27 November 2012

The end is nigh!!!

I was recently saddened by a wedding that I celebrated.  The event itself is not what made me sad, instead, it was the guests.  First of all, I must note that the celebration was outside of mass, and although it still made it difficult, I was at least glad that Jesus didn't have to be present for this, at least not in Eucharistic form.  Getting back to my feelings, I was struck by the lack of participation of the people at the wedding, more particularly, I was saddened by the cell phone usage, the chatter between folks and the ceaseless murmuring between people throughout the celebration.  It almost seemed as though these folks believed that I couldn't see them.  In all of this though, I wasn't so much saddened by the fact that these folks had no interest in the celebration at hand, I was struck by what they proclaimed to me in their lack of interest.  In some ways, the small crowd gathered for this couple was representative of a far greater reality that is affecting more and more of us.  We live our lives unexamined, (here I refer back to the old philosophical maxim, "the unexamined life is not worth living")  We go about our days doing this or doing that, but how often do we stop to become aware of what it is that we are doing, or even more, who it is that we are becoming.  In these last few days, the readings at mass have been rather stark and maybe "end of days ish" this isn't for not reason,  the fact of the matter is that when John was writing his Revelations, the Christian community was undergoing a major reality check.  Only a few years after Christ's Resurrection, the Way was being persecuted like crazy.  All these good folks were all of a sudden having to face the reality of death, and I don't mean a theatrical or movie death, but a real "getting up close and personal with lions" death.  It was an intense period and being Christian was more than just being Baptized, going through CCD to do first Communion and then Confirmation, it was a time when becoming Christian was a life choice, one that could literally cost us our life.  Thankfully, we no longer have to face some of those harsh decisions today, (although persecution still exists).  With this in mind, however, and as we enter the Advent season, maybe we can take some time out of our busy days and reconnect with Him who entered our world not as a migthy conquerer, or a valiant leader, but as a vulnerable infant.  Maybe it's time that we take a moment and face ourselves as we examine our lives and more profoundly, our Christian self.  Who am I in God? How do I live out my faith?  What are my fears?  How is Christ preset in my heart?  What do I need to do to welcome Him?  These are but a few of the questions we must ask ourselves, as the first purple candle begins to illumine our darkness, let come to know Him so that as we celebrate the end of this season, we may not only rejoice in the gift that is Christ, but also celebrate with our lives.  As always, know that you are loved.  God bless you.  Fr Ricky

17 November 2012

"in the clouds..."

No, the title does not represent my usual state of mind, instead, it is taken from this Sunday's Gospel: "and they will see the 'Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory." (Mk 13:24-32) (http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111812.cfm)  I was particularly struck by this simple and often overlooked phrase because last night, Friday night, I was having to go get some fuel for my car before heading out to hear confessions.  The day had been pretty busy and somewhat difficult but I hadn't yet been able to sit long enough to process all the events that had taken place within the last twenty four hours.  So here I went, off to the Shell station on I-20.  As I was going there from St. Ann's, I took Garfield street.  Part of me looked ahead to the intersection where Garfield meets the train tracks.  There, where only a day before, such tragedy had struck.  For those not aware of what happened: (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/train-parade-float-accident-in-midland-leaves-4-dead-16-hurt/2012/11/16/2885963c-2ff3-11e2-af17-67abba0676e2_story.html).  Anyway, as I was driving to the gas station, I noticed that the train, which had been eerily still since the accident, was gone.  Somewhat relieved, I decided to continue on my route to the station.  As I approached, however, I noticed that the parade float, an 18 wheeler adapted with chairs for the Veterans and their spouses to sit on, was still there.  As I got closer, I noticed that wreckers had arrived on the scene and that the vehicle was being removed.  For some reason, perhaps because of the lack of processing, I became emotional at seeing everything there.  Because the street was still closed, I had to take an alternate route.  As I went I eventually was able to cross the tracks.  It was at that moment that I looked out my window into the sunset.  As I looked West, I was mesmerized by an array of clouds and sunlight that blanketed the sky.  It was a spectacular sight that filled me with great peace and joy.  What had a few moments before been a somber reminder of a tragedy, was quickly turned into a celebration of God's love.  This is not to say that what happened should be celebrated, on the contrary, mourning and grieving are very necessary, but in that process of expressing the pain of loss, it is also significant that as Christians, we come together not out of necessity or tragedy, but out of love. Here, the beautiful sunset proclaimed to all the glory and wonder of God, even as this scene of devastation was being cleaned up.  Here, the gentle clouds combined with the radiant dying light of the evening sun to produce a reminder of the Glory of God whose love and majesty remain with us even when we are too busy focused on the scenes of our own lives.  This amazing display was a reminder that in the love of God, Christ comes to each of us and invites us, not to avoid the pain that our lives may have, but to recognize something greater than those difficulties we face, the life that is found in Him!  I was so busy focusing on the scene, the memories, my emotion, that I hadn't noticed what was going on above me.  There, in the clouds, was the radiant splendor of God's love.  And isn't that what God invites us to as His beloved children?  A celebration of the life that is found in Him, even in the midst of woe.  There, just beyond the tomb, there is the light that calls us to Himself, a light which calls us out of the tomb and into life, a light that shone all around us last night here in Midland, even as we continue to mourn and grieve.  A light that reminds us that through the waters of Baptism, and because of His death and resurrection, for those who believe, life is changed not ended.  For that, I cannot help but praise Him.  As always, know that you are loved.  God bless you.  Fr. Ricky

07 November 2012

Zombies are real, but it's not what I expected!

And now, for a little self-revelation...(not that writing a blog isn't pretty revealing)  For some time now, I have luxuriated in cultivating an irrational fear of ZOMBIES!  As silly as it seems, I have become fearful of these fictional creations and have even done zombie checks or considered zombie escape routes, you know, the usual stuff.  As I have fed these fears by watching such shows as The Walking Dead and The Jersey Shore (not really... Bazinga!), I have slowly created imaginary scenarios in which, I usually don't come out triumphant.  Either way, I recognize that the fear of Zombies is both irrational and a luxury of which I can pretend to partake.  This fear, however, is completely fictional, it is more of a hobby than an actual phobia or fear, it is something that takes up my time as I go from one meeting to another or from one event to the next.  Recently though, I have come face to face with the Zombie Apocalypse  and it's nothing like I thought it would be.  To begin, this particular zombie was not trying to eat my brains, nor was he after a bite of flesh, instead, the zombie that sat in my office was someone that I had known for many years.  A person that I have grown to admire and respect, a person whose family seemed perfect and in tact, and yet, here he was, right in front of me, my old friend, and yet, a zombie.  In between bouts of lucidity, my friend pleaded with me to help him escape the horror which he was living, and yet, in the next breath, the zombie manifested itself desperate not for flesh, or brains, but for the next hit.  Right before my eyes, I saw the horrible effects of this monster that possess my friend, pushing him down and revealing itself for what it is, a soul-less, self centered zombie that pursued its next hit with the ferocity of a fictional zombie running after a real life remnant of the human race.  As I sat there, slowly realizing what I was witnessing, I didn't know what to do.  The Zombie Apocalypse was happening right in my office and I had no idea how to respond!  Zombies aside, and fears aside, I quickly turned to Christ and the Holy Spirit to guide me in this time.  With the calmness of someone moving away from a zombie, I started to breathe slowly and in a measured fashion, and although he was right across from my desk, it wasn't my brain but my heart that went out to him.  Here, in front of me, was a modern day leper, a child of God who had gone astray.  Just a few weeks ago I proclaimed and preached about my good friend Bartimeus, and now, here he was, not in the midst of a crowd, but in the midst of the zombie, the drug, the addiction.  Here he sat, right in front of me calling out "HAVE PITY ON ME!"
As much as would like to say that I sprang into action like a Christ-like zombie fighting warrior, I have to admit that for the first time, I didn't know what to do, or how to pretend that I knew what to do.  At this moment, my friend was in true need of help and this zombie could see right through anything I could through its way.  This morning, as I sit and write this post, I am humbled at the call to help this young man, and while I cannot know where he will end up, I pray that in the little that I have been able to offer, he will find the peace he needs.  He has agreed to enter a rehab program, but what then?  I have offered to continue walking with him throughout this ordeal, and in Christ, I hope that the damage that has been created, both in him and in his family, will find the healing that is necessary.  Unfortunately, like in the movies, this zombie has damaged everything around it, and reconstruction  will be difficult, but in the end, I guess that in Christ, even the darkness of the zombie apocalypse or of the tomb, can be overcome.  And also in Christ, I and in truth, we are called upon to fight this apocolypse that is happening in so many of our homes.  I don't have the solution, but I can't help but believe, because I have experienced it myself, that ultimately, it will take great love anc courage which can only come from Christ, to battle not only this apocolypse, but all those that are so easily taking over many of those we love.  Pray for me as I do for you.
As always, know that you are loved.  God bless you.   Fr. Rick

02 November 2012

No one mourns the wicked...

I saw a picture today of a dear friend of mine in her Halloween costume, and she was all green!  Seeing the picture, I was reminded of the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.  Seeing her, reminded me of the song from the recent Broadway musical "Wicked." The song states: No one mourns the wicked... no one cries because their gone, no one lays a lily on their grave...  As I hum this or sing out the parts I remember, I think of the day we celebrate today, All Souls Day, Dia de los Muertos, or Undas.  It is a day in which we gather to commemorate those whose lives have ended.  It is also a day to take some time and pray for those whose lives were less than stellar, those who died alone or abandoned, and quite frankly, all the dead.  It is a time to take a moment for reflection on our own mortality and to remember that as children of God, through the waters of Baptism, we are each granted eternal life, but we also recognize that because of the choices we make in our free will, some will have to face a time of purging as we prepare to join the Heavenly choirs.  Today, we call upon God to grant eternal rest upon the dead, and to let perpetual light shine upon them.  We celebrate and remember that one day, we too will need the prayers of the living as we journey beyond this life and that perhaps, as we pray for all the dead, even the wicked become participants in the mercy of God where life is found.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace.  As always, I love you, God bless you and Memento Mori.  Fr. Rick