28 January 2016

Isn't this Joe's son?

Readings Here

I ran across this picture on Facebook today, and it touched me.  Sr. Thea Bowman, always touches my heart.  This is especially true when I think of her courageous final days of life as she continued to live out her vocation.  I also remember her singing to the Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops.  I imagine she must have made more than one Bishop uncomfortable, or at least, I hope so.  Sr. Thea Bowman sings here
Either way,  as I came across this picture and as I watch the video of Sr. Thea singing, even as she was too sick to stand, I was touched because it reminds me of who I am called to be, and to be perfectly honest, that scares me.  Just the other day, I was reflecting on what it means to be a priest, what does it mean to be entrusted as an envoy of God's love, and how am I to continue being this person in today's world, and more specifically, here in West Texas?  The Gospel in this Sunday's readings is particularly challenging because in so many ways it reminds me that when you do the Gospel right, it can be uncomfortable.  This is especially true today when we are so used to seeing pastors in their private jets, or mega churches that spend millions on lights and technology.  In a society where the Gospel of Prosperity is more fitting for the tv show "Lives of the Rich and Famous," than the poverty and simplicity of Christ, I am called to service, and we are called to service.  As Christ sat and read this passage from the Hebrew Scriptures, people looked at him with some consternation.  I can almost imagine the viejitas (old ladies) whispering among themselves as they remark of Joe's son. I can hear the crowd looking at Jesus with some suspicion, after all, they know him, and they know his family, but here he is, reading the scripture.  When Jesus is done, he then looks up at the crowd and speaks... "This passage is filled in your hearing."  Then he goes on to remind what the scripture says about God's love being made real in the olden days.  He reminds them of how stubborn of heart and cold they are and challenges them to envision God today.  As you can imagine, they do not like this, and they want to kill this twerp.  But in the melee, Jesus escapes.  What does this mean for us today though?  It's a nice passage, and we've obviously heard it before, so what?  This is where I believe things get tricky.  In particular, this is where I believe now turns to look at us and challenges us to envision the same things he invited those people in the synagogue to envision.  We are not a people that is meant to go about our lives empty and complacent, instead, we are a people who are meant to love and live.  We are a people who stand up as a body and celebrate the different gifts that each one of us has to offer, and we are a people that recognizes that when one part of the body hurts, we all hurt.  More importantly, we are a people brought together in the love of Christ.  We are to be one body, and yet, we are so often ready to tear each other apart.  In the false race to be the "one true church," we forget what it means to be Church and to be Christian and we go about our days looking for new methods of gaining members.  Instead of counting numbers, what if we lived out our lives in an authentic manner?  What if we were able to recognize the other as a brother or sister and not have to place titles on them or box them in?  What if in our daily lives, we took the words of Christ and allowed them to become fruitful?  What if we became the fulfillment of God's love today?  These are all questions that have no true answer, but I refuse to believe that I must be limited by boundaries that are very much human.  God's love cannot and must not be contained, because when we live that love out, we discover that today, this passage, and so many others, are fulfilled.  My prayer is that one by one we may become the fulfillment of God's love and that in doing so, we remember who we are, and whose we are.  As always, know that you are beautiful and you are loved.  Peace to you.  Fr. Rick

Sr. Thea, pray for us.

19 January 2016

Praise to our death, that makes our life real

This is from my treasury of experience.

This past week, I started my morning by checking my phone.  Unlike most mornings, I had received a barrage of text messages the previous night.  Although they were a lot, I read each one and recognized that they had been sent by a friend who had recently had to deal with not just the loss of her father, but also other family members, and her spiritual father.  In the message, there was pain and anger, confusion and loss, but there was also hope.  I read the messages, and in my wry sense of humor, I wanted to say something witty in a naive attempt to cheer her up.  Thankfully, I didn't do that.  I waited and prayed, I lifted her up in prayer and those she had lost and in my prayer, many of the ones I had lost along my journey came to mind.  The centenarian who had worked for the National Biscuit Company, the man who grew orchids, the priest who had served with great zest... and on and on.  As I thought of this and of my friend's pain, I kept thinking to the first time I ever felt that kind of pain.  I remember it clearly, it was January 1 of 2005.  I was in the Novitiate and phone calls were limited to Saturday evenings.  The interesting this is that the phone call came around the time we were starting our movie night.  We were all gathered around the TV ready for whatever movie it was that were had selected that day.  The phone rang, our Novice Master answered, and then called another Brother to the phone.  This Brother listened attentively, and I, remained oblivious.  It was only after he hung up the phone that he asked to talk to me.  "Ricky," he said, "Veronica passed away today."  It took a few moments for me to begin to grasp what this meant.  Although I wasn't surprised at the death (she was 104), the pain was still very real and very present.  I remember going to the chapel and sitting in the peaceful darkness, and then it happened, a flood of emotion, tears and snot came rushing forth.  I was a mess and I didn't know what to do.  I cried and felt the loss, she was 104 years old and yet, her death was heavy and all too sudden.  As I sat in the chapel, crying, one of my brothers came to me and tried to comfort me.  In the mess, I spoke of the pain that I felt, and it was then that I realized that this must be love.  Before this death, I had experienced the death of three grandparents, but nothing had ever been like this, for the first time, I mourned the loss of a friend, a sister, someone for whom I cared.  For the first time, I realized what it meant to love a person in this different way.
From that day, every time I have experienced death or loss, I have mourned, but have also celebrated because of the reality that life had existed and love had occurred.  In many ways, the feeling of loss and the pain of death is something that reminds us of who we are and how we have loved.  These things are a vibrant reminder of the gift that is loving another person.  Whether family or friend, or even a celebrity, our sense of loss is a glimpse of the great love with which God receives us and holds us to God's very self.  We are not alone, we are not abandoned, and even in the face of death, love reminds us that we are not ended, but transformed.  Yes, these may seem like platitudes that we say to each other in a feeble attempt to comfort one another, but the fact is that as Christians, and really, as humans, we are built for love and it is love that reminds us of the beauty and grace that is entrusted to us by our loving God.  In all honesty, the death of a loved one sucks, but as the funeral liturgy so eloquently states: "For those who believe, life is changed, not ended."  In some words, the loss we experience is not our end, but a point of transformation.  We are changed, not ended, and life and love move us into tomorrow as we encounter God today.  In some ways, this is what Lent invites us to consider, not the pain of giving up Coke Zero (or whatever your poison may be) but to celebrate the many gifts that are daily outpoured upon us.  We are called to reflect on the gift of life and love.  The gift of relationship and redemption, and most importantly, the gift of Christ.  So, yes, death sucks, but in death we are reminded of our own life and the hope which is afforded us in knowing the author of life and love.  In our encounters with each other, in love, we are reminded that God is here and now, and that in a simple hug or kiss, a handshake or high five, God is present, love is there and we are alright.  So, my friend, I cannot take away your pain, but let the loss you have experienced be a joyful and joy filling reminder of the love you posses for it is ultimately that love which offers a glimpse of Love who rose from the grave.  Peace to you and know that you are beautiful and you are loved.  As always, I love you.  Fr. Rick

09 January 2016

The Baptism of the Lord

Readings Here.

Greetings to you, and God's blessings!  Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  This celebration is significant because it marks a new begining.  Just as Christmas marked the miracle of God taking on flesh, we now see God take another step in His wondrous love.  A professor once spoke of Jesus, clean and free of sin, going into the waters of the Jordan, not to be made clean as we understand it through our own Baptism, instead, by Jesus, clean and holy, going into the dirty waters, he makes the waters pure so that when I, sinner that I am, step into those waters, I too may participate in the new life that God's love promises me.  Jesus had no need to be Baptized, instead, His baptism was another radical step in proclaiming God's love because by His taking on our sin, he reminds me that each one of us is redeemed.  By Jesus being called "the chosen one" I too then participate in something that I could never have fathomed.  Christ is Baptized so that I may live.  And so I celebrate this Feast in awe and wonder because just as it is amazing to think that God took flesh and became vulnerable for me and you, it is amazing to know that in His great love, He took on my sin to make me whole.  I am no longer afraid, I am not longer alone, and sin is no longer my end.  Instead, I am called, I am God's and I am redeemed, I too have been called "chosen" and in my life, my call is made real in my love.  May we all love as we have been loved and in our journey, may we know that God's love and grace make us worthy and beloved children of our glorious God!  Know that you are beautiful and that you are loved.  Happy Feast Day!  Fr. Rick

11 December 2015

Gaudete Sunday!

Readings Here

So who is this crazy guy that speaks of one mightier than he?  What does he mean by baptizing with fire and the Holy Spirit?  Do you think he may be on something?  Maybe we should find out and see if he's worth paying attention to...
Well folks, we're getting down to the wire.  Soon and very soon, we are going to see our King!  Yep, soon and very soon, those credit card bills will be coming in and our eyes will fill, not with tears of joy, but tears of realization of just how much we may have spent.  That being said, this next Sunday, is the third Sunday of Advent, and in particular, it's one of two Sundays in which the Church wears Rose, a striking color indeed, and depending on where you get your vestments made, a beautiful color, or a color that resembles the Pepto Bismol bottle  (aaaahhh, such beauty).  Either way, this Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday and it is a day that reminds to rejoice!  Every Gaudete Sunday, I can hear the echoes of "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel" and the proclamation "Rejoice!  Rejoice!"  Indeed, we are called upon to rejoice.  We are invited to look at the season around us and recognize that the Light is upon us and we shall no longer live in fear.  We are the people who lived in darkness and we have seen a great light.  This season in particular, I am struck by the power of turning to God's love.  In a world where we hear more and more about radicalized this or radicalized that, Gaudete Sunday and all of Advent is precisely a time for a radicalization of our own.  Now I must explain myself,  by radicalization, I intend the full meaning of the word which stems from its Latin origin radix.  Literally, I am talking about rooting ourselves in the richness of God's love.  I am talking about dusting off all those things that bar us from truly connecting to God and allowing a most intimate connection to flourish.  This Advent, like all Advents, we are invited to honestly clean out our souls and our persons and to make room for the growth that is to take place.  And this is where the Gospel message comes in...  you see, John the Baptizer provoked (and still provokes) a sense of decluttering in our lives.  He looks at us and challenges us to be open to the Holy Spirit.  This means that in our daily lives we are to recognize those things that posses us and so easily prevent the Spirit from moving in us.  We are called to till the soil of our souls and to make fertile our heart for the growth that God wants to see in us.  This is a challenge and can sometimes lead to more profound work in ourselves, but ultimately, we are brought to a place where God is at the core of our being and we are changed for good.  Those who approached John the Baptist approached with a sense of hunger and thirst, and while he was able to quench their needs for the time being, it is Christ who satisfies us and makes us whole.  And so, I rejoice, because even in me, God is at work, and as the Spirit moves and leads me to work, God smiles as God looks at my silliness, and GOd says "you are very good," and I am satisfied and I proclaim "Rejoice! Rejoice!  Oh Israel, for unto me has come, Emmanuel!"  As always, remember that I love you, you are beautiful and you are loved.  Fr. Rick

29 November 2015

1st Advent, 2015

Readings Here

Today is the first Sunday in Advent.  Today, we begin a time of reflection and waiting.  We take the time to prepare to celebrate one of the major Feasts of the Christian life.  Very soon, (but not yet) Christmas will be upon us and the Church will rejoice at the great gift of God Among Us.  But in spite of what the Christmas lights may tell us, Christmas is not yet here.  Instead, today's Gospel takes us to a place that is dark and frightening.  Luke speaks of danger, and violence, of death and destruction, and I, well, I sit here in front of the TV and briefly entertain thoughts of the end of the world!  But as frightening as these thoughts may seem, and as scary as the new may be, there is one phrase in the Gospel that makes me stop and think:  "when these signs begin to happen, 
stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."  If you stop to think about it, this is a powerful message.  It reminds me that while there may be death and destruction happening all around the world, I am not to cower in the face of these, instead, I am to stand erect and with head held high.  I am to take the stance of someone who has been liberated from the oppression of fear.  And this is the key in today's Gospel, as people of faith, we are not to fear, instead, we are to recognize our dignity as beloved children of God and we are to stand in the light of God's love.  The problem with this, however, is that somehow, somewhere along  the way, we have taken this phrase to mean that we are to become some bad-ass, red, white and blue, gun toting Christian rebel who is ready to burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic and shootem up.  Or at least stand my ground as I let everyone else know how wrong their way of life is.  The reality is far from either or those scenarios, but the root of it is clear.  We are not to arm ourselves and be the militant church that busts doors down for Jesus, instead, we are to be the militant church that embraced the non-violent and non-aggressive love of Christ.  We are to truly take the example of Jesus and the mission of Christ, and love, after all, as Mother Teresa once said, the opposite of love isn't hate, it is fear.  We are not to be fearful people who need to get rid of the competition for the sake of making ourselves feel safe.  Instead, we are to be people of radical love, a love that is deeply rooted in Christ.  There can be no exceptions, because unfortunately, up until now, we've been pretty good at making excuses for our militarized faith.  We are not a faith based on hatred and judgement, and yet, we've managed to bottle Jesus up for our own convenience.  We have relegated God to the Home Goods aisles at our local retail stores and placed next to our fancy boots in our closets.  God is far beyond any material limitation we can place on him, and exactly when we start to believe that we know God's will, is when we should start prayer for guidance from the Holy Spirit and our faith communities.  God is not violent, and God's love does not compel us to violence, ever.  And so we prepare, we enter the journey toward the light recognizing that darkness will never win, because the light and love of God is far greater than fear itself.  I was once told by a priest professor of mine that I was too simplistic, if that is true, so be it.  I just can't believe that the love of God is as complex and convaluted as we so often make it out to be.  For now, blessed Advent.  Know that you are in my prayers.  You are beautiful.  You are loved. and I love you.  As always, Fr. Rick

24 November 2015

I was one of those nine...

Dustin Kensrue- Please Come Home

and so this is Thanksgiving...  yep.  Here we are.   Happy Thanksgiving.

Before I even started preparing for Mass on Thanksgiving, I heard this song.  Remarkably, I was introduced to this piece by a friend with whom I only recently reconnected, and one who surprised me by sharing about his own spiritual journey to God.  I was surprised but also happy.  I can even say that I was emotional to hear him speak of God and God's love, and maybe it was the emotion of his faith journey that made this song very poignant, but then I started to reflection the Gospel for this Thanksgiving.  (Gospel Here) What really struck me about the song and the Gospel passage, is how much my own journey was like that of the nine, or like that of the prodigal son.  More importantly, I was touched by so many people that I have ministered to who have welcomed me.  People who were turned away or made to feel less because of where they had been along their own journey, or people who had somehow come to believe the false expectations set upon them by society (church, family, god, or whatever)  More and more, I came to see the nine who never returned, not as thankless scoundrels, but as people like me, people who had come to believe that if the love of God was on me, maybe it was a fluke.  Or perhaps, they believed that somehow, they had cheated their way to health, by some miscalculation of our All-Knowing God, I had managed to received God's grace and love.  Kinda like when you get a dollar extra at the store.  But instead of returning it (like I know we all do), they decided to play it safe and take what they could get.  Maybe the inheritance of the prodigal was all he thought he could ever attain and that was satisfactory, even if it was only temporary.  Like those nine, I too came to a point in my faith journey where I wasn't sure how I had managed to be graced, especially when I heard the opposite, but with the grace I perceived to have, I tried to squirrel it away and do what I could.  And this brings me to Thanksgiving.  As I reflected on what it means to give thanks, I had to recognize that giving thanks is also recognizing the love of God that calls me from beyond my sin and confusion.  God's voice is loud and clear and instead of condemning me for trying to hoard what little grace I believe i posses, God continuously beckons me and gives to me even more.  Giving thanks is about recognizing that my thanks is about accepting a love that calls me to be my full self.  A love that invites me to spread the Good News, and a love that allows me to love and be as I have been created.  Not a cowering leper, but a person brought up from the ground, from the dirt of sin, into the joy of Love!  This Thanksgiving, I will celebrate with the Prodigal and the one who was healed and I will accept in humility, the voice of God which says to me (and you) "You are beautiful.  You are loved."  I am beautiful. I am loved.  And so are you.  Be blessed and I pray that you have a Happy Thanksgiving.  As always, I love you.  Fr Rick

16 November 2015

Faithful Witness.

This past Friday, there were a series of attacks that caused a lot of death, damage, pain and anger.  The official death toll, thus far, is 129 and many more are still reportedly in critical condition.  Around the world, countless people are struck by these events and by so many others that have taken place in recent memory.  In the midst of all this, we enter a season of reflection and preparation, a season during which we reflect on the coming of Our Savior.  Hopefully, we also take the time to reflect on what this preparation and Advent means to us in the profound ways.  This being said, I feel that I must address the recent attacks and violence in light of Christ the King.  First and foremost, it is import to remember one thing, in Jesus, God took on flesh.  The Almighty God, took on our condition.  He wasn't heralded by the powerful and mighty, but celebrated by the poor and humble.  That being said, (and I speak from a very profound part of my own journey), I believe that now, more than ever, we Christians are being called upon to love.  More than ever, we are called upon to become that whom we receive in the Eucharist.  We are called upon to take on the Christ-call that is shared with us in our Baptism and through the Sacraments and we are to be love in the world.  I once heard someone say that Christ was the human face of God, and that humans were the active presence of Christ.  (or something like that).  Either way, the message was simple, we can no longer stand around and profess our love for God and then leave church and go on living lives that are not deeply rooted and formed by the same love we just professed.  It is a challenge, and sin does a great job of distracting us, but what does it mean to look beyond some silly red cup or some false piety or patriotism?  Christ is the antithesis of all those things that today present themselves as Christian, and yet we cling to an idea of Jesus that is easily made into a blow-mold and lit up at our convenience.  It is a challenge to be Gospel people, or Sacramental people, but the call to holiness is not one that is easily answered, it takes true effort to be able to become Saints and to stand as witnesses of Him who Himself is THE Faithful Witness.  Yes, the violence may not cease immediately by our efforts in love, but to answer violence with more violence, or even worse, to answer violence with fear, will only continue the seemingly endless cycles of destruction that we have witnessed.  As challenging as this may be, perhaps our call as Christians is not to fight radical Islam, or even to convert more Christians, perhaps our call is to convert ourselves, to walk away from that which most distracts me from love and to refocus on Him who offered Himself for each one of us.  Perhaps our call is not to see how many points we gain by making "new Christians," but to see how much more I can develop my relationship with God.  And perhaps more importantly (and this is especially true for me), our call is to look right next to us and see those who stand with us even as they recognize the special brand of crazy that we may carry.  Perhaps that is the one thing we need to do most, to remind ourselves of the intense love of GOd as we look to our rights and to our lefts, not in fear, but in love, and recognize those friends and family that stand by us and love us, those who in their own way, are the loving presence of God.  Maybe then, as we look into each other's eyes, we can celebrate the coming of God who's love is witnessed not in the grand Christmas displays, but in the hugs and smiles that are shared among friends and family.  In the end, it's not difficult, because as annoying as our crazy uncles may be, the somehow manage to bring joy and love into our lives, even if we can only take it in doses of one day a year.  And so, know that you are beautiful and that you are loved and that together, we will make this world better, one smile at a time.  Peace to you.  Fr Rick