An Altar Boy Comes Home 7-1-2018

June 25th, 2018

When he was eight years old, he wanted to be an altar boy—he even harbored thoughts of becoming a priest. It was the summer of 1958; he just completed the third grade. He memorized all the Latin responses; he practiced all the movements. Finally, the morning came when he would serve Mass for the first time.
To his horror, the eighth-grader who was supposed to serve with him didn’t show. One of the sisters in the parish sat behind the flag in the sanctuary prompting instructions. But disaster struck. It came time for him to pick up the heavy missal and bring it to the other side of the altar. As he genuflected while trying to balance the book on its stand, his foot got caught in the hem of his cassock, and both he and the missal went sprawling to the floor. The priest stopped the Mass and turned. His face was red, his forehead clenched like a fist. “What’s going on?” he barked. “I want you to leave and never serve Mass for me again?” The boy ran from the sanctuary. He ripped off his cassock and surplice. And he never went back to church again. Ever.
Thirty years later, he was traveling through the Midwest on business. He passed a cathedral he and his family had driven by many times when he was a boy. The cathedral’s design was inspired by the silos of the farm belt. Both the church’s simple interior and exterior were nothing like the Gothic churches he knew growing up. He went inside where he struck up a conversation with a priest he met. As they talked about the beautiful simplicity and symbolism of the church, he told the priest the story of his literal “fall from grace” – a story he had never told before.
The priest listened compassionately. Then he replied, “Priests don’t always do everything right. Please….forgive us!
Tears came to his eyes. The priest embraced him.
And so began a long and bumpy road home.

The “touch of Jesus’ cloak” can be experienced in a simple act of generosity or a kind word offering forgiveness. The hurt and humiliation suffered by this one-time altar boy, like the illness suffered by the hemorrhaging woman, was “healed” by the simple “touch” of a priest’s compassion; the “power” of Jesus mercy is extended in the priest’s simple, heart-felt apology. May the despairing and needy experience the power of Jesus’ compassion and peace in the “cloak” of our compassion and care.

Mustard Seed Faith 6-17-2018

June 14th, 2018

Ben Durskin is nine years old. For almost four years, he has been treated for acute lympho | blastic leukemia. During a punishing protocol of chemotherapy, he passed the time with his Game Boy and Play Station. Last summer, Ben came up with his own videogame, designed especially for kids with cancer. In Ben’s Game, a boy (modeled after Ben) zooms around a screen on a skateboard, blasting cancer cells in order to collect “shields” that protect against the usual side effect of chemo: fever, chicken pox, colds, vomiting, hair loss. A player can’t lose – “you just keep fighting,” explains Ben.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation and software engineer Eric Johnston of LucasFilms worked with Ben to create the game. Ben’s Game has won raves from the 200,000 children who have found the game, available free on line. Not only is the game fun but children learn about the “monsters” attacking their bodies and how they can best beat them.
For eight years, 15-year-old Sasha Bowers and her family were homeless. Sasha, her little sister and her mother spent most nights in Columbus, Ohio, shelter, fighting hunger and bugs and kept awake by snores and screaming. Two years ago, Sasha’s mom landed a job with a cleaning company and the family was able to move into an apartment.
But Sasha hasn’t forgotten where she came from. She’s been the driving force behind a summer day-camp program for 175 homeless kids in Columbus. “When I was in shelters, there were no safe places to play,” Sasha explains. “I wanted to create a place that was fun, where kids could stay out of trouble while parents find jobs and housing.”
When Ryan Hreljac was in the first grade, he was shocked to learn about African children having to walk five miles to get a bucket of clean water. Ryan did odd jobs around the house and for neighbors for four months to raise $70, the cost of digging a well.
That was six years ago. Since then the Canadian teen’s foundation, Ryan’s Well, has raised $750,000 to build wells in seven African nations. Relief and development agencies in Canada say of Ryan: “He’s such a regular kid – that’s what makes him so powerful… He believes everyone should have water, and he’s not going to stop until they do.”
These remarkable young people, Ben, Sasha, and Ryan possess the faith of the mustard seed: they have taken their own “Mustard seeds” – seeds of creativity, empathy and dedication – and have done the hard work of planting and nurturing those seeds until each one has realized an enduring and rooted harvest of hope, of compassion, of life itself. Christ calls us to embrace “mustard seed” faith – to believe that even the slightest act of goodness, done in faith and trust in God’s presence, has meaning in the reign of God. The mustard seed challenges us to grab hold of the opportunities we have for planting and reaping a harvest of justice, compassion and reconciliation in our own piece of the earth.
Ben, Sasha and Ryan – remarkable young people – they planted their tiny mustard seed, worked hard, and God did the rest.
You, you, you, all of you, remarkable people. Plant your tiny mustard seeds wherever you find yourself in life, work hard and let God do the rest. Mustard seed faith – to believe that even the smallest act of goodness, kindness, done in faith and trust in God’s power, can have an unbelievable effect on many, many people. Please, don’t sell yourself short – don’t sell the power of God short!

Symphonic Hope 6-10-2018

June 10th, 2018

A renowned symphony conductor reflects on the dynamic of making music:
“A symphony orchestra is an amazing organism: so many different instruments and musicians playing together to create a single work of music.”
“The aim of the orchestra is not to win; the aim is to make sure that every voice is heard. If both the trumpet and the viola are going to be heard, the trumpet has to listen to the viola because the trumpet is much louder than the viola. This requires great discipline. An orchestra is a conversation about we.”
“So wouldn’t it be great if, instead of only talking about adding more, more and more to the bottom line, companies started a new conversation: We have enough of this; now, let’s have more of that or let’s build this. Today we live in a world where if one country goes down, we all go down. We need to understand that we all need to flourish in order for all of us to grow. That’s the symphony orchestra model. And that model can only be built by intelligent optimists who master the art of possibility for themselves and for everyone around them.”
Sometimes we act out of a self-centeredness that is of “Satan” and not out of the compassionate spirit of the Gospel we profess: without fail, the “house” we build out of arrogance and greed collapses in anger and hurt; the “symphony” we try to orchestrate from our own wants and interests disintegrates into a noisy tangle of out –of-sync instruments. If a house that is a real home is to stand, it must be constructed of forgiveness, humility, and generosity; if we are to play the music that God places in every human heart, we must welcome and encourage everyone to raise their voices and contribute the sound and skill of their instruments. Jesus’ life testifies to the reality that the “power” of “Beelzebub” cannot heal or restore or re-create—only the Spirit of God can bring about such transformation. Let the reconciling and loving Spirit of God be the architect of the “houses” we seek to make for ourselves and families, and the conductor of creation’s song of peace and healing sung by every human life and heart.