Greetings to you once again, and peace to you. This entry is coming to you from the recesses of my mind, and as a product of my thought and prayer. As you may, or may not know, I recently moved back to Midland, Texas. Thus far, I have been here 12 days, and may I say, they have certainly been interesting. On my very first day, as I was waiting to register my car, I was approached by someone who immediately asked me whether or not I should be called Fr. Rick anymore. To be honest, I was caught off guard, but I responded the best that I could and shared as much of my story as that person was willing to listen. (Don't worry, I won't bore you with that again.) That same day, I encountered another person who immediately told me that she thought I had "left." After assuring her that I was really here, she made awkward small talk and (much to my relief) eventually scurried off. Yes, she scurried. I have had other encounters of the sort since my arrival in Midland, and while some people are more political about my situation, others are outright rude or even mean, especially those who are the holiest. They seem to carry about them a particular kind of bitterness that is more reminiscent of the bitter wine that Jesus drank than the joyful gifts He gives us in the Eucharist. That train of thought well under way, it then made a stop at a new station that has recently popped up. The "Starbucks War on Christmas (SWC)" Station. Or as I like to call it, the "I Don't Like Starbucks but Went There Anyway To See The Famous Red Cups" Station. The name is a little longer, but well worth the visit. Either way, I saw the original video (rant) that was put out about the SWC and more than anything, it riled me up, and not for the reasons I expected. (and here... another caveat) Since my whole ordeal with the Oblates and their treatment of my priesthood, I have aligned myself with the Old Catholic Confederation of the United States. It is a part of the Old Catholic Church and is a ministerial entity in its own rite. I have chosen to do this because of all things, my call to ministry was never and has never been in question. This aside, as I was sharing with a friend, my dream of starting some type of ministry here in Midland, I was quickly put down and told to conform to the One True Church. To the old me, (before the trouble with the Oblates) I would have completely agreed, but I more than anything bear witness to the cruelty that we humans can inflict on each other in the name of God. If this happened to me, a priest who (I believe) was pretty darn good, what else have the people of God had to endure?
Finally, this brings me back to my original thought, why are we as Christians, so ready to mask our bigotry with Christ? How is it that Christ has become a marketable creation that can so easily be erased from a corporate holiday gimmick? and Why do we so easily believe that a war is being set against Christians, when it is we who so readily attack and destroy those things that we don't believe fit the context of Christ and His Church? and finally, How is it that we make ourselves out to be martyrs when in reality all we are doing is speaking out about things that we believe we are entitled to or demanding our own comfort? These questions have all crossed my mind, and while there are only answers that I can provide and accept for myself, I believe they are questions that we must ask. Why not be open to the will of God as it is made real in my life, as opposed to limiting God by placing God in a box of my own creation? Why not expand my call to love so that it fits that of Christ? and most importantly, Why not allow myself to love me as God loves me? This last one is perhaps the most important limitation that we so easily place on ourselves, and as I have come to believe, we are so ready to hate and make things difficult for others, because we have no love for ourselves. If there is anything I learned this past year, it was to love myself. To accept myself as I am and to recognize that God's love is out poured upon me not matter what, and as for those extra pounds, more room for God's love! So it all comes to this, perhaps instead of worrying about a War on Christmas, maybe we should worry about the wars we wage upon ourselves. Instead of making noise about whether or not Starbucks places snowflakes on their cups (not a Christian symbol) we should make noise about the love of God as it is gifted to me, and to you, and to every single person. Instead of complaining about "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas," maybe we should recognize the inherent beauty that is bestowed on us by God and say "You are beautiful." and "You are loved." Maybe, (and yes, this is very idealistic) then we can begin to shift the negative feelings around this time to feelings of true joy and peace as we recognize that each of us, whether Christian or not, straight or gay, fat or skinny, is truly BEAUTIFUL and truly LOVED by God who sees not our weight, but our hearts. Thank you for allowing me this reflection. Be at peace and be happy, because you are beautiful, and you are loved. Fr. Rick