Monday, October 31

It's new years? crap.

This is the vigil of All Saint's Day, commonly known as Halloween (all hallow's eve).  It is also known as Samhain, the Celtic Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur.  This is the night when the veil between worlds is thinnest and when one make peace with what has happened in the last year.

I'm pretty sure I'm not ready for that yet.  I realise how much I need it.  The dead need burying, lest they walk amongst us for another year.  The echoes of the past need to be put to rest, else they shall haunt us.  I so wish to hold on to what was, what I wish would be....but it IS dead and I DO need to bury it.  Begone then, foul spectre, and plague me no further.

The reading - a picture is worth a 1000 words

His Eminence, Cardinal Burke, surrounded by 'Fathers'
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,

"The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.

All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'

As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."   (Mt. 23:1-12)

Friday, October 28

Enough is enough

My good friend posted a rather disturbing story today and my reply morphed into a post of it's own.  The substance of the story is that some punk in high-school beat another kid badly enough to give him a concussion and the need for dental reconstruction.  The attacker was suspended for three days from school.

How do we know this happened?  Oh, because this was during class.  Because somebody made a video of the attack with their mobile and then posted the video on facebook.

Did anyone help?  No.    What about the teacher?  She wasn't even there.  Did anyone speak up, step in or do anything?  No.  The victim gets a trip to the hospital and the bully gets a 3-day suspension (less than if he'd been caught with liquor at school).

This is one of the few instances when I channel the OT, smitin and lightnin g-d.  Every person in that room is complicit.  All of them, sinned by omission.  The teacher, the staff, the principal...all complicit.  There are millstones and a briny deep for each and every one of them.

Enough is enough.

Saying "it gets better" isn't enough, because it won't.  It won't unless we, individually and collectively make it better.

We are called to be the voice for the voiceless, to stand for justice and to help the helpless.  We are the hands of Christ.

We can make it better and with God's help we will make it better.

But we have to do that.  It's on us.

Thursday, October 27

Thoughts about the reading

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (Jn. 3:16-18)

"Brothers and sisters:  If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all,  how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn?  It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. What will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom 8:31b-35a)

Ask those who follow Peter's successor for your answer, Paul, for they believe they can judge and deny the love of Christ to those whom they deem unworthy.

Wednesday, October 26

Thoughts about the reading

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’" (Mt. 13:10-13)

Long ago and far away, I studied Tai Chi and, by extension, Taoism from a wise and good man. At one point, we started talking about Zen Buddhism and koans. He told me that the point of a koan is not unlike that of a parable. The conscious mind has it's biases and 'understanding' of the universe and will refuse to see and hear and understand something which does not fit the already prescribed belief.  This is the fundaments behind why people can witness true atrocities and not acknowledge them.

But a parable...a parable engages the conscious brain in a puzzle or story which it can relate to while the underlying message, the truth which would otherwise be blocked by the conscious mind of the listener, sneaks in through the back door.  Safely inside, it sits and waits until the conscious mind is ready to understand and then, like a stroke of lightning, it springs forth from within, granting satori to the listener.

So, let me tell you a story...

Tuesday, October 25

posts to anger and offend - contraception and abortion

Having a distinct lack of plan about the current socio-economic crisis facing the US, some political folk on the far right have dragged out the old chestnut of social conservatism, particularly what is commonly called 'a women's right to choose'.

Having suffered through the slings and arrows of an upbringing exposed to protestant evangelicism, I am well aware of the scriptural underpinnings of the procreation movement as well as the age and context thereof.  There are several verses in the Old Testament (Genesis and Psalms, specifically) which directly or obliquely reference the desire to have a large family.  This is not surprising, considering the audience was a small, warlike nation some 3000 years ago (oops, there I go with that historical/critical stuff).  My thoughts are not centered around arguing the validity of words from three thousand years and miles ago, but rather a different set of arguments which are more rooted in the here and now.

Regarding contraception, the current argument runs that family planning is alternately an assumption of personal responsibility and a contravention of the will of God.  Now the first side I can argue easily.  If men/women (for whatever reason) feel they are not ready, willing, and/or able to bring a child into this world AND are unwilling (for whatever reason) to wholly abstain from sexual congress, then the responsible option is to take safe and effective steps to prevent pregnancy. 

The other position is far more dicey, for it assumes an untenable position - that any mortal may know the designs of the Divine.  It also assumes something which I find laughable, which is that the designs of the aforementioned omnipotent Divine could be so easily thwarted by a pill or a piece of rubber.  Finally, it presumes to override Primacy of Conscience and Free Will, replacing them with a 'one size fits none' approach to an intensely personal and situationally dependent decision.

Regarding abortion, things are much trickier but the bottom line is the same.  When does the soul enter the fetus, transforming a saprophytic polyp into a human being?  What are the ultimate consequences of either keeping or aborting said polyp/human?  What about in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the mother?  To categorically state that any action is universally good OR evil presumes a level of understanding of the universe and the persons performing the actions that is far beyond the ken of mankind.   It also denies Primacy of Conscience and Free Will.

In both cases, I would point out that it is a personal decision to be considered at length with prayer and thoughtful introspection.  Whether or not I would consider either acceptable does not alter the fact that one must always be permitted to make a choice, whether that choice is right or wrong.  Your definitions of wrong and right may vary (and that's ok).    

Monday, October 24

glasses of the heart

This weekend has been of interest and has brought something into crystal-focus which I believe I have been ignoring.  Without going into the sordid and personal details, let us say that what was is now, unequivocally and irreversibly no more.  I have intellectually known this to be for some time, but my heart held out hope - for naught.

I have been mulling over the possible lessons to be learned from all of this.  Of course, I have been talking with Dad about these things and trying to grasp what's going on.

The reply was thus:  "Before you fill a glass, it must be empty."

Beyond the obvious, personal implication of this profound statement, there is a question posed regarding the wider, collective conscience and scripture/tradition.  How much that is disused, no longer applicable and generally gathering dust do we, as Christians and Catholics, keep around?  How much detritus and debris which we've never bothered to sweep away is left cluttering up the place, making it harder to have space for more current understanding of the Divine and the world around us.

Right.  I need to get out my psychological dustpan and sweep things clean so that when the new stuff arrives (whatever, whoever and whenever that may be), I'll have an uncluttered spot for it.  I think between the comfy couch of non-conformity and the armoire of hopes and dreams.

My, but look at all the dustbunnies.

Friday, October 21

Keep calm and lock the doors

Flipping through my normal news sources, I came across an 'in other news' story about the Occupy London (dubbed by the BBC as 'anti-capitalist protest').  Seems that said protests are large enough that they have accidentally done what the Nazis needed the Blitz to do, they have shuttered St. Paul's Cathedral.

Citing health and safety concerns, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, dean of the cathedral, announced that they will be closing St. Paul's until further notice. As can be seen by the image above, the protest camp is sandwiched between the historic cathedral and the Exchange, filling Paternoster Square.

What struck me about this story most is that I see it as a sad tale of missed opportunity.  Here is a large group of people who are following their conscience and speaking out against economic/social injustice and the Church, rather than providing assistance and showing that they are sensitive to the needs of their neighbour, decide to turn out the lights and lock the doors.

Is that the message that they wish to send?
Is that the message we wish to be sent?
Is that the message that Christ has charged them to preach?
Where is God in this?

Wednesday, October 19

Thoughts about the reading - the 99% and the 1%

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.  Therefore I did away with them as you have seen." (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

The top 1% in the US control more wealth than the bottom 95% combined.  The average worker in the US makes 20 times as much as the average worker in the global economy, which is $2/day.  1 billion people in the world work for under $1/day.

The US, as a nation, throws away half of the food it buys and over 1/3rd of the population is clinically obese, yet almost 15% of people in the US don't know where their next meal is coming from.  An estimated 3.5 million people in the US are homeless, 1.35 million of whom are children.

I pray that there are 50 good men/women in America tonight.  Shoot, I'll settle for 5.

Monday, October 17

Ignoring the hand

This all starts about a week ago when someone very close to me said that her cousin was in hospital and in grave condition.  The guess was that he OD'd, but honestly, nobody on this plane will ever know for sure. The cousin is my age and has been openly gay for years.  As he decided whether or not to shuffle off his mortal coil, half of the family was making fumbling attempts about being supportive while the other half was warming up the band to dance on his grave.  All of them good Christians, you know.

Dad and I talked and I did what I do.  On Wednesday, the matter was settled and he passed on.  In the end, I know that said cousin rests in the arms of the Divine, despite what any prelate or preacher would tell you. 

Today, I read of yet another boy who, at least partially due to bullying, decided that it won't 'get better' and chose to take up arms against his sea of troubles.  Jayme Hubley was 15, had started the rainbow alliance in his school and was active in trying to make this world a better place.  

What grieves my soul is what put both of them there.  It's what put Jamie and Seth and Jayme and Billy and Chris and all the rest there.  This felt need to escape.  There are a raft of things which fill the bill, from TV to 'the homosexual lifestyle' to drugs and even suicide, but all of them are escaping. 

Escaping a world which is seems uncaring at best and actively hostile at worst.  Escaping a world filled with inhumanity and solitude and hopelessness.  Escaping a world filled with grave-dancers and haters, of narcissists and navel-gazers.  These things are also a cry.  A cry for help.  A cry in the darkness.  A cry asking if there is anyone out there and does anybody care.

If we are the eyes and hands of Christ, then we NEED to see these people.  We need to hear their cries and we need to answer them.  We need to grasp the hands of the men and women who are drowning and let them know that our God, through us, hears their cries, feels their pain and DOES give a damn...does love them...does care.

If we do not, then all of the theology is for naught, all of the preaching is but words and all of the Scripture is dust.

Today's Reading

I had a lot written, but I think I'll let the text speak for itself.

"Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions."

Then he told them a parable.

"There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, "What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?"

And he said, "This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, "Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!""

But God said to him, "You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?  "Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God." (Luke 12:15-21)

Kyrie Eleison
Christe Eleison
Kyrie Eleison

Tuesday, October 11

Relevancy in the Church : why I hate Vatican II

Part of the joy and pain of having my particular skill-set is that I observe and analyze on a near-instinctual level and question if an idea/concept/thing has been obsolesced or is it still needed and/or has value.

As you can imagine, these skills are of great help and value in the 21st century where change occurs at an ever quickening pace.  This brings me to my church and one of the times when it WAS asked, front and center - Vatican II.

One of the best 'short answers' to the question of "What is the ECC?" is that it is a communion of churches fulfilling the promise of a catholic Church as embodied in Vatican II.  As far as it goes, I find that to be an accurate description of things and that's the problem.

You see, ecumenical councils and synods are formed in response to perceived problems and are generally focused to resolve present issues within the Church.  Whether it be the Council of Jerusalem or the second Vatican Council, they are reactionary and responsive to the times in which they are held.  This is why during the healthiest times of the Roman Church's history, one sees a council every generation or so to subtly alter positions and doctrines in a manner to best meet the needs of the laos.

On October 11 1962, 49 years ago today, Pope John XXIII called for the Second Vatican Council.  The Cold War was at it's peak, the US was just starting to send uniformed troops into some little country named Vietnam, President Kennedy made his iconic 'moon' speech about a month ago, formally throwing down the gauntlet for the Space Race, nobody had heard of the Beatles and the modern civil rights movement was just beginning to get a head of steam.  This was the time which defines the largest generation in modern times, the Baby Boomers, and a time which changed the western world.

But that time was (almost) 50 years ago.

Today, the Cold War is over, the great era of space exploration is done, The Beach Boys have been replaced by Lady Gaga and the few arguments which remain regarding racial and gender equality are about 'how much is enough', not 'if'.  Today, the issues are about corporate avarice, environmental destruction, sexual orientation and teen suicide/bullying.

If the church, any church, is to have relevance, it needs to be willing and able to address the concerns of the people in the here and now, in the 21st century.  Having an understanding of the past is well and good, but living in the 20th century does nothing for the Body of Christ.  Just ask the RC folks, whose leadership seems determined to live in a 19th century world of Fundamentalist Evangelicism and a 'Perfect City of God' where only those deemed worthy may worship.

Thursday, October 6

Requiescant In Pace

Thirteen years ago, Matthew Shepherd died after a long and cruel ordeal not two hours from where I sit in one of the most liberal/progressive areas in this country  His death brought to light the ugly and intolerant nature which lives in the hearts of some and started the conversation about bullying and homophobia on a national scale.

In a few moments, I am going to leave for a meeting at my parish where a lot of straight folks half-again my age are looking to understand what others go through on a daily basis by being honest with who they are.

If it weren't for Matthew (and others like him), this conversation would never be happening.  Don't forget how far we've traveled in those years and yet how far the road is ahead.  May the promise of a better tomorrow temper the sorrows of auld lange syne.

Thanks to you, Matt.  Rest in peace with God.

Wednesday, October 5

The gay thing...It's a choice (part deux)

I have updated my earlier post twice now and realise I really should just make a second post.  As I said previously, the Divine has made me in Her image just like you and everyone else.

Some are left-handed, some are right.
Some are brown-skinned, some are white.
Some are blonde, with hair in plaits.
Some are gay and some are straight.

Your choice is what to do about it.  Before I talked about dealing with others.  Now I'm talking about you.

Do you accept who you are, what you are and why you are?

Do you deny these things, try to change them or loathe yourself because of them? 

Do you accept the gifts that the Infinite and Almighty have given you or do you spurn them?

Do you see the Christ within and the Christ in all?

Do you let others dictate your self-worth and value (as if they have the right to judge)?

It's your choice.

The gay thing...It's a choice, you know

People are created by the Divine in His image - black and white, tall and short, gay and straight, thin and fat, male and female, blonde brunette and red-headed.  The choice is what we do with that.

We choose to be racist, misogynistic or homophobic.

We choose to love others or to hate them.

We choose to include or exclude. 

We choose to be jerks or to be excellent to one another.

"There are set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.  Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him." (Sirach 15:16-17)

"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make." (Duet. 30:19a)

Our choice.

Your choice.

Choose wisely.

Tuesday, October 4

Lessons from the Saints - Francis

"I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone."

"If a superior give any order to one who is under him which is against that man's conscience, although he do not obey it yet he shall not be dismissed."

"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."

What more can I add other than Thanks be to God.