Thursday, June 25, 2015

Healing Stories

This weekend the Gospel is about a great dad, named Jairus, who begs Jesus to heal his young daughter. I love this story for so many reasons, the faith and love of the father most of all. The way Jesus deals with the skeptics. The little bit of Aramaic (I presume...) that they put in there for some unknown reason, just another little Gospel mystery.

We also hear parenthetically, the story of a woman who is healed of a chronic illness. Again, a story of great faith and courage. She is an example to all of us about trusting what we say we believe.

I have two other stories of great courage and faith that I have been keeping in my heart this week. One is personal, the other belongs to us all.

Last week we all were shocked, saddened, by the terrible event in Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina. I wonder how much more brutality our hearts can absorb? As I was preparing to come to work in the parish last Sunday morning, the news was reporting that the families of the murdered victims and the congregation at that church were speaking out with love and forgiveness in their hearts for the young man who committed this crime. What I want to say is that their forgiveness was more shocking to me than the murders. I think we have become accustomed to all the violence in our society. We are bone weary from it all. We have no defense against it. Except to love. I am amazed that there are people for whom seeking revenge is not their first action! These parishioners truly are living out what they pray about each week. Their faith is real, solid and strong. In the face of their witness, I am humbled.

Then my sister told me the story of how my beautiful, awesome, lovely 14 year old niece was bullied by a classmate last week. This classmate, for whatever reason, felt the need to put my niece down in public, to try and embarrass and shame her. As an adult, I know I have been on the receiving end of this bullying in professional circles. This is what my niece did: she approached the bully in the lunchroom, very clearly said she didn't appreciate that the bully had been speaking poorly about her behind her back, and told her she should stop that behavior. When the bully tried to protest, my niece simply turned away and said, "I know what  you did, I don't want to discuss this any further." Wow! I am amazed at my niece and her courage to approach the bully, confront her and then be done with the drama. I need to learn from a my niece how to be that brave!

I need to learn from the people in Emanuel AME church how to be forgiving.

I need to learn from Jairus and his daughter, and the woman with the chronic illness, how to ask for healing and be ready to receive it.

What do you need to learn from the Gospel or from our world this week? What is God trying to teach you today?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus calms the storm while out on the sea with his friends. After a long day, trying to get away from the crowds Jesus suggested they take some time apart for themselves. I imagine a little quiet time, some restful conversation, a few laughs,  a bite to eat...all on the opposite shore. It should have been a relaxing ride over there.
But a storm comes up and the boat is getting tossed about, his fishermen friends get nervous, wake him (wake him? How tired was he that he fell right asleep??)  and ask him to do SOMEthing. I wonder what they thought he would do? It seems to me this must still be on the earlier side of their relationship because of their amazement at the end of the story--who IS this that even the wind and sea obey him?? Why were they surprised? They asked him to do something to save them, to take care of them, and he did.
It must have stung a bit when Jesus makes that remark about their lack of faith...really? Come on?
The storm had to be pretty bad for fishermen to be afraid of the sea! Can't Jesus cut them some slack? But in the end, they are filled with awe at what Jesus had done.

What has filled you with awe lately? Really, made you stop and lose your breath? Was it the look in your child's eyes in a tender moment? Was it the touch of a loved one's hand on your face? Was it the sunlight through the trees as you wandered through the park? Was it the sound of little ones playing in the park? God's love and care for us is everywhere if we have eyes and heart open to see.

It's Father's Day this weekend. Like many little girls growing up my dad was my first hero. I thought he could do anything. I though he knew everything. I loved spending time with him. I loved when I could make him laugh and when we had thoughtful conversations. I hated the two times something I had done made him cry. I remember being surprised as I got older when I learned that not everyone had a father as wonderful as mine. I realize how easy it is for me to think of God as a 'loving father' because I had one myself.  My memories of my dad fill my heart with gratefulness and with awe. I miss him everyday, but lots on Father's day...

After a busy day, my dad would sometimes want to take a ride down to the beach or a walk around the block. No matter how crazy things could get, in that quiet time my dad could find a way to make most things seem better.

So when I hear this reading this weekend, about Jesus calming his friends down, even in the face of a storm at sea, I'll think of my dad. Who, like Jesus, in my little girls mind, could fix anything.

I invite you to think about who are the people in your life who fill you with awe, with love?  Whoever they are, make sure they know how special they are to you!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Seeds grow.

So many things running through my mind right doors, seeds growing into huge plants, unexpected opportunities to share faith, and my youngest niece 'moving up'. I'm not sure if or how they are connected.

I used to think of summer as a time to kick back and relax a bit, even if I still had to work. I'm learning at St Francis it's just a different pace ... not really more relaxed, but maybe a chance to focus a bit more. So, tonight, in keeping with the idea that our doors are open to new experiences, our music director Jim Stayton is bringing his boys choir from Newark to perform here in East Harlem. I find myself wondering what the boys will be like, will they be excited to be in NYC, will they be excited to perform, will we have a good crowd in church to welcome them? I am really looking forward to hearing their music and appreciating the gifts they will share with us.The least I could do is make chocolate chip cookies for them!

The gospel this Sunday talks about that mustard seed of faith growing strong and firm and vibrant. I've been preparing for a class this weekend and part of the discussion will be on faith. For a while now I've been more aware of the whole idea of faith as a gift...but I'm thinking more today about what we need to do to nurture that gift...just like a gardener nurtures her plants. Do I take the time to share my faith with others? Am I aware of God's presence in my life each day? What makes me stop and meditate? Am I grateful? Do I ask for forgiveness? Can I find the quiet in my life? How do I nourish my spirit? All these little things, and so many more, help that kernel of faith to grow strong and true.

Just like this last baby in our family has somehow grown to be 10 and moving on to middle school. From the infant that tickled us with her innate sense of humor to a very outspoken pre-teen, these years have flown by in the blink of an eye...and I'm NOT her mother!! Like I wonder what our Newark boys will be like, and I wonder where I will find God today...I wonder what life will be like for her as she grows older. I pray with all my heart that God will guide her steps into a safe and happy future.

Last Sunday night I had the opportunity to share some of what I had written here in this blog with our parishioners who gathered for evening prayer. It was unexpected. I was taken by surprise, but, with God's help, I was ready. I was grateful for the chance and tried to make the most of the gift that was given to me. I pray that people heard what they needed to hear.

So as we prepare to move into a busy weekend I will think some more about faith and prayer. I am grateful that God recognizes even the smallest efforts on our part as a sign of our immense love for Him. Seeds grow, if cared for well, like our Newark boys, like my niece, like our faith.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why are we NOT different?

These weeks in the church hold hidden treasures for us: Pentecost, The Holy Trinity, The Body and Blood of Jesus. These feasts bring us from our celebration of Easter gently back into Ordinary Time.

Sometimes we realize what we value only when we have lost it. I feel like that when I ponder the great mystery that is the Eucharist. I say I believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but I really don't get overwhelmed by that truth on any particular Sunday.  The one day of the year I am startlingly aware of how deeply I believe this Eucharistic truth is on Good Friday. When I walk into the church on Good Friday every fiber of my being knows without looking that something is very different. Then I am humbled by how patient God is with me in the way I take my faith for granted.

A few years back I was at Mass where the celebrant was a friend of mine I had gone to visit. It happened to be the weekend we celebrate "Corpus Christi", (the Feast of the Body and Blood, NOT the city in Texas!!)

I still remember his words that afternoon, and how they blew me away. As his words live in my memory this is what I recall he said, quite forcefully I might add:

"If we say we believe that this Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus, if we receive this communion into our selves week after week, year after can we NOT be different? How can we NOT be changed by God's very presence within us, closest to our hearts? Why are we not different people? What are we afraid of? Why do we refuse to let the Eucharist change us?"

In that moment, and still today, the truth stings a little, the Eucharist is meant to change us! We are supposed to be different! Different how? Oh, I don't know, stronger, braver, kinder, more loving, more patient...we could go on right?

I've been thinking about our newly Blessed Oscar Romero. How lucky we are to add him to our roster of holy ones. Much like St Peter, he is one of the ideal models of the power of change. I was young and idealistic like most college kids when I first learned about Bishop Romero after his murder in El Salvador. What an impact that had on me. I am still in awe of his ability to turn his life around, his conversion if you will, from a Bishop who supported the status quo in a poor little country, to a man who would bravely stand with and for his people and their basic human rights, even in the very face of death. That he was murdered while at the Eucharist itself seems so profound to me still.

Bishop Romero let the Eucharist change him forever. I want to let the Eucharist change me always. I need to pay attention to allow that to happen. In a world that swirls around me at such a frantic pace, I need, for those moments when I come to the table with you, my sisters and brothers, I need to let myself be changed by Jesus. I think that would just be amazing. I pray that we will all be changed by this amazing gift of the Body and Blood of our Lord.