Thursday, January 29, 2009
I was musing on 1 Samuel, chapter 3. No one is too small, too young or too uneducated in religion for God. Samuel is just a boy and does not even know about God. Yet God is calling to him. God invites. Age, size and knowledge does not hold God back. If you feel insignificant, or your body is shrinking, out of shape, and your education is limited, the world may have little interest in you, and place little value in you. God is the opposite. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 that our bodies are members of Christ. It does not have to be a big body, a fit body, or a smart body. All bodies are just right for God's indwelling. Paul says we are temples of the Holy Spirit. I like all this. At times I judge myself by worldly standards, by media images. I am aging. I am forgetting. I am shrinking. I have less energy. I am slower. If I listen to the world, I am a good candidate for unemployment. When I think no one else wants me, God still cares and values me. Like Samuel, I say to the Lord, "Speak, your servant is listening."
Acts of the Apostles 22:3-16
Last Saturday afternoon I was in my room in San Francisco, having just completed a workshop that morning. I had no particular plans, but decided to check my email. There was a message from a young lady named Sarah, who I knew from the late 90s when I was a pastor in Knoxville, Tennessee. She now lived in California, married with a new baby. I had not seen her in years. She had obtained my email from a mutual friend. Sarah was in San Francisco at that moment, in a hospital with her new baby who needed open heart surgery. Sarah wanted the baby to receive sacraments. The baby, Arlie Mae, had not even been baptized. Sarah, though a Catholic, had not been married in the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit was at work, to have me available in San Francisco just at the moment that I was needed for Sarah.
I said I would baptize Arlie Mae. I gathered up the oils, candle, baptism stole, ritual book, and took a streetcar to the hospital. There I baptized Arlie Mae, with Mom, Dad, and one grandmother present. Everyone was very happy and relieved. I did not ask a lot of questions, or withhold baptism to punish Sarah for not getting married in the Church. I felt that she needed to experience the Jesus whom we preach, the One who is accepting, forgiving, and loving unconditionally. Sarah needed to experience the Jesus that has changed my life. If I am to proclaim this Jesus, then I had better live, “no longer I but Christ lives in me,” as St. Paul says.
Let’s look at Paul. He was a rather nasty person to Christians. He was trying to kill them. He was against Jesus, even though he had never met Jesus. When he met Jesus on that road to Damascus, Jesus did not condemn him, though Paul was a person of very bad behavior. Jesus questioned him, and then challenged him, but a challenge that had a lot of love, forgiveness and acceptance to it. Jesus wanted Paul to be his preacher of the Good News. The Good News for Paul is that Jesus came upon this earth without our request, lived in a loving way and even died for us, without us changing one bit. God acts first with love. God is Love. Then God invites us to become this Good News. We are free to choose. There is no fire and brimstone. No one can love God out of fear.
I am not sure that my friend Sarah had ever experienced the Jesus who Paul knew and I know. Sarah had not been a faithfully worshipping Catholic, and maybe her faith was a bit cloudy, but not as cloudy as was Paul’s. In her love and need for her baby, Sarah reached out for the Church to give her comfort and support. Her daughter is now a baptized Catholic, and I think that Sarah’s life is changed for the better. I believe she is coming to know Jesus the Christ, and she will pass this on to her child.
The surgery went well and Arlie Mae has her heart all fixed. So has Sarah.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Some years ago I decided to invest money in the stock market. I chose conservative investments, so I thought. For a while I made some money, and took some out to give away in charity. I envisioned the remainder to continue to grow and take care of me in my later years. I had a plan. The plan went bust. I have, so far over the last year, lost about half of what I had. Now, I will have to work until about three years after my death! In other words, there will be no genteel retirement for me.
But I have found some Good News in all this. My investment and retirement plans did not include trust in God. I never asked God for help in my investment decisions. I never included God in my visions of later years. In a word, I was not much relying upon God at all. I have been baptized, and received seven gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. I am a child of God, a brother of Jesus in the line of grace. But none of this empowers me if I do not ask God each day to empower or activate these gifts, this relationship.
In other words, I have got lots of potential, but not much happens with the potential, if I exclude God each day, in all my plans. My economic demise has opened the door for me to invite God back into caring for me. My messy financial status has opened my heart to again realize that all of me rely upon God, for any good to happen. My financial failures have turned me back to God. I now rely upon God more for what the future will bring, and even how long a future I will have on this earth. I have again become dependent upon God and not the economy for my welfare. Sure, I will make decisions, but I will keep in perspective that my life depends upon God and the grace of God. My decisions may not work out the way I want, but they will work out as God wants, with me accepting and even embracing them as the presence of God. Financially, I bear a cross, but the cross is always the way to resurrection and union with God.
Friday, January 16, 2009
How does Centering Prayer and the contemplative tradition help us in our recovery from addiction?
11th STEP CENTERING PRAYER WORKSHOP
FOR WOMEN IN 12 STEP PROGRAMS
This is a workshop to learn centering prayer as an 11th step meditative practice open to any woman in any 12 step program. Any woman who is involved in a 12 step program and has ever started or wanted to start the practice of centering prayer will be amazed by the vision and intuitiveness of Father Ryan.
Father Terry Ryan, C.S.P., is a Paulist priest who travels throughout the
9:00 AM to
SAINT AMBROSE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Coffee and treats begin at . A a $10 donation is suggested and appreciated to cover costs.
For more information, or to reserve a seat contact Joyce Chen at 303-859-1961 or Pam Chandler at
720-234-6979 or by email to Sensabama@aol.com (Joanne McGuire-Baxley) Please RSVP BY FEBRUARY 1.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Fr. Terry Ryan, CSP will be back in Boulder in February for a workshop!
Strangers to the City: A Spirituality Workshop
Based upon a book by Fr. Michael Casey, OCSO, this workshop will look at wisdom learned in monastic settings that would benefit lay people in the everyday world of work, family, social engagements.
“Like what,” you might ask?
1) There is less focus on self-realization and more on self-transcendence.
2) A discipline in a prayer life is to help us let go of an ego-centered self-will.
3) I become more fully who I truly am made to be, through my relationship with others.
4) Retirement was not for the purpose of being less busy with work, but to simplify and de-clutter our life.
5) We are intended for union with God.
These are just some of the issues the workshop will explore.
Saturday, February 7 9:00 AM to Noon
Sacred Heart of Jesus Junior High Library
In the school building on Mapleton, between 13th and 14th Street, Boulder
Coffee and treats begin at 9:00 AM. The workshop is free, but a $10 donation is suggested. For more information, contact Michelle Anderson at 303-442-6158 x 112.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
A friend of mine, Jan Kabachus, died recently from cancer. I knew Jan from the early 1980s, when we worked together in a Catholic parish in ministry to the divorced, separated and widowed. Not too long ago, Jan switched her worship community to the Ecumenical Catholic Church, not in union with Rome, called Light of Christ. The funeral service was held at that Church. As Jan was a friend of mine, I went to the funeral. It was quite a lovely service and the homily was very good. Afterwards, I enjoyed a luncheon at the church with other mourners who were friends of mine for many years. I did NOT say to myself, “Oh, these are heretics who left the Roman Catholic Church. I won’t go to the funeral. All those people will burn anyway!”
Now compare my attitude, with another tragic death. A person with a gun came into ski resort nearby, and wanted to find out if people were Christian. He was what I call a Fundamentalist Christian, one who thinks that you are lost unless you belong to their particular faith group. They don’t even believe that Catholics are Christian. Well, the gunman shoots a bullet into the air in this room of workers. This brings the manager, Brain Mahon, into the room to find out what is going on. The gunman asks Brian if he is a Christian. Brian responds, “I am a Catholic.” The gunman shot Brian dead on the spot. Brian died a martyr. He witnessed to his faith and was killed for it. Brian did not run away from the gunshot to protect himself. He went to it. Jesus did not run away from Jerusalem, even though he knew that was where he would die. After the gunman killed Brian he ran out and killed himself. Brian’s death may well have saved others from being shot in that room.
The question for us is, “What kind of Catholic are we going to be?” Will we be willing to stand up for our belief when asked, or when an appropriate time is presented to us?? If a group of people is putting down the Catholic Church, will we remain quiet so as to fit in or not cause any friction? Brian could have said, “It is none of your business,” to the killer, or “It is a private matter.” He was asked and he answered. On the other hand, will we also be open to people of other faiths, to be inviting them to share faith with us, in dialogue, or to come to learn more about the Church? This is more of the ecumenical spirit that the Catholic Church believes is Evangelization. To tell people that they will burn if they do not follow our path is really bad news and is not what Jesus is all about.
Paul the Apostle says that Christ came for Jew and Gentile. That is pretty inclusive. Paul had to deal with some Jewish Christians who felt that Gentiles were excluded. Exclusion is not part of the Catholic Church. That is why we are called “Catholic.” The Magi were not believers. They were searchers. The Shepherds were not followers of Christ. They were inquirers. When they all got to where the baby Jesus was, no one told them to go away. The Holy Family was hospitable, which is very Catholic. There are faiths that believe if you blow yourself up and kill a bunch of people who don’t follow your religious group, then you are a martyr. We don’t believe that.
Herod was kind of a sneaky fellow. To the face of the Magi he said that he wanted to go and worship the Messiah. But in fact, Herod wanted to kill him, because Herod wanted to secure his own power. I have met Christians who say nice things to my face, and then when I am not around they say something else not so nice, such as Catholics go to hell for being Catholics.
As Catholics we are supposed to pray for those who would do us harm. On the cross Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” We pray for the killer of Brian. We do not judge him. It is not our place to tell God what to do, or even to say what God will do. We are not God. We are people who believe in the Catholic faith and want to share that faith with others who are inquirers and seekers. Jesus came to save us all.