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Thoughts on a Thursday

There is a lot of talk in our world about doing what Jesus tells us to, a lot of influence to be obedient to the Gospel and to live a holy life. As for me, I tend to be leery of a lot of this talk, but hey- that’s just me. Oh I get the obedience thing, but don’t ask me about obedience, unless you want some etymology – after all, the word is based on deep listening, not simply following marching orders.

Today’s Gospel from Luke  really caught my ear, well my eye, because I read it, I did not hear it. Did you read or hear it today? If not, allow me to reprint some of it right here:

But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.

If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.

Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven .Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.

Where do we begin with this Gospel?

I don’t know about you, but I find myself directly confronted with a lot of straight talk from Jesus that I am ill prepared to follow. Oh, trust me – I want to follow it, but that is no easy task, or single destination journey. It is exhausting and daunting to even think about all of this.

We are in the midst of a particularly ugly-and-getting-uglier political season, filled with more toxic doses of vitriol and lies than I have ever seen before. And yet, what candidate does not profess his or her love of Jesus?  Can we assess either one of them then, with these standards?

Let’s forget the politics though, and go back to our own journeys? How do we do this? How can we ever do these things?  This example of Bl. John Paul II with the man who tried to assassinate him is always moving to me, and a real image of love in action.

Trust me, I want to do them. But most of the time… I simply cannot.  For the moment, and forever I hope, I will not stop trying. For me, that is the deep listening of obedience, one tiny step at a time.

How about you?


Monday Musing – Faith, Doubt, Doctrine, Dogma… and Respect for Office

(I apologize if this is too long… I had a lot on my mind!)

This morning I woke up, not at all sure what I would write about. I was sick for most of the weekend, so I did not begin this sooner, as I typically try (emphasis – try!) to do.  My morning routine includes prayer and some reading and I came across this paragraph, in a homily for the Second Sunday of Easter, and it has really struck me…

So where does that place good Catholic people who, after prayer and consultation with spouses, partners, friends and pastoral leaders, honestly doubt the certainty of some doctrines taught by their religion? Note for the Blog: Dissent against a dogma of the church is impossible for a Catholic.  [5]

5 McBrien, Richard. Catholicism: Study Edition (Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press, 1981. See pages 67 ff.

I realize that many people have strong feelings about the priest who offered this homily, Fr. Richard Vosko. I have known Fr. Vosko for four years, and he has been a friend and mentor to me. Do I always agree with him? No, I do not. Do I respect him? Yes, I do. Do I have respect for his office, as an ordained priest in good standing, of the Roman Catholic Church? Yes I do. More on that in a minute…

One of the reasons that I really liked reading his homily is because I appreciate how he elucidated the difference between dissent from doctrine and from dogma. Dogma, if you read that snippet above, is impossible for a Catholic. (I included Vosko’s footnote in case anyone wants to go look it up.) Doctrine is to be obeyed as well, but many of us wrestle with various doctrines.

If you ask me, I will happily and clearly tell you that my faith, which is a great gift from God, is filled with questions. Are those questions doubts? Sometimes, yes they are. For me – how else can I dive deeper into and discover the great gift of faith?

As I have written before, obedience is based in deep, authentic listening, and therefore it can take time. If we just march in lockstep, without engaging our hearts and minds, that is not obedience at all, but something else. God is forever asking us to be in relationship, not bondage! It is bondage that God seeks to free us from.

This Sunday we did hear about how Thomas very boldly doubted Jesus. And if he had not done so, would he have gone further in his faith? Who knows? But he did doubt and he expressed it and this is part of the Gospel  and we are invited into our own doubt – and faith – as a result! (I wrote about yesterday’s Gospel at my TU blog, if you wish to read it; no subscription or registration required.)

In any case, we can all get into some fine arguments about who is a “good Catholic,” but I am pretty sure that we all dissent on something. For me, I try to be honest about that, engage in good faith and pray, study and strive for a deeper and more committed life as in this Body.

If we can’t doubt, if we can’t – like Thomas – ask questions, then we are lost. The questions can and should be asked, because the answers are there. Believe it! There are many issues that we are asked to submit to… issues about life, which include positions about abortion, contraception, torture, war, the death penalty, euthanasia, and health care, which are not as easily adhered to as one might think. And health care is especially contentious, because while we have challenges with what is mandated, we must also understand that the Holy Father calls for universal health care. In the linked article it reads,  “Pope Benedict XVI and other church leaders said it was the moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay.(Which many Catholics, good Catholics, would disagree with.) This is all very challenging ground, so we should respect our doubts, explore them, find priests and others that we can talk to about these things, but also understand what the Truth and the truth are.

So what about respect for office?

As someone who considers social media part of their ministerial call, I read a lot of blogs, Facebook posts and Tweets from Twitter. It is getting uglier and uglier out there; in politics and in church talk.

If we are going to speak about obedience, we must be obedient – if it means struggling and disagreeing. If we have to hold our dissent in tension with our disobedience, then so be it.  A life of faith is not a destination, although it leads us to a destination; it is a constant journey. And a journey that makes great demands of us!

If you think that Fr. Vosko, or any other priest for that matter, is an apostate, that is yours to work out. However, I do believe that Fr. Vosko, Fr. Jerry for that matter, Bishop Hubbard – or any validly ordained person for that matter, deserves the respect of that office.

Recently I saw a video going around, of Glenn Beck telling us that if we don’t like what’s going on in our churches, to tell the priest. If you don’t like what the priest says, then he more or less said, go to the bishop. If you don’t like what the bishop said, then go to the top, write to Rome. (I am not linking to this video because it was so personally offensive and deeply un-Catholic to me. If you really want to see it, I suggest the wonders of the Google search.)

While I would not rule out such activity, I would reserve such things for the very gravest matters. It is actually apostasy to say or do otherwise, and I think that Mr. Beck is treading a dangerous path…. and encouraging Catholics to do the same.  The Church does not stand for our personal “likes” and “dislikes,” but is the actual re-membering (think, opposite of dismembering) of the Body of Christ.

The Church has always known terrible priests, bishops and even popes; a glance at Church history reveals that clearly. Yet the Church prevails, even in the darkest hours. Sometimes we might be engaged in the worst struggle of our lives, but no single one of us owns the truth.

If you really think that it is OK to go against the priests, bishops or even popes that you do not like, what prevents others – others who may have a different point of view than you do – from doing the same?

Please respect the office of those who stand in persona Christi. Trust me, there are plenty of priests, bishops and even popes, that I could really challenge, but I actively choose not to do so publicly. What I struggle in my heart with, I offer in prayer.(Please see this link to the Vatican’s Catechism pages for more.)

One thing that you should never doubt is this… the Church is neither democracy – or anarchy, based on personal preference. Doubt in and of itself is a vehicle for greater faith, but like all things of great power, it should be applied wisely.

Inconvenience and the Gospel… A link to Random Acts of Momness by Ginny Kubitz Moyer

The words stopped me in my tracks this morning.  They made me think about families in church – something that I treasure. Often we only hear the crying children, or experience kids in church as an inconvenience. We remember how we were never allowed to talk, read, eat cheerios or go to the bathroom and we grew up just fine. I’m not always so sure about that… Nothing personal – I’m referring to myself here.

This is a story of motherhood, families, church as community and the huge pain that we all are to one another… if that is how we choose to see it. Even when they are our own kids! See what Ginny has to say:

It’s Sunday morning, and we’re at Mass.  My little boys turn the pages of their picture books, surprisingly well-behaved.  As the priest gets up to read the Gospel, the thought of his homily fills me with pleasant anticipation.  Father Xavier possesses equal parts knowledge and wisdom and honesty in the face of…

Please go to my friend Ginny Kubitz Moyer‘s blog at Random Acts of Momness, and read the rest of  her post entitled, An Inconvenient Gospel. She also writes for Catholic Mom, Busted Halo, and is the author of  the book, Mary and Me.

A Reflection on John 5:1-16

(This is the text of a reflection that I offered at Lenten Tuesday Evening Prayer at St. Edward the Confessor. I am reflecting on Tuesday’s Gospel, John 5:1-16.)

The Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem, November 2004. Photo by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

The words stung as I read them; he wrote: “It’s kinda like this… Many cripples were left waiting at the Pool of Bethesda. I doubt their pain would be mollified by your words. After listening to you talk about the free response that is love, a Deuteronomistic view of the world, and Job 39 – and after you and Jesus walk away with the cheering admirers – they’d still be crippled, in pain, and left behind at the Pool.”

* Ouch *

Those words came to me in the form of a recent blog comment. Ironically it came in response to a blog post that I had written about how lovely evening prayer, and our community at St. Edward’s was. This person had already left a few comments at the blog, appearing like a peaceful, unbelieving, and wistful interloper, but in retrospect, he seemed somewhat hurt and angry. My concern for him was countered with knowing that there were probably no words that I could offer to him. It was not lost on me that the last line of his comment referred to the very Gospel I would be here to talk about tonight.

This is where I Continue reading

Monday Musing

I’m late today… For one thing, I worked on Sunday, facilitating a Confirmation retreat with Chris and Beth Carlin, from Living Hope Ministries. I try to work ahead, but sometimes it just does not happen! I also have today off from work, so my need to hit publish and get out the door are also not operative at this time.

There are many thoughts on my mind today. The HHS mandate and how it is tearing so many people apart. As a dedicated church woman, as someone who watches the news closely, and as a dedicated social media ministry person, I have not ever seen anything rip a hole through things like this one. This matter has caused me to have disagreements with people on all sides of the discussion and it is a multi-faceted discussion.  God have mercy on us all, that’s all I can say at the moment.

I am thinking about yesterday’s Gospel from Mark, in which Jesus heals a leper.  It is a reminder of how the leper pushed past his acceptable boundaries to go to Jesus for healing. It is a reminder of how Jesus pushed past acceptable boundaries all the time in order to not only heal, but to unite.

I am thinking about today’s readings which call us to perfection, remind us of strife and also should make us think about “signs” from God.

Another thing on my mind is the 7th anniversary of the death of Notre Dame de Namur sister, Dorothy Stang, which is today. Tromping through the mud in the Brazilian jungle, armed only the Word of Christ, she was shot to death by two armed gunman. Rest in peace and may your memory always be a blessing.

Also on my mind is the essence of social media ministry, which is what we are doing here and how essential that is. My friend and sister in Christ, Meredith Gould will be talking about that all week on dotMagis blog. I call Meredith the Apostle of the Internet and that she is, tirelessly bearing Christ out here and inspiring me and others to carry on. There are always fights going on in blog comments and on Facebook. Please note the HHS mandate and how that has impacted community. It makes me rethink this work, yet I seemingly cannot stop myself. This is my mission field.

As you can see – I am on a bit of a ramble here. It is time to wrap it up.

Ultimately I will say this. Christ is risen and in His risen life we are to find unity.  If there is one way to look at evil, that would be to look at how diabolical evil is… Diabolic, diablo, devil, satan. The divider. Christ unites, Satan divides.

That is the one lens we are called to look through as Catholic Christians. How are we uniting ourselves to others in Christ? In faith, in life, in politics, in church, in social media – in every conceivable place, how do we unite in the name of Christ?


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