Even the Dogs Eat the Scraps

There’s a reference to dogs in today’s gospel and I will take full advantage of that to talk about my dog!

Most people believe that the reference to dogs in the gospel of Matthew is a negative one. Jesus says to a Caananite women who asks his assistance “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Ouch. Oh no he didn’t just call her a dog?

Well..wait a minute. My dog waits eagerly by my dinner table in anticipation that I might throw him a piece of meat. He never fails to do so. ANd he trusts that I will give him something. It’s a learned behavior and I know…I shouldn’t feed him from the table and I usually don’t. I take a piece of meat and place it aside and then put it in his dish when I am done with my meal. If he’s patient and certain that I am a good and gracious friend, he is secure in knowing that he will get a reward.

And perhaps that is also true for us.

How often are we unlike the Cannanite women and we have no faith that God will take care of us? How often do we fall into hopeless desolation and think there is no way out of situations? How often do we think we know better than God what is best for us? And we then fail to see good things when we can’t see beyond our own misery.

God calls us to be faithful. To look for some sign of consolation that surely appears if we but look carefully for it.

For even the dogs know that at the dinner table there may be a scrap or two for them and they are so grateful for even that much and eagerly await even that small morsel.

The Canaanite woman teaches us to be persistent in knowing that if we ask God enough, enough will be provided. Perhaps that is not what we think we want, but it will always be what we need.

And sometimes for me, the warmth of a loyal and loving dog is more than enough for me to see all that God has offered me.

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But He Did Not Know What He Was Saying

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration in which appears one of my favorite lines in all of scripture in Luke’s gospel:

“As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But he did not know what he was saying.

It makes me laugh each time I read it.

But then it makes me think…

How many times, Lord, did I not know what I was saying? How many times have my words been haughty, or arrogant, or just downright hurtful? How many times did I rush to talk to try to impress someone and have it blow up in my face when I said something stupid? How many times did I think I had all the answers and in reality had none and needed to take more time to listen before I would speak?

And then, how many times have I heard others say things that I found hurtful or mean and reacted with the same kind of hatred back perpetuating the cycle of violence in speech?

I did not know what I was saying.

There are plenty of times that I react harshly when just waiting in silence and contemplating what I should say would do nicely.

And here Peter clearly misses the forest for the trees. Jesus is overlooking Jerusalem, where his exodus will take place. Alongside Elijah and Moses, Jesus sees both His end and our beginning–a new kind of promised land.

And while Peter witnesses this…a foretaste of what will be for us…a glimpse of the Resurrected Christ…he also responds with the wacky…

“Let’s build some tents! Let’s never leave! This is awesome.”

Um, no…rockhead. You don’t know what you’re saying.

We can’t ever stay on the mountain top. We need to go to Jerusalem and it is there that we will need to suffer in order to die and rise to new life.

photo 1[2]I just welcomed back a group of women from Canisius who spent three weeks at an orphanage in Poland and if anyone knows about this it is them. They had their emotions pulled and prodded throughout that time of being with the children. How many would they have liked to take home with them? How many of them wanted to stay there forever? Jen, (pictured with me, right) the group’s leader even flirted with the idea of not returning.

But she did not know what she was saying.

For she was changed on this “mountaintop experience” and now the real work begins—for after we are transfigured, we can no longer be the same. We have been changed. When we experience Christ’s transfigured life and realize that this too is meant for us…we can no longer live in the happy-go-lucky world of the mountaintop. We need to go and do whatever this change calls us to do. For these women it might be to be more sensitive to children who need someone to parent them, even if for a short time. It might be to consider the needs of adoptive children here in the United States and to see how we can change laws so that children can find good families to keep them safe and loved. It might be something else.

What mountaintop do you wish to stay on that keeps you from the scary Jerusalem experience of your life? The place where you will most be changed is where you will meet Jesus on the cross and then transforming from THAT experience is where you will be changed the most. It is where you will most appreciate and find new life, better life.

And it is where you will most find God, even if you think it is somewhere else where you are comforted most by God’s presence.

In spiritual direction, I often tell people that it’s the things and the places that most frighten them, that God is probably calling them to look at most carefully. It’s in the relationship that needs to change or the job that just doesn’t work.

God just might be offering you something else.

And that might be a bit scary.

But it is also what gives us a deeper experience of God in our lives and allows us to live more richly.

For the women of Canisius who have returned from Poland, we say “Well done.” You left the comfort of the United States and ventured to another country and were a bit uncomfortable in serving the needs of others. And now we continue to challenge you to go beyond the next hill. To come down from this amazing experience of Poland and to see where you have changed. And to be changed again. To become women for others in a different way, one that may be difficult for you, but nonetheless, better for your growth as a person and better for the world who experiences the gift you are to all of those you encounter.

And most of all, know that on that journey you will meet God. And that finding that presence of God in these new experiences will be life-changing and will provide more than enough for you to be all that you are, nothing more, but more importantly nothing less.

And that gift of yourself is all that God asks of you.

And dayenu, it is enough! You are enough! And you are a blessing to each of us and to all you meet. Amen.

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Don’t Bother

In reading today’s scripture the words don’t bother came to mind quickly. We have Moses asking God to kill him rather than to put up with the people complaining about not having meat and having to settle for manna. (Our vegans and vegetarians now love Moses).

Then we have Jesus who goes off to be by himself only to have people follow him and then run out of food. Jesus says the the disciples who can feel the weight of the burden of feeding all these people on them “Give them something to eat yourselves.”

And the disciples basically say that it’s impossible because some little kid is the only one with food (liars!) and all he has are 5 loaves and 2 fish. Now everyone thinks that it’s cute that the kid will give up his lunch, but that ain’t about to feed everyone.

And so Jesus could have said “Kid, don’t bother! Eat your lunch!” But instead he shows the meal to all and the crowd is moved. So much so that those hoarding food gave to others and that whatever shortfall there may have been was changed by God to satisfy those who were hungry.

The point of the story is that God never says “don’t bother.” God says “You darn well need to bother.”

We need to care for one another and when we do so others get involved too by our inspiring example.

There’s a further point in the gospel and our reading. Moses could have not bothered with the grumbling people, after all, he’s the one who is talking to God. But instead he asks God’s advice and is unafraid to complain to God. He could’ve said “don’t bother” but something inside beckoned him to grumble to God about it.

And so it should be with us. We need to grumble a bit and we need to take time for those who need someone to bother. It will take some time for us to care for the needs of others–but we can never say don’t bother. We need to make a minimal effort to care for the hungry, the needy—and we can never do it all. But God will redeem the suffering of those that we can’t reach.

I always resonate with the child who offers his lunch so that others can eat in the gospel story and then I resonate with Moses who basically throws his hands up in the air and says “Why do I even bother!?” But then he asks for God’s help anyway.

Today let us pray for the patience we will need to keep us bothering with everyone else and to know that we should be bothered by the fact that more than two-thirds of the world will be hungry today. We can indeed do something about that instead of not being bothered. Let us pray that for today, we will be bothered and in turn, bother to do something about that.

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Can You Love Someone Who Tells You to Drop Dead?

A Jewish woman who survived the concentration camps tells the story of the train ride to Auschwitz. She was with her little brother…and she looked down at him on the train and noticed that he didn’t have any shoes on.

And she screamed at him, “What is WRONG with you? Can’t you keep you things together? You’re so stupid!”

Well, it turns out that those were the last words she would ever say to him. They arrived in Auschwitz moments later and were separated and she never saw him again because he did not survive.

And she made a vow to try to never say anything nasty to anyone because she didn’t want those to be the last things she ever said to them.

And it is a similar story that we hear in the Gospel today.

We have a son…who says to his father “Give me my inheritance now!” Which essentially means “Drop dead!”

And we don’t know what the father says in return, but I imagine that he says something like “Take your money and get out! And don’t come back.”

And perhaps those are the last words that he ever said to his son, who he presumes to be dead. Could the father be regretting what was said?

But then, there his son is! The father catches sight of him and runs to embrace him and then throws the biggest party you can even imagine. Because his son, that ungrateful, ne’er do well, carousing, wasteful son –has come back home! Who could ask for anything more!?

Scripture scholars often say that the story is pretty straightforward. We are the Prodigal Son and the Father is God. And God forgives us no matter how far we stray and rejoices when we come home.

And that’s true enough.

But in this story, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees who are upset because Jesus hangs out with tax collectors–who are the lowest of the low. They’re not the IRS guys we know. They’re more like slumlords. Nobody likes a slumlord: Their tenants hate them because they don’t do repairs, the neighborhood hates them because the place is falling apart, the government hates them because they don’t pay their taxes. Nobody likes a slumlord and nobody likes a tax collector.

And so the point of the story is not so much how we are forgiven by God. But rather it’s a challenge to us to ask ourselves if we can forgive as the Father does? Can we forgive those who wish we would drop dead? Can we forgive those who waste our resources? Can we forgive that one colleague who annoys you? And what’s more after knowing how much of a louse that person is to you—and after you may have cast them off and said that you’re not going to be bothered with them—can you not only forgive them but rejoice over them coming back into your life?

Can you throw a party for the person who loves you the least?

Well, we know two things: one is the older brother cannot. And two is that God always does. The older brother tells the father that he shouldn’t throw the prodigal a party but rather he wants a party for himself. But he goes even further and says “You’ve never thrown a party for me and I work all day long and do everything I’m supposed to! You throw a party for this, this SON of yours. I’m your son, not this guy! Now I want what’s coming to me! Why don’t you just drop dead!”

Who does that sound like? These brothers are not all that different, the theme of their life is “drop dead.”

And the Father…this is a man who has experienced the renewal of his life. He was hopeless and somehow God made a way out of no way. His son came home forgetting that his father has cast him off. And in this new life of seeing his son return home has caused him to rejoice and he can’t understand why this older brother doesn’t see that.

“I’ll be dead soon enough and all I have is yours. But tonight! We eat and drink!”

Can we celebrate or even attend a party for someone who we don’t think deserves a celebration?

It would be like throwing a party for the guy who gets promoted instead of you? The younger sister who gets married before you do? The boss who denigrates your decisions but leads the company into profit? The professor who failed you who becomes a Dean? The person who breaks your heart!

It’s not that bad things happen to good people that test our faith, it’s often that good things happen to bad people …and then we become the older brother.

And the truth of the gospel here is not that we passively see God’s forgiveness of both brothers but that we ask ourselves if we too can forgive those who have trespassed against us. So that we may not be led into temptation but delivered from all that is evil.

Because evil wants us not to rejoice. Evil wants to keep us angry, bitter and resentful.

And folks, that is no way to live. And Lent is all about casting things off–and maybe tonight God is calling us to cast off resentments.

And so we come here tonight with our resentments, with the people on our minds who annoy us, who we often find to be unforgivable. And we try to move beyond where we most often find ourselves, in a sea of resentment and try see if our hearts can stretch much farther than we think. To find a place where we can cast off resentments and rejoice in reconciliation. Like the father, whose words rejoice over two sons who once said they wish he would hurry up and die.

In our lives we may have often been the prodigal son and we may often have been the older brother. But tonight, Jesus calls us to be the father.

And if we can be the father may our last words to everyone we know, even those we don’t think much of, be words of love and joy and peace.

So that we might die without resentments but rejoice in a reconciliation that leads us all into eternal life.

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Holy Innocents

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, for those not aware, the Holy Innocents are the children who were slaughtered by King Herod who, in his madness, was trying to make sure he killed the newborn King, by killing all male babies in the vicinity. It’s a horrible story. Joseph takes Jesus and Mary to Egypt to protect them after hearing of the danger in a dream and thus, the King escapes anyway despots Herod’s attempt to insure his murder.

We need not think too hard to discover that we have many Holy Innocents today. Newtown, CT comes to mind, of course. And perhaps Herod’s failure gives us an opportunity for spiritual reflection today. Despite the worst atrocity that those parents we read about in scripture face, God continues to be with us anyway. Imagine the horror on the faces of Mary and Joseph when they receive word of the slaughter and I suppose, the relief that they were able to protect their child from it. I imagine that they had some survivor’s guilt. I wonder about the parents who wouldn’t relinquish their children to the authorities and I wonder if they perhaps too were killed. The men who carried out the order that day, who were just “following orders” remind me of the Nazis in World War II as well. We all have our own individual liberty and can choose whether or not to follow an immoral order. I wonder too, if there were not some soldiers unwilling to kill a child?

And God was sad. I’m convinced of it. While God warns Joseph in a dream, it seems heartless that God doesn’t warn all the parents, doesn’t it? Evil indeed is strong in the world and perhaps the wise on amongst us begins to realize that some days evil does gain a foothold?

But evil never gains the final word. While children get slaughtered, God redeems suffering, changes that incident into everlasting life for those harmed. Something that evil can never take hold of, despite the evil that always lurks in the world. Sometimes innocent people are harmed. Sometimes children get trafficked. Sometimes evil gets the best of ourselves too when we sin and especially when we sin horribly.

But God always has the last word. And that is what we must have faith in today. That each time evil happens in the world we need to be saddened by it, even angry about it. But our anger needs to be channelled through faith. We need to have the faith that says, “Evil will not control my hope. I will not fall into despair and hopelessness because I know God will somehow make all of this brokenness whole again.”

That’s a tough message to believe in, when we still have horrible slaughters of innocent children today. But believe it we must. So today, let us pray for all of the Holy Innocents–not just those in today’s gospel, but the children of Newtown, the children abused by clergy and other trusted people in their lives, children killed for no good reason, victims of war and poverty, children lost in abortion. All those who have had a right to live taken away by another. We lift our lives up to God in hope today and have faith in their name that they might be willing to also pray for us, so that we might be better able to believe that they are with God.

And may that provide more than enough hope for us today.

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We Need to Be John the Baptist Today

Many people say that words fail us during these times of great challenge, when parents can’t even send their kids to kindergarten.

I respectfully disagree. I can say that many of us don’t know what to say during times when horrendous situations befall us, and to protect ourselves from saying something stupid, we say nothing. And that suffices, most of the time. Our presence is more than enough and often that is only what people remember anyway. I remember little of what has been said to me at funerals, but I always remember those that went out of their way to be there.

But that doesn’t mean that preachers and pastoral workers can take the easy way out. Words may not be able to express all that we feel, but they can certainly express something. A friend told me that a mass she attended started with a priest refusing to light the third Gaudete (rejoice) candle for the third Sunday of Advent because we cannot rejoice today.

Yeesh, what an awful message of hopelessness. If I were there I probably would’ve walked out, but not before yelling “BLASPHEMY!”

The truth of the matter is when we don’t have the words to express our feelings the church gives us words. The words of scripture and the gospel and the words that struck me most today are from the gospel from.John the Baptist. Heard in today’s context, they struck me quite differently than usual:

“Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”

You see we all need to be that herald’s voice today. We all need to shout for joy because The Lord is alive. My grammar school friend Keith Pitts, summed it up greatly today by saying “I’m too blessed to stay stressed!” Note that it says “stay” not “be” because we all become stressed for a variety of reasons but with God we have no reason to stay stressed because God always has the last word.

And we need to share that message of how we can rejoice in the face of such darkness today.

Because God always makes a way out of no way.

Our cloak today is that love that God has offered to us in the darkest moments of our lives that we now share with those who are stuck in darkness. When we see injustice, or worse, when we see people like the Westboro Baptist Church take up their vile words of hatred towards those who are hurt, we need to stand up and say “No, we rejoice in God’s redemption, forgiveness and God’s strength in righting all that hatred tried to upend for us this week.”

Gaudete Sunday is all about words. God’s words that remind us to rejoice because God is with us even in our pain. God is beyond us, somehow holding those who died tightly where no harm will ever come to them again. And God is within us, beckoning us to cloak all those unable to feel God’s love, that Gaudete we speak of, with our own words of healing and touch of understanding their pain.

This was not OK. And today begins our journey to tell the world that God doesn’t think so either.

For tonight…we have only one word. Gaudete …the words of the baptist’s call that God is near and that we need to repent and rejoice…
….and those words of rejoicing are always more than enough.

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When It Seems Like the Stars are Falling Out of the Sky

Here is a reflection from last night’s apocalyptic Sunday readings:

Hey! What’s new?

That can be a catch up line…But “what’s new” can also be scary. After all, who knows what day it will be when our world ends? The Mayans tell us that the world will end of December 21, 2012 at 11:11 …I’m not sure if that’s Eastern Standard Time or not–so don’t hold me to that!

And while I’m not buying that prediction and hope you’re not either, it has given me reason to reflect on the question of:

Where will you be when your world ends?

And we can take that any way we wish…because the truth is that your world ends pretty often.

Let’s face it….Your world ends when something unexpected or tragic happens…someone dies, you lose a job, you break up, there’s a hurricane.

What’s new…sometimes is not at all good!

And the truth of today’s readings is not merely to be careful, or even fearful because life can change in a moment’s notice–it’s precisely the opposite.

The message of the Gospel is to live more boldly—not just because our time on earth is fleeting but also because Jesus reminds us that even when our world ends: God is always near, caring for us anyway—making all things new.

For people of faith, even the end of the world is a new beginning.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel:

“In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the gates.”

What a great image because a gate often represents a time of transition. And whenever a gate closes we stand on the opposite side of it at a new beginning. And we have the freedom to go any way we wish and God will be with us on that journey.

And we need to trust that when all kinds of horrible things surround us each day: War, hurricanes, break-ups, deaths…that God continues to be faithful to us.

And that is not an easy thing to remember.

Because in our most challenging moments don’t we often let fear and even hopelessness take the lead? Don’t we often question if God is even there at all? Don’t we fear, just a bit, that when the world ends there just might not be a Jesus on the other side of it all?

Do you know what I fear more than anything else?

That I simply just don’t become forgotten!

And I have some logical reasons to fear that. Because how many of us can remember our great-great-grandparents? Probably very few of us. What about people even older than that in our heritage? Oh sure, we can look up the geneology records but honestly the truth is that most of us will eventually become just like them. Forgotten.

And think that is why we come here. Because God reminds us that becoming forgotten on this earth doesn’t matter.

Because even when our entire generation, all those with first hand knowledge of our very existence passes away… God still remembers us.

What’s even better is that God embraces us, each one of us, and all he asks each one of us to do is to remember that.

And if we do, well, shouldn’t we live a bit more joyfully? Filled with this good news, shouldn’t this call us to not be afraid of what will happen at the end of our world because we know and believe that God makes all things new?

And when we come hear each week, we come not merely to fulfill an obligation out of fear but also, don’t we also come to be reminded of the great hope that God gives us here at this altar where we see God provide for us his body and blood, our reminder to us, that just as God changes bread and wine into His body and His blood, He also changed death into life.

And because God makes all things new again, shouldn’t that call us to do the same?

When tragedy strikes often everyone else tells us we should lay down..but God tells us to get up. Everyone tells us it’s hopeless…God tells us to hope. There is always more to talk about than despair.

These are the last few weeks of our Church calendar. In just two weeks, we move into the season of advent. And what do we do at the end of the year? We make resolutions. We try to die to some old ways of living that aren’t healthy. Lose a few pounds. Eat healthier. Spend more time with family and friends. Get rid of some bad habits. Forgive someone… or ask forgiveness ourselves.

Why do we do that? Because in the deep recesses of our soul we know that we too are called to make all things new. And we need to be mindful of the fact that just as we live a bit more each day, we also die a bit more each day.

So, there’s one question for us to answer tonight: What do you want to make new in your life?

This week know that God is ready to help you make something new on that journey. And even better….

when it seems like the sun has been darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars seem to be falling from the sky,
and one might think that the powers in the heavens have be shaken.

That’s when God is even closer to us, embracing us, and inviting us to stretch ourselves just a bit farther to believe that God still exists at all, despite all the problems we are going to face over the course of our lives.

As we begin to move towards Advent–let us remember that God is already here.

And guess what…that’s nothing new.

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To Whom Would You Give Your Right Arm?

A dental student last year asked one of his classmates a provocative question before their big gross anatomy test.

“Linda, would you cut off your “ring finger toe” in exchange for an “A” on this test?”

I quickly pointed out that if he was about to take an anatomy test and the only way he knew how to name a toe was to call it a finger–he was in big trouble.

But nonetheless, Linda pondered the question…

Linda then said “Well…maybe I would do it for an A in the COURSE…but not for one measely test.”

And all their other classmates agreed–amputation for an A.

As their chaplain I felt it my duty to tell them that they are going to freak people out when they wear flip-flops if they start cutting toes off their feet!

But…haven’t we all said things like this?

“I’d give my right arm for….that new car….the new iPad….a lower loan payment….a raise or a promotion….that cute woman or man?

What would you give your right arm for?

You don’t often hear someone say…I’d give my right eye…so children won’t go hungry tonight. Or so my roommate might not be depressed over that bad grade. Or so my neighborhood would be a safer place.

No don’t we leave those things for others to do most of the time? I know I do. I can find a hundred other things to do rather than to help out someone else. And when I see examples of others who do something so magnanimous–I sometimes say ” Oh she’s just trying to act “better than” all the rest of us.

There’s a great story about Mother Teresa, now Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. She was washing the sores of a dying man in the slums and a young american tourist saw this and said, “Man I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars!”

And Mother responded “Neither would I… But I would gladly do it for Jesus.”

You see, she wasn’t trying to be “better than” anyone…instead she was “better FOR” the encounter that she had with the Lord when she served the needs of the poor nearby because it was there that she met Jesus.

Now maybe none of us are exactly going to take on a “Mother Teresa-like project” at this point in our university careers or our professional lives, but, maybe we can start becoming a bit more sensitive to others by looking back on our lives and asking ourselves:

What are we “better for?”

What are the moments of our lives that we wouldn’t trade for anything? Maybe they’re simple one like that time you taught your little brother to shoot a basketball for the first time and saw his eyes light up and you were just so grateful to see that? Or maybe it’s the time you comforted your roommate after her boyfriend broke up with her and made her feel better about herself? Maybe you even took her out on the town. Or maybe it was when you studied together with a group of classmates and you all shored up each other’s weaknesses and you all got a better grade because of it? Aren’t we “better for” those moments?

Maybe it’s “a WHO”? Maybe there’s someone that you are just “better for” knowing? For me, Mickey Vertino is one of those people. Mickey worked in the Buffalo prisons for years. He’s had two shoulder surgeries and he has a bad knee and one would think that he would be resting easy in his retirement.

But instead Mickey is working in our neighborhood–trying to revitalize University Heights. We worked with Mickey last weekend down on W. Winspear Ave–making a flower box and clearing brush from the Linear Park pathway. Simple things perhaps, but tough work. And you’d never know Mickey had any kind of surgery because he was lifting heavier things than the rest of us who are a lot younger than he is.

Mickey would give his right arm for this neighborhood.

And because we have him to emulate…doesn’t he stand as a challenge to us and call to us to ask the question:

What would you give your right arm for? Your eye? A hand, that proverbial “ring finger toe”?

Or if that’s too severe—and it is—the question Jesus really is asking us tonight is not really about giving away eyes, or hands or feet… Instead Jesus asks only that we give our HEARTS—and nothing more.

For if we give our hearts–we give all of who we are.

Because we need to see with our hearts–not just our eyes. We need to feel with our hearts, not just our hands, and we need to have our hearts command our feet to take us places that we might not want to go–but when we do, we find we are better for those experiences and it’s there that we bump into God.

Jesus is reminding us that if we just look at suffering in the world and it doesn’t move our heart….well…we might as well tear our eyes out–because they’re not doing us much good.

And we can do this in simple ways…a great example from campus this week…

In our gross anatomy lab, I give out these little stress dolls before the first exam. (He doesn’t look like me AT ALL!) And the students love them—but there’s never enough for everyone. And a student came in late and he was really nervous about the exam and I watched one of our dental students run over to him and he decapitated his doll and hand the head to his classmate and they both calmed down together.

He saw that I caught him doing this and he looked at me and smiled and said “I shared!” I laughed but I want THAT guy to be my dentist! He’s a great and compassionate person. He saw his friend with his heart.

And it’s not just that doing things like this make us feel good…it’s that when we do things like this we find that we live more deeply because we allow God into our hearts and out of that experience—even if it doesn’t make us feel good, if if it’s hard work–God invites us into a deeper way of living. And when we experience that we find our hearts yearning for more of these experiences.

And perhaps that’s why we come here. Because don’t know that yearning already but sometimes need to be reminded (about once a week) that our hearts can indeed stretch much farther than we think they can? And when they do we are better for it and we find God has been lurking in our hearts all along.

And all we have to do to remember that is to look at the altar tonight because there we see God’s heart stretching to us–loving us, forgiving us and offering not just his heart but his body and blood for us. And it is more than enough.

And when we see that it calls us to yearn to offer ourselves, our hearts, and give just a bit more of who we are to those who require just a bit more from us.

Maybe you might give your right arm for that new car? But this week ask yourself this question: “To whom will I give my heart?”

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Then Jesus said, “My Wife”?

Did Jesus marry? At least one historian is claiming a definite maybe.

From today’s NYT:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’ ”
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Evan McGlinn for The New York Times
Professor Karen L. King, in her office at The Harvard Divinity School, held a fragment of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a reference to Jesus’ wife.

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding was made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars by Karen L. King, a historian who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday, Dr. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their conclusions.

While this certainly does not come from a source that the hierarchy considers to be canonical, it indeed is quite a find and should presume that we certainly don’t know everything there is to know about the historical Jesus. Only what those who learned from the four major evangelists tell us.

The question, therefore, would remain: Why do the canonical Gospels not speak of a wife at all? Ironically, it could be because women were not considered reliable witnesses and after Mary Magdalene sees Jesus the men have to come running to confirm this “crazy women’s” story. Essentially, women didn’t count for much. so why mention them at all?

This will bring up much controversy in the media because clerical celibacy has been on the books because traditionally it’s been taught that Jesus also did not marry. But perhaps a more useful thought on the subject would be one based on commitment. Could a parish priest really be committed to a family AND a parish? Wouldn’t one predominate over the other?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to that. I do know plenty of doctors who are on call often and somehow juggle the demands of family along with the job and plenty of Protestant Ministers as well. However, I would also say I know a good deal of people in careers that are high on the commitment scale that have gotten divorced as well.

And that might be the larger reason why clerical celibacy still exists. Simply put, the church doesn’t want a clergy that seeks divorce and the danger in that is that pastoral care of a parish is a demanding job. I somehow manage to do this with my ministry but, we also don’t have children. I can imagine that being quite challenging as I see my colleagues who are parents doing quite the juggling act.

Regardless, it’s a cool find for Harvard. I’m sure we’ll here more but one thing is for certain.

This does not mean that Dan Brown is right and that the DaVinci Code was onto something. What it means is that there may be more to the historical Jesus’ life that has remained hidden.

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But I Don’t Wanna…

Do you ever read the Gospel and hear words that you just don’t want to hear? Today perhaps is no different:

“To you who hear I say, love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.

Luke makes Jesus sound like a doormat. Wouldn’t we all say that he’s describing a woman who was getting beat by her husband and kept going back to him and then made him a nice dinner?

Is there more to this than meets the eye? There must be.

Perhaps our first reading from Corinthians gives us a hint?

Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up.
If anyone supposes he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if one loves God, one is known by him.

I would say that when we have knowledge of wrongdoing we can go overboard and find the person to be only that act that they committed. We can deprive people of their dignity even when they’ve done some very indignant things.

Later in the same reading…

But not all have this knowledge.
There are some who have been so used to idolatry up until now
that, when they eat meat sacrificed to idols,
their conscience, which is weak, is defiled.

Thus, through your knowledge, the weak person is brought to destruction,
the brother for whom Christ died.
When you sin in this way against your brothers
and wound their consciences, weak as they are,
you are sinning against Christ.

Paul urges that our actions have consequences (in this case eating defiled meat–a dated reference surely, but we can apply it here). I can remember seeing people doing things that I’d never expect them to do when I was younger. People having racist attitudes, people cheating others out of money, people being deceitful. Doesn’t that lead many of us to become what we are near? It’s like riding in a car with a chain smoker. Eventually, we both stink, even if he is the only one smoking.

I think the danger here is that we often lump everyone into the barrel that defines them by only their actions instead of transcending that attitude and trying to change our own environments by example. Sometimes we may have the hard task of calling someone out on the carpet for something they’ve done.

And quite often…I don’t wanna do that. It is in fact easier not to do that. A young student I know once asked me if I meet all my students at my office in the church. I told her most of the time, I do. Unless I know I’ll be at another convenient spot. She confessed feeling guilty at not being to mass in some time. Her family really didn’t prioritize it and she kind of fell into the same lack of practice.

The gospel today would call me not to beat this person up for their lack of practice but rather to consider what would most help them. I simply invited her to mass and told her the times of the services and that she would always be welcome. I had to consider that she’s more than a “lapsed Catholic”, rather she’s someone who wants to reconnect with God but might actually be too ashamed or embarrassed to do so. It would have been easier for me to say “no worries” and to just let it go, but I decided to make the invitation and I think it was received well because it led to 3 more questions about religion.

Our church is an evangelization organization. What do people really need? Why do people seek us from time to time and how do we move them to be closer to God.

It seems to me that an “enemy” might actually not be someone who is hostile but rather someone who is trapped and they need us to go to a place where we’d much rather not go. They’re someone on the other side who hopes that we might just reach a bit beyond our usual comfort zone. Perhaps a place of asking forgiveness and breaking the cycle of hatred and division? Perhaps a place of welcoming instead of shaming? Perhaps a place of peace instead of confusion and chaos? Perhaps a place of feeding instead of ignoring?

Where are you most called and to whom? Who is your enemy and how might you try just a bit to re-encounter them into your life, to change everything you’ve come to know about them and bring them into wholeness once again?

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