Monday, February 25

And now for something completely silly.....

When I write a post, I normally go poking about the 'net, looking for an image which matches, underlines or otherwise fits the post.  Then there are those which don't fit at all, but strike me as hilarious for one reason or the other.  As my beloved would say, "mirth and reverence".

Where will YOU be when your laxative starts to work?

When on fire with the Spirit, remember! Stop, Drop and Roll!

"Which one of your Eminences ordered the Kung-Pao chicken?"

Where two or three are gathered....

Yesterday, the folks of Colouful Colorado were treated to a reverse-Turnerism, wherein the world was drained of its myriad hues and everything was white and shades of grey.  Driving to mass, there were whiteout conditions most everwhere.  Yet, a dozen or so of us 'committed catholics' (or catholics who should be committed) gathered, sang, prayed and were in communion with each other and the Divine.

Our guiding lenten imagery centers around the Labyrinth and the homily was about how, even though the path may not seem clear to us, if we hold our vision on the Divine above and follow Him, we will be led through the twists and turns till we arrive at the center.  Considering the weather conditions outside, I found it particularly apt.

As masses go, it was the most intimate, with an informality which is not normally seen even in our rather informal community.  And, yes....the Divine was there.

Thanks, Dad.

Lenten Reflection: Judging

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk. 6:36-38)

What else needs to be said?

Saturday, February 23

Lenten reflection: Peter's words

I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.  Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.  Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1Pt. 5:1-4)

Looking at the scandals, the cappa magnas, the dictates underscored by excommunications, the untold millions in the Vatican coffers...I find these words in the lectionary today hard to reconcile with the clergy of the church which celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

Lenten reading : easy words, hard deeds

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the unbelievers do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:43-48)

Again, there's no compact in scripture which says that it is easy to do these things; to return kindness for cruelty, love for hate, compassion for prejudice.  Doesn't mean we shouldn't....just an acknowledgement that is can be a difficult task some days.

Wednesday, February 20

Lenten reading :A heart of stone

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:12-14)

In our world today, it is so very easy to harden one's heart, to denigrate our fellow man and, in doing so, disrespect the Divine which is in each and every one of us.  It is a simple matter to argue that they are not like us, that we live in different worlds and that our understanding of Truth is superior to another.

This is the way of a hardened and unbelieving heart, for in denying the truth another sees, we deny the Truth itself.  To argue that there is a 'them' ignores that we are all together, we are all one.  To do anything other than acknowledge the Divine in someone else denies the Divine in everything, including ourselves.  If Christians hold that God is omnipresent, then She lies within me as much as He resides within you.  To believe in the Divine is to uplift one another.  To be good is to see the good in all, both others and oneself.

What makes you itch?

Tuesday, February 19

Further reflection: a more positive approach

After posting, there is something else which needs to be said, lest it be considered that all of my experiences, learning and study have jaded vision such that there is no hope.

Consider the words of the Master:
 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ....? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? .... You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Mat. 6)

One cannot serve both the Lord of Heaven and the god of earthly riches.  Decide who you love more, and follow them with your whole heart.  If one has chosen to serve the Lord of Heaven, then there is no reason to worry about the 'little things' of this world.  If one has chosen to serve the master of money, then matters of the next world are of no consequence.

Who do you love?  Who do you trust?

The Divine will care for you, if you trust Her.  Follow the Voice and He will deliver you, no matter where the path leads.

Lenten reading :Who do you trust?

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,  in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. (Psalm 146:1-4)

Warning: hard truths and ugly words ahead.

There is a lot of noise on the internet with the recent abdication of Benedict XVI and the conclave of cardinals which will meet to choose a new pontiff.  Chalk up my cynicism to being generational, but I don't hold much hope for a group of like-minded senior executives to break with generations of tradition to possibly harm their position in an altruistic attempt to right a sinking ship.

Put far more bluntly by my father years ago, "Look, our generation knows that we've f****d this world up, most of us don't care and our only hope is to die before the bill comes due."  In my time on this planet, there isn't a single sector, public or private, secular or religious, which hasn't taken taken their turn at this, flagrantly and egregiously, and been caught at it. It appears that part of our mortal, human condition that when given authority and power is invested, especially in an institution, we screw it up.

So, who do you trust?  Not institutions, for certain.  What about people you know?  To a certain extent, as we have enough of a connection with them to know how far NOT to trust them.  And the Divine?  Every time, the Boss comes through.  She never stops loving, He never quits you.

Trust not in the Princes of the Church, Kings of countries or Captains of industry, for they are ALL mortal, ALL fallible.

Trust in God, for He is immortal, She is infallible.

Friday, February 15

You will know a tree by it's fruit

As some may know (or may have guessed), I use two separate lectionaries for my readings, both being linked on the left.  It may seem odd or redundant, but there are good reasons for this as today's readings highlight the differences in theology and outlook.

In the USCCB readings, you have a quote from Psalms 51.
Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
Compare this to the PCUSA readings, which has Psalms 148.
 Praise the Lord!
     Praise the Lord from the heavens;
          praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
          praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon;
          praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
          and you waters above the heavens! 

The OT readings are the same way, with the USCCB passage from Isaiah going on about 'tell my people of their wickedness', vs. the PCUSA passage from Deuteronomy which talks about how God 'will love you, bless you, and multiply you' if you heed his ordinances.

You see what's going on here.  Which view of yourself is healthier?  Which idea of the Divine is more spiritually productive?  Which relationship with God fits more with your understanding of yourself and the Divine?

Thursday, February 14

To fear or not to fear....that is the question.

The readings we had at the evening Ash Wednesday service were well tailored and crafted to give a unified message.  Yes, I get it...we're all 'dust'...which is to say that we ain't squat in the big picture...but that isn't anything new to me.  What caught my eye (ok, ear) was the great propounding of fear.  "Fear the Lord!" was the refrain over and again, yet I am called to ask why?  

Why should I fear the Lord? 

My understanding of the Divine is such that He is neither arbitrary, unkind  nor cruel, but rather She is just, loving and merciful.  Take the 'parent' analogy which is so commonplace when referring to God.  Why, why on Earth would I fear a parent who loves and cares for their children? 

How many times, when God appears to people (and God-as-Christ to his people), does the 'conversation' start with "Don't be afraid."

Why would I fear God if the first commandment of Christ is to love God with all I am?  

How can I love and fear the same person...especially when love casts out fear?

Wednesday, February 13

Ash Wednesday thoughts

As the cold nights of winter slowly give way to the lengthening days of spring, so to the wheel of the liturgical calender turns towards Lent, a time of preparation, prayer and meditation.  For many, Lent is bound up with sacrifice, of giving something up for a month and a half.  For myself, I consider it a time for spiritual spring cleaning.

Now is the time to open the doors of your heart and swing wide the windows of your mind to let the beams of Divine sunlight brighten those dark corners.  Bask in the glow of the Heavenly as it reflects within you and know that you are beloved of God as Her son, His daughter.

Take this time, these weeks ahead, to examine what is in your life that is profitable, good and holy.  Treasure and strengthen those things while looking at ways to rid yourself of the parts of your life which are neither holy, good nor profitable.

May the Son shine warm upon your face.

Monday, February 11

Catholic? What does that mean?

A matter which has been brought up again and again within our circle of churches centers around the middle word in our title - Catholic.  What, precisely, does that mean?  It patently does not mean obedience to Rome, for there are other churches which are most assuredly catholic who are not Roman nor even in communion with Rome.

Thus, one must look deeper and consider a more profound question - what does membership in any denomination mean?

Does the identity hang upon ritual and rite?  Upon the words that we say and how we say them?

What about the trappings and physical tokens of our faith? Is a priest any less efficacious in a T-shirt and jeans than in a cope and chausible?

Is it, instead, about the congregation and the communion which they share?  As parishes change in size, demographics and needs, does that mean that the denomination should change?

Whither theology and doctrinal belief? Are they the defining characteristics for a denomination?  What of when said official doctrines conflict with the experiences, shared or unique, of the people the church?

So long, and thanks for all the fish

As has been reported widely, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has tendered his resignation, effective 28 February, at which time the College of Cardinals will choose a new pope.  Though not unprecedented, it is the first abdication by a Roman pope since Gregory XII resigned in 1415 because of the Papal Schism and is only the 5th in the history of the Roman church.

In the last year or so, I have noted with some compassion that the Pontiff appeared to be less leading the Church than being led by the church machine (not unlike the waning years of his predecessor, John Paul II).  Considering his closeness to the former pontiff, I cannot help but believe that this trend has gone unnoticed by His Holiness either.  Though I remain adamant in my disagreement with His Holiness in regards to much of his theology and doctrinal applications, my respect for him as a person, an academician and a man of God who has done what he has believed is best has not diminished.

 I chose the title of this post as a reference to the dolphins in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. It is their farewell note as they abandon their home right before it is destroyed in the name of 'progress'.  Considering the scandals at the Vatican Bank, the slow-moving train wreck that is the clerical paedophilia and cover-up, increasing irrelevance of the church as a moral authority, the rapidly decline of the church in numbers on both sides of the altar (to mention but a few), perhaps Dr. Ratzinger has realised that the time to make an exit is now before the entire edifice crumbles and something new, different and alien to the present generation replaces it.

One of the perks when retiring as CEO of a corporation is that you have a hand in the process of finding a replacement.  Given the Pontiff's address, I would expect that his replacement will be younger, more media and tech-savvy.  Considering his own personal understanding of Church, as well as the culture of the Vatican, I would also expect that the next pope will be as bound to tradition, hierarchy and generally conservative as the current one.

Meanwhile, the machinery of the Vatican continues to chug along, oblivious (or actively denying) the Vogon Destructor fleet in orbit around it.