Monthly Archives: October 2018

Thursday Reflection 11.1.18

Thursday Reflection
“What is God calling me to do?”
November 1, 2018
           I know that just as many of you find my “conversations with Abby” (our border collie) cute, there are others of you who get bored or turned off. Hopefully this reflection is not cute, and hopefully those who are not dog lovers see beyond the metaphor of what Abby stands for and is, and give a prayerful listen!
           This has been yet another terrible week (and I am not referring to the thrashing your 401 K’s took in the stock market the week of Oct. 22). We’ve experienced the power of hate. You hate someone’s politics, simple: put together (non-working?) pipe bombs and mail them to your philosophical opponent! You have been feeding on ethnic hatred and want to finish the evil work that that Austrian madman had started in the 1930’s, simple: use your easily purchased and legal high powered rifle and spray death into a place of worship.
           Trying to explain “hate” to Abby is a challenge because she reminds me that while dogs certainly know fear, hunger, and can be defiant and stubborn, and even on that not so rare occasion [when food is involved] will lie through their teeth), dogs do not experience the human emotion of hate. They are protective. Some will attack if they feel they (or their parent) are threatened, but they cannot know hate. It is not in their DNA.
           We, sadly in our so called “enlightened, post-Christian, God-is irrelevant, don’t-judge-me, my-kid-never-does-anything-wrong, I can say anything I feel like through social media, blaming, shaming, I-want to destroy you” culture are ever so capable of hate.
           Abby asked me if I was surprised by the events of last week. “Of course not” I snarked at her. Once we accepted the murder of little children in their schools – a.k.a Sandy Hook – (and do not lie to yourselves – by having done NOTHING to deal with the issues of gun violence/gun laws/gun rights), we have accepted the murder of our children as our “new normal”, we just better start getting used to this over and over.
           Abby asked me why we humans choose to hate. I wish I could give her an answer. Is it something bred into us? Do we need to be taught (cf. South Pacific)? Are fear and hate of the “other” the inevitable consequence of a world where God is ignored and God’s word is perverted?   Have the seeds of the “politics of destruction” which both sides spew so well finally born this poisoned fruit?
This four legged creature (who barks excessively, to be sure, but who was created for love and to give love) looks at me, mumbles a Border Collie sigh, and shakes herself to remove the stench of humanity from her fur. Why would anyone want to hang around with creatures who love to hate. And I have no answer for her.
–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 10.25.18

Thursday Reflection
What is God Calling ME to do?
October 25, 2018
           So …you are going to see a new “tagline” this year: “What is God calling me to do?” A question like this has profound and long reaching consequences. In a few weeks we’ll be starting the next and new liturgical year beginning with the Season of Advent as we prepare for the festivities of Christmas.  Even prior to this time, we’ll be speaking quite overtly about Stewardship and our annual pledge drive. We’ll be preparing for a new calendar year (which arrives in about 60 days – have you even begun your Christmas shopping yet?)
           So with all this “new beginnings” and in light of the welcomed, blessed and newer faces within our parish community, let me ask you what the parish leadership teams have been struggling with. It’s a question that began as: “What is God calling us to do?” This was to be a parish wake up call. This is a reminder that of all the communities of those who claim to be disciples of Jesus, this community of St. John’s parish has a purpose! Why are we here in this place and time? What is the Lord expecting of us? How can we make this world something of a better place?
           But as one (or more) pointed out at last week’s meetings, the question must be posed in the singular: what is God calling me to do? It’s all well and good to speak of a collective purpose, and that conversation is necessary. But there is the deeper personal issue: why am I here in this place and time? What is it that our creating, redeeming and sanctifying God is asking me? What differences have I been called to make, and for whom? As the seasons pass, so will I. Will it matter that I was here?
(“Time time time, see what’s become of me, as I look around for my possibilities ….”)
– Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel,  A Hazy Shade of Winter
Lyrics by Paul Simon
–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 10.18.18

Thursday Reflection
Inspired to Make a Difference
October 18, 2018
     I have a small banner hanging in my office. It displays a picture of a lighthouse with the words of Ps. 119:105 beneath: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
         That image of a light shining from an old New England lighthouse is a powerful one. A light in the darkness! A light that shows me where I am going. A light that keeps me from tripping and falling. A light that guides the ship in a storm, gives it a sense of both placement and direction, and importantly keeps it from being ripped apart by rocky coastline and hidden reefs.
         I keep wondering from where that light, which humans really need, is going to come if our culture has determined in its hubris that there really is no God, and matters of religion are of just such nonsense for the elderly or the weak willed.
         If the Lord does not light my path, how do I get a sense of direction or see what really matters? Is it any wonder that the numbers of the poor or homeless grow, but we don’t see them among us?
A few weeks ago, we all were immersed in a tragic drama – televised for our viewing “entertainment” – as we were forced to listen to memories of what may have been sexual criminality or inappropriate high school drunken behavior or memories of an incident that did not occur as remembered – we will never know – but I had kept asking over and over where the parents of those privileged youth had been that night. How can we hope that our youth walk that right path if there is no light to guide them?
         I am looking more and more at a world that ignores its Creator, scoffs that matters religious as merely mythological, and then wonders why it is torn by violence and hate. Take away the light, you get darkness. Remove the guidance in the storm, you get a ship wreck.  St. John in one of his letters has the very brief verse: “God is light.” So take away the light that guides us. And you’re surprised that all you’re left with is darkness?
–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 10.11.18

Thursday Reflection
“What is God Calling Us to Do?
October 11, 2018
           This is the time of the year when, as a Mets fan, I am so often asked if I am rooting for or against any particular team in the baseball playoffs since, for reasons only divine wisdom will fathom, the team of my rooting interest is usually long eliminated. It’s been my experience that this simple question is usually a veiled attempt by the supporters of New York’s other team to either elicit praise and support (“last man standing”, I suppose) or just a way to rub salt in already festering wounds. Now, if truth be told – so often it is not – I was raised to be a gracious loser even if I seethe within. For in truth, while I always acknowledge those who have bested me, I HATE to lose. Always have! Always will!
           I really can’t bounce this idea off Abby because she doesn’t understand acknowledging our limitations, congratulating those who do succeed, or dealing with the times when we were not good enough. Border collies may (almost) always win. We humans – not so much.
           I have seen enough of how our political landscape has deteriorated into a battleground where there can only be chest bumping / taunting winners and rage filled losers. I have seen this spill into youth sporting events where parents who make the conscious immoral decision to live vicariously through the success of their children act out in utterly reprehensible fashions. We see this in the media from time to time.   I can even tell you a story of a long ago incident where a teen boy [someday to become a priest] was asked to substitute referee a CYO basketball game in the place of a sick classmate. There was a foul call made against a player whose elbow clearly connected into the shooter. Then there was then an outraged aggrieved and disagreeing / disagreeable parent who ran on to the court, screamed at this 16 year old, threatening him physically in front of a ¼ packed gym. Oh and yes, I even could tell you about the equally unpleasant aftermath where, after the game , this parent ran into a certain uncle of that teen [who would someday become a priest] and the physical consequences endured by that parent for his lack of “respect”. One should not be happy about either incident – both are shameful!
           The point I hope you all get is that how we deal with “winning” or “losing” – when the symbolic “referees” of our life miss the calls, when the unfairness of life brings either something expectantly joy filled or outrageously unpleasant into our lives – how we deal with our feelings at such moments speak volumes about not only our maturity but also the sincerity of our discipleship. If social media is a mirror of exactly how much rage and taunting, shaming and intolerance for any opinion other than my own truly infects this culture of ours, then God help us. We have all lost! We can’t be authentic disciples only when it pleases us or when life goes well. I choose to follow Jesus in this faith community as long as I get my own way. I love those who agree with me personally or politically and hate all others. How do I deal with being a disciple, living into my calling, and knowing that at times all will not go well with me or my life!
–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 10.4.18

Thursday Reflection
Inspired to make a difference
October 4, 2018
         Today is the date that Christians of all shapes and perspectives honor one of the truly unique, dangerous and incredible leaders / reformers of all time. He was born as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but remember him by his “informal” name of Francesco or Francis – Francis of Assisi.
           I could not possibly write anything insightful or laudatory that hasn’t already been written, preached or just opined. Born into the flawed medieval Church, he injected his own brand of spirituality into an institution that was in dire need of reform. A child of middle class wealth and values, a legendary ne’er-do-well youth, a soldier, prisoner of war, thinker who listened to the voice within, heard his redeemer whom he insisted was telling him to “rebuild my church,” and he literally started to do so as he went about to repair a broken neighborhood chapel.
           But that voice from within was calling him to do more than fix the plumbing! Eventually he discerns the call challenging him to proclaim the good news not by preaching alone, although he was to do this well, but rather by living a lifestyle of radical poverty and to move his church away from the siren’s song of materialism.
Most are aware that he found God in all of nature and not necessarily in grand cathedrals. He was the original “Dr. Doolittle” at times found preaching to the animals in the forest, allegedly claiming they actually listened!
           He was such a strong personality that he attracted others, men and women, to embrace this crazy new way to live as (not just speak as) as Christian. Even the depths of the medieval papacy was wise enough to recognize such an extraordinary witness to Christ,
He was an extraordinary man of peace. You all now know that (in a truth is stranger than fiction moment) Francis and the Sultan of Egypt (a nephew of the great warrior prince Saladin) prevented what would have been a bloodbath encounter between warring armies during the crusades. This is just one forgotten moment when peace defeated pride, and the message of Jesus was actually taken seriously by all those who had the power to change history.
           I long for such men (and women) of witness and conviction. But I also know that as much as we admire them in retrospect, reformers are very often rejected in their own time. Who really wants to take all this seriously? Who really wants to live the good news as the Lord intended we do? Who is secure enough to not only not fear poverty but to embrace it as a way to get rid of the clutter in our lives? People claim to admire Francis. But I wonder if we are really willing to listen to him and join him on the pathway that he insists will bring us to our God.
–Fr Joe