Monday, November 26, 2007

Living in the Present

There was a boy that often felt uncertain about how to act the proper way. He wanted to be a good person, but did not always know the best way to be that good person. He thought that if he could only answer his three questions, he would always know what to do.

When is the best time to do things?

Who are the most important people?

What is the right thing to do?

We all struggle with these questions in one form or another.

The 1st – When is the best time to do things? We always seem to struggle with this question, juggling priorities, calendars filling up, not knowing what to do first, and when. It is not impossible that in trying to figure out when to do all the things that we need to do, the importance of the thing that we need to do is lost, the meaning of the experience of doing something replaced by the relief of checking it off our list once it is complete.

The 2nd – who are the most important people? We are constantly pulled this way and that by obligations to various people – to ourselves, to our families, to our friends, to our teachers, to our teams. Again, knowing who to give our attention to can at times be all but impossible.

The 3rd – what is the right thing to do? It is all about our priorities. How do we determine what is the right thing to do? Do we put ourselves first – as we often feel compelled to do – or do we put others before us? The answer drifts around somewhere in between. How do we figure out the right thing to do.

So this boy seeks the advice of his friends. And his friends give him all sorts of answers that just confuse him. And he got frustrated. So he hiked off into the woods to seek the advice of this old man of legendary wisdom named Leo. When he found Leo, this old guy was digging a garden. He walked up to him and asked his questions. Leo smiled and kept digging. After a minute, the boy offered to help, noticing that Leo was tired. He dug until the garden was finished. Then it began to rain. As they moved to shelter, the boy heard a cry for help. He ran deep into the woods and found a woman trapped under a fallen tree. He dragged the woman back to the shelter and sat with her, tending to her injuries. The woman came to and said, “Where am I, and where is my son?” Panicked, the boy ran back into the woods and found the woman’s baby lying in the woods, shivering. He scooped him up and brought him to his mother, saving his life. They all went to sleep, exhausted.

The next morning they all woke, the woman and her son moved along after offering many thanks and Leo told the boy how proud he was of the boy. The boy had captured a real sense of peace, but mentioned his frustration to Leo that his questions had still not been answered.

Leo responded, “But they have”

“If you hadn’t stayed to help dig my garden, you wouldn’t have heard the woman’s cry. So the most important time was the time you spent turning the soil. The most important person at that moment was me and the most important thing to do at that time was to help me with the garden.

Later, when the woman screamed, the most important time was the time you spent saving them, the most important people were the mother and her child, and the most important thing to do was to rescue them and nurse them back to health.”

He continued, “Remember then that there is only one most important time and that is now. The most important one is the one that you are with. And the most important thing to do is to do good for the one standing at your side.”


Prayers, please, for beautiful Elizabeth Ann. She is waging a courageous battle right now with a medulloblastoma.

There is something so tragic and painful about a child that is sick. There is also something so magical and inspiring to watch a child battle with dignity and hope.

Go, Ellabee, go!

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Timely Lesson?

I'll admit it. When I first heard of the anatomically correct Chocolate Jesus, hanging crucified and exposing all of his anatomy, I was appalled, particularly in light of where we are in the church calendar.

Then I read this from David Kuo's J-walking blog:
In some ways it is actually the perfect piece of art for holy week because it reminds all of those who follow Jesus of how he was mocked and ridiculed, how he was scorned and beaten, how he was humiliated... and all because of his love for us. Those are good things for his followers to remember. Jesus' story isn't nice, it isn't neat, it isn't comfortable. It is the opposite of all of those things. In so many ways we want a sort of "chocolate Jesus" of our own - one that is sweet, one that demands little from us, one that we can mold into our forms - perhaps politically conservative, perhaps liberal, maybe happy with just a few of our dollars given to the poor every now and again, perhaps content with those who simply say they love him and then lead lives little different from anyone else.

Instead of having religious/political leaders getting all amped up over this "art," they should be spending time facing the real and very challenging Jesus found in the Gospels and encouraging others to do the same. I know that is what I need to do.
What a great reminder of our call to remember who Christ is and calls us to be and of how easy it is to miss the lesson that is often staring us in the face. Don't get me wrong. I am not impressed by the "art" displayed here, nor do I blame those who cry out in opposition at the offensiveness of the display. But Christ's life was not easy, nor is the life we are called to live.

Hey, if, on the eve of the day we celebrate Christ's death and resurrection, this helps to remind us of how Christ was mocked and ridiculed as he gave his life for us, then I'll just chalk this up as a timely lesson.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Seven Last Words

I've recently had the opportunity to think a bit more about what are referred to as the seven last words of Christ. As you may know, the seven last words are actually seven statements, and they are the last things that Christ said before dying. Below are those statements with some thoughts about what they mean.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

Forgiveness is one of the cornerstones of our faith. It is also one of the hardest parts of our faith to truly integrate into our lives. Christ had just been beaten and humiliated, scourged and whipped. He was then forced to carry the instrument of his death, the cross on which he was to be crucified, through crowds of people. Some in the crowds tortured him with their hateful words while some, like Simon and Veronica, stepped from the crowd to help him. He was then forces to climb with his cross to the top of this hill – a trash dump – where criminals were crucified and tortured. Jesus was then tortured and crucified. And in that moment – imagine the feelings you would have towards your tormentors – in that moment Jesus asked God to forgive them.

He asks us to forgive as well. It seems a part of the human condition to be bad at this. But he asks us to find the spirit and grace in us, the presence of God in us, to forgive others. If Christ can model this while hanging from a cross, stunned with pain, so should we be able to do the same.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)

Christ was a person as much as he was God. He had doubts and fears like us. Here, Christ feels abandoned and alone. He questions God and, perhaps implicitly, his faith in God. We have doubts and raise questions about our faith all the time as we are confronted with the challenge of living our faith. Let Christ’s feelings of loneliness and abandonment be a reminder that we are never alone, even when we feel abandoned, and a reminder to continue to believe in the love of our Father even when, or especially when, we feel abandoned.

He said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" (John 19:26-27)

We do not know when Christ will return. But until that time, we are responsible for each other. We are called to act with love and respect to each other. We are called to a true community. As the disciple was called to behold Mary as his Mother, and Mary was called to see his disciple as her son, so we are all called to be family and to honor that family.

I thirst! (John 19:28)

God thirsts for us to search for Him and to find Him in the same way that we should thirst for Him. If you have ever been truly thirsty, there is an urgency to your efforts to quench that thirst. It is a matter of life or death. In the same way it is for our faith. It is easy to forget that God is present in our world and in our lives. But even more because of the extent to which He has been marginalized, we are called to look for him and to follow him as we would look for water and drink the water to quench our physical thirst.

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)

A criminal who died next to Christ called out, hoping that God would Christ would remember him. We spend so much time in our lives trying to be memorable – so that a teacher or coach or girlfriend or boyfriend or parent or friend or sibling – will acknowledge us in some way. The only thing that matters, though, is that we are remembered by Christ for the life that we live. Being remembered by Christ is the ultimate gift or promise, the gift of salvation.

It is finished! (John 19:30)

We might say these words – it is finished – in a moment of despair when we have given up all hope. But we might also say these words as a celebration or a triumph – at the end of a test, after a successful game, at the end of some long personal trial. When Christ said these words, it was not in defeat, but in victory. He wasn’t announcing failure but was celebrating the victory of the cross. He had a purpose and fulfilled it. His death on the Cross won us salvation. It is our challenge to view our crosses, our challenges, as calls to rise above them, to emerge better for what we learn about ourselves in doing so.

Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

The final words of Christ ultimately convey the relief of returning to His father, but also the trust that Christ has in his Father, allowing Christ to place his life completely in God’s hands. We are called also to trust God in this way and to live our lives for Him. And when we die, we return to Him, our spirit going back to the source of our life.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas in Chihuahua

I just returned from an amazing Christmas holiday in Chihuahua, Mexico that coincided with a long overdue family reunion. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family and was thrilled to have the opportunity to spend time with everyone (and to let my wife and boys do the same). I already miss them all and only wish we could have spent more time together. I'll just count myself blessed for the opportunity, however limited.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, a number of us spent some time helping to hand out clothes and food to the poor living in the Chihuahuan suburbs. The scope of the poverty was overwhelming and the needs of the poor seemed limitless. Nonetheless, it was gratifying to be able to give a few hours to help even if only in a small way. In addition to providing some relief to others, spending time on Christmas weekend in service to others helped to serve as a reminder about how carried away we can get by the commercial spirit of Christmas. We get so wrapped up - no pun intended - in all the presents that we give and receive that it is easy to forget what we really are supposed to be celebrating on Christmas. The birth of Christ marks the moment that God chose to become man in order that he might die to save us. Even when we celebrate Christ's birth at Mass, it is easy to forget that His birth was just the first step in a journey that would result in His crucifixion. I am not suggesting that we don't celebrate his birth with joy and hope; rather, I am suggesting that we work harder to keep our perspective and to remember the obligations that come with accepting the real gift of Christmas.

To my relatives in Chihuahua, thanks for the reminder and muchas gracias por todo!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Imagine ...

On the anniversary of the murder of her husband, John Lennon, Yoko Ono asks us to honor his memory by taking a message of hope and forgiveness out of the tragedy of his death. Yoko wrote:

"To the people who have also lost loved ones without cause:
forgive us for having been unable to stop the tragedy. We pray for the wounds to heal.

To the soldiers of all countries and of all centuries, who were maimed for life, or who lost their lives:
forgive us for our misjudgments and what happened as a result of them.

To the civilians who were maimed, or killed, or who lost their family members: forgive us for having been unable to prevent it.

To the people who have been abused and tortured: forgive us for having allowed it to happen.Know that your loss is our loss.Know that the physical and mental abuse you have endured will have a lingering effect on our society, and the world.Know that the burden is ours.

As the widow of one who was killed by an act of violence, I don't know if I am ready yet to forgive the one who pulled the trigger. I am sure all victims of violent crimes feel as I do. But healing is what is urgently needed now in the world.Let's heal the wounds together.

Every year, let's make December 8th the day to ask for forgiveness from those who suffered the insufferable."

We could all hope to rise to this challenge.