22 February 2013

My Safety Blanket

At times, in moments of loneliness or after a particularly challenging day, there are times when small comforts seem  to bring so much peace and security.  I can imagine why Linus, from the Peanuts characters, held that blanky so close, especially when things were a little tense with the rest of the gang.  In our lives, however, clinging to that "safety blanket," while comforting, is a reality that cannot become our only escape, and maybe those are the crosses we are meant to carry.  As I think about this safety blanket and those things that can provide a sense of security, as weak or false as it is, I think of Abram and the way in which he trusted God with such complete devotion that he seemingly never hesitated to respond to God's call.  I hold Abram in high regard and a certain awe because in his acceptance of God's will, he never seemed to hesitate, and here I am... hesitating... waiting... going, but cautiously.  Perhaps this is what Lent is about, its about our entering a reality that is beyond ourselves, one which calls us beyond our comfort and our being comforted, and yet, the irony is that if we venture beyond our now, we will find that God is providing even more than that which we held on to for dear life!  We discover that in following Jesus up the mountain, or beyond my wants, we are mesmerized by the glories that God calls us to participate in and become.  Even after we come down, or come back to my comfort zone, we cannot help but hold an awareness of just how much God's love is with us.  Always calling us beyond ourselves into a life that is true, a life in Him, a life where we not only find ourselves in the safety of His presence, but more importantly, a life where we know ourselves in the safety of His love.  As always, know that I love you.  God bless you.  Fr Ricky

11 February 2013

From the Peanut Gallery

Ok everybody, take a deep breath.  And another, and another.  Ok, good, here we go.  I imagine today’s news of Pope Benedict’s announcing his resignation must have hit everyone with as much surprise as woke me up this morning.  It has truly been a historic day and I can only imagine that it must have been something like this when Pope John XXIII announced the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council over 50 years ago.  I wasn't there, but I think it must have been a similar sense of (O CRAP!) that I felt this morning.  After that initial reaction of “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” I have had time to reflect on the day and the momentous announcement that has been heard around the world.  First of all, although he did not mention it at all, today is the World Day of the Sick, and under the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes, hundreds of thousands will call upon God today for help in their needs.  This announcement seems to fit into the context of coming before God and recognizing one’s limitations.  In his declaration today, Pope Benedict is publicly welcoming us, the Church and the world, to reflect on the reality of humility.  It comes down to being able to recognize that sometimes, I can’t do this or that, and just as Peter during this past Sunday’s Gospel, we are surprised by the Love of God as we entrust ourselves to Him and Him alone.  To a certain degree, the Pope is doing that right now, he is telling us all and perhaps even inviting us to be honest with ourselves, in recognizing that sometimes there are things beyond us that cannot be explained or fully known, sometimes, it is about taking a leap of faith (and how appropriate that is during the Year of Faith).  In confidence of God’s Divine Providence, we walk into tomorrow (or February 28 at 8pm Rome time, 1pm CST) and trust that God is already at work there doing what needs to be done.  We walk into the heart of God trusting that as we do, we will find the grace and strength necessary to continue the journey into a deeper and more profound relationship with God.  And so, the Pope has come before us all and announced that he is to retire, good for him!  In doing so, I am stirred by the beautiful readings that we are given today for Mass.  The first reading comes from the beginning of the Book of Genesis, in it we hear that “in the beginning God created.”  I cannot help but imagine the great love with which He must have looked upon all of creation.  As a parent loves their child, even more God looked at all creation and smiled upon us.  So too now, God is at work in our world and in our Church and as we enter this monumental time in our Church, we enter with a trust that God is indeed at work and still smiling.  Even beyond human decisions, God is at work, and as we walk with Benedict, we walk as the Body of Christ, perhaps into unknown or forgotten territory (its been over 700 years since the last resignation), but ultimately toward God who is Love.  And so more than ever, let us LOVE, for it is there that we will find our life.  All ye holy men and women, pray for us.  As always, know that I love you.  God bless you.  Fr Ricky.

06 February 2013

Regarding CRS Rice Bowl

Some years ago, I had the good fortune of being invited as part of a team that had convened to assist in a bridge-building effort that would bring together Oblate School of Theology and three different institutions in Zambia.  Having been part of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, I found this invitation a great opportunity to further develop my relationships with missionaries from other countries, and to continue my own discernment to a missionary vocation.  The team met for several months before the trip and the attempt was made to prepare everyone by helping us gain a better understanding of what we would encounter.  The preparation was difficult at times, but eventually the day came and with much excitement and joy, we were off!  After almost 24 hours of travel, we finally arrived to the South-Central African country of Zambia.  The weather was much like it is here in west Texas, dry and windy, already, I felt comfortable.  The reception was quite warm and the capital city of Lusaka reminded me of a city in Mexico, not rich, but not devastatingly poor either.  Overall, things seemed to be pretty manageable.  After a few days, we were scheduled to leave Lusaka and to travel to the Western Province to a town called Lukulu.  The trip there would normally take us two hours here in Texas, there, it took almost 11 hours.  When we finally arrived, after much excitement along the crazy road, we were once again greeted with a warm and welcoming spirit.  Our time in Lukulu consisted of some realities that I had never anticipated encountering, the services available to the people were dismal at best, water was brought in from the Zambezi River each morning, and everyone lived in a poverty unlike anything I had ever even imagined.  During our time there, we tried to acknowledge the needs of the people.  We did what we could, always with our goal in mind.  We visited with different organizations and tried to make connections where possible.  It was intense but manageable; at least that’s what I thought until one night when things became quite clear as to how desperate the people were.  On this particular night, we had had our dinner and had enjoyed an evening together, recalling the day and trying to debrief.  Throughout this time, we had been very conscious of the needs of the people, helping where possible, and taking notes for future assistance where not immediately available.  This night, however, we, or at least I was made very aware of the fact that while we had been working very hard to help the different people, we had only begun to scratch the surface.  That night, as we gathered in the living room, just having had a simple but good dinner, we heard some noise outside.  Being the youngest and perhaps the most ignorant in the group, I “bravely” went to check what was causing the noise.  As I went through the dark kitchen to look out the window to where the noise was coming from, I anticipated seeing some mystical African animal scrounging through the remains of our dinner.  Instead, my heart sank as I gazed on several small children scraping up the chicken bones which we had just thrown out.  At that moment, I realized that while I had believed myself to be doing all I could, I could do more.  I, and the others, did what we could, recognizing that we would never find answers to all the questions.  We did what we could and helped many people, knowing full well that there were countless others who were being left without assistance.  
As I prepare for Lent, as we enter this sacred time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, I remember the faces of those children and recall my realization that what I had done, while plenty, could be supplemented by more.  As we live our Lenten journey, CRS Rice Bowl is another way in which we are able to further enrich our sacrifice.  It doesn’t take much to participate, we take a CRS Rice Bowl, and fill it as we go along the season of Lent.  If the bowl is too small, a coffee can or other container can work just fine.  CRS Rice Bowl is the opportunity to become aware that while I am doing plenty already, maybe there is something more I can do.  It is an invitation not only to give during this season of Lent, but to do so in the knowledge that in my giving, in my sacrificing, there is life.  Maybe through the sacrifice that I put into the CRS Rice Bowl, I will be able to encounter God in a way different than before.  As I live CRS Rice Bowl, perhaps I will become aware not only of the suffering that exists in our world, but of the change that I can make, just a little at a time.  The group that went to Zambia and I had done all that we could to help the people we met, and just as we believed ourselves to be doing very well, we were reminded that sometimes there is just a little bit more that can be done, in that case, it was chicken bones, today, it can maybe mean making CRS Rice Bowl and added part of my Lenten offering.  Whether we do CRS Rice Bowl alone or with family, God calls us to Himself and in our prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we experience different facets of God’s love along each step of the way.  And so, as we celebrate this season of Lent, let CRS Rice Bowl serve as another tool along the road to knowing and loving God, and neighbor.  
As always, God bless you and know that you are loved.  Fr. Ricky