Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A Faceof Hope

John Lewis
   With all of the racial tension and violence that has taken place our country and our world has lost a man whose vision can lead us forward even after his death.  That man, of course, is congressman John Lewis.

   I must admit that my knowledge of this great man during his life was superficial.  I was aware that he marched across the bridge in Selma and was unjustly beaten and arrested.  I had hear of his association with Dr. King, but it was all in the background for me until the news of his passing.

   Many people, unfortunately, allow themselves to be turned off to the recent protests because of the violence.  Let me be clear, I in no way condone violence as a solution to injustice.  At the same time violence is almost inevitable when there is injustice, here in the US or anywhere in the world.  It can be a real temptation to stand above the fray and do nothing.  We can rightly ask the question, "If not through violence, then how?  Racism, white privilege, unfairness in the judicial system are real problems.  As Catholics we need to be reminded that the last three Popes, at least, have denounced racism as a sin. We need people to inspire us and show us the way.  In the past people like Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others  have been models for us.
They remind us that non-violence does not mean passivity.  All of them stood up to injustice and paid a price for it.  They did so through non-violent resistance. They did so by engaging in what congressman Lewis called "Good Trouble"

    When the world finally moves beyond the COVID-19 crisis there will be a temptation to go back to normal, whatever that means.  I don't think we can go back to what was, but rather to a hopeful new future in the Church, in our country, in our world.  I am not speaking of a utopia.  There will be no perfect world until the Kingdom of God in its fullness comes about.  Nonetheless, in the meantime, the Kingdom of God is among us when there is love instead of hatred and when injustices are corrected.  I think that Congressman Lewis can be one of the lights that guide us into a brighter future.


Sunday, July 19, 2020

3 Parables For Today

    In Catholic Churches, and several others as well, the Gospel selection for today is Matthew 13-24-43.  This passage contains 3 brief parables of Jesus that can teach us a great deal in the times in which we live.

   The first of the three is the parable of the wheat and the weeds. The meaning is rather obvious. This farmer wants to throw out the weeds right away.  He is warned, however, that throwing out the weeds may do damage to the wheat.  He is advised to wait and let them grow together and at the harvest things will be sorted out.

   It seems to me that in our present climate people are quick to identify weeds and seek to get rid of them.  You know what I mean.  People are getting shot over wearing or not wearing masks. Property is getting destroyed.  The parable is a reminder that we often need to wait and let God be the judge. This doesn't mean that justice can't be pursued and crime can't be punished.  It does mean that we would be well advised not to so quickly put people into categories and then dismiss them easily.

   The other two parables give us messages of hope and encouragement. The mustard seed, we are told, is the smallest of seeds but it grows and becomes a large shrug in which the birds come to nest.
The parable of the yeast in the dough is similar.  A little yeast makes the dough rise.  the Kingdom of God is like this. The little mustard seeds and the bit of dough make great things happen. Sometimes we think that our efforts or those of someone else are too meager.  Often it's not the grand plans and endeavors that make a difference but the little things we do that allow the Kingdom of God to burst forth among us.

   The kingdom of heaven, of God, is not just where we hope to go after death it is rather the bursting forth of justice, of love, of peace in this life as well.  We have many issue to face, taking care of this pandemic, racial justice, excessive violence among them.  Perhaps the little things that we can do now will bear great fruit when this time has passed.

Friday, July 3, 2020

An End and a Beginning.

   As of today I am a senior friar, or, if you will, I am retired.  What does that mean?  I want to make clear that I will be a priest and friar for the rest of my life. My province of the Franciscans permits us to become senior friars at age 75.  I reached that milestone this past December.  I was hoping to prolong this decision for a few years, perhaps until 80, should I live that long. The reality of the Covid-19 crisis has brought me to the awareness that I will not be going out to preach missions and retreats or to preach for Unbound for the foreseeable future. When this crisis ends I hope to continue my ministry of preaching.  The difference is that I will be able to do as much or as little as I wish.  My hope is to do a lesser amount of traveling and to assist at one of our local parishes.

   As a friar and priest this time also affords me the chance to spend more time in prayer and reflection, to place more emphasis on the contemplative dimension of my Franciscan life. St. Anthony Friary where I live is made up mostly of senior friars.  It is a privilege to live with men who have dedicated themselves to parish ministry, shrine church ministry, education, military and hospital chaplaincy, formation of our younger friars and foreign missionary work.

   During this crisis none of us have been able to minister outside.  Our provincial has stressed that protecting one another from the virus is of utmost importance.  We do, however, have daily Mass in our chapel as well as community prayer.  We have been praying for all of you who have not been able to celebrate Eucharist as well has for those suffering and dying from this terrible virus, for health care workers and first-responders.   I can add to that our prayers and concern for racial justice.

  This pause has also given me the chance to look back over the years and to be grateful for the many blessings the Lord has given me and the many people who have become part of my life. I am taking things one day at a time and look forward to the end of this pandemic, an end that I think is months away and maybe more.  When that time comes our country, our world and out Church will be different.  I won't attempt to say how different, but things will be different, hopefully better.

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly