– Fr. Joe
– Fr. Joe
I’ve often made use of Abby, our border collie, as a teacher. I think we had another one of those moments this morning. A border collie, driven by instinct and force of will, seems to have within this unquenchable fire to find herself a flock and herd them. As we have so many deer, foxes or feral cats who seem to run through our yard (and leave imprints in the snow), Abby naturally has been sniffing her way up one side or down the other of most of the trails and embankments around the clergy residence trying to find those whom she should herd and protect!
But this morning, I guided her away from the normal paths (trod upon by the “usual suspects”) and guess what? She went flying through the fresh untouched snow with only the desire to find a new path, seek out fresh scents to sniff and boldly go where no dog has gone before!
As you begin 2018, take a few moments from your regular routine. Instead of centering on (and complaining about) the bitter cold, the freezing rain or the perpetually gray skies, seek out some untouched path – not necessarily literally but symbolically! Where can you “go” or explore or “do” that you have never gone, explored or done before? Christian mystics might phrase it this way: sometimes God calls you to walk in new directions and seek God in different places. So as we enter a new year, is there a new direction you might consider? Is there a new project you might begin? Is there a change in your life’s direction that might be ahead of you?
I can tell you that from watching Abby, it is such an important thing to do from time to time.
– Fr. Joe
We’ve finally left 2017 behind us, and now we approach, with hope, a new span of time – a new year – to mark our journey. With more than one major life-changing medical procedure, the sadness of witnessing two of our family members deal with serious marriage issues, the (at least) inconvenience of moving the residence, the moving away of a few parish members who will truly be missed, the constant influx of anger-filled news (real or fake – I guess that depends on whose truth you choose to believe) as well as the realization that “truth” itself is no longer an objective reality but depends upon one’s choice of political philosophy, the reality that the Korean “police action” of the early 1950’s may be heading for renewal, and this time with the possibility of nuclear weapons, the reopening of so many wounds fed by subtle (or at times not-so-subtle) racism, the uncomfortable realities that the “me too” movement has brought to the surface (and before anyone challenges the utility of 40+ year old memories, please ask yourself if you would not listen to any woman accuser if she were your daughter, your sister or your mom?) – O yeah 2017 was a year I am ever so glad to see the back of.
So what do I hope for in 2018? I hope for a nation whose leaders might re-learn how to listen to rather than talk at each other. I would love to see a culture where the “social” in social media was truly indicative of our willingness to communicate with, share and even uplift each other rather than an exercise is narcissism and cowardly name-calling and shaming. I would love to see us as a church community truly live as persons of faith and commitment. We are supposed to be members in a “Jesus movement” that began 2000 years ago. We’ve a long way to go if we truly want to be persons who love, give and forgive as Jesus does! I long for the sentiments expressed in our Christmas carols to become a reality each and every day of 2018. May your New Year’s wishes also be granted!!
For this last reflection in 2017 (yes, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” will resume in 2018), I am neither going to create a Christmas message that oozes with “sweetness and light” because, frankly, it’s not reality. Nor will I play the role of a crude Mr. Scrooge and give you all a “bah humbug” since the power of Jesus and what we celebrate at the Feast of the Incarnation is so wonderful that I refuse to play the role of cantankerous curmudgeon!
But my friends, my sisters and brothers, let’s keep focused on what is terribly and truly important: the “message” of Christmas is the Message of Easter! This fact of remembering that God chose to become enfleshed in a human body and thus into human history is a call to remember that every aspect of the Christmas story points to a deeper reality marking the greatest mystery of all: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus for our Salvation.
Don’t forget that a child born into poverty and for whom no one would share hospitality prefigured a time when a popular peasant preacher would be turned on by the crowd of supposed followers and abandoned by his own. And who stepped up to shelter him then? And just as the machinations of a corrupt emperor forces a young family to migrate to be registered, so the decisions of a corrupt Procurator will bring about this child’s death as an adult. As the baby would be laid to rest and bound on to a wooden feeding trough (“manger”), so one day he would be bound to another harsher piece of wood (“cross”).
But never forget that if the place of his birth is seen as a CAVE where no one human should be (only animals hung out there), so his intended final resting place (another cave) would become the site of mystery and light, redemption and reconciliation: from that cave would emerge He who IS the way, truth and LIFE. Born in a cave / resurrected from a cave.
And finally, in both cases, those who are totally “other” than we – call them “angels,” call them messengers of the Divine – proclaim the Good News. The announcement to Shepherds of the child’s birth (“Today is born for you a Savior”) and to the women who had come to anoint his broken dead body at the empty tomb (“He is not here. He is risen.”) is the same message: Do NOT be afraid! Be at PEACE. REJOICE. Your God is greater than human evil. And God’s “redeeming grace” is far more powerful than human tragedy.
Please don’t forget what we celebrate each Christmas: A memory of Jesus that prefigures His (and our) most important moment. And don’t forget that no matter the darkness of our world, that He has been born for us, and lived for us, and taught us, and died for us and rose from the dead to give us life. And what better gift could we possibly need or be given this or any season of the year!
– Fr. Joe
– Fr. Joe
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
– Fr. Joe