Thursday, July 20, 2017

Live Jesus!

It is my hope in the next year, to learn more about who St Francis de Sales was so I can try to practice some of the virtues he taught.  By now you have surely noticed the amazing new banner hanging outside our church. This beautiful piece of artwork, created by Br. Mickey McGrath proudly shouts St Francis’ motto all over 96th St: “LIVE JESUS!”
Two simple words that will take a lifetime to understand, I think.
What does it mean for us to LIVE JESUS now in the 21st century? What does it mean to LIVE JESUS here in the midst of the city, at the crossroads of El Barrio and the Upper East Side? What does it mean to LIVE JESUS in whatever your current circumstances are? What does St Francis mean by those simple words: LIVE JESUS!?
                                             
I can only begin to tweeze these words apart to begin to understand them. I imagine this has something to do with letting the very heart of Jesus message of love and compassion for others begin to become part of the very fabric of my being, of my everyday life, of the way I approach the world around me.
It has to mean too, that on a very basic level I need to get to know who Jesus was/is so I can adopt his way of life and incorporate his virtues into myself.  As much as that sounds like a tall order, maybe the way I can best begin is to think about those qualities of Jesus that I most admire and start, one at a time, to make them a part of who I am.

So I think I will start with how accepting Jesus was of others.  He didn’t judge folks, he listened to them in love and invited them to follow him and get to know his Father’s love.  I would really love to be more accepting and less judgemental of others.  That’s where I’m going to start. What about YOU? Where will YOU start? (No judgement there, just a pretty direct invitation!)

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where Is Your Center?

I find myself wondering again, where the time goes when presumably the schedule should be a bit lighter now that the Spring Sacraments are done. It is true though that there is never a dull moment in parish life.

So, when Elisha visits the 'woman of influence' in the first reading on Sunday, how kind is she to set up a place of respite for him? Someone else would be trying to get rid of a guest who overstays their welcome! Not her, she is most hospitable and her goodness is rewarded magnificently.

I had an opportunity last weekend to meet a group of people who could not have been more welcoming. They were so very gracious. They told us over and over again how much they were moved and touched by the hospitality that was offered to their son and daughter at our parish of St Francis de Sales. It reminds me that our 'influence' can be far reaching. A kindness offered to someone on Sunday becomes the seed of great faith when given the time and love to blossom.

The beginning of the Gospel always unnerves me. Does Jesus really mean those harsh words? Or was he just trying to catch our attention so that we could hear the truth-that God must be in the center of our lives. Our decisions need to be considered from a heart of faith. This I can understand and pray with. I know when God is my center, there is a peace beyond all understanding even in the midst of the turmoil of my life.

My prayer for each of us as we enter into the summer months is that we keep God in the center, in the good times and the hard, at work, at the beach, in the everydayness of grocery shopping. May we remember that God is with us in it all, and may we stay centered in God's love.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Where is the Spirit calling you?

 
I am realizing the day is getting away from me at a rapid pace as we try to prepare for our Parish Pentecost Event this Sunday. We are also hosting the Last Class Party for our families in Religious Education classes as well as welcoming two young men into the initiation process. Busy? Absolutely! The Spirit is working overtime here at St Francis de Sales for sure!

As we approach Pentecost I find myself thinking about the folks who were in that upper room with the disciples. Last week's reading said Mary and the other women were there too. They are not mentioned at all this Sunday in the account of the Spirit's coming. I wonder why....

I'm reading a book now called "Everyone Leads" by Chris Lowney. It is one more idea of how we need to revitalize our beloved church in order to continue to grow and serve the world in the next century. He has me fascinated with a quote by Pope Benedict (!!) who is referencing back to the documents of Vatican II when he states that the laity are called to be not only collaborators in leading the church but more truly that we are CO RESPONSIBLE for the LEADERSHIP of our church. To hear that the church believes that WE are  (co) responsible for our future is quite a lot to take in. I'm pretty sure this is news to most of us on both sides of the aisle.

But not so much here at St Francis. I do think that we are on the cutting edge of believing that we are leaders in our church and are excited about preparing ourselves and each other to be the most responsible, most creative, most welcoming Catholics around 96th St. There is an energy here that is exciting to be a part of.  Today I received a compliment about how welcoming, well spoken and kind our maintenance man is! I am proud to say we all share a vision of how we want St Francis de Sales to be a place where people learn how to "LIVE JESUS" and his message of peace in the midst of our crazy city lives.

As we prepare for our Pentecost event I am hopeful that our time together will be filled with great conversation on how to seek creative ways to bring the message of Jesus and the church into our neighborhood. I anticipate much laughter, the seeds of new friendships planted and a renewed sense of hope for our parish. We have much to be grateful for. We have much work to do for the kingdom. 

Aren't we all called by the Spirit of Pentecost to change the world? 
Let us go forth into the world, blessed by the gifts of the Spirit, to renew our corner of the earth.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why Do I Hope?

St Peter says in the reading this Sunday: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you a reason for your hope.”
So I thought I’d share with you some of what I get to see in our parish and in our church that gives me hope in these Easter days.
Our Young People: I’ve had the chance to spend time with both the young ladies from Marymount and the gentlemen from Xavier.(thank you Kathleen and Jim for the invites) I was so very impressed with the thoughtfulness with which these young men and women are able to share their faith with one another. If they are what the next generation of Catholics will look like, then I can breathe a little easier.
Our Families: Sunday we celebrate both First Communions and Baptisms. At the end of the month we will celebrate Confirmations. Each and every one of these families has made a commitment to raising their children carefully and faithfully. We see these families at church most Sundays. What great joy it brings us to get to know them and to watch them participate and grow in their faith. How can we not but smile when we see all the life they bring to our parish.
Camden: I had the opportunity to go visit Br. Mickey McGrath in Camden NJ this week. Wow. They aren’t kidding about how tough things are in Camden. It is pretty bleak. Except for this one block that surrounds Sacred Heart Church in Camden, where the parish priest, now 82 years old and fighting cancer, has spent his life building up the neighborhood around the church. Through the arts and literature, through gardens and creativity, the kingdom of God grows in Camden. It was amazing to witness.
Our Parish Council: What a fine group of men and women. Not only are they committed to helping SFDS grow into the future, but they are concerned about who we will be as a parish in the future. Yes, there was some conversation about how we need to be financially secure, but there was also significant time spent on how we want to be a parish that is loving and welcoming. There was much talk about how we need to find ways as a church family to live out God’s call to justice and mercy.  To that end we would like to invite folks who are interested to consider attending local community board meetings and police precinct meetings to help keep all of us informed on how we can better help our neighborhood be a place of peace and justice for all. We are coming to understand, as Pope Benedict XVI told us, that we are all called to live out our baptismal roles, to be co responsible for the church. We are all called to be leaders. How are you being called to lead?

On a personal note, I am more aware than ever that I am so blessed to be in the place that I am, with the folks I work with, and the friends that have become my second family. I can't begin to count the many ways they gift me with their love and support and care. Even when things seem the most difficult, I am surrounded by love. I am grateful that I recognize it, and that I can appreciate it.


All in all, lots to be hopeful and grateful for.                        Jayne

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Is Your Heart Troubled Today?

Some gospel stories are much easier to enter into than others. I find this Sunday's Gospel both a bit of a challenge on the one hand, and way too easy on the other.

On the one hand Jesus leads off with those immortal words: "Don't let your hearts be troubled, have faith in God and faith in me"...and every single stressed part of my very human heart wants to snap back at him..."Oh REALLY??" I have no problem jumping right into this imaginary narrative.

What could we possibly have to feel stressed about? Our world? The economy? My budget? My job? My family? My ailing mom? My future? My weight? My health? My friends? All those things jump to mind before I can even take another breath. REALLY Jesus??? Don't worry? Easy for you and your all knowing self to say!! Quite another story for simple humble human me to try and live out.

Do I know anyone in the world who doesn't worry at some point about something? I don't think so. I know worrying isn't good for me, and I know it doesn't change the given reality at all. So why do I let myself go there? Is this something I can change about myself? I'm not sure. I hope so. I don't like all the energy I can spend worrying about things I can't change.

If I can only change myself then I'd better get started. What if, rather than getting upset with others, I just tried to accept that everyone is doing the best they can in any given situation. I wonder if that would help me be kinder and less harsh with others?

Later on in Sunday's Gospel Jesus refers to himself as "the way, the truth and the life." Leave it to John to be so philosophical. This is the part of the passage that I can struggle with. What does this mean? I'm only guessing here, but I think if I want to let go of the worrying, that I have to delve into Jesus as MY way, MY truth and light. If I surround myself, cover myself, in his embrace, I can feel safe and secure. Why would I need to worry about anything I am centered in Jesus. If Jesus is the way I move through life, if he is there as I make my choices, if Jesus is the one I count on to be by my side on the journey, if Jesus helps me to see clearly...why the heck do I worry?

I guess that's where my frail humanity trips me up. But this Sunday reminds me to hand my cares and concerns over to the One who sees the big picture and promises to guide me, to hold my hand on the journey, to walk with me to the end.

And so my heart is not troubled.
Happy Mother's Day to all you out there who nurture others into fullness of life.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

What Do You Believe?



At Easter we are asked to renew our baptismal promises and state strongly and clearly what we believe as Catholics. We take it for granted don't we? I do, I do, I do...how often do we pause to think about what we are giving our assent to?

Do I reject sin and Satan and all that tries to keep me away from God? Sure if I knew it was something bad and harmful--I'd stay away from it! But more often there's a subtlety to how sin takes root in my heart and leads me to question everything I thought I believed. My ego can rise up so quickly that I'm choking on false humility before I know what happened. It's then that I hold on with both hands to God and beg for help to be my best self.

Do I believe in God? Creator-Redeemer-Sanctify-er?  Of course I do! I mean, I think I do...but when I reflect on my actions, well, sheesh, sometimes I act like the future of the entire world rests on me...on choices I make and what I do. The world has been redeemed already by Jesus, and I need to remember to get out of God's way sometimes.

Do I believe in the Church? When I listen to the first reading from Acts of the Apostles, the story of the early church, how everyone came together and shared what they had in common. How they listened to the stories of Jesus and prayed and worked together for the good of all. Heck, yes! That's the church I believe in with all my heart.

I feel blessed to say I think this is the image of church we try and create here at St Francis de Sales. Sure we get some of it wrong sometimes, because we're human. For the most part though, I think God is using us to create a vision of parish that is extraordinarily welcoming to all in our neighborhood. We are many ages, ethnicities, and personalities gathering to pray each weekend for the good of our world. We look for new ways to be disciples of Jesus in our city. We invite others to join with us in both prayer and actions for the good of others.

The gospel today about Thomas feels bittersweet to me. How embarrassing and painful it must have been for Thomas to be 'called out' by Jesus about his lack of faith. I think I would have crumbled right then and there. Somehow Thomas remains whole, even when confronted with his weakness. It doesn't appear as if Jesus intends to shame him, but rather Jesus challenges him to move through his doubt into a stronger faith and life of witness.

That is my prayer for each of us this Easter season. That we will have the faith to rely on Jesus in our moments of doubt and confusion. That we will hold on tight with both hands to the God who continues to call us and love us into newness of being. That we will feel the glory of the Easter Alleluia down to our very souls. That we will forgive ourselves for our failings and be grateful for our moments of grace. Do I believe in the resurrection and new life in Jesus? I do!  Do you?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hands and Feet































Weather beaten and work worn. Tired and calloused. Lined and arthritic. Hands and feet that have seen so much of life. They speak of struggle, of love, of length of days.

Young and pink. Fresh and supple. Ready to clap, to dance, to play, to celebrate. Hands and feet that are hopeful and open to new adventures. Wherever God may lead.

Grant me the wisdom and grace to look beyond the hands and feet I shall see this week. Let me see their longing for you in their lives. Let me see their hopes and dreams and regrets and sorrows, their fears and their prayers.

Help me be fully truly present as I find you in the hands and feet of your sons and daughters. And I beg you, as I reach out to touch them, I pray you use them to touch me.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bacon Cheeseburgers and Lenten Fasting




How’s Your Lent Going?

As of this 5th Sunday of Lent, we’re more than halfway through Lent and skidding into Holy Week with Palm Sunday coming up next week. How have your Lenten practices been going? Are you still craving bacon cheeseburgers on Fridays like me? Are you finding kindness and generosity a little easier to remember each day? Are you reflecting on how God is looking out for you?

The Gospel this weekend is that amazing story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. There’s lots of symbolism in this scripture for sure. I’d just put before you the most basic questions: where in my own life do I need to live more fully? How do I need to die to self in order to live for others? There's enough there for prayer and meditation to take me all through the Easte season!

As I look ahead to Palm Sunday I always find myself pondering this question: If we longed for the Eucharist the way we desire our palm branches on Palm Sunday, what would the Catholic Church look like?

Can you imagine what an amazing powerhouse for good we could be as a church, as a people of God, if we understood what Jesus in the Eucharist truly is for us….if we got half as excited about communion as we do palm branches?  

What do we value more, palm branches or Jesus in the Eucharist? What do our actions say? How can we be more true to what our hearts long for?


This is what I’m thinking and praying about this week. I’d love to know what you’re thinking and praying about as we come to the end of Lent. Email me at jayneporcelli@sfdsnyc.org and let me know!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Do I Really Want to See?




I love the readings these three weeks of Lent in cycle A: The Woman at the Well, the Man Born Blind, the Raising of Lazarus. Each reading highlights the desires of our hearts-we thirst for more, we want to see, we want to live fully.

When I think about what it means for me to ask to see more clearly, I can't help but wonder if I really and truly want to see more clearly? It causes me to look internally and ask how honestly do I see myself and if I'm willing to look at my faults and failings and try to improve. Do I want to be more generous? Do I want to let people live their own lives and not judge them according to "who the heck am I to think I have a right to judge them anyway" standards. Can I be more honest? Can I try harder?

And really, who in their right mind wants to ask those questions....

If I have a minute to forget about myself, do I really want to look at the world around me? Do I want to see the ugly truths of prejudice and hatred and selfishness and the myriad ways we convince ourselves it's OK not to care for our sisters and brothers? Honestly, no I don't.

But here we are and it IS Lent, so I try my best to stay silent with the hard questions. I take solace in the fact that Jesus wants to help the blind man. I must believe Jesus wants to help me be better than I think I can be.

God gives me lots of folks who are gifts in my life to help me be "the best version of myself" -to see myself and the world around me more clearly. I know I don't always appreciate when you call my attention to the ways I fall short. But maybe for this week of Lent, I'll try and listen a bit more graciously, and be patient with myself as I try to grow a bit, to see myself and the world around me more honestly.

What do YOU want to see?



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Angels among us

To who ever patted me on the back as I walked to communion last Sunday, Thank you. Your simple act of kindness meant the world to me. I felt as if you were an angel sent by God to let me know it was all going to be OK. That I didn't need to worry so much. That I was doing an alright job of it all.

I feel it is an honor and a privilege every year to walk the journey in the initiation of others who want to join us in our Catholic church. We talk a lot in the process of learning how to look for moments where God tries to reach out to us, to recognize God's actions in our daily lives.

I had said in a bible reflection earlier in the week, with tongue stuck firmly in cheek, that, just as Jesus had angels caring for him after the temptation in the desert, I wouldn't mind an angel or two to look after me.

Well, really...be careful what you pray for.

No sooner had the words left my lips than I recognized the angels by my side. The email asking me if I was OK after something I had shared in the group. The pat on my back after a long weekend. The smiles and laughter of my nieces and nephew. The cousin who now says "I love you" when he hangs up the phone with me. The friend who helped me dig my car out of the snow. The one who did my laundry. The colleague who bought the salami for lunch.

Angels all around me.
All the time.

I am grateful, like the man born blind who we'll hear from in two weeks, that I have eyes to see.

And meanwhile, back at the well....be like the Samaritan Woman...strong and not afraid to ask for what you need.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Another Lent is Upon Us


Today is Ash Wednesday. It's 3pm and it's already been a very long week, a long day. I'm not sure what to write, but I feel compelled to attempt this now before more time  goes past.

Last week's gospel -- consider the lilies of the field--hit me where I live. Jesus really challenges me to trust him with all the nonsense that fills my mind and my heart with worries. I either trust him or I don't. Which is it? I want it to be YES of course I trust...at least, most of the time. I'm trying to get better with those doubtful days, hoping they are fewer and farther between.

As we move into Lent I wonder if this will be a season of giving up or of 'adding in'. I'd love to add in more patience and understanding and to give up judging others and seeing the worst instead of the best. God help me!

I feel like I've been given the gift of time with my mom as she ages. I ask God to help me make the most of the time we have left. May I be grateful for who she is today, and not worry so much about our past or our future.

This Lent I want to pay attention to those around me. Their needs. Their joys. The blessings they bring to my life. I just want to learn to appreciate the moment I'm in...to be grateful for the moments that bring joy, like visiting my nephew last weekend, or a delicious pasta dinner, as well as being grateful for the strength of mind and heart to breath deeply and get through more challenging moments. 

Let us hold each other close in prayer these holy days and encourage each other to make this Lent a time of transformation. May we be stronger in mind, heart and spirit at the end of these next 40 days. 

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 if...to 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

Called?






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"...is 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.