Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

Death before Birthday Cake 3-17-2024

Friday, February 23rd, 2024

In a Peanuts episode, Linus enters to find his older and perpetually crabby
sister Lucy crying bitterly.
“Mom promised me a birthday party and now she says I can’t have one,” Lucy
Linus, in his quiet, wise way, offers this advice: “You’re not using the right
strategy. Why not go up to Mom and say to her, ‘I’m sorry, dear mother, I admit I
have been bad. You were right to cancel my party. But from now on I will try to
be good.”
Lucy thinks about it. She prepares her speech for her mother. Then she
thinks about it some more. Finally, in the last panel, the stubborn Lucy cries, “I’d
rather die!”
Lucy cannot bring herself to embrace the faith of the Gospel grain of wheat.
To transform our lives in order to become the people we are meant to be begins by
dying to our own self-centeredness and obtuseness to the needs of others. Today’s
Gospel asks us what values and purposes do we want to center our lives on in
order to make them what we pray they will be; what we are willing to let “die” in
our lives in order that what we seek in the depths of our hearts “to live” might
grow and blossom; what we will put aside and bury in order that the justice and
peace of God may be established here and now. Jesus readily acknowledges that
such change is hard; the struggle to change is, in its own way, an experience of
dying—but such transformation can be an experience of resurrection, as well. The
Gospel of the grain of wheat is Christ’s assurance of the great things we can do
and the powerful works we can accomplish by dying to self and rising to the love
and compassion of Jesus, the Servant Redeemer.

We are all Nicodemus 3-10-2024

Friday, February 23rd, 2024

Nicodemus is one of us. This Jesus has struck a nerve in this
teacher and “ruler” of the Jewish establishment. He has questions – but,
given his position, he has to stay under the radar, so he comes to meet
Jesus privately, late at night.
Jesus talks about God in ways that Nicodemus has never thought
of: a God of compassion rather than a God of order and law; a God of
forgiveness rather than a God of condemnation; a God of light who
illuminates the darkness; a God who constantly calls us back to him; a
God who is Father of all.
Nicodemus’ reaction to all of this is not recorded – but something
clicks. When the Jewish council plots to condemn Jesus, Nicodemus
will protest and defend Jesus; on Good Friday, when the body of Jesus is
taken down from the cross, Nicodemus will be there, with myrrh and
aloes (not an inexpensive contribution) to bury Jesus.
Slowly, Nicodemus moves from the edge of faith to the center
where the Spirit of God dwells. For Nicodemus, Jesus’ image of God is
no longer just an ideal but a powerful sign of compassion and mercy
dwelling in our midst.
Nicodemus struggles with Jesus – as we all do. But he possesses
the grace of an open heart and mind and so comes to find God. He seeks
God – and finds God. And so can we.
We are all Nicodemus: We struggle to make sense of Jesus; we
wrestle with trying to reconcile his Gospel with the demands of our
world. In his questioning and confusion, in his fears and doubts,
Nicodemus is welcomed by Jesus with understanding and compassion.
Like Nicodemus, we are all seekers and Christ has assured us of his
company on our journey; like Nicodemus, we find ourselves coming to
Jesus in the middle of our darkest nights, seeking hope and consolation,
direction and comfort – and Jesus neither rejects us nor admonishes us,
but welcomes us. We discover the God that Nicodemus discovers: a
God of light who transforms our despair into hope; a God of wisdom
who enables us to re-create our Good Friday deaths into Easter
resurrections; a God of compassion who heals our broken spirits into
hearts made whole. We are all Nicodemus. — Amen

One Family’s Church Connection 3-3-2024

Friday, February 23rd, 2024

The family settled in Maui where husband and dad Paul
Sutherland opened a new office for his company. Paul, Amy and
their kids became active members of a local church. The church’s
warm welcome and the satisfaction they found in volunteering
made the family’s church membership a wonderful experience.
Then one morning Paul got a call at his office. Amy was
hemorrhaging at 26 weeks of pregnancy. She was transferred by
air ambulance to a hospital in Oahu, where she would spend the
next eight weeks. Paul called friends asking if they could pick up
their boys from school and watch them until Amy’s parents flew in
from Michigan. “No problem!” was their immediate reply.
The first full day in the hospital, their pastor called and
offered the church’s help. How did the pastor know the family
was in Oahu? A parishioner saw them at the local hospital in Maui
before flying to Oahu.
Paul remembers: “When Amy was stable enough for me to
return to Maui, I thanked my in-laws for taking care of the kids,
but when I mentioned cooking, my mother-in-law stopped me and
said, “We didn’t have to cook much”, she smiled, “Nearly every
day, the (school) families and your church brought us dinners,
baked bread, desserts, and salad”. Our school parents and church
group seemed instinctively wired to scan for people in need. They
knew we ‘mainlanders’ had few roots on the island. They helped
us because we showed up.
Their Hawaiian church experience has had a lasting effect on
Paul and his family. In every place they have lived since, the
family has made a connection with a local church.
“Thinking something is not doing something”, Paul writes.
“Thinking we are virtuous or accepting or colorblind builds no
houses nor does it feed anybody, nor cure loneliness. Our actions
are what define us. We connect by showing up – to find that we
share so many threads to bind us together in relationships and
connections. We see the similarities and build on them”.
The Sutherlands’ story is lived again and again at churches
around the world – but it’s that care for one another that makes a
community a church worthy of the name. To create that
connection requires “driving out” the fears and cynicism, the self-
centered agendas and the debilitating judgments we make of others
to realize the presence of God in the midst of this community.
Jesus’ cleansing of the temple challenges us to realize that our
parish “temple” is called to reflect God’s Kingdom of compassion
and peace, healing and justice, in this community. Everything we
do as a parish, from our music to doughnuts after Mass, from
Religious Ed to the quilters’ group, is the revelation of God’s love
– and becoming that kind of church begins by “showing up” and
contributing to the working of revealing that love in our midst.