30 January 2014

A collection of stories. A construction of DNA. Me?

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.

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