continuing to look for me. In fact, God probably knows exactly where I am – and He does not even ask that I come to Him. He comes to me. He wants to meet me exactly there – in the deepest, darkest, most terrible place in myself. The place that is scarred by sin. And He desires to love me right there amidst my sin. He desires me to believe that He loves me right there. 

And that is hard to believe. But it’s true.

And there’s more. There is always more with God. Way more. He doesn’t leave me there. He desires to restore me, to heal me, to reconcile me to Himself. He does this through the person of Jesus – and His life, death, resurrection and ascension. THIS is the REALLY GOOD NEWS.

But I have to say yes. I have to accept His love. God is a Gentleman. He will never force or coerce me to love Him. Because He knows that isn’t true love. And I desire true love. I have to choose to surrender that brokenness, surrender that dirt, and weak battery, and everything that comes along with it and let God heal me and fill that emptiness with His actual divine life and gifts. And I need to accept that I am able to have a friendship with God through my friendship with Jesus. And that’s the REALLY REALLY GOOD NEWS.

This is Week 2 of Advent – the Old Testament meets the New Testament Sunday when John the Baptist becomes the voice prophesied by Isaiah “the voice of one who cries out in the desert, make straight a way for the Lord.” and I will probably never not think of my Roomba – me — crying out like John the Baptist in the desert – this is a call to me – to learn to ask for help. To learn to be a more attentive housekeeper. In my own house as well as my spiritual house. I’m going to challenge myself to make a resolution, get to confession, unclutter my heart and my little corner of the world so that I don’t get full of dirt and junk, lost, stuck, and so that God can get to me more easily.

Sometimes I need attention. Sometimes I am stuck. Near a cliff.

It’s fun to think maybe God has little notifications for all of us. But the truth is — and my heart created in the image and likeness of God already knows: He doesn’t need them.

Sidebar: this late post falls on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary…the day of my favorite line in all of Liturgy: #PrevenientGrace

More on that later. Listen for it in the Prayer Over the Gifts at Mass today if you can.

1 Advent: Happy New Year! We are the work of your hands…and the Tree Guys.

Last week my workplace had to take out 2 old and mostly dead trees due to some storm damage that left them pretty rickety and kind of teetering towards where people walk on our campus.

I know. Not very Laudato Si. Sorry Pope Francis.

But actually very Advent.

I bet you think I’m going to talk about pruning our lives and preparing the home of our hearts and getting rid of things that we don’t need, or are possibly dangerous to us or others – to make room for Jesus – in His Coming at Christmas – or His Second Coming?

Yeah…nope. Though theologically and spiritually correct – and all good ideas — that’s kind of an Advent Gimme I think. 5th grader answers. We can do better. We are never done getting to know God – and for that – we must become friends with the person of Jesus. And that – peeps – means relationships. And risk. And reach. And as the Gospel this weekend tells us – being watchful and alert.

So I’m not going to talk about the trees that had to come down – I’m going to talk about The Guys Who Came To Take The Trees Down.

I sat in my car in the parking lot and watched these Guys for about the last hour they were here (and yes, dear staff members, I worked lots of extra hours this week…so I wasn’t just ding-donging around in my car…), and this was the most amazing display of not just teamwork – but really interdependence – which looks a lot like authentic accompaniment and discipleship – that I’ve maybe ever seen.

So there were 4 Guys. I’m going to call them Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And while they each did a separate job – I watched them work very hard and watch each other at the same time — and anticipate the next need someone would have and met it – without being asked. They just jumped in – never trampling the dignity of another Guy’s work – but helping that task/part of the work bear fruit and teach the next thing. Like a well-oiled machine. It was really extraordinary!

Guy #1 – Matthew – was clearly the leader or most senior of the Guys – but I didn’t figure that out because he was Mr. McBossypants – it was because of how he treated all the other Guys. And how all the other Guys responded to him. He was the Chainsaw Guy – up in the air and climbing around taking the trees down and then cutting them into smaller pieces. He was like an artist, observing his work and carefully walking around to cut from the best angle. He could have been an ice sculptor. He never stopped – he did his task and then put his chainsaw down and started moving trucks and chippers and whatever else closer to where they needed to be for everyone else. And then as everyone else was doing their tasks – he picked up his chainsaw again and ground down the stumps – working on the opposite tree from everyone else. When the others came and asked questions, he stopped what he was doing, answered them, or showed them, and then got right back to work. Modeling good work ethic – and those Guys all followed his quiet lead. Also of interest — Matthew was the smallest in stature of all 4 Guys. And he didn’t really say very much at all. Sometimes the leader isn’t the biggest or the loudest.

Guy #2 – Mark – & Guy #3 – Luke – were the heavy lifters. They helped with some of the big tree pieces coming down, and then they together started loading one of the trucks with big chunks of tree cut into manageable – but still very large pieces – by Guy #1/Matthew. They also never stopped moving. Mark got the main truck as close as possible, Luke climbed up on top and took the back truck bed door off to make things easier to lift in, and also disconnected some bars (no idea what there were) from the top of the pickup truck that were going to be too low to be able to pile/stack all the wood in. By this time there was a good sized pile of wood that had been cut up by Matthew and together they lifted them into the truck, and Luke jumped back in to stack the wood I the truck bed and make more room while Mark moved the truck closer to the growing pile of pieces. All the while both of them were paying attention to Matthew, who had moved on to the next tree and was cutting pieces not just landing anywhere – but in a pile so trucks and backs would have an easier time of continuing to remove them.

Guy #4 – John – was the cleanup Guy. He ran around with a leaf blower and moved all the debris out of the way of the other 3 Guys – all the branches, leaves, and sawdust (wooddust?) and was able to very skillfully aim it all to big piles. He had a lot of multitasking to do – he had to watch all the other Guys so he didn’t blow stuff in their direction, and also to make room for new piles as they worked around him. Guy #4/John also was paying close attention to Guy #1/Matthew as his chainsaw ran low on gasoline – he ran up right alongside him with a small can and filled up the reservoir. Later, Guy #2/Mark did the same thing for Guy #4/John as his leaf blower thingy got low on fuel. They all just moved in tandem, getting the many little jobs that comprised the big job – done – and done well!

And then the end was the best – if you’ve ever worked in a group or on a team before – you know sometimes the end is the tell-all about how things have gone. Sometimes things slow down, cell phones come out, people try not to make eye contact with others so they don’t have to clean up or take down/whatever. A lot of standing around and the like…

Not true here, peeps.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John closed up as strong as they started. The following things all happened quickly and at the same time:

Matthew put down his chainsaw and started taking pictures of the work. The he seemed to be showing John how to chainsaw the rest of the wood in sections on the ground so it would fall in the right direction. This happened earlier as well as things were coming down – John looked to be at some level of apprenticeship…and was being accompanied by Matthew.

Mark moved 2 trucks back to the lot and carefully put the bars and doors back on under the direction of Luke – who had taken them off – he very plainly was showing Mark what he had done so he could now put everything back.

Once Luke had shown Mark what to do to put things back together – he followed John around with a tarp – which he opened up on the ground to collect the piles of all the branches, twigs, and woodchips/dust. He dragged tarpfulls of stuff to the second truck – the one with the woodchipper and got rid of it, and as he dragged load after load away, John would move on to the next pile to get it ready for Luke to return.

They cleaned up even the parking lot.

They cleaned up even the areas of the campus they hadn’t been in.

And then – this was my favorite – John – with his leaf blower thingy – blew all the guys clean before they each got in a truck – and then Mark took the leaf blower thingy and blew off John.

John put the leaf blower thingy away, Mark picked up the orange cones, Luke checked all our directional signs in the area, and Matthew took one more look around, took a few more pictures, checked in with our staff member, arranged to come back for the last few pieces they couldn’t fit in the trucks, and then they all left.

Maybe I didn’t do this feat justice in writing – but I definitely found myself a little envious of their ability to work as a team – it really was extraordinary! It was sort of like the antithesis of all those vineyard workers from a few months ago. And these Guys were living out what I’d imagine the top shelf version of what Jesus hopes to find when he returns. And if that’s true — I think I definitely have some work to do. At work and in my family. In my own ability to be interdependent as well as to help accompany and encourage others to do the same.

Authentic discipleship means relationship. And I cannot have a relationship with Jesus without also being willing to be in authentic relationship with others. Even those I do not know. Even those I do not like. Even those I do not understand. Conversion always precedes anything else discipleship-related. Where do I need to be converted this season? What part of my life needs a change of heart? A tree taken out? Where must I be open and welcoming to a coworker in the vineyard who is awake and alert to what I can be accompanied through? And do I have enough humility to accept authentic accompaniment from someone else? And who might I be being asked to accompany?

Because really the Following Jesus Thing is to watch for needs. And when I see needs — I should meet them — without question or expectation of return. And sometimes I will run out of things by which to meet needs of others — and then I have to let others see and meet my needs. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. That’s really the life of a disciple of Jesus. We do what He did. Living humility and mercy.

This year the expression “woke” or “living awake” has been a staple catchphrase of some of my favorite millennials – but Jesus is really the originator of the term…right here in this gospel on the First Week of Advent. And so I am challenged:

How can I be more awake – more alert – to anticipating the needs of my family this season?

How can I be more awake – more alert – to anticipating the needs of my coworkers this season?

How can I be more awake – more alert – to anticipating the needs of the poor this season?

How can I be more awake – more alert – to anticipating the needs of my parish this season?

How can I be more awake – more alert – to anticipating my need for a relationship with Jesus this season? How is my prayer life? My giving? My other relationships?

All of these are teams I’m on. But how good of a teammate am I really?

I’m thankful for these 4 Guys – the Tree Guys – for teaching the gospel this week.

And maybe for Epiphany…#TheseTreeGuys hahahaha #SeeWhatIDidThere #YeahOkIllSeeMyselfOut

Maranatha – Come, Lord Jesus.

Liturgical New Year’s Eve Resolutions And Who’s Really In Charge

Reflection on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King:

22 November 2020

Matthew 25: 31-46

Not gonna lie — feeling pretty lucky to be Catholic — as we celebrate the new year beginning with Advent — which means *liturgically* we get to get out of 2020 over a month before everyone else.

I’ll take it.

***************************************************************

The sheep and the goats.

This is always a hard gut-check for me.

Which is why this gospel reading – a favorite of Pope Francis’ – comes at the end of the liturgical year: The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

A bulky title for a feast, but necessary for sure this year I think.

2020 has definitely been a year when I have had to be reminded on many occasions to take a step back, breathe, and remind myself or allow myself the humility to be reminded by others about Who Is Really In Charge.

And that’s Jesus.

And not in a cutesy, teddy bears and rainbows, childish way.

In a bold, counter-cultural, obstinate, childLIKE way.

And today he tells it like it is.

I will be judged by how I have treated the poor.

Period.

Now – can we argue about who is “the poor?” Sure. Can we debate who is the poorest? The most oppressed? The most marginalized? The most misunderstood, undervalued, under-resourced? What about the “poor in spirit?” Sure – we can talk about that all day long.

But I think Jesus was talking about the Actual. Material. Poor.

And if I’m right – and if the outcome at the final judgement is about how I have treated the poor – then I’m going to need sunscreen and ice chips where I’m headed.

I desire to be a sheep. Not a goat.

If I consider the last few weeks’ worth of gospels and am truthful about where I really am regarding the stewardship of my life – it’s more than obvious Jesus is calling me to greater and more intimate love for the poor. The actual poor. Because the poor bring me to everything else about myself. And everything about Jesus. And Jesus gets me to God.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to look at them – with radical mercy and love – the way God looks at me.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to see the person of Jesus in their need, and realize my own need for radical mercy.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to act – directly – not just writing a check or handing off change or gathering canned food that I no longer need or want and dropping it off somewhere (although we definitely need people to do those things…well…not the unwanted or expired canned food – come on people…) – but truly encountering the person of Jesus in those who experience material poverty. Doing the work to research what my own parish (or another agency) is doing or not doing – praise God my parish is in direct service — and then not only supporting them – but also intentionally finding time in my schedule for direct service – meaning encounter – in person – and the work of relationship.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to deeper relationship with those I do not know or understand. To ask more questions than talk – to get to know a person’s story. We each have a story.

The Best of Who I Am is my dignity as a beloved child of God. And guess what – if that’s true of me — that’s true of everyone. An exchange of persons, of dignity, of story, of relationship – is what brings even more dignity to a person – and relationship is what brings us to Jesus. And Jesus brings us to God.

People experiencing hunger, homelessness, or other types of poverty challenge me to be better all around with relationships. If I can be in an authentic, intimate, and intentional relationship with a person – it’s much harder to judge him/her. And if I am not busy judging someone – I am more likely to see that person as God sees them – just as God sees Jesus – as a Beloved Child Who Saves The World. And if that’s how God sees Jesus – and I am an adopted child of God – then that’s…*shudder*…how God looks at me. And at everyone. And that radically changes my lens through which I encounter the whole world and every person in it.

It gives me more than just an opportunity to proclaim the kerygma – the Great Story of Jesus – to another by the depth of my relationship grown with someone over time – more likely it gives another person a chance to call ME to the kerygma – and to further surrender myself to the person of Jesus – as I encounter Him in the poorest of the poor. The sickest. The most lonely. The most marginalized.

So this year, the end of the liturgical year, as I consider how I’m going to #AnticipateAdvent and how I might begin this new liturgical year with solid resolutions that speak mercy, justice, sacrifice, and doing my part to change the culture of the world in my little corner – I’m feeling very called to intentionally take a very hard and close look at and act on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Which I LOVE. But which are HARD.

I desire to be a sheep. Not a goat.

More on this in another blog entry. But here are those Works of Mercy – give it some thought and prayer:

I’ll leave you with some words from some very wise and very counter-cultural Catholic Peeps:

The late Cardinal Francis George famously gave an address to the major contributors to the Archdiocese of Chicago and told them, “…the poor need you to draw them out of poverty, and you need the poor to keep you out of Hell.”

BOOM.

Servant of God Dorothy Day said “the gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.”

YIKES.

She also said “to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the harborless without also trying to change the social order so that people can feed, clothe, and shelter themselves is just to apply palliatives. It is to show a lack of faith in one’s fellows, their responsibilities as children of God, heirs of heaven.”

More YIKES.

And she also said, “Everything a baptized person does every day should be directly or indirectly related to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.”

Super YIKES.

I will be judged by how I have treated the poor.

So folks, I’m all in. I have to be – if Jesus is King of the Universe – and He is – then we’re all in.

I’d like to spend eternity in the non-sunscreen-and-ice-chips-section, please.

I desire to be a sheep. Not a goat.

From One Neighbor to Another

So…Good Samaritan – one of my favorites for lots of reasons – but also one I think I get lazy with sometimes. A holy and wise priest once talked about the many pieces of historical context we miss sometimes – and it was in preparation for the 2015 Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

He talked about the crowd of important religious figures and regular people who might have heard Jesus’ story – but also about the people in the story — and I still think a lot about what #FrEricA said 🙂

That man who was robbed also had some significant personal work to do.

He was half-dead – but in the astute observation of Miracle Max from the Princess Bride:

Inigo Montoya : He’s dead. He can’t talk.

Miracle Max : Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.

Inigo Montoya : What’s that? 

Miracle Max : Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

TPBGif

Sidebar…the pieces of ourselves that spend a lifetime being mostly dead but slightly alive is a whole other Christological and sacramental blog entry (a.k.a. the Theology of Billy Crystal, Theology of the Princess Bride…) for another time…

Squirrel

Slightly alive might suggest the man was slightly conscious. He might have known what was happening to him…or maybe not…but here’s the deal. Even if he had no idea what was happening to him while it was happening – he would have woken up and figured out/been told what happened to him and would have had to live with this reality:

Samaritans were outcasts.

An entire people who were subjects of terrible marginalization, racism, lies, and half-truths:

Dirty blood.

Said to have mated with animals.

Said to be people who tempted others away from the own faith communities.

Said to be out of favor with the God of the Israelites and tossed out of the tribes and left to be nomadic travelers with no land of their own – a sign of belonging to no one. Became polytheistic over time. #NaughtyBad

The people of the magical world of Harry Potter would have called Samaritans “mudbloods.”

Thus — absolutely people outside the chosen people of the Jewish community.

And since they were outside the 12 tribes, outside the covenant, and outside the Mosaic law and that of Leviticus – to encounter a Samaritan risked your own ritual cleanliness and reputation for a variety of reasons.

Even Jesus himself would have been raised with some of this cultural hatred and injustice – n.b. – not with intentionality on the part(s) of Mary/Joseph, and certainly not that he participated – but I imagine his consistent choice of Samaritans as the heroes of the stories and even in his own encounters with the Woman at the Well (and also the Syrophoenician woman and the table and the crumbs and the dogs) was an intentional effort to challenge and/or redirect the efforts and impact of such poor and incomplete understandings.

We hear all the time that the Good Samaritan is the guy we’re supposed to be like – and that’s true enough…but what about the guy who fell victim to robbers?

It’s easy to help people who we’re “supposed” to help. And perhaps it’s not so difficult for them to accept help if they know they need it. But what about the people I’ve been tricked into believing are different – less than – or even wholly (or holy) invisible to me? The people who are not kind to me? The people who make my life hard? The people who don’t see (or care) who I really am? The people who I think make wrong or careless decisions. The people who I really believe cannot see the big picture? What about those guys? The people who would never EVER accept help from anyone?

Is it easy to help them? NO.

That’s the point of the story – to broaden my perception of neighbor.

OR IS IT?

What about what it must be like for those people to accept help from me?

But WAIT! I am a TREAT! Who wouldn’t want MY help?

WRONG COLLEEN.

Each of us is someone’s nightmare. For all the wrong reasons. But still a fact.

There is probably at least 1 person who would shrink backwards in cringey-anxiety at my help.

Actually…probably way more than 1. Or 2. Or 10.

And now…what if I am that person?

We can presume the man who was robbed was a practicing Jew – based on Jesus’ context.

We know how badly he was hurt – because the priest and the Levite did not even bother to get close enough to him for a good look. They assumed he was dead from a distance. Touching a dead body renders one ritually unclean – so they would not have been able to enter the temple to do their presumed work/sacrifice/offering on behalf of their community if they touched him — so they passed him by.

Interesting…they passed by the real work in favor of the work they “were called” to do. I have a hard time not being just a little judgey about this. But also I think it says something important about how well we really pay attention to people in the world we share. How well do I really #encuentro? How am I really doing at authentically knowing and honoring the dignity of a person?

At any rate…

The guy knew the rules.

The priest knew the rules.

The Levite knew the rules.

The Samaritan knew the rules.

Even the innkeeper knew the rules. We don’t know who he was – but taking money that belonged to a Samaritan for an unknown man in need of serious medical attention and being asked to additionally keep an eye on him and further physically care for him (now unclean because of his interaction with the Samaritan) on the word of a cultural and religious outcast on promise of return would probably not have been an everyday occurrence. #JustSayin’.

Anyway…

The man would have had to be humble enough – or just plain beaten to a pulp enough — to allow himself to be touched. To be helped. And to take on the serious consequences of such an encounter.

The man was now considered to be unclean.

Could not be helped by his family.

Could not be helped by a religious leader.

Could not enter the temple.

Could not share food, utensils, shelter, medicine, medical care, prayer, or any other interaction among Jews without ritual cleansing and a truckload of other spiritual hoops to jump. While sick. And broken. I don’t know about you – but when I’m sick – I can’t even drag myself to the store for juice or medicine. But those options would be off the table here. I couldn’t be in a public place — by the very nature of my uncleanliness. Can you imagine?

I am challenged this time reading the parable of the Good Samaritan — to consider the very last person I would ever want to touch me – much less help me. Care for me. Be moved with compassion at the sight of me at my most weak moment. Lift me (and I am a pretty fluffy person) onto an animal. Comfort me. Stay with me. Spend money on me. Come back and check on me. My worst enemy. The person who clearly thinks I am a waste of time, space, and skin. It makes my stomach turn right now just thinking about how many people are on that list. That’s not okay. Time to start working on this.

Who is it who would cause my heart to sink inside if they saw me at my smallest, weakest, most humiliating moment? Who is my nightmare? This is likely how the man felt at seeing the Samaritan coming at him to help. I can totally imagine myself thinking: “Die…or take the help?”

I’ve been there.

This encounter – on both sides – is the actual encounter of authentic mercy.

This is what God means when He gives me Jesus.

This is what Jesus means when He gives me — and everyone on or off that list I keep running in my head — His life in ransom for mine.

I had the opportunity to attend Mass this weekend in a new place — and in a place where I am not on staff. I was taken aback with how much the little liturgical idiosyncrasies that usually make me nuts (because I care deeply about good liturgy that flows from the person of God — into and out of the people of a particular place) didn’t bother me at all — and I sat wondering about the story of the place, the celebrant, the ministers, etc.. And it reminded me of how really mean and judgmental I can really be. And in a solid — healthy-self-reflection sort of way: that I am certainly a trial for many people. An acquired taste, if you will. But how tolerant am I of that element in others?

Whose nightmare am I? What must that person or people struggle to accept my help? What can I do to make it easier?

And who do I need to humble myself to be able to allow to encounter me in weakness? Who must I allow to really help me?

Happy Memorial of St. Bonaventure #SeraphicDoctorYO

Mr. Rogers, Fr. Stanley, Uncle Ted

I am supposed to be writing about the Mr. Rogers movie.
But I can’t.

It’s always good to be Catholic. But sometimes it’s really hard. My heart is heavy this morning for the big picture. I have friends amidst the Carr fire in Redding, CA. I am heartbroken for the scandal of Theodore McCarrick and others. This is one of my favorite times of year for keester-kicking saints, including today’s saint — a first-timer! And we have great poignant readings today that speak to this. Yet I have no idea how to pray about this.

I’m afraid there are lots of things intersecting for me today.

And so I find it interesting and poignant that on the first feast day of Blessed Stanley Rother, the priest who faced martyrdom because “the shepherd cannot run from the sheep at the first sign of danger,” is the day our Pope Francis accepts the resignation of (I don’t even really know what we call him now) Theodore McCarrick. Another big report is going to be released on Tuesday out of Philadelphia that will be just as damaging. There are voices of victims crying out in the wilderness longing for shepherds — or anyone — to prepare and make straight the ways of the Lord.

Sometimes the shepherd needs to get booted. But how do we tell? And what now? How do I cry the gospel with joy amidst this terrible reality. And yet I know it is the voice of God who tells me there is still important work to be done — even amidst the ravaging, consuming fire of evil and sin in our world.

I am supposed to be writing about the Mr. Rogers movie.

And perhaps he has the answer.

Everyone has seen the meme/story about Mr. Rogers’ mother telling him he need not focus on what frightened or upset him; he needed to “look for the helpers.”

And so today, I am trying to remember
…that God is never the cause of suffering…
…that He never allows suffering that He does not also intend to comfort or heal…
…that our God is wild! And always creating! And always doing the mighty work of restoring, redeeming, unifying, and reconciling all things to Himself. He can open doors no one can open and shut doors that no one can shut…
…that He has proven again and again that he can make the most amazing good come out of the most gut-wrenching bad…

It’s not a game. But God will not interrupt our free will. Otherwise we cannot freely love Him.

And so today, with the help of Mr. Rogers and his mom — I am thinking and praying about the helpers.

I’m thinking some too about Mary’s mom — St. Anne — whose feast day we celebrated earlier this week. She and her husband/St. Joachim must have had to really dig deep and rustle up faith amidst their fears — even in their own lives as God’s great love for the world poured out over more than one potentially wild scandal in their family.

Like the Mr. Rogers movie — I wonder if St. Anne encouraged her husband amidst confusion, heartbreak, and scandal, to “look for the helpers.”

They would have found Joseph.
And Elizabeth.
And Zachariah.
And Baby John the Baptist.

And later on — this would prove to be valuable faith formation for Mary, as she accompanied Jesus from the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross.

Where even today we suspect — just as we have encountered in our own tradition — we dare to hope amidst scripture and tradition that Mary also encountered helpers:
Pilate’s wife…
Simon…
Veronica…
The Weeping Women and children…
John…
Mary Magdalene…
Joseph of Arimathea…
The Roman Soldier(s)…

I so desperately desire to believe there existed and earnestly pray for those who were the helpers in the lives of victims. Those chosen to receive the most difficult of stories. The most tragic of encounters.

Fred Rogers, in his applied study of communications, particularly television and it’s medium, and message — after leaving the Presbyterian seminary — called the space between the message and the receiver “holy ground.” A place that was “wide open Christianity,” and a way for “direct communication into their hearts.”

How extraordinary!

In my life right now I am being challenged on multiple fronts to consecrate space…new space in my life in new ways for God. For prayer. For a deeper friendship with Jesus. And this is exactly what Mr. Rogers pointed to.

He identified point A and point B — but what he really cared about was the space between. The sacred space between. Dave Matthews Band would be singing their most famous song. Our British friends across the pond would say “Mind the Gap.” And that’s what Fred Rogers took care for. The space between. Sometimes it was space that needed to remain empty — like “slow space,” “wasted space,” and “silence.”

And sometimes that space — that gap — had people in it. Children and families. Those who were marginalized, judged, hurt, afraid. People and puppets communicated the societal impacts and implications of current events even for those visible yet voiceless subjects.

Fred Rogers and his family believed that there was human dignity in tv and in silence. In hurt and in triumph. In sickness and in health. That “love is at the root of everything.”

When there didn’t seem to be many or any helpers, he became a helper; and inspired others to become the same. He said “let’s make goodness attractive.”

That’s really the thing, isn’t it?

He was outward about each individual’s dignity and inherent value as a beloved son/daughter of God. And that each person had been endowed by the Creator with GOOD.

And when there wasn’t much good — he charged himself and others to be repairers of creation.

Sounds a lot like the precursor to *that we may merit to be co-heirs to eternal life.*

Finally — my favorite part of the move was the end — when the viewer is challenged by his words to consider and remember for a moment “the person who loved me into loving.” Participants shared about all kinds of people in their lives — and I was moved to tears by that Who Mr. Rogers truly used that question to point to was God. And the people He has given to us to mediate His Presence.

Mr. Rogers was always all about invitation. Encounter. Love of God and Neighbor. Authentically Christian and *whisper* more catholic (universal) than maybe even he understood. But we do.

He was never really my favorite as a child — but today as an adult I recognize that my life was just as impacted by his accompaniment as the shows before and after — Sesame Street and Electric Company.

HA! Again — Mr. Rogers — even without me realizing it until right now — existed in the Space Between my 2 “favorite” shows. Sat silent in the Invisible Sacred Space — until I noticed it.

Well played, Mr. Rogers. And thank you, God. For helping me write my way out of the desert of the world today and into a new confidence about really desiring to be #WheatAmongWeeds — like Blessed Stanley Rother — and so many others who lived out courageous accompaniment of God and neighbor.

A certain triumph over sadness and sin by #SweatersAndShoes

The Solemnity of Pentecost: Getting Our #Acts Together (see what I did there?)

I have often said if I could be part of any time in history — time-machine-wise — I’d want to live among the apostles in the 10 days between the Ascension and Pentecost.

With the knowledge that I have now, of course. Because I’m a total wimp. And there must have been critical moments of despair, fear, and frustration. I don’t want any of that, thank you very much. I want to be in the know. I want to know how the story ends.

I’d want to be an encouragement to the women and men during what must have been a pretty stressful, confusing, and yet fascinating 10 days.

I’d want to see how they worked it all out: what they agreed on — what they fought about — who was the Bossy-McKnow-It-All? Who was on board from the start? Who needed more convincing? Who sat in the back, arms crossed, waiting to see how things shook out? Who was in danger of getting voted off the island? Who kept the coffee made?

How did this band of misfits, sinners, and saints get their proverbial #Acts together (see what I did there?)?!

I think 10 days can go really fast when you’re excited by a new project. 

But probably 10 days can also feel like forever when you are faced with the prospect of explaining something to people they’re not going to believe. Or understand. Or care about.

Especially if you don’t know that Help is coming in 10 days.

Or what that Help might look like.

…or feel like…

…or sound like…

We know it was 10 days. They didn’t. They thought it would be soon — but they thought it would be Jesus. What caused them to trust? To move? To cross the bridge that was still being built? #ThoseGiftsTho

God always comes back bigger than He went out. There is always a bookend. Sometimes we live in between the bookends and sometimes we don’t.

And in this case — the coming of the Holy Spirit is the scriptural bookend to…you guessed it…

The Tower of Babel.

People who did not desire a relationship with God — who just wanted to build a tower to heaven to be “on the same level” as God. No encounter. Just a move in and take over.

Vs.

People who were in deep and intimate relationship with God through direct encounter with the actual person of Jesus. Who desire right relationship with God and others: to love, to worship, and to serve.

From a set of directions for tower-building that suddenly seemed to come from an ancient IKEA…and a separation of people by language…confusion…lack of communication…

VS.

An experiential and explicit set of directions:

In WORD: Peace Be With You

In FEELING: A Strong and Rushing Wind

In SOUND: Doors Broke Open

In SIGHT: Tongues As Of Fire

In EXPERIENCE: Of Languages and Understanding

Nothing gets in God’s way. The Tower of Babel is majestically and masterfully undone and redeemed in the experience of Pentecost. Seriously. We have a WILD GOD! Who wouldn’t want to be CATHOLIC???!!!

Go. And baptize all nations.

Tell the great story of Jesus.

Launch your kerygma into the world.

Incidentally — I loved the Bishop’s sermon at the royal wedding. It was actually great for our celebration of Pentecost. A little Catholic. A little Episcopal. A little Baptist. A little trickster. A little Scripture. A little music. A little humor. A little Jesuit. A little Chi-Town. BIG KERYGMA! A LOT of power and love and A LOT of FIRE! And he was right!

You can link it here on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/fTMWJU9Nafk

Veni…Sancti…Spiritus…

COME HOLY SPIRIT

#EnlightenTheHeartsOfYourFaithful

#EnkindleInUsTheFireOfYourLove

Coming soon to a procrastinator’s blog posts near you:

Hover-cropping the Kerygma: Field knowledge vs. bottom line and Maintenance vs Mission

The Aftermath of the Sower

What a city girl doesn’t know about soil and discipleship

Royal Wedding vs. school shooting(s) — and Acts of the Apostles — joy/fear/sorrow/hope

Avengers

Mary, Mother of the Church Memorial — #DayAfterFireAndWind

 

#Tardy and #Sheepish: John 10: 11-18

So I know I’m a week late but I’m here to talk about SHEEP.

I can’t remember where I learned this or from whom — but sheep aren’t really a lot like what we think they are…

…more dirty than white (like not so much with the Mary had a little lamb…)

…more nervous than calm…

…more smart than dumb…

I will treat the second 2 elements of the 3.

Sheep are actually pretty smart. Well…more clever and rational than smart. And maybe…like us…a little bit lazy. Sheep are pack animals…they long to be part of the community…but they have sort of bad vision…partially based on the placement of their eyes. So — they make up for this by just following the tail/behind of the sheep in front of them as they travel. Not necessarily in a straight line — although that does happen — but watch them…they are often clumped up together…with each sheep following 1 other sheep and so on.  And — there is 1 sheep called the Head — who follows the shepherd.  A wise shepherd — like Jesus — learns the look, call, and gait of one sheep — and once that one follows him — all the rest follow the sheep in front of them.

Sounds a little like charisms, gifts, evangelization and discipleship, eh?

And then our guest homilist this weekend mentioned that he learned in seminary that shepherds actually lay down in front of the pen, or the area where the sheep are enclosed or sleeping. To keep them in. And to keep wolves out. I love that image of laying down one’s life for the sheep.

AND THEN…also of interest…despite kind of bad vision — sheep apparently can hear and process pretty specific sounds. They learn the bleat — or call — or cry of their own baby lambs — and they instinctively recognize it when one has wandered too far away. To know one’s voice by heart. That’s pretty big.

DUDE. JUST LIKE GOD. JUST LIKE JESUS.

AND…

Sheep/bovines have a unique element in their nervous system that causes almost electric panic and paralysis when they realize they have been separated from the fold. They fall on the ground motionless and just cry until someone comes to get them.

“Those sheep are pretty smart,” I remember thinking, when I first heard this new information. There were no sheep where I grew up. So any information about sheep would be new information. “They just hang out and wait to be rescued when they get lost. Let someone else do the work. Fly under the radar. Well played, sheep.”

But then the storyteller noted that laying on the ground…throwing a loud tantrum…is not always going to get the attention of the Good Guys.

Oh. RIGHT.

This is exactly how sheep get eaten. One one hand — they are trying to signal their mother or theshepherd (YO! The Church…Mary Our Mother…or Jesus the Good Shepherd…WUT?!)…but on the other hand…all that whiny bleaty racket could also attract…the enemy.

And a clever enemy will know if it waits long enough…either the rest of the pack will come and place themselves also at risk of being eaten — or they will be smart enough not to come — and that sheep will be dinner on its own.

OH SNAP.

This is what Evil does.  It tries to separate me from the pack.

It takes away my resources.

It makes me believe I am alone.

It sends me into panic and noisy whining.

It paralyzes me. Panics me.

It makes me believe I am really really really alone.

And then…all it has to do is wait me out.

BOO. LAME. I’m LAME.

This is what we do, when it comes to sin, isn’t it?

And we have plenty of alternative options:

Stay in community.

Pick a good sheep to follow and trust it.

Stay near the front where the Head sheep is.

Make friends with the Head sheep

Become the Head sheep.

Stay close to the shepherd.

Trust the shepherd and your community if you get lost.

Don’t get lost.

Don’t wander away.

If I find myself lost — don’t make a bunch of noise.

Don’t stay in that place I got lost in. Don’t stand still. RUN.

Jesus the Good Shepherd is a little like Wesley from the Princess Bride. Only better.

He will always come for me.

Believing in True Love is laying down one’s life for the sheep. Or friends. Or beloved.

Being Catholic is awesome. #NotSoBAAAAAAAAdAfterAll

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