Friday, April 28, 2006

Bush and Oil

I don't like to get too political because, admittedly, I tend to think all politicians are to society what a bath is to an eight year old boy - a necessary evil. And, I try to support the president, whoever that president is. But, I'm frustrated by this story. I don't understand how a leader can see his people being hit with the highest gas prices in history and say that he has any confidence in oil companies to do anything but make money. What incentive is there to invest anything in anything but themselves? None. So, here's the choice: to take President Bush's advice to invest in alternative fuel sources or put the money into a brand new hummer. Which one would you do?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

School is coming to an end

I'm facing the reality that, in a little over a week, the campus of Iowa State will let out for the summer and all the students I've been serving will be going home or to jobs. This has caused a few emotions....

I'm happy that the fraternity guys living next to me will be leaving, which may cause less noise. And, I'm excited that some of the educational stuff that I've been putting off (re-learning Hebrew) may be able to start because of my decreased schedule.

I'm sad because of so many students who will soon be leaving. I will miss our Thursday Night Liturgy folks and the people who faithfully come to Sunday Night at 7:00. It will be really hard when it finally sets in that some of the seniors and a few of the students that are studying abroad will never come back. I will miss them and Hope I can keep in contact with them.

I'm hopeful that some of the mistakes that I made this year, some of the things that caused long work days, will be worked out in the summer months. Yet, I'm also skeptical because I know myself well enough to know that it's way too easy to put things off...

Mostly, I'm relieved that I made it through one year here with a sense of humor intact...so far...

Monday, April 24, 2006

When you're next to me

I have been listening to the sountrack to the movie "A Mighty Wind" a lot lately. I think that it's best when you turn songs about lust turn them into songs about the love we have for God. Oh, glorious Song of Songs...

When I’m standing next to you
There’s a song to sing
I know everything’s feeling right

When I’m standing next to you
Steeple bells ring
Only good things Do I see
When you’re next to me

When I hold your hand in mine
Different world wakes
A new morning breaks with the sun

When I hold your hand in mine
Children's dreams take flight
Through a star lit nightThat’s what I see
When you’re next to me

(Chorus)This love for you I’m feeling
Has a power that is healing
It can mend the darkest hour
With glorious light
When I taste your lips so sweet
I see beggars dine
And the sands of time up and stop

When I taste your lips so sweet
Black and white bend
Every dove lands at your feet
When you’re next to me

(Instrumental)

(Chorus)This love for you I’m feeling
Has a power that is healing
It can mend the darkest hour
With glorious light

When I’m lying next to you
I feel moonbeams burn
I see rainbows turning to gold

When I’m lying next to you
I hear Angels play
I see sweeter days
I see rivers wind
Through the end of time
I see hatred fall
From the highest hill
I see God’s good grace
Shining in your eyes
That’s what I see

When you’re next to me

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Jesus gives the power to forgive to those who need to be forgiven

On my last day-off, I was at home talking to my mother about the difficulty priests have in going to confession during Lent. We are usually busy hearing confessions on Saturdays when our fellow priests hear confessions. Some priests are out in the country pastoring multiple parishes with the next priest twenty to thirty miles away. We usually get on this topic because my mom can’t understand why a priest has gone to confession at communal penance. I think part of the reason she has trouble understanding this is because it probably seems annoying to her. I mean, if a priest is going to confession, that really takes two priests out-of-commission, both the priest penitent and priest confessor. But, when mom brings this up, she doesn’t ever bring that up. She says something along the lines of, “What has a priest done that he needs to go to confession.” It makes me laugh that a woman who has a son who is a priest still thinks that priests are perfect. Does she not remember my teenager years?
Today, we celebrate the end of the eight-day celebration of Easter in a celebration that Pope John Paul II declared Divine Mercy Sunday. He was heavily influenced by Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska who was fascinated by the forgiveness offered by God to his people. This forgiveness is what we celebrate each Easter, the forgiveness connected to the cross and resurrection of Christ.
In the church, we have three sacraments whose core meaning is forgiveness of sins. In Baptism, we celebrate the forgiveness of original sin that came from Adam and Eve. In the anointing of the sick, we celebrate the forgiveness of sins for those who suffer, knowing that they have a unique insight into Christ’s suffering on the cross. Yet, for the most part, I’ve never found anyone who has troubles with these two sacraments. Even people with only a slight interest in practicing their faith will have their newborn child baptized. And, despite changing the name and words associated with the sacrament of anointing of the sick, I still get calls from people whose loved one hasn’t been to church in decades who suddenly want “Last rites.” These moments are clearly moments of profound conversion and joy for people. Yet, I meet several people who have difficulty celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation, myself included, and I hear reasons why. Some say that it has to do with the changing ritual such that no one knows what will happen when they come. This may be why I try not to impose too much ritual on people who want to confess their sins. I don’t want people to feel lost but I also don’t want to take away people’s sense of continuity that should be a part of this sacrament. Nonetheless, I tend to believe that it has more to do with a loss of a sense of sin and its effects on the part of the faithful, a criticism that especially concerns me. I think it’s hard to understand God’s forgiveness if we don’t have a sense of our need to be forgiven. We have to understand what the goal of life is in order to understand why we aren’t living up to that goal and our first two readings offer just such a glimpse.
The first reading said that the first Christians held “everything in common” and that there was “no needy person among them.” This was not a form of Christian communism. In context, this is clearly seen as an elective form of charity in which each person asked themselves how they could have so much excess when there are others who don’t have enough to live, a question that should plague the Christian conscience.
If we are to look to a theological rationale behind this radical form of charity, we need look no further than the second reading. In it, John looks at this world as being transformed by the paschal mystery. As one commentator put it, “The direction of love taken by John…is reversed. (We are accustomed to) the focus (first on) a love for God, which presumes love for others. (In John) the focus is on love for God’s children, which reveals itself in love for God and observance of God’s commandments. It would seem that these two loves are co connected that it makes little difference which comes first.”[1] So, this is the goal: a society that cares for all its members and loves God. Yet, this prompts a question for all of us: is this the way we lead our lives? To put it more bluntly, are we the society of the perfect? After much reflection, I would humbly answer in a somewhat typical theological way, Yes and No.
We see this answer in the gospel story, part of which took place eight days after the resurrection. This story, to which we generally refer as Doubting Thomas, first tells the story of the apostles’ astonishment at seeing the risen Lord without Thomas and then tells a parallel account the next week with Thomas present. We often highlight the doubt that Thomas had in the meantime, a doubt that prompted him to make outlandish statements about his need for proof. Yet, in truth, I imagine we can all sympathize with Thomas in the skepticism that we have felt, at points in our lives. Maybe not right at this moment, but haven’t we all wanted to actually have more proof than the testimony of people who lived two millennia ago? Instead, what I would like to emphasize is what happened the week before to those apostles who were just as astonished, just as doubtful, as Thomas would be the next week. Despite their unbelief, our Lord turned to them and gave them authority to forgive sins. In this story, therefore, we see that God calls the sinner to also be the reconciler. This is a call to personal forgiveness and a call to forgive others, in other words to take seriously the call of the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In Thomas, we can see that small things matter, those times we doubt God, times we don’t use our gifts and talents to show love to our neighbor, and times when we don’t love God in prayer.
In our life of faith, sometimes we are the society of the perfect and sometimes we are doubting Thomas. God’s divine mercy says we not only love one another in order to love God but we must also have a need to be forgiven for all our sins while we forgive those who sin against us.
[1] From Bergant Preaching the New Lectionary Year B