1st Things First.

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“To believe in Jesus’ divinity today is to make him and what he stands for your God” Albert Nolan

It is to understand Christ as the supreme power in your life, your source of meaning and strength. This approach moves away from a very metaphysical discussion of Jesus regarding the full divinity and humanity found in early church theology to a very practical understanding on the priority we place on Jesus in our own lives and an emphasis is on the lived reality of Christian discipleship. If Jesus is to truly be understood as divine, then there should be a corresponding commitment that places the message of Jesus and his mission toward fulfilling the kingdom of God first in their lives. Indeed it is the very definition of praxis which involves both critical reflection and also concrete steps or choices to the belief.

Therefore, in considering whether Jesus is God for us today..

perhaps that is exactly how we need to look at it, in each and every day. Some days the answer for us will be a yes, and it is then we realize the meaning and strength he provides for our lives and what is being asked of us as well. A couple of days ago a friend came to my door, quite unexpectedly I note because we were to meet later to have coffee. Yet, her family concern could not wait and I realized very quickly that God was asking me to make her concern, and therein God’s concern, my first priority. After we had spoken, we prayed together, and she left at peace. No matter what else I had planned that day, this was where I was meant to be. Putting Jesus in first place, doesn’t have to be accepting a mission in the Congo, although that is a very beautiful choice. It is saying yes Lord, to these opportunities to discover him through those we encounter.

We also begin to see very clearly the recognition of the grace that we receive when we do put God first in our lives. Especially, when the things of this world that we have placed on that high glass shelf for display comes crashing down upon us. It is so often in those moments that we truly realize that those things which we held dear or prioritized cannot give us the power, meaning, or strength when we need it most. Here, I believe, is when we tend to reevaluate that first place position, and recommit to God: recognizing that he is the only one deserving of that place.

This very compelling argument holds that our understanding of Jesus as divine encompasses the formulated creeds and theological concepts that have been worked out but goes even further.  What we witness in the life of Jesus, and through his choices we first come to know the Divine. Yet, Jesus’ divinity is not limited to a particular time but is actively present and experienced whenever we seek to place him first, and wherever there is an inbreaking of the kingdom of God. Therefore, others are given the opportunity to see the divinity of Jesus in the lives that we lead, and the choices that we make. However, if we make other things our “divine”, then our words are merely that..words and not faith in action or revealing of the divine. In this, I am reminded of one of the most memorable quotes of Karl Rahner that says,

“The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim Him with their mouths and deny Him with their actions is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.”  So powerful.

Early on in my involvement in ministry, I was told that you could often tell within a few conversations where people placed their priorities. Although, I still find it difficult to use the word idols, it does appropriately describe placing anything above God. The call to discipleship to me speaks to a commitment that goes beyond a faith of convenience- it is a passion of compassion that seeks to actively work even in small ways to bring hope to those with none, and speak for those who have no voice. It means making family mass a priority, and service a part of our everyday lives. So, if we take this understanding to heart, we do have a need to redirect our hearts, minds, and lives to truly placing God first in our lives.

Reflect:

Can I truly say that I see and trust Christ to be the the supreme power in my life today? What things do I place above God in my daily walk of discipleship?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Radical Hospitality

There has been much talk in recent years within ministry about the notion of radical hospitality. Not merely seeking to embrace those we know, it is an openness albeit a willingness to authentically meet and walk with one another in our weakness, suffering, and challenges of life. This is the experience of encounter, and as such cannot be superficial or thought of as just an act of charity. Each of us must be vulnerable, and ready to extend ourselves beyond our pew, well past our comfort zone, beyond even the doors of the church to welcome the stranger with love.

Yet, what does this look like in REAL life?

Some 23 years ago, my then fiancé and I were traveling the 1,400 miles to visit my family in Arkansas when the blizzard of 93’ hit. Praying that the weather would let up the further south we went, we pushed onward. However, that was not to be as the interstate in front of us was closing and we found ourselves in uncharted territory on a long stretch of road near Winchester, KY. With only 2 choices available, a 6 ft. tall snow bank to our right or a jackknifed semi to our left…we chose the snow bank. Sitting there in a car now engulfed in snow, I admit, I felt utterly despondent. For, as far as the eye could see was snow and farmland and we knew no one. We couldn’t stay there forever, as our tank of gas and thereby the heat would only last for so long. So, there my later hubby and I prayed together. And, no sooner had we done so did we see a shadowy figure approaching from a distance.

With a steaming cup of coffee in hand he gingerly made his way to check on both the driver in the semi as well as us. “How are you?, he asked”  “We are ok, but a long way from home”, we answered. “Where are ya’ll headed?” “Arkansas, to visit my family but traveling from Massachusetts”, I replied. “Well, why don’t ya’ll come on in the house, warm up, let them know you are ok, and join us for dinner.” As we walked across the field and the house came into view I breathed a sigh of relief, finally ceasing to calculate fuel reserves.

With two young children in tow this beautiful family welcomed these two strangers into their home and lives that day. Inwardly, I wondered if they had even considered whether or not we were harmless or the gift that they were offering. Their gift of generosity came so natural and was so heartfelt that we very readily felt as if we had known them for years. A very good thing too, since it would be a couple of days before the roads cleared and our car could be unearthed. Even this was another example of the breath of their commitment to radical hospitality. Knowing that we had very little extra income to spare, Mike, our gracious host, called his friend who volunteered to use his tractor with chains to help rescue the stranded Camero. Then placing heaters under the engine they were at last able to bring it back to life.

The morning we left, well rested and well fed, John and I knew that God had placed these incredible people in our lives to teach us the true meaning of hospitality and Christian love. Not only exchanging Christmas cards, with the advent of social media we have made it a point to stay connected. Their children now grown, are married and beginning  young families of their own. What a legacy of Christian discipleship Mike and Connie have modeled for their children, for my husband and I , and all those they encounter.

This is the challenge for each of us in our everyday-to go forth living out our faith with radical hospitality. To accept the invitation to meet the lost, abandoned, marginalized and wounded with generous love. Since some wounds we cannot see, and anyone of us can be in need of radical hospitality at any time, we must begin to see with the eyes of the heart. This takes practice and reminders of the moments when God has taken the initiative to rescue us, unleashing his otherwise unimaginable love and mercy.

Reflect:

When and how have I been a recipient of radical hospitality? In what ways might God be asking me to witness his radical hospitality today?

Peace,

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Ethics as Improvisation

 

Image result for samuel wells improvisationWells, The Drama of Christian Ethics: Improvisation. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004. pp. 236. pb. ISBN 1-58743-071-1.

Using the backdrop of the five act play, Wells imaginatively interprets the Christian community as players incorporated through baptism as part of the 4th act. Then the community, in anticipating the 5th act, is invited to faithful improvisation through nurturing trust, and joyful cooperation within God’s larger drama. Christian ethics then becomes that continual improvisational response to the new and challenging situations that arise.

 Common mistakes made within narrative drama:

Only viewing it as one act, seeing oneself as either creator/savior, living in the end of the drama, and failing to live as witness to Christ’s life (pp 55-57).

 Improvisation:

The invitation to faithfully and joyfully respond to our purpose as Christians having been formed through scripture, as a community of faith, and through continual discernment (pp. 65-66).

 Overaccepting:

A way of welcoming a gift without hindering the potential for transformation, or accepting it as is. Instead we look to see the potential usefulness of the gift and importance (p.131).

 Reincorporation:

seeking to reintegrate the events/voices of the story that have been lost or neglected in the past and seeing their potential for renewal and transformation of the future (p.147).

Throughout these readings by Wells, there is an exquisite thread of reconciliation present in every act of his understanding of the theological narrative. We are a people created with a purpose, to be in relationship with our creator, sharing in God’s magnificently creative love story. Yet, inevitably we have misunderstood our role, either underplaying or overplaying our involvement. While Wells, places God center of the drama, he calls us forth to draw on the own participation as well as the untapped potential of the discarded “material” and past experiences of the supposed minor actors. The call to faithfully improvise is not to create something from nothing, or be “original” but to seek as a community to reclaim and re-purpose the gifts and resources that God has given us.

It is with eyes and ears looking towards the past, and open hearts and arms in the present, and feet progressing “backwards” into the future that we as a church are called to await the 5th act. This openness allows us to receive a gift, even an unwanted one and see its potential transformation, as well as our own, through God’s grace. Yet, it isn’t simply the gift of another that is to be overaccepted and repurposed, but the very material and experiences of our own lives. Rather than blocking and discarding these unwanted experiences, or accepting them as a given, we are called to see these challenges as a means for God’s potential transformation and our own growth.

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Worth Revisiting: Love Worth Waiting For

Those who know my husband and I closely, know that before we ever dated we were best friends. John was a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts and I a freshman at Mount Holyoke College in 1990. In looking back, every detail of our meeting and courtship was just as it was intended to be. Neither of us was initially looking for a long term relationship but honestly seeking someone that reflected the values that we held dear.

That first evening, John was in fact to be meeting someone else, who was the roommate of a friend of mine. Yet, with nothing in common and little desired conversation both had decided it was a bad idea. At dinner, he spotted me across the room and inquired from my friend who I was.  I had noticed him too, but was unsure if he was with one of the other girls. Called over to their table before leaving, I suggested that we meet in the common room for coffee.  As the conversation flowed, the more we discovered that there was indeed something very special in the other. I could not explain it, but I recognized what had been so missing in my life at the time.

Instantly, John will tell you, that he knew that I was the one- who held his heart, mind and attention from that day forward. Yet, I was not so ready to “jump”. Knowing that he was special and desperately needing a true male friend, I was fearful that a relationship would ruin this.  Reluctantly, he accepted that I was not ready to date but longed for his friendship. Through months of listening to one another tell of the faults of those we dated, and giving advice we grew closer. He was waiting for me and loving me all the while.

So it happened. Having invited him to a party that I was certain would be uneventful, I eagerly anticipated spending time with my best friend. I did not worry that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about, or that we would face that awkwardness at the end. I knew that we would enjoy the time no matter how lame the event was. What I wasn’t aware of, however, was the surprise that God had in store for me..now that I was ready for it.

 : We kissed. (Oh, no..I’ve done it, I lost my friend), I thought. Yet, in those moments of recognition I prayed. Father, lead me, lead us. So, upon my suggestion we decided to go take a walk and sit beside one of my favorite reflective spots beside the waterfall. Though quite picturesque, I was feeling a bit chilled in the cool New England spring air. As he put his arms around me, and we sat in relative silence..I finally understood.

The following is a poem that I later wrote that summer. I waited to give this to him after we were engaged for Valentines Day 1992.

The Waterfall   (1991)                 by Elizabeth Reardon 

The waterfall cascaded down onto the lake below,
I marveled at its beauty and watched as moonbeams shone.
I hadn’t known the lake to look as lovely as that night,
For within his arms and loving heart I was now held tight.

In friendship had I known this loving heart before,
I never thought that ever I could ask for any more.
But suddenly I realized that this was but a start,
That every second of my life he would be a part.

To hold me, love me, and share the vast wonders of the day-
To walk along a mile with me down steep and narrow ways.
And when we are no longer young to our grandchildren I will tell,
Of the sparkling waterfall, and the painted lake-
when their grandfather kissed his southern belle!

 : This Valentine’s Day as we stop to express our love for those that continually bless our lives let’s remember how God never ceases to surprise us!

Love,

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A Church on the Margins

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Evangelization

is at the heart of the church- for to share the Gospel is to consistently invite all to continual renewal of heart and to lives committed to the living out of discipleship. This living out of the Gospel in our lives can be the greatest witness to the truth of salvation, and invitation to the world who has yet to know the living Christ. More than a feeling or a philosophical premise for our own individual lives, each of us is called to physical and tangible action. As a church then, together, we bridge the Good News and the social action in the midst of the world that has yet to know the saving power of transformation.

“To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world…The kerygma has a clear social content: at the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others. The content of the first proclamation has an immediate moral implication centered on charity.” Pope Francis, Evanglii Gaudium

The kerygma then has concrete social demands in a world that is hungry, suffers violence, sickness, and indignity- it is the language of encounter. As scripture relates, it is the fullness of love expressed in mercy and justice, not just towards a few but towards all for the good of all. Thus while the Gospel is personal for each one of us it is inherently social.

“Beware then of stopping at a sterile contemplation of God present in yourself . Add action to contemplation; to the sight of the Divine presence add the faithful accomplishment of the Divine will.” St. Ignatius, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

Agreeably these demands of the Gospel can be quite challenging at the parish level as we seek more than a few isolated acts of charity and work towards becoming a committed church on the margins. Challenging yes and yet impossible-no.

This week, our suburban Catholic parish collaborative hosted a community panel of on the ground workers speaking to violence and healing within the inner city of Boston. From the vibrant small Presbyterian church in Roxbury, Rev. Liz Walker has found that the daily struggles of poverty and violence are inseparable from the task of evangelization. Along with fellow vineyard worker Nancy Kilburn, a monthly fellowship was begun to meet the trauma of the families and community affected by violence. In these “Can we Talk” sessions, the church seeks to meet the grief experienced through sharing a meal together, providing mental health support, music and even exercise.  While listening to the story of a mother who suddenly had lost her son to gun violence, our hearts ask how we can ever hope to heal the loss she feels. And yet this church community has helped to ease the loss, by providing the space to give voice to the pain these mothers, fathers and community have experienced.

What is a church on the margins- a church focused on the active work of evangelization?

In short, a home not only where we each experience Christ, but one where we meet Christ in one another daily. The kerygma moves not only within a congregation but through doors that are open, in disciples equipped to share what that love of Christ has done in their lives by committed action to those most in need of love and healing. Perhaps you ask what is the work that I am called to do? Take time today to consider the needs of your greater community that may not be met sufficiently already. For example, in a community where poverty abounds, meal centers are seeds of transformation and healing. Notice how often Jesus came to table?  And still even with a ministry that is presently active, know that there is a way for you too to become involved.

Reflect:

What are ways that I see my own faith challenged in giving voice to the Gospel? Have I given a ready witness to the love of God in my life by my action to love of neighbor? How can my parish community better serve the needs of the larger community, and what role can I serve in working to make this a reality?

Worth Revisiting: A Child’s Perspective “Dear Pope Francis”

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Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World (Loyola Press)

With the incredible appeal of Pope Francis, there has been understandably a vast array of books on him or by him featuring his homilies, angelus’, addresses and encyclicals. Yet, I am so thrilled to be able to preview a book composed of letters and questions by children and the tender responses of Pope Francis.

While I could tell you how I felt reading these personal and heartfelt correspondences..I thought that instead I would share a few of my son Thomas’ thoughts as we read these preview pages together.

I asked him, “So, Thomas, what do you think?”

Pope Francis brings out the most of everyone’s questions in faith. He speaks to each child from his heart.

(Thomas, age 10, United States)

I really like the question from Alejandra, “Why didn’t God defeat the devil?” and Pope Francis’ response that he already defeated him “in his own way” on the cross. This relieves me so much because I dislike Satan and the evil things he does. (Thomas, age 10, United States)

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I think Pope Francis’ choice for a miracle is a good one because I do not wish that children or anyone else would suffer. When Pope Francis says that it’s ok to cry, that is different from saying that crying won’t change anything. He cries because he feels for us and loves. (Thomas, age 10, United States)

To Karla, You ask if everyone good or bad has a guardian angel. I feel bad for the guardian angel that has to accompany the people that do bad things! I am happy though that people are never alone and they have a guardian angel to guide them. (Thomas, age 10, United States)

Knowing that God wants us to all be saved makes me feel grateful. If I make a mistake and am sorry, he forgives me.(Thomas, age 10, United States)

To Pope Francis: Thank you, yes Jesus wants me to be his friend. But to be a good friend, you say that this means that Jesus wants me to talk to him, and spend time with him. This makes me happy because then everyone gets to be friends with Jesus!(Thomas, age 10, United States)

As you can see, the dialogue between hearts is intended to continue with each child, parent and teacher that picks up this beautiful conversation of faith. Children have a remarkable way of meeting situations and others with a profound honesty and simplicity. Perhaps this is why we too are called to be like these children in seeking the Kingdom of heaven. 

Peace, Signature

Thy Will Be Done

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Lately these four words have spoken profound volumes in my life. With the busy fast paced work of collaborative parish life, my own vocation as wife and mother, and the decision of putting our own house on the market,there is such solace in this simple prayer. In an Ignatian practice of pause, time spent in contemplation of each word prayerfully leads us to consider what God’s word means for our lives today.

Thy

All that is within creation is God’s alone. From the smallest grain of sand to the tallest mountain, from the fiercest storm to the most placid waters it is all His and in His control. From the tiniest spark of life placed by the Creator, to the life nearing the end of its days- God is present and attentive to our cry.  In awestruck wonder I stand amidst it all and offer my gratitude both for the grandeur of all I see, but also for my place in His plan.

This week my cousin was fatally killed when struck by an automobile while crossing the street. His childhood was a difficult one growing up on the outskirts of Chicago, and he fell easily into a life of addictions as did his sister who died early of an overdose.On and off again homeless, he did have moments of stability but none lasted very long. With his mother and father now gone too from cancer, there were but a few that were close to him. Though he too, I believe, was loved dearly by his heavenly Father, he longed for that sense of belonging here on earth. The reported images of his passing, struck and laying dead in the middle of the road left me immediately heartbroken. Yet, how could I let my grief consume me when I know the certainty of the love and mercy of God’s embrace? He is Yours now Father. May his struggle here meet your joy and forgiveness, and may he know that he is truly missed.

Will

Here there is a beautiful recognition that God is God and I quite simply am not. Truthfully, I do not want my life to follow my own inclinations, despite my repeated attempts to persuade or otherwise take the reins at times.

This week in bible study we turned towards Genesis-walking in the peace of the Garden, and experiencing the pain of our disobedience and prideful use of will. Do we too desire to have the wisdom of God? Whatever would we do if we did? I do not know about you, but I haven’t always made the best decisions when I have acted on my own. What are the consequences even when we have achieved our immediate desire? The key can be found in the search itself- the longing for happiness.  So often, we look for happiness not eternally, but rather satisfy ourselves with temporary happiness. Those things which pacify us but disappear quickly are our forbidden fruit. In consuming them they give us a feeling of self-empowerment, and control and cloud the reality of our utter dependence on God.

Oh, Lord please help my will to align with Yours! Please make straight my crooked paths and set everything right when I have forgotten your loving ways. Though I do not know the way ahead, I trust that you do.

Be Done.

Release of the outcome to the One in control of it all is essential in a life directed towards God’s will. His time, His direction, His edits and our “YES!”. Are we saying yes daily but our more accurate response is a maybe?

As anyone who has gone through the process of selling a home can attest to..one wishes not only for a good price but for the pain to end quickly. Living in a constant state of readiness and cleanliness is a work of wonder with a family of boys and a playful German Shepherd. Only week two and I who began this quest in an open surrender am already petitioning God to walk the right family through our home. I know, that God’s answer might be yes..but it may be a no, or perhaps later. After we do all that we can do to prepare each day, what remains for each of us is for the resolve of the situation to “Be done”.

Reflect: How do we respond when situations are slower than unexpected, or end unfavorably for what we would have desired? Can we let God who has the big picture take the lead? If not, what could we do differently?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Grace & Circumstance

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We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.

— from Pope Francis and our Call to Joy

It’s a balmy 40 degrees outside today, yet even this isn’t meant to stay for very long. Temps will be dropping along with continual rain for the next few days. With a supply of hand and feet warmers and aluminum blanket in hand I prayed “Dear Lord help me to find who these warm essentials are meant for. Help them to know that they are thought of and loved.”

Walking up I recognize one woman who I know to be apprehensive of human connection, keeping to herself even among her fellow homeless. This is as close as she gets and thus I nod her way but continue walking towards the group huddled in the bus terminal hub. “John” smiles as I approach and his eyes widen as he notices I come bearing gifts. His full but weathered face reveals the harshness of the life he has led but his kind demeanor bursts forth immediately. While he is one who is able to stay in the local winter shelter for the nights, he joyfully accepts these to pass on to a friend who sleeps outside. As I have yet to meet “Bose”, having only seen his blankets and limited belongings resting under the awning of our parish center, I am thankful to finally find a way to help. Placing these on the bench beside him, John chooses to then generously share with me that he has found a job, the first one in awhile. What a blessing it is to know that not only will it give him a source of income, but will keep him out of the elements during the days.

In finishing up our conversation, we are joined by two other regulars “Chris” and “Nicole”. Despite her substantially layered frame, you can tell Nicole’s thin body is not able to tolerate the cold as many of the others. She is visibly cold, and her lips even are somewhat frozen as she struggles to say hello and reach for the hand warmers. Looking in her eyes I see what it is to suffer. Aware of a bit of her journey, Nicole is a victim of abuse leading to a life of alcoholism and subsequent life on the streets.  Her addiction has, on several occasions, even brought her inside the sacristy in her desire to numb her pain. Today, I am here to simply reach out to that part of her that she can offer.

What sets any one of us apart from anyone else? What is our common thread despite our condition in life? Grace and circumstance. Our choices do factor into the situations we find ourselves in, and the shape our lives take. Yet, I cannot help but recognize how easily an unexpected tragedy, circumstance or mental illness could make its demands on each one of us as well. This is love. This is what it is to walk briefly beside those who so often are our greatest teachers of mercy.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Joy Stealer or Faith Grower?

Perspective they say is everything, and when we choose to look at situations with new eyes, better yet God’s eyes, we are given a real invitation to grow in faith..

Currently, in our society where individualism and our own happiness has been regarded as utmost priority there is great emphasis placed on that which makes us momentarily feel good.  We are quick  to avoid the situations that disturb our inner peace, upset out schedule and call us out of our comfort zone. Even in our relationships we grumble, resist and distance ourselves from those that are most difficult to deal with.

I pause here for an honest confession… I have chosen the path of feeling annoyed and complaining lately. Faced with a seemingly unchanging resistance from others to my own desire to be joyful,  I had decided it best to create some distance. A mini retreat of sorts, I recognized that I needed a break in order to get a bit of perspective. In taking this opportunity to go out into the “wilderness”  to spend some alone time in prayer, to reflect on what  is being asked of me I now have a better understanding of what Christ desires.

First, I realize that I cannot remain on permanent retreat from all that I feel attempts to steal my joy. Obvious exemptions would be situations that are physically or mentally abusive. Yet, what I am talking about are difficult people, or particularly trying situations that continually test my patience and call for regular forgiveness.

Case in point:

1.The “one way or no way” attitude: The phone rings and I notice the caller id. As the conversation ensues I am struck by the familiarity of the questions and topics of discussion.  Can we ever go deeper? No, not if it remains a one sided barrage of questions where there is only one answer desired. No, not if there isn’t active listening, appreciation of the other person, and a desire to have true dialogue. So, I listen and leave the discussion wondering why I spent my time in this way.

2. The “blinking red light”: Here is the person that is constantly in hot water. If the issue doesn’t involve them directly they feel it necessary to stir the waters that potentially create a tempest situation. Oh, did you have plans today? Well, this is far more important and if you weren’t concerned before..you should be by now.  So, I listen, offer advice, help where I can, and spend the day praying that they find peace.

Selfishly at times I have asked God, “Why have you placed these rocks in my path, why am I being asked to deal with stubbornness and anxiety?”

His answer, “Elizabeth because you have yet to learn the incredible lessons of love and forgiveness that I have been so desperately seeking to instill in you! Do you honestly think that you are without fault, malleable, secure in my loving plan and accepting of all that I am calling you to be?”

“No, Father… I have much to learn. Yet, I am desperately trying to understand though. Isn’t that good?”

Yes, but you cannot get comfortable with where you are- because I am asking so much more of you. Each of my children has a purpose and a journey. Sometimes this journey leads others to learn from you and other times their purpose is to challenge you to grow.

I have choices in how I encounter others. If my life isn’t rooted in love, patience, and forgiveness, how are others to truly  know Christ through me?  Moreover, our lives are meant to be proof of God’s deep call to a new life, faith that though times get difficult there is hope that our loving Father is working all for good.  This inbreaking of the Kingdom of God isn’t merely an inner journey or a futuristic promise of heaven…but it begins with me today.

Peace,

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Crossing the Divide: Part II

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Last week we turned to Daniel Groody’s Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees as a means of providing a fuller discussion on the current discussion of immigration in the United States. Beyond solely the financial and security considerations, we have been given as Catholics a tradition that protects and promotes the dignity of the human person. With this there is the inherent challenge to strive to see all of creation with the eyes of God…

Visio Dei

Finally, with visio Dei we are called to view the world around us with God’s eyes, envisage a path for conversion, and step forward in committed discipleship.[1] Imperative here is a complete transformation and a response, both individually and as a church, to those situations that perpetuate injustice and fuel inequality. In a theology of migration, in particular, we are being asked to walk in solidarity with the marginalized, “crossing borders that make possible new relationships” and leaving behind identities which have defined us, to be in communion together.[2] To do so requires that we ethically reevaluate those decisions that reinforce barriers, to place ourselves at risk, and see in the “vulnerable stranger a mirror of (our)selves, a reflection of Christ”.[3]

In this reading, there are several noticeable insights that Groody presents in seeking a meaningful dialogue between a theology of justice and the faith experience of a migrating people. Beginning with  imago dei, we see how far removed humanity has become in understanding the dignity of all creation and our shared journey towards God. It is a poignant reminder that in a society geared towards economic profit that there is an immeasurable worth in every human being. Rights, therefore, are not something to be given by a few, but rather to be recognized in all as endowed by God. Thus, the implications of imago dei present difficulty for those in positions of power, perceived as superior, who seek maintenance of the status quo. Theology then offers a renewed sense of empowerment for those defined as “social and political problems”, and challenges all to reconciliation in our understanding of human nature and relationships.[4]

Likewise for the migrant and refugee, imago dei directly confronts society’s image of God, calling for a reexamination of both their understanding of God as well as of themselves. Rather than “interiorizing the image of the oppressor as superior and exclusively Godlike”, they are beckoned to recognize the “God-given spirit that (creates) and sustains them in their collective life”. [5] It is to encounter their true identity, and embrace their true relationship with their Creator, who is not distant but ever a part of their journey. This renewed vision is essential in awakening the promise within, hope in the world beyond, and in the potential to determine one’s future.  It further illustrates how interconnected and indispensable all of the premises for migration theology truly are in seeking to grasp the salvific message of the Gospel.

While this is necessary for the study of Latino Catholicism, ministerially, this message is important for people of all ages and ethnicities. In conversations with our youth, it is easily discoverable that they often find themselves not only labeled economically, but socially defined by race, gender, sexuality, or perceived talents.  Yet, can we as a church fully answer the nature and diversity of mission unless we also acknowledge, discuss and celebrate our diversity that exists within this unity?  The advantage, it seems, rests in recognizing the different voices and face of the contemporary church and in its gifts that we are best able to respond to the challenges of Christian mission today. Then with our elderly, it is equally apparent that they too suffer from humanity’s inability to recognize the dignity and worth of those who are no longer seen as contributing members of society. They are frequently pushed to the fringes of the community, and without family or savings become some of the most vulnerable in our culture.

This is an example of the mission set before us, calling us as a church to go forth to those most in need. The distance reminds us that quite often we have rendered theology as static and immovable when, in fact, it is to be dynamic and alive as our God has been shown to be. Instead, the church is called to be “constantly realized anew and given new form in history by our personal decision of faith”.[6] These are two points that Groody exemplified in missio and Verbum dei. Following in the footsteps of Christ, we are called to go to the outcast, to leave our places of comfort and meet the mission that God has set before us. Thus, our faith is to be both inclusive and wider in scope than the restricting boundaries we have set amongst each other.

In order to see with the vision of God, thus, requires that we accept our new identity both individually as a disciple and collectively as the body of Christ. It demands a reorientation to the communion that we share in the Eucharist to the crucified and suffering Jesus, understanding our “complicity in the suffering of others”, and commitment to a life of action and hope.[7]  Copeland’s historical accounts of racism call us into accountability not just for our actions, but our inaction towards God’s ordering and desire for human fulfillment and purpose. That same call for reconciliation in the experience of mystery of Christ, calls us also to see, do and be Christ for one another. It is not a commitment to shallow understandings of unity, or half hearted gestures of commitment but a complete conversion of heart and mind to that of God. As a Eucharistic minister, I readily see the beauty that Groody speaks of in visio Dei, in the experience of communion. Together we approach the mystery of the Incarnation as a people blessed and broken, gathered and invited to “assume a new way of looking at the world, living out a different vision, and ultimately learning to love as God loves”.[8] The challenge that the church as a whole faces, however, is realizing the extensive, inclusive, and demanding acceptance this identity implies. A unity, as witnessed in the border masses, that breaks through all boundaries, including the visible doors of the church.

Peace,

Signature


[1] Ibid., p. 660
[2] Ibid., p.663
[3] Ibid., p. 667
[4] Ibid., p. 645.
[5]Elizondo, The Galilean Journey: the Mexican American Promise. Orbis Books. Maryknoll, NY. 2000, p. 97
[6] Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen,  An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical & Global Perspectives (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2002) p. 103.
[7] M. Shawn Copeland, Enfleshing Freedom: body, race and being (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010) p. 128
[8] Groody, p. 662.

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