Thursday, August 16, 2007

When there's no one around

One of my favorite songs of all time is by Garth Brooks with the above title. It's been a favorite of mine since I was a teacher in Rockford, Illinois. I like it because it talks about what you think about and do when you're by yourself. One of my favorite fantasies I tend to think about is that I'm running for the presidency of this great country. In my mind I would be an independent candidate that advocated a strong, effective government. I'd have a three tier platform: protecting the United States from threats domestic and abroad, developing a consistent ethic of respect for life, and building an attitude of service among the American people. Depending on the day, each of those is more important than the other. I even know what I would do to win.

My campaign would be centered in New Orleans and constantly showing video of me there in commercials. I'd walk around the city showing how much devastation still exists and then show images from the Iraq war. I'd ask why we spend so much money rebuilding a country across the globe while our own country is still in tatters. I'd disperse it with comments from the other politicians that are running that seem to indicate how important that rebuilding New Orleans is and then show how much they have actually helped the project and how much they have spent in Iraq to rebuild that country.

Then it would end with my slogan..

Dennis Miller
Removing the great plank
from my own eye before
I remove the sliver in another's.

In my mind, I always win by a landslide.

Feeling like I connected with people...and then getting kicked in the face

I maintain that it takes a priest at least a couple of years before people are used to hearing him preach and the priest can tell a story that's worth hearing. Even though you can stay too long in a parish, I know most of my brother priests stay too short in order to be able to present a whole picture of their "key themes", if you will. In particular, the younger priests who are associate pastors for just two years are just starting to really fill out the ideas they first presented and the people are just starting to get used to them and then they move. But, that's okay because the associate pastor should just remain in the background anyway. We are learning, making mistakes, and learning through it all. And that's okay.

So recently I've had some great conversations with people about the substance of my homilies. I can tell people are starting to get used to me by their faces and reactions to what I say. I can tell when I'm not being all that effective and I can tell when I nailed it. And it feels like I'm getting a lot of nodding heads and good comments letting me know I'm being heard.

And then someone left a prayer on our prayer board saying, "Please Father Dennis, stop talking about abortion." Which is both a good thing and a very very bad thing. They are hearing what I'm saying but they believe that I should not preach about the greatest American tragedy that is taking place every day in our cities. Can you imagine how quickly we would be out of Iraq if 3000 to 5000 American soldiers were killed each day? But that is routine in this country for abortions, as I've pointed out in this blog before. And someone thinks that I should not talk about it? And thinks that they can get me to do that by writing something anonymously on our prayer board?

I guess most priests know that you can't please all people with our homilies and I have no qualms about upsetting people who believe the homily should either be about making people feel good about themselves or, worse, challenging everyone else but themselves. But I don't know if that is true at all about the writer of this "prayer". I am, nonetheless, sure that I will continue to preach about abortion until this illegal act is seen for what it is: murder.

Crossing the river

The readings for today had a rather intriguing connection to them. You may, in fact, want to read them from this site before you read any more. Then click back and read this to see if you get it.

You can click this link it may help you find it....

In case you missed it, both mentioned crossing the river Jordan. I couldn't help but think that both were about forgiveness and that the river is a good metaphor for forgiveness. In the first reading, the patriarch Joshua was taking the proto-Israelites across the Jordan river into their spacious land of Israel. Joshua was the successor of Moses and, in many ways, is portrayed as somehow less important than Moses in a rather subtle manner. The story of the Exodus begins and ends with a passage through water. Moses parted the Red Sea and there was "a wall of water on the right and a wall of water on the left." When Joshua parts the water, there is only one wall of water, the water flowing towards them walls up. The water that has already flowed by continues to flow until there is none left. As I said, it's subtle but it undercuts the miraculous event that is happening. The miracle God worked through Joshua is just not as cool as the one worked through Moses.

But Moses is the greatest of all the Patriarchs so it's no surprise that Joshua is considered not as important. But, that's okay. It doesn't mean that Joshua is a bad leader. We have a tendency to do that, to say that one who may have done a lot is good and one who doesn't do as much is bad. I've even heard people say that the middle ages goes from good pope to bad pope to good pope to bad pope... I resist that label because even the so-called bad popes did good things and the good popes have had their faults.

This is the danger in making judgments of those kind. It's easy to pass judgment on others and not realize that we could just as easily be called bad if people look closely at what we've done. That's the incredible thing about the Kingdom of God. Jesus says the Kingdom is about forgiveness and the humility associated with that. The true mark of one who is bound for the kingdom is the ability to forgive.

The challenge is are we willing to cross the rivers in our lives in order to forgive those who have wronged us?