Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Loving Our Enemies

Image result for image turn the other cheek

I guess what I'm wondering is this: how come when some people, thinking in a fundamental or literal manner, want to understand scripture "literally", how come it's not the part about loving our enemies that they want to argue for ? Sometimes I think it would be easier to give up a tooth (not an eye so much) than to forgive someone who has wronged me or someone I love.

Jesus packs a lot into this weekend's Gospel, another passage from the Sermon on the Mount. Lots to chew on: offer no resistance to one who is evil, turn the other cheek, give to the one who wants to borrow, and pray for those who persecute you. And ends with: Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Who can possibly live like this? That is a very tall order!
I wonder how I listen to this passage and not feel like I've failed before I even begin?

Sometimes I can be good at parts of this passage. Occasionally I can turn the other cheek. I try hard to forgive, to not hold a grudge, but I'm not always successful. You would think it would be easier than it is to pray for your enemies...I'm surprised just how difficult I find this one.

So, I'm not sure really where this leaves me. Jesus says God allows the sun to shine on the good and the bad. Some days I'm the 'good', but honestly, some days I'm probably the 'bad'. Not terrible mind you, but not my best self. I've got a lot of growing edges.

Maybe what helps me understand this scripture are words like compassion and respect. Those are the gifts that I should be able to offer others, and I surely hope that when I'm not being my best self, that's the way others will treat me. When I struggle with the idea of perfection I have to remember that in his original telling Jesus didn't mean that neurotic perfection that can so mark my struggles, but rather a more cultural (for him, in his world) understanding meaning to be impartial, to leave nothing out, to hold all people in a loving way. Still not simple, but at least in this sense perfect doesn't actually mean perfect as we understand it today. I can let go of that one!

So, as you listen to the readings this weekend, what word gives you comfort? What makes you squirm? Spend a moment or two there and ask God what God is trying to reveal to you today.
And enjoy the sunshine that warms us all.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Light and Love

 So many images from this weekends scripture jump off the page for me. There are the strong words of Isaiah...share your bread with the hungry, give of your own want to the poor. Only when we do that will we be taken from the land of gloom into the light. (there it is again--that image of light!)

Paul's words in Corinthians that seem to show another side of that mighty man. I so often see him as a tower of strength and defender of faith. In this reading he seems oh so very human, speaking of feeling weak and scared. I certainly can identify with that!

The Gospel we've heard so often, that we are called to be salt and light to the world. To add our particular flavor--our Christian/Catholic values to the world we live in. To share with others the very light of the love of Jesus. Not through our words but by the example of how we live our lives. How we treat others. How we stand for what we believe in, what we hope for.

Our words without our actions can sometimes just be hypocrisy. We need to put legs on our beliefs. We need to DO the good deeds we talk so easily about, the things we pray for.

As I was thinking about this past week, I saw, in these photos, people who are light to me. Who share their goodness every day just by the way they move through the world. The mom and son who are part of an amazing family that add so much to our parish, by their example of steadfast love.

The woman who truly is the heart of the parish and how she cares endlessly for all of us.

The staff I have the joy of sharing each week with, who strive to bring the light of Christ's love to each person they meet.

They parish young adults who are gearing up to be prayer leaders in small groups during Lent this year. Their desire to share their faith with others is breath-taking to me.

So, where do we go from here? What do we do with all this? I have this idea stuck in my head that I need to make a PBnJ sandwich and give it to the next street person I see. I feel like I have to DO something for someone else this week...

How do YOU feel after you pray with these readings? What are you being called to do? Let's try together to make our faith more than just words this week. Let's put our faith in action.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Live Jesus

For those of us who come to St Francis de Sales Church on E 96th St, this symbol should look familiar. It is the family crest of St Francis...and the motto on the bottom loosely translated means: "He will not fail". 

Not a bad motto to have if you're a saint or a softball team...(our parish does indeed have a softball team that takes this as its' motto, pretty clever huh?)

The other motto often associated with St Francis de Sales is the simple phrase: "Live Jesus". 

This past Tuesday was the feast of St Francis de Sales and this Saturday the parish will celebrate with what looks to be a great pot luck international feast. It is a time for the entire parish to come together for prayer, food and fellowship. It has been a blast the past few years and this year promises to be the same. 

I find myself wondering, especially in light of the Beatitudes this weekend, what might it mean to LIVE JESUS in our day and age. What did St Francis mean when he took this as his motto back in the day? I don't think it was as simple as live LIKE Jesus, because if that's what he meant, he would have said that right? So to Live Jesus...does that mean to see the world with the eyes of Jesus, with his heart, with his compassion?

The world talks about New Years resolutions in January...and by now everyone has given up. What Live Jesus--was our resolution for 2017? To figure out how to be more...merciful, more forgiving, more loving...maybe it can be as simple as each of us prayerfully considering what one aspect of Jesus' life is most compelling to us...and then trying to adopt that attribute at least a bit more as our own? To try and live JC 24/7 would be way to hard and I'd give up before I even started. But if I thought I could be more open to strangers this year...more outgoing and share of myself...that I can try. 

So, Happy Feast of St Francis de Sales to each of you. I invite you all to think and pray about what it might mean for you to try and live Jesus this year. If we try together...we will not fail.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

To Be Light!

I feel like the thing I hear most in our scripture readings lately is the call to be a light in the darkness. I'm stuck praying with this image for  awhile I think. I don't have to be the 'perfect' light in the darkness...and I am learning that cracks can reveal the light too. 

A group of community members are going to join hands in solidarity and prayer for peace in the next hour or so. I will be with them. I am proud that the organizers reached out to St Francis de Sales Church and asked us to participate. I am glad that people know what we stand for here on our little corner of El Barrio.

I remember my novice mistress teaching us that the daily newspaper should be as much a part of our daily prayer as scripture. In these last few months that has been overwhelmingly true for me and for many of you. I was reminded today that perhaps I should be praying for our President elect. Perhaps I should be. I certainly will try. Because that's what it means to be a light in the darkness right? Will you pray too? Perhaps if we all pray together, God's grace will shine on us all like that light in the darkness.

I have to go hold hands with my neighbors now, but I wanted to at least write a little something.
God bless!

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Isaiah is called. The Psalmist is called. Paul, Sosthenes and the people of Corinth were called.  John the Baptist and Jesus were called. You and I are called, still today. If that doesn't make you take a deep breath I don't know what will!

I can sort of cope with the notion of being called, as scary as that may be. I struggle with understanding exactly WHAT I am being called to do? WHAT am I called to be? I can count with ease the number of times I thought that I knew what God was asking of me, only to be rather rudely surprised by a twist of fate, or a clearer understanding of a situation. And that pesky little "thy will be done" prayer is an easy thing to trip over for sure.

Much of the time I take enormous consolation in that prayer from Thomas Merton, the one that starts: My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not know the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I may think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so...."
The prayer goes on, and in a very human manner states that as long as I am trying to follow God, and God's will for me...that the effort to do so counts, even if I mess up due to my feeble understanding.

Well thank goodness for that! A combination of this prayer and a very humble, "Lord, help me get out of my own way so you can use me to say or do what needs to be done in this situation" pretty much how I get through each day.

I know I want to be God's servant. I want to do God's will. Most days, I haven't a clue what that may mean or what it may cost me. But the desire is there, and that counts!

What about you? Do you have the desire, the courage to follow God's will for you? Even if you don't know where that might lead or how to know what that means?

As we move in the new year, perhaps we can pray for each other as we continue this journey and strive to follow God's will for us. We never know where it will lead, but wow, what a ride for sure!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

How Do We Welcome Others?

I was putting together a Christmas Bingo game for my students before the holiday and one of the questions was, "How many Kings were there"? Obviously the answer was 'three'. Or so I thought. According to my sources, no where in scripture do we read that there were three Kings. In looking at the Gospel this weekend, Matthew simply states that 'magi from the East arrived'. Perhaps it is because it is said they brought those famous three gifts that we arrived at the artists interpretation of three kings.

In any case, when we look at the traditional creche scene we always see three kings of different ethnicites. I always thought that was cool as a kid, because that was probably one of the few times I actually saw people who looked different from me. My hometown on LI was pretty much a place where we all looked the same.

I reflect now on how much I love ministering in a city parish. There are so many different types of people here and very few look like me! They are younger, some older, different nationalities, personalities...use whatever image you like...melting pot, fruitcake, the differences are beautiful! I feel safe within the diversity. I feel safe within my church family.

Sometimes, when I'm outside the boundaries of my church, on the busy streets of NYC, I don't always feel that same sense of safety or being at home. Sometimes when I see folks who dress or look differently from me, I sort of feel a little nervous. I'm not sure why...other than having to admit some level of ignorance on my part. I have come to understand I'm comfortable with folks who think like me...even if they don't look like me. It's when I don't understand where another is coming from that I can get uneasy.

Today in the church we celebrate Three Kings, and this month in our country we will see a new president move into the White House. When I put these two things together I am struck by the question how well do I, do we, welcome others when they are different from us? I'm trying not to cringe.

At St Francis we often hear how well visitors are welcomed when they join us for worship. We have a right to be proud of the hospitality we offer, but also need to challenge ourselves to look beyond the church folk and think about how well we will welcome the person off the street who hasn't been to church in years. The young person who has been hurt by the church. The older person who is carrying around bitter memories from years past. How well can we make them feel at home? That's our challenge I think in 2017. Welcome the new person to your group!

For me, I need to figure out a way to feel more comfortable with those folks who think and do things differently from me. I need to stop thinking my way is the only right way. I must admit it seems like an insurmountable task as I write this. But I am grateful at least for my desire to somehow try and be more welcoming with those who think and believe differently from me.

May God give us the wisdom and grace to be open to welcoming the stranger in 2017.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

From Darkest Night to Brightest Day

Christmas Morning Sunrise Light

We all, well, maybe many of us anticipate Christmas with the joy appropriate to the season. The smell of cookies and fir trees, the sounds of carols and bells, the sights of  multi-colored lights dancing in the night...and of course, our many versions of the Christmas Manger and the churches we call home.

This year I am mindful in a new way that for some, for a variety of reasons, Christmas might be a bit more low key. The reading we hear at night from Isaiah sums it up nicely I think: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwell in the land of gloom, a light has shone."

Some people aren't as close as they'd like to be with their families, either geographically or emotionally. Some people have loved ones in the hospital or have lost someone special in the last year or so. Some folks are just sad and this time of year is especially difficult. 

What can we do to reach out to them? Sometimes all it takes is a knock on a neighbor's door, or an invite for a cup of tea. In the world of social media it only takes a few strokes of the keyboard to let someone know you are praying for their special intention. We may have no idea what the promise of a prayer to be said may mean for a soul who is suffering.

Christmas certainly is a feast of Love. What we learn is that not only is God's love abundantly generous, but that God calls us to be the same. To be free to love, to give love away...not to be stingy with our hearts.

Yes, even in the gloom, the Light that is the Christ shines and can break through the darkness. If in the next week or so, you are called to be that light for someone else, don't be generous with your love. (and your Christmas cookies!)

Let us pray for one another this Christmas season, that we will freely share the love God has given us.

Merry Christmas!