As I think about this season, giving something up won't be the struggle, the real challenge will emerge from whether or not I allow myself to love, and to be loved. This thought alone scares me, but maybe, that is where my Lenten time will lead. Not in a chocolate deprived angst, but in a yearning that can only be satiated by something far greater than a simple loaf of bread, or can of Coke. Someone Grander than I. Either way, this Lent will be a season of purple meditation, a time of thoughtful prayer, and intentional walking, but maybe that is the purpose of all this, a time to call us back to a simpler way of being in which I, and all of us, will come to find that in each step, there is healing. A healing which comes from the One who is far greater than bread, or power, or any empty promises to which I can so easily subscribe. Ultimately, the journey will lead where I choose to allow. I just hope, that as I go, I will know Light and grow to love Him again, as I once did. Shalom. Know that you are loved and peace to you. RL
05 March 2014
I was driving earlier this week and kept thinking of Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday. I thought of all the different services that will take place, I thought of the prayer and reflection that will occur, and I hoped for myself, that I may be ready to begin this season. But as I stop to think, I can't help but ask myself: "Ready for what?" For a time of self sacrifice? For a time of penance? Or maybe for a time of growth? Either way, the honest answer comes from a very human reaction. I am not ready. This isn't because I don't want to observe Lent, but because, quite frankly, I'm tired. I'm exhausted (and not from partying too much!) Of course it wouldn't kill me to give something up, and yes, sacrifice and penance are good for the soul, no matter what, but deep down inside, I'm just not ready, nor do I want to be ready, and perhaps this will be my greatest struggle throughout this Lenten journey. Will I be willing to give my heart to God? And in doing so, will I be willing to dispose myself to His will, as I once did so carelessly? I don't know, and that is what scares me. Will I fall into a trap of routine and dogma, of law and authority? Or will I allow choose to accept myself in a manner different than how I was trained?
24 February 2014
It’s been a while since I last wrote anything on my blog. Perhaps I should keep it that way, but today, 24 February 2014, I read an article on the Huffington Post which speaks of a U.S. Senate candidate, Chris Mapp from Texas who stated that ranchers would be free to shoot “wetbacks” on sight. The article then goes on to state that Mr. Mapp defends his comments by saying that it’s just the way people talk around here. No, Mr. Mapp, we don’t. And more importantly, we can’t. These past few days, I feel as though I have been bullied again. My Congregation sent me a letter reminding me of how childish I am. They reminded me that they are under no obligation to care for me, and that in turn, I am the one obliged to obey them. The letter also stated that I should really consider beginning the process of laicization (in which a priest goes back to being a lay person). Again, No! Maybe I’m being too sensitive, or maybe my vision is blinded by ignorance, but if there is anything that I have come to know more profoundly in the past few months, it is that in Christ, we are each call to love. I know I’ve said this time and time again, but I don’t believe I can say it enough. Ultimately, and especially as people of faith, we are called upon to love. It is a love that makes us sensitive to the pain of others, it is a love that reminds me that words may not hurt, but the weight they carry can be a significant pain to have to live with. Even now, and after receiving that letter, I was reminded of the hurt that bullies in the past placed on me. Sure, they were just words, but what happens when one’s ignorance becomes a fierce weapon that inflicts unjust oppression on another. Even last night, I received a phone call from a friend who told me that some brother priests of mine had labeled in a very negative way. No matter what, the love that I receive in Christ is not a love that equips us with the armament of hatred and ignorance, but one which leads us to my brother or sister, to the fag, or the wetback, to the cracker or the leper, and invited me to extend a hand of love to them. The beautiful thing is, that in doing so, instead of condemning and casting aside, we invite them to also extend their hand, and while we may not always see eye to eye, insofar as we are able to reach each other, we make a slight difference in this world. In order to do this, however, we must recognize that no matter what position we are in, we cannot be judges or arbitrators of God’s love, it is freely outpoured upon all, and if for no other reason, that is why I must go to my brother or sister, because I have known great Love! And no, I’m not perfect, but Love refines us, and in the end, we are made more who we are called to be, in love. As always, know that I love you. RL
30 January 2014
For those who know me, you know that deep down, inside, I am a big nerd. Some have even called me Sheldon, as in Sheldon Cooper, minus the supreme intelligence and plus a few extra pounds. Either way, as the nerd that I am, I have grown fond of channel 123 on my Sirius XM radio. This channel, aside from NPR and Entertainment Weekly, has gained a coveted place on my preset dial. It is the Public Radio Exchange, and it is composed of a mix matched assortment of stories from all around the country, and the world. I have grown to enjoy this station because of its eclectic mix of stories and topics. Of everything I have heard, however, there is one thing that stands out. Ironically, it isn't even a story, it is an ad for the station. The concept is quite fitting with the station, and is quite simple. It starts out with a young lady asking a simple question: "Who are you?" This alone is quite intriguing and thought provoking, and often serves as a springboard for a broad line of thoughts that can entertain me for a good while. The rest of the ad goes on to ask "... are you a collection of stories? Or DNA?" In essence, yes and yes, but then, there is also plenty for me to think about in those two questions. In reality, up until a few months ago, I knew exactly who I was. I was Fr. Rick, I wore black and had a pretty tight schedule that I could swear by. Things were quite easy, even when I had to be at the hospital at 3a.m. But now? Who am I? I was recently asked to participate in a local retreat that would be taking place this Spring. I would serve as a support in the background and nothing more. After word of this got out, I was advised against taking on this role. For the good of those participating in the retreat, it was better for me to not help so as not to confuse the faithful by having this pseudo priest on the team. Not wanting to get into a mess or worse, to cause a hindrance to the retreat, I chose to not serve. All this being said, the question "Who are you?" has been rattling around in my head. According to the Institutional Church, I am a priest "not suitable for ministry," to some of the workers at the company, I am "el pastor," or "padrecito," or just "boss." I answer to all this, but in the end, I must confess, there is a sort of identity crisis that I am currently undergoing. The reality of all this, however, and perhaps an important lesson that is becoming more evident to me, is that in our lives, as much as we may deny it, we need others to help shape us into who we are. As much as I would enjoy living the life of a monk, I cannot, and will not find true life or myself in that solitude. Of course, there is always room in silence to know a deeper truth, and silence is a necessary part of living a balanced life, but there is also that need to reach out to another. This reaching out is evidenced in the reaching out that Jesus did throughout so many of the stories we have become all too familiar with. This reaching out, for him, was not just going to the leper and saying "hey, wanna hang out?" no, it was a profound and challenging experience that touched on the question "Who am I?" The leper, at that time, was an outcast, unclean, impure and unwanted, precisely the type of person who needed to be left alone and gotten away from, but even there, in the remote stretches of humanity, Christ became present. Love reached beyond where love was supposed to reach, and in that action, we were forever to be challenged by our concept of who is deserving of love, or not. Or maybe, I should say, that by Love reaching beyond the comfort zones of society, the unsuitable became suitable, an in your face reminder that Love cannot be contained, and that Christ must not be an excuse. Either way, I am growing, and the more I am reminded that I am to be, the more I strive to love and to be love for others. I cannot guarantee that I will do this always, but I certainly will continue to do my best to love, because in the end, whether an institution says that I am good or not, I am, because I love, and because I am loved. And so, the journey continues. As always, know that I love you. RL.
17 January 2014
Working out at the pipe yard has been a different experience from the church which I served for so long. The work looks different and may appear to be dirtier, but I have come to learn some very important lessons from the few months that I have been out here. First of all, we can't do this alone. At our company, there are people with all sorts of backgrounds, one in particular stands out in my mind. He is one that has had a very troubled past, has had legal problems and has had confrontations with all sorts of workers here. For a while, I considered him a pain to have to deal with and even suggested having him removed from the roster, luckily, I wasn't listened to and he is still here. Instead, he was placed with a different worker and lo and behold, he is working differently, better. To my surprise, he has taken well to working in this new team, and has adapted well to a structured and organized team in which he feels comfortable to work. This has struck me, because no matter where we have been, or who we have been, we all need each other. Sure, there are some of us who believe ourselves to be anti-social or strongly introverted, but even we need to interact with others, even if its just to remind us that we have B.O. In either case, we are not meant to be solitary, nor are we intended to go through life alone and cold, this only leads to death, rather, as social beings, we are meant to go and take the hand of another, or at least a moment of their time, and to celebrate life with friends and family. A second lesson that I have learned, is that you don't always have to be living the dream to be happy, sure it helps, but as I have come to see in the workers' faces, there is a sense of joy in being happy in the moment. Here at the pipe yard, pay isn't necessarily good, nor is it clean or easy work, but somehow, the folks come and do what they can, the best that they can and live their lives with seeming joy. At first, I thought this strange and somewhat scary, "How can they be contnent?" I asked myself, but they are, and as I come and work and then go home, I can say that there is a sense of contentment in me also, not because I am doing so well financially or because I get to wear clean clothes, but because in these last few months, I have laughed more than in the past 5 years, and I have come to appreaciate the honesty of friendships that are born, not of my collar, or my title, but of authentic exchanges between, two, three or more human beings. OVerall, there are many lessons that can be learned day after day, and for this fool, who believed himself so wise to many things, life has proven that there is more to be learned, more to be seen, more to be lived. And so, I continue to respond to the call, to life, and along this journey, I am happy to enjoy the good moments and those that are more challenging, because in the end, I have love, I am loved, and I love. As such, know that you are loved. R.L.
25 December 2013
First of all, Merry Christmas! Ok, now that that's out of the way, let's get down to business. Today, there are feasts and gifts galore, and for some, there is time to reflect and recall the roots of this celebration. (this moment of reflection is a gift in itself for those of us who are introverts) Anyway, as I spent yesterday into today with family, I was struck by the diverse group of people gathered at my mom's house. All of us gathered as family, some of us closer than others, but all somehow connected to each other, even if only by the chance that we were under one roof at this precise moment. The same can be said of the millions gathered to celebrate and worship God's gift on this day. Rich and poor alike, faithful and not so much, who gather to commemorate Love's taking on flesh. This morning, as I sat in prayer and reflected on the readings, I was particularly struck by the Gospel of Matthew which is read at the Vigil of Christmas. In the passage, there is a beautiful recitation of the genealogy of Jesus. (beautiful but sometimes awful to hear, depending on who's doing the reading) Either way, to sit and reflect on this list, one can all too easily glaze over the names and fast forward to the good stuff, especially when the Gospel writer begins to tell of the birth of Jesus, and the fulfillment of the prophecy. In the entire passage, which spans a whopping 25 verses, there is one part that struck me in particular. This is perhaps the most striking message this entire season, it is when Joseph receives the call to take Mary as his wife. The passage goes on to speak of her as the bearer of the Savior, the one who "will save his people from their sins." This is a powerful message in itself, and as we know, it is enough to convince Joseph, but there is more to this passage. As I sat in church today and prayed before Mass, I was particularly struck by what this message means for us today. Sure it's nice to celebrate Christmas, it's nice to give presents and to spend some time with family. It's nice to live out the traditions of yore and to share in creating new ones, but there is something far more profound that takes place in the celebration we observe today. As I thought about what this simple phrase states "He will save us from our sins," I kept reflecting about how this is made real in our world today. Theologically, one can say that it is effected into reality through the changing of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, but that is too easy. In a more human way, this phrase is made real (or should be made real) in our every day lives. Beyond Christmas and New Years, and beyond the holidays that everyone recognizes as moments to pause and reflect, we are called to be people whose sins are forgiven. But what does this mean, and to whom does this apply? This past week, as I waited in an eternal and infernal line, I overheard two people making political commentary as the TV rambled on in the background, These two folks had no problem in taking their cues from the different topics the talking heads on TV were referring to. Inevitably, the topic of Duck Dynasty and Phil Robertson came up. When this happened, my ears perked up a bit more to see what these two commentators would contribute, to my joy, they took the bait and quickly proceeded to make their observations. If nothing else, this back and forth between the TV and these two people would have been a bit of entertainment as the line progressed, but for some reason, their comments became a reminder of what we still need in our Christian lives. Almost without fail, one of the two started with "I'm a Christian, but..." The words that followed were evidence to me of the ignorance that permeates so much of who we are as people of faith. In the end, lets just say that Christ was used as a justification for ignorance and intolerance. Their words were enough to make me tune out, and slowly their number was called up and the lined moved on. What struck me, however, was the fact that we are a people of faith, and as Christian, we are called upon to be a people whose lives have been inextricably changed by the crazy power of LOVE! At its root, this is what we celebrate on Christmas, not the opportunity to show each other up with the fanciest gifts or the best feasts, but with the most love. After all, it is Love that has taken on flesh and it is Love that has come to save us of our sins. And while there are many of us who are still trying to become people of love, there are many more who take on the name of Love to justify and rationalize ignorance, hate and violence. Whether we are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, or anything else, at a very primitive level, we are called to love. It is love that has sparked creation and love which compels us in our faiths, but the moment when love is used as an excuse for hurting another human being, we are reverting back to becoming people of sin, people of death. And so this is Christmas, a day in which we gather and sometimes have to put up with our weird family members, but more than that, I hope (perhaps naively) that this is a day of love, in which I recognize that I have been offered a new way of living, a new way of being Christian, one in which I, the leper, am approached and loved, one in which I, the leper, in turn love others because I have known love, one in which I, the leper, live out love as much as I can and become a witness to the redemptive power of love. I pray and hope that this and every day is a day in which I, the leper, am not seen as someone to be cast out and pushed back, but received and loved, because it was upon me, the leper, the shepherd, and the world, that the star shone upon as it announced glad tidings, that unto me, the leper, a child was born in the town of Bethlehem. A child who is my Savior, a child who is my love. I pray, and I keep working at it myself, and who knows, maybe one day more and more of us will share love because we have been saved from our sins, by Love, Emmanuel, Christ! Either way, I pray that in my own journey, as clumsy as it may be, I may be a witness of love, even if it has to be with one person at a time, I want to be a Christian who loves, not one who uses Christ to condemn. As always, know that you are loved. Merry Christmas. RL
19 December 2013
From the 17th of December until Christmas Eve, the Church has what is called the O Antiphons. Each day, there is a new facet of the name of God. A very common rendition of these is the hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Personally, it is a time of anticipation as Advent draws to a close and we prepare for Christmas. This season, however, the O Antiphons have taken on a new significance. For whatever reason, they have struck chords in my heart that hadn't been touched in quite a while. The resounding of these Antiphons in my heart has been particularly interesting because since leaving ministry, I have come to know God in a very different manner. In entering this process, I have also come to know how much I need God in my life, and on a very basic, and perhaps simplistic level, I have come to realize how much this longing for God is satiated by love. Now, since October 7th, and even before, a popular question that I have been asked is "have you found anyone?" After laughing, I quickly say no, but in actuality, I am finding someone, and that is God. As such, this Advent has been a time of getting back to the basics, literally. It has called me to focus on God and the love that is freely out poured on every single one of us, believer or not. It is a love that calls us into being and a love that can unite every single one of us, if only we allow it to do so. And so, as I partake of pleading in the hymn: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, I am comforted by the little acts of love that manifest themselves daily, I am challenged to love, especially when that one lady rolls her eyes at me at the check out line, and I am tempted to sit in awe on Love himself, who takes flesh for me, for you, for us all, no exceptions. As always, know that I love you. RL
12 December 2013
Unbeknownst to many, and very much known to others, today is the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For generations now, since 1531, the celebration has been one that has become a staple of the Mexican culture, and has spread far and wide in honor of the simple girl from so long ago. Even Hong Kong boasts an Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Either way, I find this day to be one of mixed emotion for me. Mixed emotion because every time this day rolls around, I am profoundly touched by the devotion and love that so many have for Our Lady. On a personal note, I am reminded of my Nana who so long ago shared with us her faith and her own devotion to "la morenita." Whether one celebrates this day or not, or whether one is Catholic, Christian, or of any other persuasion, the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than just a Catholic event, in some ways, it is a reminder of our dignity as human beings. It is a day in which I cannot help but recall the power with which Guadalupe helped raise so many people out of a slavery that had been imposed on them by forces beyond their understanding. After ten years of bloodshed and death by the conquering forces, Guadalupe came to a poor peasant in the middle of nowhere on a cold December day, as he trudged along faithfully going to church, he was startled by the pleasant voice of a young maiden, and by the singing of birds. Being a man of the earth, he quickly realized the significance of this event. It wasn't normal for this time of year nor was it ordinary to hear a woman's voice out in the middle of nowhere. He went to her and she spoke to him in his own language, she charged him with a mission to go the bishop and ask him to build a church. Several times, he attempted to gain entrance into the palace of his grace, and several times he was denied entry. Finally, discouraged and disappointed, he tried to avoid the young woman. His attempt was foiled because to his surprise, she met him on his different route. This time, she encouraged him to go again, but instead of sending him alone, she entrusted him with roses, beautiful scented roses (like you get at the flower shop, not the grocery store.) This type of rose, however, was the type that grew in the region of Spain that the Bishop was from. Upon arriving at the Bishop's palace, he was accepted and when asked for proof, Juan Diego, the peasant, unraveled his mantel from which fell the many roses. Aside from the beautiful array of flora, the miraculous image of Our Lady appeared. This event, aside from being miraculous, was significant because shortly after the apparition, millions of people converted to the faith that this young maiden had presented. In only a year after the miracle at Tepeyac, more people converted to the faith than in all the ten years before. While this was of great importance, what was even more miraculous, was the manner in which so many people have seen in the simple exchange between Guadalupe and Juan Diego, a momentous occasion in which the poor and unimportant people of that time were raised to a new level of dignity. Not only were they brought to God who was love, but their difference was overlooked, and embraced by this beautiful maiden who spoke their language. As such, I believe that this celebration is not only one meant for the churches, but one meant for every Christian and person of faith, because in Guadalupe, we are reminded of Christ Himself who took on the vulnerability of flesh, and even more so, placed himself on the margins of society by going to the marginalized. Today, and every day, we as a people of faith and as members of the human race, must turn to those cast aside or forgotten, we must overlook the differences and embrace each other in love, not accepting those things that rob us of our human dignity, but helping each other to grow into the best person God intends us to be. Guadalupe in the light of Christ, is a reminder of this calling to serve, and serve we must, especially in a world that so easily uses the name of God to make people into the very outcasts Christ would tend to. May you be blessed today and always, and as always, know that you are loved. RL Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, ensenanos a amar.