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

19 January 2017

Hail to the Chief!

First of all, let me get this out there…  I’m afraid.  No, I’m not afraid that Mr. Trump will end democracy as we know it, and no, I am not afraid that life will somehow devolve into a scene from the movie “The Purge.”  More than anything, I am afraid because for the first time in a long time, I have felt my color.  I have been told to “speak American” when conversing in Spanish and I have seen the licentiousness with which some have approached being an “American.”  Somehow, being an American is being white.  Since when?  I am also afraid because more than ever, being a Christian is a thing that allows us to be critical of those who are not, and worse, it allows us to place judgement on others who do not fit into the “Christian ideal.”  I am afraid because as of this afternoon, we will engage with a person who has fooled us all into believing that he is somehow the long-awaited salvation that this country needs.  There are even those religious leaders who have declared him as being “sent by God,” as if God really would take the time to anoint a megalomaniac whose message was anything but what Christ himself taught.  I am afraid, not because we will have a president who blatantly lies and mocks those he believes to be of a lesser status than he, but because he is setting a precedent that will affect even those who have not been born yet.  I am afraid because more than ever, the call to serve the Gospel is a difficult choice between living a life that is comfortable, and living a life that is declared worthless and not worthy of being part of the “American way.”  I am afraid that today, and tomorrow, I will have to make the decision to take a stand and live out the Gospel values that I have held so dear.  As a person in relationship with God, and as a member of the clergy, I am afraid because there will be those who will hear a message of hate and anger wrapped up in the false face of Jesus.  Sure, it will look pretty and it will feel good, but it won’t be real.  On the contrary, like fluff, it will dissipate as soon as the wind blows and as soon as things get real.  Today, as Mr. Trump takes the oath to become the new president, the Bible on which he makes that oath will be soiled with the lies and falsities of a people who have grown comfortable with God, a people for whom God is as easily manipulated as the spray on tan of our new president.  Today, I sit in awe of what may lie ahead, and while I cannot deny that I am afraid, I also pledge to delve deeper into the heart of God and to be a person who lives their life as an example of the Christian message.  No, it won’t be easy, but there can be no denying that life must continue and as we move into tomorrow, the redeeming power of God’s love will bring us into a new day where the tans we have are real and the orange we see is that of a glorious sun rise.  Today, I will not be afraid because God is with me, because I am loved, and because I am beautiful, as are you.  My dear people, know that you are beautiful and that you are loved, and that we will be alright.