In Plain Sight

 : Every Spring my mom, though teaching full time, would find an extra reserve of energy to become attentive to the details of housekeeping that winter and life had placed on the back burner. Make no mistake, however, it wasn’t just her responsibility but mine as well. Cobwebs and dust bunnies had no  recourse but to succumb to her broom, keen eye and swift hand.  What always surprised me in the course of these weeks was not the visible dirt but that which lay hidden in plain sight.

With pails of soapy water, a sponge for each of us, and a strong determination of mission we washed each wall from top to bottom. Not just once, but several times over, removing the unsightly grime that somehow had made its home on ours. And while I longed to stop at the first attempt,  to do so would simply make the dirt remaining all the more obvious. Yet, when the proper time and care was taken the work taken would reveal a well cared for home and the splendid true color of the original paint chosen.

I thought of this today in contemplating the housekeeping, as it were, of our souls. While we might easily recognize the walls that are broken or seemingly damaged beyond repair, do we see the layers of dirt and daily sin that fade the color of love that we are to reflect? Are we attentive only in confessing the obvious cracks or plaster in need of repair, or do we return time and time again to unearth the less visible sin we have accumulated?

For, much like the first pass of the soap on the wall, our awareness of the multitude of sin in our lives becomes apparent only when we begin to scratch the surface of the grime of time and habit. Too much work we say for such a small reward. Yet, this is the convincing deception of the venial sins in our lives. These small innocuous ways that we even unknowingly hide the beauty of God within, and become content to be less than what we were meant to be. If it has been some time since you have attended to this deeper spiritual housekeeping, God is ready and eager to provide the soap and water!

Reflect:

In what ways and areas do I need to attend to most in my spiritual life? What areas do I neglect? What might be revealed in tidying here that will let God’s love shine brighter in my life?

Peace,

Signature

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.

Reappraisal- Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees

With the most recent attention on immigration within our nation’s political sphere, there was ample discussion on the cost, danger, and long term effects of our current policy on immigration. While each of these are worthy considerations from a financial and security standpoint, there still remains a profound understanding that under guards our Catholic teaching  and our relationship with our Creator

…that of the human person.

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Over the next couple of weeks, I would like to take a look at Daniel Groody’s Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees as a means of providing a fuller discussion on this very tenuous current discussion.

In this piece by Groody, theology is examined not as a static discipline set apart from an understanding of migration, but as inherently entwined and alive in the migrant experience. For through the perspective of the migrant, we become witnesses to the prophetic voices of those who encounter the Gospel anew in their struggles and hopes for a changing world.  Here, we are invited to glimpse the fundamental nature of the human person, and its relationships with God, others, and the world as it is, as well as how it should be.[1] We are challenged to hear how God is speaking to the particular social location of the migrant, while calling us to accept responsibility and embrace our relationality with all humanity. Thus, as we are beckoned to reconcile with God, we are also called to reconcile with one another working towards the Kingdom values of the Gospel. Correspondingly, we lessen the divide between us and reach through the borders which mankind has created towards the unity that God intended.

Imago Dei (Image of God)

First, through a revisiting of imago Dei, we are called to transcend the social and political labels that humanity has imposed on one another, to recognize our intrinsic creation in the image of God.  Rather than the disproportionate relationality created by these labels and intended to “control, manipulate, and exploit”, migrant and native alike are called to affirm mutual equality and identity as children of God.[2] Further, imago Dei is a reminder that our existence is linked from the very beginning to God sharing also in the Trinitarian relationship. As such, it carries immense moral responsibility to ensure the dignity and protection of life for its most vulnerable, as part of the universal human community.[3] Groody aptly points out that Catholic social teaching and encyclicals like that of Gaudium et spes, and Laborem exercens, summon us to examine the social and economic structures themselves.[4] Here, we come to understand many of the root causes of migration and become aware that change is needed in creating opportunities for economic growth, education, and political status. [5]

Verbum Dei (God’s revelation to us)

Next with Verbum Dei, we receive the truth of God revealed through Jesus Christ entering into our world and “movement in love to humanity”, leading us back to God.[6] In Jesus we witness the self-sacrificing love reaching beyond societal borders to the outcast and sinner, all the way to the cross. For in the midst of pain and suffering, the light of Christ’s love is fully revealed calling us to see the “other” and follow him.[7]

Missio Dei (Mission of God)

As a church then, with missio Dei, we recognize that the mission of Christ calls us forth to spread the Good News of salvation and hope throughout the world. For those denied their inherent rights endowed by God, to justice and equality under the law, or a voice in determining the course of their lives, this is indeed Good News! Beautifully, Groody points to the idea of “creating space” in migration theology to allow the message to take root in hearts and lives of those who hear it.[8]

Next week, we’ll touch on Fr. Goody’s consideration of Visio Dei (the vision of God) and some final reflections on the path forward as a community of faith..

Peace,

Signature


[1] Daniel Groody, “Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees,” Theological Studies 70 (September 2009):642.
[2] Ibid., p. 643.
[3] Ibid., p. 645.
[4] Ibid., p.646.
[5] Ibid., p. 647.
[6] Ibid., p. 649
[7] Ibid., p.652
[8] Ibid., p. 659

Be Reconciled


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Not just a prettier or more approachable  version of confession, the act of reconciling is instead, a richer and more complete description of what transpires in this beautiful sacrament. For, reconciliation means“to walk together again”[1] , to reestablish a close relationship in friendship, peace, and love. Confession is just one part of this sacrament replete with mercy, grace and love.  Reconciliation then more fully represents  “what is most important, what Jesus does”. [2]

Growing up protestant, I have heard all of the following questions and consequent arguments against the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation. Undoubtedly even for those having grown up in the faith, there still lies a temptation to rest on these as a means of justifying ourselves in our walk with God. However, there is also a challenge here to really consider the effects of sin, the grace that is present here and the freedom in walking humbly with our God.

1.“My relationship with Jesus is good..I can tell him anything. Why would I put a 3rd person in the middle since Jesus is the one who forgives me?  What this question begs is a heartfelt response. Yes, there is solid scriptural basis but the person asking this is seeking to know the soul benefit in uttering and entrusting their sins in this way.  They understand the need for forgiveness and may have a very good prayer life. Coming into the faith as an young adult this was a hurdle I myself encountered. I prayed often, went to church, read my bible and asked for forgiveness daily. So what does the sacrament of reconciliation really provide that is different?

  • In confessing our sins we give voice to that which we have privately carried and share it with the community in the priest who is also representative of Christ. The weight of our sins that we have carried is lifted, the slate with our sins wiped clean and we are free to begin anew.
  • Likewise, in both our sin and sanctity we are a community and are called to help one another in the journey. Our sin which has hampered and even damaged our relationships is removed and so, as a community we celebrate.
  • Receive peace and comfort by the grace of Christ to go forth to both amend our ways and to strive for greater justice and peace in our families, communities and world around us. Our penance is an essential first step to express our commitment towards this transformation.

2. “So, where is the need for reconciliation in the bible?

  • “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
  • Parable of the lost sheep- Jesus’ story of the shepherd and the 1 lost sheep among the 99. Jesus leads us to reconciliation with God and others (Matthew 18:12-14)
  • Prodigal Son explores the unconditional love and forgiveness of God, and helps bring this forgiveness into our daily lives (Luke 15:11-32)
  • Great Commandment- Jesus’ teaching about loving God, ourselves, and others (Matthew 22:36-40)

3. “These priests are human too, how can they hear and absolve my sins, aren’t they just as prone to sin?”

  • As Catholics we believe that Jesus intended to give authority to his apostles to guide, teach, forgive and heal the followers of Christ to come. And, that they in turn in succession handed down this authority.

” And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19.

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23

  • Yet, this question also points to the need for forgiveness for all of us, as a result of our human condition and our inclination to sin. St. John Paul II went to reconciliation frequently as did newly sainted St. Teresa of Calcutta who is noted for going 2-3 times a week for even venial sins.

“It would be an illusion to seek after holiness, according to the vocation one has received from God, without partaking frequently of this sacrament of conversion and reconciliation.  Those who go to Confession frequently, and do so with the desire to make progress, will notice the strides that they make in their spiritual lives.” St. JP II[3]

4. Finally, “Didn’t they just go to reconciliation? So why are they still  (*mean, rude etc.) ?

First obviously this question implies a bit of judgement of others rather than looking at our own walk of faith. Yet, to address the intended issue, does this sacrament have the grace and power to effect true and lasting change? Yes, but again we have a propensity and inclination to sin and our sins are not always exactly the same. Reconciliation is a sacrament that is intended to be received again and again throughout our lives either individually or with the community. So, it does not “end with the words of absolution”, but “in order to achieve it’s purpose it must take root in their whole lives”.[4]

In Reconciliation we are giving the opportunity to experience and celebrate God’s grace, love, mercy and forgiveness in our lives and in community. God isn’t as concerned with the “mistakes” but with repairing the relationship that has suffered.

Think for a moment about your relationship with your best friend.

If you think about your relationship with God, how could this be better? Have you made time for your friendship with God in prayer, answered his calls of love and grace? Have you said sorry when you realize that you have chosen to act unloving?

Remember, our choices not only hurt ourselves but effect our relationship with God, and so many others that we encounter daily. Mercy and forgiveness are waiting-take time today to be reconciled.

Peace,

Signature


[1] McKenna, Meagan. (1997) Rites of Justice. New York. Orbis Books

[2] Richstatter, Thomas. O.F.M, S.T.D. (1990) “Ten Tips for Reconciliation: The Gift of Reconciliation”. Catholic Update. Ohio. Catholic Update.

[3] Pope John Paul II,  Conference of the Apostolic Penitentiary in Rome. March 27, 2004.

[4] Kane, Thomas. Healing God’s People: Theological and Pastoral Approaches.Rite of Penance 7b.

 

 

Worth Revisiting:Walking a Mile With Another


How often are we quick to judge someone who we see as disagreeable, strongly opinionated or assertive? Feeling our own sense of pride offended, and leaving indignant we frequently proceed to telling others or instead harbor that annoyance within. Yet, neither of these options can be understood as beneficial either to our relationships or to our spiritual growth.

Scripture firmly emphasizes the importance of conflict resolution as a community if we are to be the body of Christ in the world. No pretenses, we are to leave our gift on the altar, and work towards reconciliation. Moreover, we are to speak to that person privately first. “If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ (Matt 18:15-17)

In doing so love, and not self righteousness, needs to be the intent of reconciliation. For “if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2-3)”

Only love connects us divinely with God, unites us in faith, and holds the promise of our salvation.

Yet, how do we walk this path of reconciliation equipped only with love? With humility, leaving our pride and righteous offense at their actions aside and choosing love. We cannot hold both love and pride in our hearts. We must look at ourselves, ask for God’s grace and desire our own conversion of heart. Though it has taken me a lifetime to understand, this is for me the meaning of turning the other cheek. It does not mean that we are to become a “doormat” for others to walk on, but that in following Christ we are to seek to meet all-even those most difficult-with light and love.

With this being said, a few days ago I spoke my goodbyes to a dear friend who had lost his very painful battle with cancer. To many, including members in the family he was commonly referred to in words of frustration, and actions of avoidance. An extremely intelligent man, who had so much to share, he would habitually though unintentionally irritate others. And because those around him seldom found it easier to talk to him than to one another, true reconciliation was difficult. In the months before he died, he asked me to call him regularly while just to chat briefly. He had lost so much in life- his daughter to drugs, his first wife to cancer, and his son still battling addiction. Looking at the end of his life all he sought was forgiveness, acceptance and love.

How is this so different from our own desires in life?

So, today I ask you to unstrap your sandals, step into those of another and walk a spell. How would Christ meet the difficulty in your life today? If you feel challenged to make a change, put your feet in motion and seek reconciliation. The first step towards peace, and forgiveness of others is to make time for the sacrament of reconciliation in our own lives. Only from the depths of God’s love and mercy can we truly understand the steps that Christ has walked and where He is leading us to go today.

Peace,

Signature

Walking a Mile With Another


How often are we quick to judge someone who we see as disagreeable, strongly opinionated or assertive? Feeling our own sense of pride offended, and leaving indignant we frequently proceed to telling others or instead harbor that annoyance within. Yet, neither of these options can be understood as beneficial either to our relationships or to our spiritual growth.

Scripture firmly emphasizes the importance of conflict resolution as a community if we are to be the body of Christ in the world. No pretenses, we are to leave our gift on the altar, and work towards reconciliation. Moreover, we are to speak to that person privately first. “If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ (Matt 18:15-17)

In doing so love, and not self righteousness, needs to be the intent of reconciliation. For “if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2-3)”

Only love connects us divinely with God, unites us in faith, and holds the promise of our salvation.

Yet, how do we walk this path of reconciliation equipped only with love? With humility, leaving our pride and righteous offense at their actions aside and choosing love. We cannot hold both love and pride in our hearts. We must look at ourselves, ask for God’s grace and desire our own conversion of heart. Though it has taken me a lifetime to understand, this is for me the meaning of turning the other cheek. It does not mean that we are to become a “doormat” for others to walk on, but that in following Christ we are to seek to meet all-even those most difficult-with light and love.

With this being said, a few days ago I spoke my goodbyes to a dear friend who had lost his very painful battle with cancer. To many, including members in the family he was commonly referred to in words of frustration, and actions of avoidance. An extremely intelligent man, who had so much to share, he would habitually though unintentionally irritate others. And because those around him seldom found it easier to talk to him than to one another, true reconciliation was difficult. In the months before he died, he asked me to call him regularly while just to chat briefly. He had lost so much in life- his daughter to drugs, his first wife to cancer, and his son still battling addiction. Looking at the end of his life all he sought was forgiveness, acceptance and love.

How is this so different from our own desires in life?

So, today I ask you to unstrap your sandals, step into those of another and walk a spell. How would Christ meet the difficulty in your life today? If you feel challenged to make a change, put your feet in motion and seek reconciliation. The first step towards peace, and forgiveness of others is to make time for the sacrament of reconciliation in our own lives. Only from the depths of God’s love and mercy can we truly understand the steps that Christ has walked and where He is leading us to go today.

Peace,

Signature