Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

If You Love Enough 1-16-2022

Friday, January 14th, 2022

I had the privilege to be part of some weekends called Engaged
Encounters. On these weekends two married couples would share a great
deal about their married life with about thirty engaged couples. I listened
and learned a lot from these married couples. I was impressed with how
hard they worked at staying married.
On this weekend when we read about the marriage feast at Cana, I
would like to share with you two brief stories about two married couples
that also really touched me.
She fought bravely and valiantly, he always at her side. But after
eight years, cancer took her life. After the funeral, he was cleaning out
the drawer near her bed and found a piece of paper she had written. It
was a sort of love note. It looked a little like a schoolgirl’s daydream
note about the boy in the next row. Except that this note was written by
the mother of seven children, a woman who had been battling for her life
until the end. It was also a wonderful prescription for holding a marriage
together. This is how her note to her husband began. Loved. Cared. Worried. Helped me when I was sick. Forgave me a lot of things. Stood
by me. Always complimentary. Provided everything I ever needed.
Warmth. Humor. Kindness. Thoughtfulness. Always there when I
needed you. And the last thing she wrote sums up all the other. Good
friend. He folded the paper and placed it in his wallet. Sometime later he
was talking to a friend about her. He showed him the paper. The friend,
a much younger man, was deeply moved by the note. The friend asked,
“How do you stick by someone through 38 years of marriage, let alone
the sickness too?” “How do I know I’d have what it takes to stand by a
wife if she got sick?” And he replied simply and quietly. “You will.” “If
you love enough, you will.”
A strong self-reliant ranch owner, who did not very often express
his emotions outwardly, had to rush his wife to the hospital. A ruptured
appendix. The ensuing operation was successful, but the woman’s’
condition deteriorated. Despite the blood transfusions and intensive care,
she continued to lose strength. The doctors were puzzled because by all
medical standards she should have been recovering. They finally were convinced of the reason for her deterioration. She was not trying to get well. The surgeon, an old family friend, went to her and said. “I would
think you would want to be strong for John.” She replied weakly. “John
is so strong he doesn’t need anybody.” When the doctor told the husband
what she had said, he immediately went into his wife’s room, took her
hand in his and said. “You’ve got to get well!” Without opening her eyes,
she asked, “Why?” He said, “because I need you.” The nurse who was
monitoring the blood transfusion said she noticed an immediate change
in the pulse beat and the blood pressure. Then the patient opened her
eyes and said, “John, that’s the first time you ever said that to me.” Two
weeks later she was home. The doctor commenting on the case said it
wasn’t the blood transfusion, but what went with it that made the
difference between life and death for that woman.
In closing, I would like to ask any married couple present here to
stand. I would like to thank you for the hard work you put into your
Sacrament of Marriage and I would like to offer you a special prayer of
Blessing for you both. God, you have called woman and man to become
“one flesh.” What a great sign of your love for us. Send your spirit, O
God, upon those today who passionately proclaim their love for each other. May they always remember that the energy and power source of
their relationship lies in fidelity and commitment to you. May they
inspire all of us to pledge ourselves more deeply to our own promises,
and our own vows to live in love. May these two lovers dance to the
music of Christ. Amen.

Baptism of Jesus 1-9-2022

Friday, January 7th, 2022

Several years ago (actually quite a few years ago) I was sitting at
one of those tables in front of the Cooper House in Santa Cruz (before
the earthquake.) It was a beautiful day, smell of sea in the air, colorful
people, and live music. Perfect except:
There was a young couple that came over and sat down at the table
next to me. They had a little three year old with them. His name was
Billy. I’ll never forget his name. Billy, said his dad, “You are a bad boy.
A bad boy. Bad, bad Billy.” Dad had to take a breath and then mom
starts in. “Bad boy Billy, bad, bad boy.” They were at him for what
seemed like forever; finally I got up and left.
Those parents had convinced me Billy was probably the badest boy
that ever lived. Worse yet, maybe they convinced Billy of that.
I was annoyed with those parents. Don’t they know children need
to be corrected but also reassured and told they’re loved. Inside every boy and girl, and I suspect inside every big boy and
girl is a longing to be approved and accepted by their parents. When that
is missing there is like an empty hole there.
People used to talk about Arturo Toscanini. As a child he never
knew whether or not his mother loved him. When he grew up and
received the acclaim of vast crowds for his music, he never was quite
sure, never was quite confident, and never was really at peace.
How chilling, to read one woman in Fay Welden’s book, Female
Friends saying, “I felt a relief that mother died, now there is one less pair
of critical eyes to judge me.”
Thank goodness the father of Jesus was different.
Jesus as a human being needed support and affirmation much like
anyone else. And at his baptism, that wonderful father of his says; “You
are my beloved son, and on you my favor rests.”
And that’s not all. You might think; O well that was Jesus. No
wonder he was so positive. But the truth is, God said the same thing to
everyone seated here on the day of our baptism. We came up out of the water and the spirit descended on us like a dove, and God the father said, “Look at you. You’re my beloved daughter. You’re my beloved son. On
you my favor rests.”
I’m not sure why many people find it easy to be critical of
themselves and of others. It has often been noted that Jesus never called
people sinners. The woman was not an adulteress. She was a person of
worth who had committed and adulterous act. The man who stole is not
a thief, but a person of worth who committed a grievous crime. Jesus
could separate the action, which was bad and needed correction, from
the person, who was made in God’s image and worthy of love.
It would be good if we could all walk two steps behind ourselves
and listen to the remarks that come out of our mouths. Are most of them
critical, negative or positive…up building?
Words are powerful. Tell someone they are ugly, stupid, bad, often
enough and they’ll start acting that way. Thank God the reverse is true.
If God were to speak to us again today, and whisper what He said
to us on the day of our Baptism, I believe he would say these words we
all need to hear: “I made you in my image. I love you. I’m crazy about you. On
you my favor rests. Don’t beat each other up, each other individually,
nationally, when you have differences. You’re much too smart for that.
You’re in my image. Don’t tear your neighbors down when they are
less than perfect. That’s my boy, that’s my girl you are talking about. I
made you with better manners than that. You’re my image. And if you
fall, don’t spend too much time kicking yourself. Get up, experience
forgiveness, and move on. You’re not just anyone. You’re my beloved
son, you’re my beloved daughter. On you my favor rests.

Epiphany 1-2-2022

Saturday, January 1st, 2022

As a kid I loved watching the three kings – or astrologers or magi
or whatever – getting placed at the crib. Exotic, colorful, mystical… and
now the crib set was complete.
But a few weeks ago someone told me there was someone very
important missing from almost every crib set. “Who,” I asked.
She said, “Herod should be in every crib set because darkness is
never far away in the Christmas story. Darkness is part of how many
people experience Christmas in their homes. And over 2000 years ago
there was the darkness of Christmas Eve, with the shepherds keeping
night watch over their flock, and the appalling dangerous darkness of
King Herod. It was because of darkness and love for those in darkness
that the Light came.”
“Wow,” I thought. She’s right.
Herod started off so good. Brilliant and charming he knew many
languages. He was a high-powered achiever, and his kingdom was filled with many projects that created wealth. But he had a dark side too, and
his dark side, towards the end of his life, seems to have completely taken
over. He killed his favorite wife and at least two of his children (he was
suspicious and paranoid), he is mentioned in connection with the
horrible slaughter of the holy innocents, and when he died he left
instructions that many leading citizens in Jerusalem be slaughtered, so
the population would weep at his passing.
Herod became the proverbial poster boy for cruelty, paranoia,
corrupt living and family grief. What happened to him?
He would not, and then maybe later he could not, do two really
important things with his neck. He couldn’t lift his eyes and look about.
He could not sense the grandeur of the world and of the God of the
world all around him, and take his place as a valued and treasured part of
the whole. He had to be everything, the center of everything. He
couldn’t lift his head higher than what he thought, he felt, and what he
wanted to do.
And second, unlike the magi who prostrated themselves, he couldn’t bow his head and worship something more holy than himself. When you don’t have time to wonder at the extreme largeness of
the world, the universe, human life, other human lives – and the One
who created them all – you get obsessed with your tasks and your way
and yourself – and that’s a recipe for darkness.
And when you don’t spend some time bending, prostrating, and
consciously adoring the One who is greater than you – that is a recipe
for darkness.
And at its worse you turn into a tyrant. Maybe not like King
Herod, but you can be a tyrant in the kitchen, in the home, in the office,
on the road, in church.
We rightly call these Magi the wise men, and maybe wise women.
They took time to lift their eyes and wonder – they saw the star and
Herod didn’t. And they prostrated themselves and did him homage,
offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I hope we will do the
same.