06 November 2017

becoming.

We are becoming.  It is a process that is ever on-going and no matter what we encounter, the process of becoming is only enriched by every single experience we live.  Some of those experiences are more beneficial than others, but no matter what, we are becoming.  This process of becoming, however, has its hurdles.  From the moment our memory begins recording the many wondrous things that we encounter, there are those voices, people, things, etc, that have a negative impact on us, and for some reason, it is those voices that seem to be the loudest when we hit the rewind button and play those voices.  The audio is crystal clear and somehow, it manages to be louder than anything else positive that we may have in our memories.  This past weekend, I was honored to be a part of the Out In West Texas Transgender Symposium.  I was asked to give a talk about Faith and Spirituality and how religious and spiritual places are to respond to the needs of our Transgender Brothers and Sisters as well as how ministers are called upon to serve in a loving manner.  I believe that the two of us present at this talk did very well and I was amazed at how fast the time flew by as we engaged with the people who attended the talk.  What most impacted me throughout this symposium, was the Gospel for Sunday.  It was on the Beatitudes of Jesus.  I was particularly struck by the neatness with which I have always envisioned this story.  For as long as I can remember, the story of Jesus and the Beatitudes was one where everyone gathered in love.  Jesus was there, did his thing and then everyone goes home happy.  But after this past weekend, I was moved to think of those people who perhaps were present who may have perhaps not been welcome.  What about those people who had been hurt because from a very young age, they had grown up hearing that they were bad, or sinful or whatever.  What about those people who just followed the crowd for the sake of seeing what was happening? Or maybe those who were just at the right place at the right time?  No matter who those individuals are, the reality is that those who gathered around Jesus were each bringing their own reality to this moment.  Each must have heard a unique message that may be changed their life, or not.  Either way, I can't help but think of what that would look like today, and more specifically, what that looks like in the context of a church where so many of us have grown up hearing just how bad we are.  Hell is an easy place to put a person that doesn't fit our idea of "normal," but that isn't what the Beatitudes are about, instead, what Jesus offers is a glimpse of the richness and dignity of each and every one of us as God's beloved children.  What we are offered isn't a throwaway teaching that is meant to make us feel better, instead, what Jesus offers is a mirror into which we are invited to look, and to recognize the inherent beauty and love with which we have each been gifted.  No matter who I am, I am loved and I am beautiful and that is something that cannot be taken away by a member of the church or even by the pastor.  By extension, the question falls to me, who will I be in the face of difficulty?  How will I respond when called to love in a radically different manner that calls me to celebrate my brother or sister, someone that is seen as "not fitting the norm."  In my experience of Christ and of God's love, I would like to believe that I would love, not because I wanted to be radical, but because of the recognition of Christ and the presence of the Divine touch in that person, a touch that I myself have already experienced and continue to experience profoundly each day.  This also leads me to talk about the horrible incidents that happened in Sutherland, Texas at First Baptist Church.  There is nothing that I can say that could ever suffice to explain or shed a comforting light on those horrible incidents.  In light of the Beatitudes, however, there is an awareness that even in death, we are alive in Christ, we are alive in the Love that conquers death and we are made new in Him who looks upon us with love and shares life.  In all this tragedy, we are called to remember that in Christ we are called to live in love.  Love. Love. Love.  That's what it is about and we as we share that love with one another, in the sharing, we glimpse the life-giving power of God's love.  Let us not be afraid to love, may we never be afraid to be love, and in our love, may we be radically connected to the one who looked death and hate in the face and who stepped out of the cold darkness of death's tomb.  You are beautiful.  You are loved. And together, we shall live because in our becoming, we are made new!


26 October 2017

A second chance homily.

Greetings!  A few years ago, I was called upon to celebrate the funeral of a 6-year-old child that had been killed in an accident.  Although these funerals were and are the most difficult to celebrate, I did what I could for the family.  Today, I have chosen to sit with this family in my heart and write a second homily.  I can't remember the entirety of my homily at the funeral back then, but here, I offer up this second homily as a prayer and a remembrance of the child, her family and the community that gathered at this difficult time. I share it here because it is something that has come to mind in recent times and I thought I would offer these simple words of hope.

  DISCLAIMER: The topic of this entry deals with a child's death and could have triggers for some.  The names used have been changed and the circumstances are somewhat different.  Whether you choose to read or not, please take a moment to recognize the value of life and to celebrate who you are, a beautiful and loved person! 

Gospel Reading Here

Greetings to you and God’s peace.  As some of you may know, we recently celebrated the funeral of our dear child, Grace.  Funerals are always difficult events, but they are much more difficult when they are for a child.  This is especially true when that child was someone like Grace, someone who was well known and loved by this community of faith.  For those who attended the funeral, you may recall that the sermon touched on the Gospel of John (John 14:1-7).  This passage comes to us after Jesus had washed the feet of His disciples as they prepared for the Passover meal.  They had each responded to him and Peter even tried to stop him.  Jesus’ action, however, was not one only of service but more profoundly of love, even though not everyone understood.  He turns to each and says, “let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.”  He then goes on to say that “in my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, would I have told you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”  In the face of tragedy, these words may seem like a promise that is distant from a god too high to know our pain, but in truth, these words of Christ point to a reality that is far closer to us than we imagine.  The words that Jesus speaks are not of a promise that is yet to be fulfilled or a goal to be reached, instead, the invitation that Jesus makes to his disciples and by extension, to every one of us, is an invitation that we each begin to partake of from the day of our Baptism.  In so many ways, the life we enter into upon being baptized is a life unlike anything else we can imagine.  We don’t become angels and we don’t become absolutely perfect, but we are placed upon a road that brings us into a more profound relationship with God’s love every day as we relate to those around us, especially those who stand as witnesses of faith and love.  Through that encounter, we become aware that the words of Jesus are not just meant to console for the future, but right now.  Through baptism, we come to see what Jesus means about having a mansion prepared, and through the love of our parents, sponsors and the Christian community, we come to know what it is to be a member of the Body of Christ.  You see, in the actions that we live in at baptism, whether your own or anyone else’s, we start to enact the love with which Jesus invites us.  In responding to Jesus’ call to love, we respond to a life that brings us to a daily encounter with God as we encounter each other.  Through this sharing of Christian love,  we find an easier answer to Thomas’ question: “how will we know the way?”  We know the way, because we love, and in that love, we come to know Love Incarnate, Christ.  By our participation in the mysteries of Baptism, we are incorporated into a reality that is both profound and real.  We become members of the Body of Christ and in the love we share we come to see how God is at work in and through us.  It is this same love that reminds us that life is not ended, but transformed in death and it is this love that helps us on those days when the loss we have suffered seems too unbearable.  We are not promised a life without pain, but we are given the tools to know how best to respond to the difficulties of life.  We will not have the answers to why a child suffers, or why a child dies, just as our dear Grace did, but we can be assured that in Christ we share a life in which she already participates fully.  In the hugs we share, or the hands we hold, through the tears we shed and even the anger we express, Christ is present and as we do these things with one another, we are reminded that when one member of the Body of Christ is hurt, we all are, but that in Christ we are also brought to a place of life, a life that is made evident in the love we share a love that glimmers with Christ .  The death of a child has no answer that will suffice and I will never know why these things happen, but that isn’t for me to know, instead, I sit in the hope that as we accompany Will and Kellie in their mourning and pain, we will also, one day, share in their joy!  May we each participate in the love of God so that one day, we too may participate in the joy of life eternal, that place, where we each come home and celebrate our mansions prepared by Love, our life!  

19 October 2017

Beautiful. Loved.

Greetings and peace to you!  I hope you have been well.  It has been a long time since my last post, and although I haven't been very active, I had not forgotten about this little project of mine.  The fact of the matter is that there has been so much to post about that I often lost my train of thought as I tried to write about one thing or another.  More often than not, I found myself writing in response to some new thing said by the president or some new atrocity that affected our human family.  To each of these, I recognized that I could not be the mediator of grace if I were to react out of the daily news cycle.  That said, there has certainly been a lot in the news and so much of it leaves one with the drained sense of helplessness and loss of hope.  I myself have felt as though I stare into the abyss with no hope of comfort at times, but this is not the truth!  From a very basic perspective, the truth is that no matter who we are and what we've done, where we've been or what we've seen, we are people who are beautiful and loved.  The very basic message that I hope to convey today, through this little project of mine, is that these are two truths that cannot be shaken or taken or moved!  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL and YOU ARE LOVED!  Let those sit with you for a bit, what does that feel like to you?  What does it sound like?  Are there other voices that contradict this message?  If so, where do they come from?  As with anything, there are always those voices of dissent that speak loudly in protest of those things that are good in our life.  Sometimes they come from people close to us, sometimes from some stranger on the street, and more often, they come from our very selves.  They nitpick the smallest, most insignificant thing about ourselves and make us believe that it is an insurmountable truth that erases all value from who we are.  Yes, sin is real, and it affects us each in particular ways, but the more profound and ancient truth is that insofar as we are, we are loved and we are beautiful.  Think about that again, just for a bit.  What does it mean to be a person with such worth that nothing can diminish who you are?  What does it look like to recognize those truths about yourself that are unshakeable even when we feel lost?  What does it feel like to walk in the confidence that I am beautiful and that I am loved?  If you're anything like me, it feels like walking along the base of the Grand Canyon.  I see these beautiful walls and feel the safety of being surrounded by these immense truths that cannot be shaken.  Even as others may attempt to move them, they will not budge!  Each side of that canyon is stamped with the words Loved and Beautiful and they allow me to move into tomorrow and face each day with a confidence that I couldn't even begin to explain.  In so many ways, these truths are born from a very deep and archetypal place that cannot be explained but cannot be ignored.  They are not meant to make us feel good or to serve as consolation prizes, instead, they are meant to remind us of the fact that we are created in Love and developed in Beauty.  It is the very precise things that make us feel different that represent the unique giftedness of who we are and which make real the fact that our beauty and our belovedness is something far richer than we can ever imagine.
Every single day, we hear more bad news from all around the world.  Perhaps we fear or we get angry, maybe we cry or feel helpless, and all of these things are valid, but in all of this, please always remember what I have already stated You are beautiful and You are loved.  Thank you for who you are and know that you are in my heart.  Be loved.  Be Beautiful. 
Fr. Rick

19 April 2017

Of This World!

Happy Easter!

For some time now, I have been wrestling with the idea that is often proposed by Christians.  More often than not, this idea is presented in those "NOTW" stickers that so many people put on their cars.  I am well aware that this is a fad and that to proclaim to the world that I am not of it, is a badge of honor that most Christians choose to display as they're zooming at 10 miles over the speed limit, riding your rear bumper.   I'm sure its because they are late for church.  The problem with this fad, however, is that it represents a counter argument to everything that the Christian message and Christ's resurrections represent.  First of all, it is a gimmick that someone invented and has made a significant amount of money off of, like sheep (and not the Jesus kind) so many of us have fallen over ourselves to proclaim our love of Jesus by purchasing these gimmicks and displaying them proudly.  Good for you, but where is the essence of the Christian, an essence that calls us to be a part of the world in a radically different manner?  As I have encountered God, I have come to realize that God's divine and unending love is not to be contained, and it is not to be relegated to a Heaven that is unattainable unless you have those stickers on your car.  I have come to recognize that what Christ does in His resurrection is to give each and every one of us a new dignity, or rather, he calls us to celebrate that dignity that is inherent to each and every one of us, no matter what!  To that end, the Gospel message of Christ's resurrection isn't that we are liberated of those things that make the world "icky," instead, the Gospel message is that even in the midst of those things that we find difficult to understand or accept, God's love is at work.  Even in the profound darkness of death, God is alive and just was we want to run to the bosom of Jesus and escape the world, we are sent.  Jesus tells Mary Magdalene to not touch him and then to go to Galillee.  In other words, don't stick to the old ways, the familiar ways of doing things, and don't buy those stupid bumper stickers, LIVE YOUR LIFE and GO!  That is what is most amazing about the love of God and Christ's resurrection, that through his resurrection, we are redeemed in a manner that should make us fearless as we face the world, not it's judge or hiding from it, but fearless as we celebrate our very own beauty and love.  Too many preachers proclaim that to belong to God, one must be as sinless as possible or at the very least, one must be not of this world.  I say, no!  I am of this world because this world is beautiful!  You are beautiful!  I am beautiful!  And I will not live in fear because I know that I am loved.  Celebrate who you are and be of this world because it is here that God is at work, and it is here that God calls us beyond the darkness of death into the glory of life!  May you be blessed for you are beautiful and you are loved!

13 April 2017

Mandatum

For many people, today is Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday.  It is a day in which Lent is over and the Triduum begins.  Today is a day during which many people will reflect on the call of Jesus to serve each other in love.  He shows us this by removing his outer garments and washing the feet of those who had gathered around him.  I can only imagine that some of them were quite shocked to see their teacher doing the work of a servant.  Peter even tried to stop him, but then relented when reminded that this action was not merely an action of habit, or tradition, but one of love.  It's funny that even though they had been with Jesus for quite a while, they were still not sure as to the motives of his actions.  There is no doubt, this guy was weird, but the weirdness he lived was very intentional.  The love he shared, was authentic and offered to all, but not all were able to receive the love with which Jesus served.  Today, we celebrate the day in which Jesus commissioned his disciples to "take and eat, drink."  It is a day that calls us back to the basics and which reminds us that a relationship with God is not difficult to attain, it's as simple as partaking of the Body of Christ.  This day, however, calls me to a more profound reflection on my own journey as a disciple.  I have been through a lot, and have seen even more, and while there were times during which I became angry or frustrated with God, i eventually learned that my anger and frustration was not of God, but of those who so easily proclaim the name of god, but do so as resounding cymbals.  I know this is harsh to read, and I must admit, I feel somewhat awkward to write those words, but it is important to really call out in myself those things that are not of the Divine.  In receiving the lessons today, I am called to recall the simplicity of God's love, a love that reaches out to me and everyone else just as the air we breathe.  No, God cannot be lost by those things that I do or by those things that I think, God is always there, near to us and loving us, but all too often we fall into mind games that lead us to believe that we are of little or no worth.  Or even worse, we become so-called rebels as we live lives away from God, only to find out that the true rebel is the one that celebrates his or her life all while recognizing the glory of God that is to be found in that authentic living.  The call of Christ is not for each of us to be "holy rollers," instead, the call of Christ is to love, and to do so within our own unique capacity.  All too often, we look for the holy as a sign of living a "good life," but today, even more than ever, those held in positions of "holiness," have proven to be nothing more that wolves in sheep's clothing.  The love of God cannot and must not be contained, and it is an act of rebellion by its very nature.  So as we celebrate this day, I will be rebellious by the love I share!  I will be Christ-like in the way I serve and I will not be fooled by those who proclaim Christ but are really dark and cold tombs, vacant and without meaning.  Christ is love and I vow to love!  Be blessed for you are loved and you are beautiful!  Fr. Rick

01 March 2017

We will rise from ashes.

Blessed Ash Wednesday to you, and if you're not a person who observes today as Ash Wednesday, happy Wednesday to you.

For over a week already, I have heard the question, "what are you giving up for Lent?"  And while I would make a joke about giving up something silly, the question is one that I sat with in prayer for quite some time.  What does one give up for Lent?  Growing up, chocolate was the go-to "sacrifice," but I never really did like chocolate so that was always an easy one, during my seminary training, fasting became a practice that I was already doing, so that was somewhat silly to do as a Lenten observation, and giving up certain things was somewhat difficult, especially since there really wasn't much to give up, schoolwork maybe?  As a priest, there was even a sense that I had to be extraordinarily holy in answering that question.  The annual question about what to give up for Lent was always something that caused some consternation and competition.  "I'm holier... no I am" and such.  Either way, depending on you spiritual journey, the question is a valid and fair one to make, especially of a person who is honestly trying to live a life of the Gospels.  This Ash Wednesday, however, I would posit a different question to ponder, "what are you taking up for Lent?"  This was something that I was first invited to consider many years ago and quite frankly, something that really made me reevaluate the way I approached Lent.  At first, it was tempting to answer with a resounding, "I will take up chocolate for Lent!"  but not liking chocolate, that really had no effect on my life.  While this is certainly a question that many of us would want to answer in a funny and comical manner, the answer can actually have lasting effects on us if we truly take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice that we may incur upon taking something up for Lent.  All that being said, maybe taking something up isn't about starting a new tradition or doing something radically different, maybe it is make a conscious effort to have something small create a change in the routines of our daily living.  For me, the challenge isn't so much to start something new, I already pray and I already have a set of devotions and fasting, so to start praying would be easy.  Instead, the challenge that I choose to take on during this Lent is my awareness of the Divine in my daily life.  Including prayer, I am actively going to try and be cognisant of the Divine in the daily experiences of life.  What shape does the Divine take and how is my own awareness of the Divine a way of entering the  Holy in an even more profound manner?  Overall, the journey of Lent is a journey during which we encounter ourselves and the Holy in ways that we don't often think of.  As we enter this sacred time of reflection and contemplation, my hope is that I grow and that we encounter love as Love is manifested in our daily journey.  I hope and pray that this Lenten journey may be one of blessing and peace, and as always, know that you are beautiful and you are loved.  Fr. Rick

25 January 2017

Be afraid, be very afraid...

This is part of the Queer Theology's 2017 Synchroblog.  This year's topic is "Identity."

Here we go!

So it's been quite a journey, and as part of Queer Theology's Synchroblog, I thought I would share a bit more about what that journey has looked like.  First of all, as you may know, I am a priest.  I was originally ordained as a Roman Catholic priest but in time, and through much discernment and yes, even pain, I moved away from the RC Church.  It wasn't an easy process, but I am glad that I did that.  Today, I still serve as a priest in Midland, Texas, albeit on a very different level, a more colorful one!  All this being said, I think it's important to share a bit about how I ended up where I am and maybe try to explain the title of this blog.  You see, for far too long, I was afraid.  I grew up in a home and in a Church that condemned homosexuality, and eventually, as I came to find out, me.  It wasn't easy, and instead of growing into a person that was comfortable with himself and his person, I grew up afraid.  I was afraid of the church, afraid of my parents, afraid of my neighbors, afraid of those things that would cast me aside because of my sexuality, and the irony of it all was that I had never "chosen" to be gay, I just was.  Growing up in West Texas, and in Midland of all places, made all that fear even more real.  People here simply weren't gay, and in my world, you didn't have many choices.  I remember having met a gay cousin of mine when I was twelve.  At first glance, I knew he was like me, I couldn't have named it at the time, but my gaydar was on point, and knowing Carlos was a big blessing for me, he helped with not being afraid, but two against the world was simply not enough.  As a closeted gay teenager, I tried to do the best that I could with what I had.  Eventually, I found a place of comfort in church, and it was safe to the extent that being celibate meant not having to worry about being sexually active and by extension, being gay.  In time, I grew to love my call to the service of God and what that entailed.  Things were good, but there did come a point where I had to recognize that my sexuality was not a bad thing.  I remember being called "gay" by a fellow seminarian once, because I was putting up the Christmas tree.  It was certainly homophobic of him, but I owned it at that moment, and it was then that I started to own and eventually celebrate my sexuality.  From then on, I refused to be placed into a box that would hinder my growth.

Fast Forward........

As of the morning of October 7th, 2013, I was a free man!  Due to politics and my growing refusal to be an agent of homophobia, I resigned from my position as a Roman Catholic priest.  After that, I moved to San Diego and there, I met the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  Loved by some, reviled by others, they helped me understand and celebrate my own inherent beauty and love!  They invited me to take all the ill that had ever been placed upon me because of my sexuality, and to celebrate my life today!  With them, and through the guidance of some dear friends, I came to recognize a very powerful truth, I am beautiful and I am loved!  This recognition was further enriched by the ability to come before God once again.  As I grew to love myself and to recognize my beauty, God's love became more vibrant and real and my ministry took on a different shape.  Outside of the Roman church, the words I spoke became more real and authentic, and where I had once been blocked by the rules of the Magisterium, I was free to sit with others and help them celebrate their own person.  You are beautiful and you are loved were words that rang true and hopefully, helped others in their understanding of God's love for them!
The journey was scary, and for a time, I didn't know what would become of me.  I have met so many others that felt the same and maybe even walked away from God because of the false beliefs that had been imposed on them.  It took me joining a group of wayward Nuns to recognize who I am before God, and I am grateful for that every single day.  As we celebrate this synchroblog, I want to celebrate you!  No matter who you are, where you have been, what you have done or any other thing that you may carry, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND YOU ARE LOVED!  Cherish that because it is a truth that no one and nothing can ever take away! And so, where I was once afraid, I am no longer.  I am strong and fearless because I have seen the face of God and God was smiling at me!  Be blessed and remember, you are beautiful and you are loved.  In Christ, Father Rick