Leave Us Alone 1-28-2018

January 26th, 2018

As Jesus was preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, a poor crazy man created a scene. He cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” In effect what the man was saying was, “Leave me alone! I’m no good. I’m evil. I’m not worthy of love or care.”
It’s a cry we hear more than once in the Gospel from people who believed they were possessed by devils. “Don’t meddle with us. Leave us alone. Don’t try to change us”. They recognized that change is painful. Whether they were actually possessed by devils we do not know. But what we do know is that they were sick, broken, isolated, unloved people, who had no dignity and whose self-worth was nil.
There are many such people in our world today – in our prisons, in our psychiatric hospitals, and on the street. Any of us can be caught in some desperate situation. At least the man in the synagogue didn’t try to hide how he was. He came to Jesus. Jesus wasn’t put off by his desperate cry. In the cry, “Leave me alone!” Jesus heard a cry for help. And he cured him. People find it hard to admit that they can’t manage their problems. Pride tells them: I should be able to handle my own problems. Recognition that there is a problem is the first step towards rehabilitation. The acknowledgement of our weakness and need would open the way to recovery. It’s the courageous ones that ask for help.
Psychologists tell us that sometimes people don’t really want to be cured. Why is this? Because a cure can be painful – it involves a process which requires a lot of change, and all change is painful. The idea of recovery can even be terrifying.
Often we are afraid to talk about something that is hurting us. We keep it locked up inside us where it festers. We may not say, “Leave me alone”, but that is what it amounts to: “You wouldn’t know, you couldn’t possibly understand.” Unvoiced suffering is more harrowing than suffering that cries aloud.
Shortly after the birth of her son a young mother discovered that he was blind. She called her family together and said, “I don’t want my child to know that he is blind.” She insisted that from that point on everyone should avoid using words such as ‘light’, ‘color’, and ‘sight’. The child grew up believing that he was like everyone else until one day a strange girl jumped over the garden wall and used all the forbidden words.
The story symbolizes much of our behavior. Many of us seek to hide what is strange and painful, and to act as if things are normal. We act as if we had no problems, no abnormalities, no pains, no wounds, no failures. The urge to hide is very powerful, and can be more harmful than what it tries to conceal.
I close, when we have the courage to face our problems, new creative energies became available to us. Fear, shame, and guilt often make us stay in isolation. It is by showing our wounds, by allowing ourselves to touch and be touched that we are healed. It is in our brokenness, our woundedness, that God the Holy can heal us – if we give God a chance. Will we give God a chance?

The First Disciples of Jesus 1-21-2018

January 19th, 2018

The time was now. Jesus decided he was ready to choose his
twelve apostles. Just advertising in the newspapers didn’t seem
thorough enough. So Jesus decided to hold an Olympics from which the
twelve would be chosen. The people came from all over. The
competition was fierce. Jesus had to judge all the events.
First came the prayer event. People had practiced and it showed in
the speed with which they could recite the words. Some articulated the
words with utmost precision. Some used big impressive words. Still
others expressed lofty ideas. But when it came time for a winner to be
selected, Jesus chose none. There didn’t seem to be any heart in their
prayers. They were just words.
Second came the worship event. These contestants, too, had done
their homework. Some wore beautiful garments. Some used lots of
incense. Some emphasized music. Others incorporated gestures. But
again, when it was selection time, there was no winner. There didn’t
seem to be any heart in worship. It was too showy.
Third came the teaching event. This was a prepared group. Some
came with elaborate posters. Some came with long, well ordered talks.
Some came with DVD players. Others came with their small groups to
demonstrate process. Again, no winners. There was no heart in
teaching. The methods seemed more important.
So, the Olympics ended. No winners, no apostles. Exhausted after
his long exasperating ordeal, Jesus went down to the lake to cool off and
relax. Then the miracle happened. He saw people fishing. Now there
were some people who put their hearts into what they were about. So he
chose them!
Remember… the first disciples of Jesus were ordinary people.
They weren’t great public speakers, scholars, kings or saints. They
weren’t presidents, theologians or ordained ministers. They were
fishermen. A tax collector. Common field workers. Who, by God’s
power, and their openness, made great things happen! What about us –
Could great things happen through us? Yes — By God’s Power and Our
Openness!

I am Joseph your brother 1-7-2018

January 5th, 2018

Some years ago the Catholic community of Chicago lost one of its
greatest leaders and ministers in Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
Cardinal Bernardin will always be remembered for his great gifts
as a reconciler. In some of the Church’s most controversial and divisive
moments, he was able, in his humble, sensitive and compassionate way,
to earn the trust of liberal and conservative alike, to bring all sides
together, to keep everyone focused on the common call to be disciples of
Christ. A leader among America’s bishops, he steered the bishops’
conference through debates ranging from the Vietnam War to birth
control. When he was wrongly accused of sexual assault by a former
seminarian who later took back his story, Cardinal Bernardin did not
react with anger at the pain and humiliation he endured, but reached out
to his young accuser, forgiving him and praying for and with him. To
everyone in Chicago—Catholic and non-Catholic, believer and
nonbeliever—he would introduce himself simply as “I am Joseph, your
brother” Within 48 hours of learning he was dying of liver cancer, Cardinal
Bernardin shared his ordeal with the people of his archdiocese. He spent
much of the last year of his life personally ministering to people with
cancer—his “parish” of cancer patients and their families numbered over
700 people.
“Yes, I’m sacred,” he said, “but I’m a man of faith. I can look at
death in two ways: as an enemy or a friend. I choose to view it as a
friend. I know that there will be tears, but I am at peace…I have come
to believe in a new way that the Lord would walk with me through this
journey of illness.”
In his life, ministry and final days, Cardinal Bernardin approached
life as a journey to God and with God; reconciliation, compassion and
justice—the very things of God—were the “stars” that guided him.
Cardinal Bernardin, like the magi in today’s Gospel, is a model for us in
our own search for God. On this special Feast of Epiphany I believe we
are all challenged to slow down and check our own bearings on our life’s
journey. Are we headed in the right direction? What stars are guiding
us? I pray that we all will be guided by the stars that guided Joseph