I was blind, but now I see!

We are all blind from birth. Jesus spits on the ground and makes clay with the saliva, anoints our eyes with the clay and sends us to wash in the waters of Baptism. The Spirit of the Lord rushes upon us like it did for David.

Whenever we are confirmed in the Spirit (Baptized in water and the fire of the Holy Spirit), the same oil of David is used. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” How can a man born blind teach us anything?

            The man who was truly joyful for being able to see for the first time was quite innocent in his approach. He thought that everyone would want to rejoice with his miraculous healing of sight. He thought they would want to find and follow this man called Jesus. But they could not seek Jesus because they were blind. The religious leaders ridiculed him for his fast growing faith in Jesus. Then he made the works of God visible.           

The religious leaders could not see the person before their eyes. They could not see his love and courage. They clung to their traditions and old wineskins. Their own authority blinded them. Then they threw him out.

All of us are desperate for community, and sometimes we go against our values just to be part of the gang, the synagogue, the team, or to be famous. We avoid being “thrown out”. This man born blind, who from no fault of his own, was miraculously healed. He wasn’t prepared for his parents wanting to be part of the religious community more than the joy of being with their son who could now see. This is not that far fetched from our reality today. I have seen people healed of their drug addiction or alcoholism, go home only to discover that their spouse and children and parents preferred to deal with them as addicts because they were used to the insanity. They become blind to their own resistance for healing.

Jesus came specifically to heal our blindness.

But the really good news is that when Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, Jesus found him. Jesus is looking for each of us.

Jesus finds us and knows that we feel persecuted, lonely, insulted or thrown out, “Do you believe in the Son of Man, the Light of the World, the God of mercy, love and sight?” We might be looking right at Jesus and not recognize him. “Who is he, sir, that we may believe in him?” Jesus answers our prayer; “You have seen him in the poor, the orphaned, the oppressed and the blind. The one speaking with you is he.”

“We do believe.”

And miraculously we no longer feel thrown out, but part of the team of Jesus that launches a most joyous buzzer beater..

We have advanced to the Elite Eight…Let us worship and rejoice!

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4th Sunday in Lent

March 26, 2017 ~ Queen of Peace Catholic Community

1 Samuel: 16:1-13 ~ Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.

Psalm 23 ~ You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Ephesians 5:8-14 ~“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!”

Gospel of St. John 9: “Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, an smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” –which means sent–. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.”

Love your enemies?

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” Jesus (Gospel St. Matthew 5:38-48)

As we have journeyed through the Sermon on the Mount these few weeks, we could conclude that Jesus is very demanding. Today, we are encouraged not to be driven by fear but to love our enemies and build friendships and trust. But we are challenged to ask our self what we stand for as Christians.

A child returned from Sunday school and told his parents that the teacher said we must love our neighbors and even our enemies. So, he said, “I love all the dragons and monsters.” His dad said, “Just start by loving your sister.”

On June 17, 2015, nine members of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina were shot to death in the basement of their church. The shooter, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, wandered into the room wearing jeans and a sweatshirt; and instead of telling him to leave they invited him to join them. There they were in prayer and study, and as they bowed their heads in prayer, he shot them. Can you imagine the anguish the families of those nine good people felt? I cannot. And that is what makes the rest of this so stunning. Only three days later, when invited to share a statement as the shooter was arraigned in court, several of the family members turned to the shooter and through their tears, said, “I forgive you.”

Today’s readings come right into our hearts and invite us to do some “house cleaning.” There’s a lot of attack and counter attack in our lives today, and here we are being told to hold no grudges, seek no revenge, and let go and let God. When we pray for someone who has hurt us, the gift is to ourselves. When Jesus rose from the dead and entered the room of the disciples where the door was locked, he simply said: “Peace be with you.” And he showed them his hands and his side. At the sight of the Lord, the disciples rejoiced? He said it again. “Peace be with you.” And then he breathed on them. “Receive the Holy Spirit… If you forgive each other’s sins they are forgiven. But if you hold them bound, they will hold you bound.” Jesus knew that the most powerful weapon in the world, if not the universe, is simply love and mercy.

As a priest over the years, I have received many broken souls who come in to confess their anger toward someone who has genuinely hurt them. They don’t see how they give control to their persecutor. I simply ask them, “Have you prayed for this person? Do you love this person unconditionally like God loves them?” You would be surprised how often the answer is, “No.” Jesus only gives us commandments that will help us. But all commandments must eventually be done out of love rather than rules or obedience.

St. Paul tells us: Bless your persecutors; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same attitude toward all. Put away ambitious thoughts and associate with those who are lowly. This could restore peace and joy and gentleness in our lives.

Father Jeff bought this poster you see on the video boards at the Holocaust museum. We reflect on what we stand for as we celebrate our thirty years as a parish.

What do we stand for? We as a community hope to integrate what we stand for in our vision. We are cultivating and fertilizing our community organically with:

Courage, friendship, wisdom, justice, faithfulness, honesty, tolerance, imagination, equality, fairness, citizenship, self-discipline, integrity, responsibility, creativity, assertiveness, caring, confidence, honor, empathy, accountability, respect, kindness, restraint, conservation, purpose, sincerity, sharing, loyalty, forgiveness, truthfulness, loyalty, cooperation, giving compassion, humor…

Queen of Peace is celebrating 30 years and will have a round-table discussion this Wednesday to look at where the community wants to stand for in the next five years and beyond.

Father Rene (top photo first from the right) was murdered less than a year after my 25th, and we are devastated, but we forgive the person as Jesus teaches us.

Epiphany Prayer

Isaiah 60:1-6 ~ Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.

Paul to Ephesians ~ Brothers and Sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.

Gospel according to St. Matthew: After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

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How often has the most profound prayer

come amidst upheaval or crushing poverty or oppression?

I have been quite blessed;

I never worry about my food

better shelter than my Lord, Jesus

The poor struggle, but still fast and sacrifice better than I

In Iraq, in Africa, in Korea, in Okinawa, in Cuba, in death of loved ones,

All places of my upheaval,

and yet I had prayer and pondering most exquisite

like a great wine,

still savored.

Praying in chaos…

“Walking beneath the moon and utter hatred in Fallujah

You, o Beloved, grasped my hand if not my heart and soul,

and saved me from despair.

You nurtured my burnt ashes and You fixed my broken compass.

Changed direction, or at least calmed my temper tantrum.

Discovered resources on my ship that I failed to recognize

Fished for desperate food

and then fished for sport and amazement

Jesus, you are wonderful to travel with.

When I was overjoyed at seeing your star…

basically only the light of your reality and truth,

I thought I saw the best of You.

But then when I saw you, like the wise ones,

for the first time all over again,

Baby in the manger with Mary, your mother…

I went prostrate and did you homage

and then opened the treasury of my heart and soul…

that inmost treasure you gave me out of love,

And offered it to You, my Beloved.

Your hand firmly placed on my shoulder

“Do not be afraid!”

And we walked down the mountain together as brothers and lovers

We returned to our home another Way

YaWehTheWaY

O my!”

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Wisdom is the refulgence of eternal light,

the spotless mirror of the power of God,

the image of his goodness,

And she, who is one, can do all things,

and renews everything while herself perduring;

And passing into holy souls from age to age,

she produces friends of God and prophets.

                                                            Wisdom 7:26-27

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Soulful Prayer ~ 17th Sunday

IMG_5708Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

                        Father, hallowed be your name,

                           your kingdom come.

                        Give us each day our daily bread

                        and forgive us our sins

                        for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,

                       and do not subject us to the final test.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

Jesus went on, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?              

                                                                                                            St. Luke 11:1-13

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Jesus was praying. He doesn’t ask us to do things he wouldn’t do himself.

Jesus teaches us how to pray if we ask; real and sustaining prayer; prayer like food.

Jesus also informs us that as sons and daughters of the Father, we have an abundance of bread and gifts that the world is in desperate need of.

Prayers to God and Jesus are always answered. Prayers are not always answered the way we expect or desire, but they are always the absolute best answer. Why? Because God loves us as only a mother and father could. If we ask for a snake to eat, God most likely will give us a fish.

When we ask for something in prayer, do we always consider how our prayer will impact others? I am sometimes baffled how God could answer my trivial prayer to get over a cold before migrants and refugees who ask only to be treated with a drop of respect and drink of water. I shutter to think how our country cries over our health care details when our life expectancy is greater than most other countries that have none. Being rich is not a blessing as much as it is a responsibility. When much has been given, much is expected.

IMG_6174Our daily bread is a recognition and Eucharistic gratitude that we have the Creator of the world within our bodies and hearts. Therefore our prayer needs to be for wisdom (the first gift of the Holy Spirit), humility, joy and gratitude.

The serenity prayer says much about a true prayer. People who have hit rock bottom and are crying for mercy desperately pray it. “Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the acceptance of the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I accept that I can’t change how we human beings prophet from violence and from divisions like divorce and politics. What I can change is being more responsible for myself; becoming less reactive and more peaceful.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, self-control and faithfulness. All human beings can improve on this fruit. I’m praying for a bumper crop of love, joy and peace… in me!!! I am reassured that in tragedies like Orlando and Dallas and Baton Rouge, people still come together like they never knew they could.IMG_5785

God is more interested in our return to prayer than we are. It isn’t about the sins of others, but about my sins and my need for mercy. We simply need to listen and spend time with Jesus and continue to ask him to teach us how to pray better than we did yesterday. It all begins and ends with love. But our prayer will be uncomfortable.

I often take long walks on the beach and I pray. Often this song wells up from my soul:

There is a longing in our hearts, O Love, for you to reveal yourself to us.

There is a longing in our hearts for love, we only find in you o God.

 

For justice, for mercy, for freedom hear our prayer.

In sorrow, in grief, be near hear our prayer o God.

 

For wisdom, for courage, for comfort… hear our prayer.

In weakness, in fear, be near hear our prayer o God.

 

For healing, for wholeness, for new life… hear our prayer.

In sickness, in death, be near hear our prayer O God.

 

Lord save us, take pity. Light in our darkness.

We call you. We wait. Be near, hear our prayer O God.

                                    Song by Anne Quigley  1992

If you pray like this, I am confident that God, the Father, will not only hear your prayer, but answer it.

As a country, many knock at our door. Many are praying that we open our doors and see. Once I saw the poorest of poor in Haiti, Jamaica, the special needs and Honduras… I realized that I needed to bang on the doors of my friends for some bread (food and money). When confronted with over 1500 casualties and 81 deaths in Fallujah Iraq, I realized the 10,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines were pounding on the door of my heart for spiritual bread to make sense of the senseless. I was depleted and bankrupt of mercy. As long as we profit from wars, we will never be able to listen to the prophets. Although Jesus has given me an abundance of Bread and Blood, there came a time when I was the one pounding on the doors of my friends late at night for my friends and their families in need. I am still pounding!DSCF0372

In other words, my prayer is that I have the courage to open the locked door of my heart tonight and see the plight of the poor and hungry. Sometimes I have to be the beggar for the hungry, refugee, oppressed and poor like the friends who come to me in the middle of the night. God will provide.

Ah the dangers of praying as Jesus teaches us…

Do you think God might answer this prayer?

O my! & wow!DSCF2170