No Man (Woman or Child) Is An Island…

Sometimes the idea of being on an island can be very appealing. It carries with it the image of being away or at a distance. Somehow it can seem safe and perhaps a way to hold onto a sense of peace and to preserve oneself from the busyness and, at times chaos, of the world around us.

When Peter says to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Mark 9:5), I envision Peter recognizing that this (the Transfiguration) is a sacred moment…One to be held onto, preserved, and honored. What better way than to mark the spot of the occasion with tents? …a tent…a dwelling place.

That’s not God’s intent though. Yes, this is a special moment and definitely one to be remembered and cherished, but not in the physical or material sense. It is to dwell within the body, cherished in the heart and in the mind. And it is not to be left on the mountain, but to be carried back down into the flow of everyday life, enabling Peter, James and John, enabling us, to face the road ahead, changing the way we take in and respond to the everyday, eventually extending beyond us, sometimes by example, and sometimes by word.

Whether it is through mountaintop moments or subtle whisperings, that which begins as a private matter between us and God is strengthened and our faith truly flourishing when it is in relationship with God and with others; being there for each other, being with each other, being fully present in a gentle, caring and loving way.

Unity – No Man Is An Island by Tenth Avenue North


Who is this guy?

This week I find myself wondering…How do I respond to “the new” and “the different”?

“After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
‘This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” – MK 1:14-15

John has been arrested and now Jesus shows up on the scene. What would my attitude be in this situation? If I had been a follower of John the Baptist, how would I have received and responded to “the new guy”?

I suspect I would have previously heard John saying that there was one to come after him, the one for whom he was preparing the way, but would I have recognized Jesus as the one about whom John was speaking?

As I put myself in this scene, I see and hear this guy, who not only looks very different, but also speaks and acts very differently than John. Would I have recognized his message as being the same message that John was speaking? Or, would I have been distracted by the fact that this new guy looked, and spoke, and acted in a manner so different from John?

Would I have given Jesus a chance?

As I look beyond this passage, I wonder, how do I receive and respond to “the new guy,” to the new and the different in my everyday life? More specifically, I think about my parish and the transition through which we are going.

The facts…We are now part of a collaborative; three parishes grouped together. We now have a single pastor responsible for all three churches. Altogether we have the pastor and two other priests who have accepted assignment to our collaborative. While for parishioners, the location remains the same, all three priests are new to the towns involved. On top of that, all three parishes, had previously had their own pastor. Each of whom had been in place for a good number of years. Long enough for everyone to be comfortable with each other.

So now, like John the Baptist’s followers, we are all in a new and different situation. All being asked to let go of the familiar and be open to the new and the different. All being asked to embrace change.

There may be new and different faces and schedules, but am I able to see and to stay connected to the fact that the message, the Good News…Eucharist…the desire to build community and to walk as God’s people, is the same? And, am I able to give the new and the different a chance to be new and different and, perhaps just as wonderful, maybe even better than the old?

JohnTheBaptist              Jesus

A Better Way…

As we trudged out into the snowy driveway once more, I felt somewhat defeated before we even began. The air was frigid and we were surrounded by snow in every direction, piled up six, seven, eight feet and more depending on which direction you looked. The feat for the morning was to try to knock down the snow banks at the end of the driveway. This way, we might be able to see the oncoming traffic on our busy street before pulling out to get to wherever we might need to go.

As I looked up at the snow banks, I felt like crying as I thought, “Oh God, we are drowning in snow! There’s nowhere to put it. I can’t take any more of this!” Then, after standing there for a few moments, I picked up the shovel and began to tackle my side of the driveway. (We had decided on the divide and conquer approach.) As I chopped away at the snow bank, lifting the shovel up and knocking down the snow from the top of the bank and then using the shovel to hoist it as far back as possible, I realized that this was not going to work for much longer. My way of trying to lift and then throw shovelfuls over such tall mounds of snow, was too hard. It was becoming clear very quickly that my way was not the best way. I was fighting a losing battle. I needed a new approach.

As I looked at the snow bank, an idea popped into my head. I immediately thought, “I can’t do that! I’m right next to the road…a busy road. The snow is not compacted enough. It’s not safe.” To which the response was, “Give it a try. It will be okay.”

As I looked to my left, I noticed the post for the mailbox, which I knew was cemented under the ground as well as surrounded by snow. So, after clearing some snow away from the top of the post, I began my ascent, feeling out the territory with each step so as to detect the soft spots without falling through. In what seemed like a couple of seconds, there I was, standing on what felt like the top of the world and with a new perspective.

It was a magical moment as I looked around at all of the snow…a sea of snow! The sun glistening across it, the sky a steady beautiful blue, and not a cloud in sight. My feeling of defeat replaced with hope and renewed strength. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

No longer bogged down, I was able to work faithfully to complete the task at hand, and with a sense of joy in my heart instead of dread. The task was no longer too big.

As I reflect back on this experience, I can’t help but think about how faithful God is to me and to all who call on God’s name. Not only helping us to see, when our way is not the way, but also guiding us and helping us to see a new way. A way that lifts our spirit, renews our strength, gives us hope, and helps us to remain faithful. How awesome is that? It’s much more than words can convey. It is indescribable!

For those interested in song, Indescribable:

What to do???

One day about a year or two ago, my attention was captured by a ceramic piece. The thing that struck me about the image portrayed was the soldier who was nailing Jesus to the Cross. This man looked as if he was nailing two pieces of wood together; intent on doing the job. Although I had seen this ceramic piece many times before, I had never given any thought to the soldier in this scene.

On this particular day though, I couldn’t help but wonder about who this man was and how he could do such a thing. I thought, “How horrible! How could anyone do that to another human being?” Then the more I sat there and looked at this piece, a number of questions came to mind. Was this job of the man’s choosing or was he forced into it? What was his life experience and what led him to this particular moment? I imagined his heart had to be hardened in order to do the job he was doing. Was he devoid of all feeling of concern for others, though? Did he have a family? Was he loved? And did he love others?

As I sat there, after some time, I found myself thinking about some of the stories in the news and of current day perpetrators of violence. What happened to them along the way? Were they not also created in God’s image? What had they experienced that led them to embrace such ways?

This week, I find myself asking similar questions. I wonder how any person(s) could justify treating another person in such a way; beheading them or burning them alive. I wonder what happened to these people, and those leading them, that they have arrived at a place where their hearts allow them to perpetrate such acts?

I wonder…Are they so caught up in “the cause” that they have been blinded to the atrocity of their actions? Are they willingly committing these acts? Have they been coerced or misled? Or forced through fear for their own lives and those of their loved ones to join “the cause”? How did they get to this point? What has their experience been? In what kind of environment did they grown up and live?

When we look at the world today, there’s so much violence and wrongdoing that occurs. It’s upsetting and it can be all too easy to write off the perpetrators, dismissing them as lowly scum; hateful and vile. However, when we do this, we are playing into evil’s hand.

I know some might say, “Who cares!?!” thinking that the perpetrators deserve no consideration. However, I find that in asking these questions, I’m able to hold on to the truth of the matter. The perpetrators are human beings too. We all come into the world the same way; a clean slate…created in God’s image…capable of all that is good. Something or someone must have changed that for them, at one time or repeatedly. It is with these questions and this realization that I am able to feel compassion more than anger and disgust.

And, it is only then, that my heart is moved to pray for the perpetrators. For, while I may not be able to change the actions of others, nothing is impossible for God.

Please join me in praying…

For the victims of violence and terrorism, and for those who have embraced hatred and violence, that God may soften their hearts and change their ways, we pray to the Lord…