Reflection - December 29, 2019

Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I think it’s time to get serious. The weeks leading up to entering basic training at the Air Force Academy were glorious. Like a hero going on an adventure, there were congratulations, meaningful conversations, celebrations with family and friends, sad goodbyes, practical preparations, and my entourage standing at the gate of the airport (back when that was still possible) to wish me well. Arriving at Dad’s house in Colorado Springs, there was an air of anticipation and a feast the night before to rival the end of the world. An amazing new chapter was about to begin! Dad pulled up to a stop sign in the cadet area, I got out with my bag of personal effects, and everything changed. Everything. An upperclass cadet started yelling, I ran to a spot on the ground, learned, immediately, how to stand at attention, and spent the day getting a new hair cut, new clothes, shots, equipment, and either running from place to place or waiting in long lines. What had I gotten into? The glory was gone. It was time to get serious. 

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Reflection - December 15, 2019

“Go and tell John what you hear and see.”

I recently hosted a group of parishioners at the St. Patrick rectory. It was a diverse group with long time and new parishioners, empty nesters and families with young children, a variety of ages, experiences, and states in life. During introductions, we shared one word we felt described St. Patrick: community, family, home, memories, welcoming, and dynamic. I’m sure we would come up with similar words at St. Boniface: the group may be a little more diverse, the memories a little longer, and we might highlight tradition and history a little more, but in both parishes, we are able to voice what the parishes mean to us. Neither parish would exist without the work of God in the hearts and lives of our members. The meaning we share is the fruit of the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

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Reflection - November 24, 2019

“Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
‘Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.’
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
‘Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.’
Then he said,
‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
He replied to him,
‘Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.’”

Three men hanging high on crosses to be easily seen and mocked by the crowd. One, innocent, identified as the King of the Jews, surrendered to the will of God, hangs there with arms outstretched in love to embrace the whole world. Two thieves, guilty, justly condemned, hang serving the punishment for their crimes. All three meant to be an example and a spectacle. None are coming down alive. All, even the crowd, are in a desperate situation, under the rule of a foreign and merciless power. Mocking the men hanging on crosses is a sign of loyalty, join in or be suspect, “We have no king but Caesar.” The day drags on, the suffering grows, and the one speaks, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do...Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise...Woman, behold, your son...Behold, your mother...My God, my God, why have you forsaken me...I thirst...It is finished...Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Pierced hands and feet, broken legs for the thieves, a crown of thorns and a lance thrust into his side for the king. Love and mercy flow. They die. 

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Reflection - November 3, 2019

Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook people's sins that they may repent.
For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours,
O LORD and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!
Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little,
warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing,
that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!

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Reflection - December 8, 2019

“It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”

I have visited a prayer and fasting retreat center in Colorado a number of times. At 9,000 feet, it is 110 acres of mostly mountain fields, rock formations, aspen and pine stands, and amazing blue skies. It is beautiful, and I have had some of my most profound experiences of God there. On my last visit several years ago, I noticed, significantly, that a neighboring property had essentially turned into a junk yard. Old machinery, supplies, materials and trash were piled up around the property, easily visible from the retreat center. I think I made the observation in small talk to the woman who ran the retreat center that it would be nice if the neighbor would clean up his property.  Her reply surprised me, “In Colorado, we have strong property owner rights, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” There is a tension, sometimes, between individual rights and the common good, or put a different way, between the personal and the communal. 

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Reflection - November 17, 2019

“We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a
disorderly way,
by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. 
Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly 
and to eat their own food.”

We want to be in the know. It makes us feel connected, important, and able to make a difference. Sometimes, we believe we have a right to know. We may feel that our own interest in a situation or circumstance gives us the right to have the private information of others for our own. We have experienced the betrayal of trust that makes us unwilling to accept the words of those in authority as the final word and demand proof of right decisions or actions. Transparency is important to building trust and establishing a joint vision and mission. Secrecy, being kept in the dark, or evasiveness raise serious doubts in our minds and decrease our willingness to engage. 

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Reflection - October 27, 2019

“Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.”

Humility is something of a catch-22. If I’m convinced of my own humility, it indicates my pridefulness. Likewise, if I ask mercy for my pridefulness, it indicates my humility. We get a humorous understanding of this when we recognize the irony of the old country song by Mac Davis, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.” This conundrum is spelled out by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. I quote him at length (emphasis mine):

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Reflection - December 1, 2019

“Brothers and sisters:
You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.”

She really turned it around. He came to his senses. They are on fire. Did you see that comeback? Rally time! Rally hats! Let’s shift gears. He’s got it all together. She pulled through. Time to upgrade. Take it to the next level. He’s beginning to believe. There is no spoon. Disrupt the industry. Charge! High speed, low drag. Pivot. Using cutting edge technology. Ideas worth spreading. New and improved. This just in. First rate, top notch, beyond compare, and second to none. What a transformation! This will revolutionize the way we live our lives. She had a change of heart. He saw the light. They charted a new course. That’s progress. It’s a breakthrough. Eureka! They’ve made great strides. It is a quantum leap. Advancing by leaps and bounds. Get up, everybody!  I’m on the look out. She’s hooked. He’s ahead of his time. We’ve got spirit, yes, we do! Plugged in, turned on, and ready to roll. You’ve got my attention. Brilliant!

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Reflection - November 10, 2019

“‘...for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise. 
...for to him all are alive.’”

I picked up doodling from my grandma. Throughout my academic career and even to certain meetings this day, I may create a page of images, squiggles, repeating patterns or random connections. As a child, I started drawing in earnest with comic characters and can still manage a respectable Garfield. In high school classes, college courses, and even two electives in seminary, I learned additional drawing and painting skills. The process of creating a piece of art can be an act of co-creation with God and I often experience it as prayer. The beauty of a masterpiece can pierce my heart and even the ugly or unusual can challenge my perspective and provide new insights or a path to strong human emotions. When I travel, I often visit art museums and while I pass by most of the works without affect, I am always in desperate search for the few that shake me open to the mystery of humanity, creation, or God. 

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