NO CRYING AT MY FUNERAL

NO CRYING AT MY FUNERAL

Friday, May 22, 2015

THEY ARE FILLED WITH NEW WINE -- ILS SONT PLEINS DE VIN DOUX -- ESTÁN BORRACHOS



“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
8 Then how does each of us hear them in his own native     language?
9 We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants       of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and     Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of          Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome,
11 both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and            Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own                  tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
12 They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to      one another, “What does this mean?”
13 But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much        new wine.”          [Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2]







Doesn't this sound familiar?  Of course it does.  We hear it every single day.  Let me start by one I've heard a lot, and still do, "Short man's syndrome cocky every step of the way!"  
"He's gotta be high on somethin'."
"If her brother weren't a cop she'd be in the 'big house.'"
"He's from the hills, he's got nothing to tell me."

The attitude of the people listening to the apostles wasn't new then and isn't new now. There is alway a possible denigration to anything that is said or created.  "I could'a been a doctor if I really wanted to."

We all suffer from this attitude to one degree or another. We practice it as a reflex action.  It is our way of asserting ourselves as being better that the other person.  The apostles were received with the same attitude that Jesus fought in the synagogue in His home town of Nazareth. No one said that He was drunk, but they sure put him down because He was just the carpenter's son.  It happened to him early in His public life and it happened early in the ministerial lives of the apostles. 

The Holy Spirit give us courage, zeal and wisdom because we need it.  The Holy Spirit is not a shield.  The Holy Spirit is a fire, a light, the wind in our sails.  Where are we sent to shine the light, to light the firs and to direct the ship?  Into the dark storm of reality.  That is what we learn on Pentecost Sunday.  We learn that Jesus knew exactly what He was saying when He told us, "Take up your cross daily and follow me."  (Luke 9:23)  We all know where that leads, to Calvary, to the Grave and to the Pearly Gates.



"Ces hommes qui parlent, ne sont-ils pas tous Galiléens?  8 Comment se fait-il alors que chacun de nous les entende dans son propre idiome maternel?  9 Parthes, Mèdes et Elamites, habitants de Mésopotamie, de Judée et de Cappadoce, du Pont et d'Asie,  10 de Phrygie et de Pamphylie, d'Egypte et de cette partie de la Libye qui est proche de Cyrène, Romains en résidence, 11 tant Juifs que prosélytes, Crétois et Arabes, nous les entendons publier dans notre langue les merveilles de Dieu!" 12 Tous étaient stupéfaits et se disaient, perplexes, l'un à l'autre: "Que peut bien être cela?" 
13 D'autres encore disaient en se moquant: "Ils sont pleins de vin doux!"


Ceci ne vous semble pas familier?  Bien sûr que vous l'avez reconnu!  Nous l'entendons chaque jour.  Permettez-moi de commencer avec ce que j'ai déjà entendu beaucoup, et que j'entends encore,
"le syndrome de l'homme court se voit a chaque pas de son chemin!" 
"Il est surement enivré de quelque chose."
"Si son frère n'était pas un flic, elle serait dans une chambre de la « grande maison »."
«Il est rien qu'un montagnard, il n'a rien à me dire."
L'attitude des gens qui écoutent les apôtres n'était pas nouvelle a cette occasion et ne l'est donc pas jusqu’à maintenant. Il est toujours possible de dénigrer tout ce qui est dit ou créé.  «J'aurais pu être médecin si je l'aurais vraiment voulu."
Nous souffrons tous de cette attitude à un degré ou un autre. Nous la pratiquons comme un acte réflexe.  C'est notre façon de nous affirmer comme étant meilleur que l'autre personne.  Les apôtres ont été reçus avec la même attitude que Jésus encontra dans la synagogue de sa ville natale de Nazareth. Personne n'a dit qu'il était saoul, mais ils l'ont insulte parce qu'il n'était personne autre que le fils du charpentier.  Ce qui lui est arrivé au début de sa vie publique, est arrivé au début de la vie ministérielle des apôtres.

Le Saint-Esprit nous donne le courage, le zèle et la sagesse, car nous en avons besoin.  Le Saint-Esprit n'est pas un bouclier.  Le Saint-Esprit est un feu, une lumière, le vent dans les voiles.  Où sommes-nous envoyés pour faire briller la lumière, pour allumer le feu et pour diriger le navire?  Dans la noirceur de la tempête de la réalité.  Voilà ce que nous apprend le dimanche de la Pentecôte.  Nous apprenons que Jésus savait exactement ce qu'il disait quand il nous dit: «Porte ta croix quotidiennement et suis moi."  (Luc 9:23) Nous savons tous où cela mène, au Calvaire, à la tombe et aux Portail Doré de la Jérusalem éternelle.


7 y se decían, llenos de estupor y admiración: «Pero éstos ¿no son todos galileos? ¡Y miren cómo hablan! 8 Cada uno de nosotros les oímos en nuestra propia lengua nativa. 9 Entre nosotros hay partos, medos y elamitas, habitantes de Mesopotamia, Judea, Capadocia, del Ponto y Asia, 10 de Frigia, Panfilia, Egipto y de la parte de Libia que limita con Cirene. Hay forasteros que vienen de Roma, unos judíos y otros extranjeros, que aceptaron sus creencias, 11 cretenses y árabes. Y todos les oímos hablar en nuestras propias lenguas las maravillas de Dios.»

12 Todos estaban asombrados y perplejos, y se preguntaban unos a otros qué querría significar todo aquello. Referencias versículo 1313 Pero algunos se reían y decían: «¡Están borrachos!»

¿Esto no suena familiar? Por supuesto que sí. Escuchamos algo parecido todos los días. Permítanme empezar por uno que he escuchado mucho, y todavía lo dicen, "síndrome del Hombre Corto engreído en cada paso del camino!"
"Tiene que ser alto en algo."
"Si su hermano no era un agente de la policía,  estaría en la 'casa grande'".
"Él es del rancho, que no tiene nada que decirme."

La actitud de la gente que escuchaba a los apóstoles no era nueva entonces y no es nuevo ahora. No todos los días una posible denigración a todo lo que se dice o creado. "Yo podria aver sido un médico si yo realmente quería."
Todos sufrimos de esta actitud en un grado u otro. La practicamos como un acto reflejo. Es nuestra manera de afirmar a nosotros mismos como siendo mejor que la otra persona. En la antiquidad se recibieron los apóstoles con la misma actitud que Jesús luchó en la sinagoga de su ciudad natal de Nazaret. Nadie dijo que él estaba borracho, pero seguro que lo dejó porque él era el hijo del carpintero. Se le sucedió temprano en su vida pública y ocurrió temprano en la vida ministerial de los apóstoles.

El Espíritu Santo nos da coraje, celo y sabiduría porque lo necesitamos. El Espíritu Santo no es un escudo. El Espíritu Santo es un fuego, una luz, el viento en nuestras velas. ¿Dónde estamos enviamos a brillar la luz, a la luz los abetos y para dirigir la nave? En la tormenta oscura de la realidad. Eso es lo que aprendemos el domingo de Pentecostés. Nos enteramos de que Jesús sabía exactamente lo que estaba diciendo cuando Él nos dijo: "Toma tu cruz cada día y sígame." (Lucas 09:23) Todos sabemos dónde lleva eso, al Calvario, a la tumba y las puertas del cielo.







Tuesday, May 12, 2015

CHURCH IN ONE HAND, JESUS IN THE OTHER, THE WAY TO HEAVEN

R.C. PRIEST - HERE TODAY
GONE TOMORROW
SEE YOU IN HEAVEN

There comes a time in every Catholic diocese during the course of every year when the faithful congregants struggle with the meaning of the changing of the guard, so to speak.  

The world of the Catholic Church is one that is focused on the end times, the final judgment, the moment of truth, the hour of death, the arrival of the Bridegroom, the meeting of our Creator/Father.  There are many elements of Catholic life that prepare us for the moment when we leave the temporal dimension and enter into dimensionless eternity.  One such element of this preparation is the call and the promise to continuity and unity of purpose in the life of the Church.  It is the factual, flint hard, day to day renewal of our Faith in the presence of God in every facet of our lives.  Besides the call to stay faithful to our families, to our jobs, to our country, to our own personal relationship with our friends and neighbors and finally to God through His Church.  Yes, all of these commitments require dedicated perseverance.  They require that we keep our hearts, souls and minds focused on the final reality, the rest of eternity in the presence of God.

We are brought up in the faith that says that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic (Universal) and Apostolic.  The greatest of these is its Unity.  It is one through time, one in mind, heart and soul every day and everywhere.  It is in its Unity, Holiness, Catholicity and  Apostolicity that Jesus could promise that the gates of Hell would never prevail against it.  We know that this is true because every day we get the opportunity to talk to someone clear across the world who has been to Mass in the morning; we say "God be with you" as we part company with an acquaintance; we get a telephone call from our Presbyterian friend asking for Catholic prayers before submitting himself to surgery; we travel anywhere on the continent and go to Mass in any language and we can relate; we travel anywhere and we know that there will be a daily Mass somewhere in which we can participate either to begin or end our day; we also know that at that Mass there will be warm hearted brethren willing to spend a joyful moment with us.  The priest may even be one of those who approaches us lovingly. Yes, the priest.  Ah, the priest.

Where does he come from?  How long has he been here?  For how long will he be here?  Is he the pastor?  Maybe one of the vicars?  Maybe from across town?  Maybe even traveling like us and just happens to be here for a couple of days?  Oh, he's from Africa!  We take that for granted these days.  We don't give it a second thought but in these two paragraphs we are living moments of preparation for eternity with the One, Unchanging Creator Father.  Eternity will be dimensionless, remember.  No time.  No coming and going.  Just constant measureless, wonderfully awesome love of God.  Our life in the Church prepares us for that.

We don't go to participate in the Mass because Father Mack is the celebrant.  We don't go to Mass at the cross-town church for the sake of the cross-town church.
We don't go to Mass where there are cushioned kneelers and pews for our comfort.  We don't have to worry about which priest will be celebrating the sacrament of Baptism next Sunday.  We don't worry about which priest is going to come to our death bed.  We know that if we are in our own country or a country far away, when we are there we are also in church, prayers and sacraments, tabernacles and sanctuary lights, pictures (icons) and statues, tabernacles and Stations of the Cross as well as incense and holy water.  It doesn't matter whether it is Bethlehem in Palestine or Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, it's all the same.

Finally, and to the point of all this, when the jolly merry-go-round of clergy changes happens every year, one priest leaves and one comes in behind him.  The Church doesn't move, they do.  You and I move too, but the Church doesn't move, we do.The Church is our heaven here below. It doesn't change.  The Church is the beginning of Heaven.  The Church is the bride of Jesus.  We hold Her hand and side by side with Her we hold His hand along the Way to heaven.  On the way to heaven we have to have the Church in one hand and Jesus in the other.  The occasional do-si-do of the clergy is nothing but the confirmation that the Church remains the Church and the rest is God's plan of using his human creatures as His collaborators along the way to Eternity.

We find the foundation of our faith in the Church in the mystery of Pentecost.  Jesus promised us the Advocate, the Counselor, the Comforter, the fire carrier who infuses our hearts and souls with the zeal for God's house.  The Holy Spirit showed the disciples the way of courage, penance, prayer and zeal.  We are in that same boat. The Ark that did not sink; the boat where the apostles were sleeping did not sink; the boat that we are in will not sink per the promise mentioned above.  This is a journey in a boat that leads to the Eternal Harbor of boundless, dimensionless love.  We know that because even in our short lives we see it weather so many storms.  Our contribution as faithful members of the Church is to keep our hearts and souls locked in to the eternal Light that never wavers because it is not human.  That is what the Church teaches us by its very existence.  

I firmly believe that and because I do, I am telling you, never cry at the transfer of the clergy because we don't own them, and do not even get tempted to cry at my funeral.

Amen.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT OH LORD

I have written many times about the experience of death in this space.  There has been quite a procession of saints that has passed before our eyes.  Some young people and some older people.  Some who died quickly and some who took a while to get it done.  There were some who died from violent causes and some who slipped into the night quietly.  There are some with who I exchanged pleasantries as we bade one another goodbye.  Each time it has been a learning experience in love.

I can't tell you how many times I have been the witness to death because they are too numerous for my aged memory to capture in a moment like this .  There have been those with whom I had good times and there have been those with whom I did not. That did not take the love out of the death experience.  Death is that moment when the gift of life becomes the gift of love because it is the gift of no return that has no boundaries.  It is the gift that defines the life of the deceased and in that definition we all participate in a moment of defining ourselves.  This is true even if we were not very close to the individual, in whatever way you want to define "close."
It is inevitable, that in the moment of death there is a lot going on right there on the threshold of eternity.  It's one of the most profound experiences of human learning with which we are blessed.

All that being said, today we said goodbye to Catalina Sotelo.  This simple, humble, hard working, loving, caring, dedicated person who was warm to everyone with whom she dealt.  She defied my 50/50 rule, I dare say.  My 50/50 rule states "At your funeral 50% of those present will be there mourning and 50% will be there to make sure that it's true."  I know, deep down in my heart that the nearly 500 people in church this morning were closer to 90/10, with only about 10% attending just to check it out.  No, Catalina filled the church because of her great love for people.

When someone fills the church even though they died at only 46 years old, you know that they did something right.  You know that God is showing us that this person had done what had to be done for Him.  It's a witness to a life well led and a faith-life shared with those in communion with you.  

As we pray for the eternal repose of her soul, let us also remember to thank God for the life that He gave her to share with us.  We enjoyed her help while she was warm and vibrant by our side.  Let us enjoy her vibrant spirit across the dimension of the spiritual existence and the physical existence.  

Into you hands, we commend our spirit Oh Lord!

Finally, don't forget that my 50/50 rule, part B is, "No Crying at MY Funeral."


Friday, April 24, 2015

CONTRITION (PERFECT OR NOT) BEGETS MERCY




Every year at this time we are challenged to live out the fulfillment of our Lenten season of penance, prayer and zeal.  This is the season of the Resurrection.  This is the season of the new dawn.  This is the season of the Divine Mercy.  This is when we realize that the Resurrection is the glory of the Mercy of God.  Ah, the Mercy of God is the caress of infinite Divine love.  Just as the sunrise is for everyone, so is Divine Mercy; just as the sunrise is manifesting itself somewhere to enlighten and comfort creation in its warm caress, so is Divine Mercy.  That is why the season of Resurrection is the season of Divine Mercy.

One of my heart movements this year as this new season rose over the spiritual horizon was about the "birth" of the Divine Mercy relationship that Saint Faustina was commissioned to bring to the world.  I was wondering what had happened to this spirituality over the centuries, and I do mean centuries.  I could not help but wonder how the faithful children of the merciful father could have failed to distil this faith conviction from the parable of the "Prodigal Son" that we hear every year.  

This sassy, disgruntled child carved himself out of his family's life with the money that should have been enough to support him had he behaved properly. When things went badly and he could no longer take it, he decided to go back to the "farm" where the owner's "hands" were eating better than he.  Yes, he went back home to his father in order to eat better.  He wasn't feeling super sorry that he had insulted his father, he was suffering from eating pig slop.  He did know one thing, though, he knew the depth of the love of his father.  He knew that in that deep pool of love was boundless mercy for sons such as he.  He was right.

We too are right.  We too believe in the boundless source of Loving Grace and Redeeming Mercy of our Divine Father.  We too know that we can come home.  Just as sure as the sun rises to meet us every day, so does God continue His loving and merciful vigilance over us.  We too can come back to Him, both from near and from far.  The distance doesn't matter.  The purity of our intentions doesn't even have to be at the 24 carat level.  When we come back and feel that warm and merciful embrace, we just know that the costume jewelry heart that brought us back is on its way back to the 24 carat grade that He created.

I leave you with an invitation to visit the wonderful, hope filled Bible book (Right after Jeremiah)  that goes by the name of Lamentations.  It is three chapters of beautiful, down to earth poetry full of hope in the mercy of God.  Yes, many centuries before Saint Faustina.  Just another reason to celebrate this powerful attribute of our Divine Creator.  As a blessing to you, I leave these few lines to you from the Word of God, coming to us from time immemorial in the Scripture entitled "Lamentations:"

19 The thought of my wretched homelessness is wormwood and poison;
20 Remembering it over and over, my soul is downcast.
21 But this I will call to mind; therefore I will hope:
22 The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent;
23 They are renewed each morning— great is your faithfulness!
24 The LORD is my portion, I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him.
25 The LORD is good to those who trust in him, to the one that seeks him;

26 It is good to hope in silence for the LORD’s deliverance.  [Lamentations, chapter 3]

His mercy is limitless,it is tangible, it is always new, and it is near to you every morning.  Rest in the power of His Grace and let mercy greet you where you are. (Dawn Boyer, Journeysingrace.com)

Monday, April 20, 2015

SEEING IS BELIEVING

Be ready for you know neither the day nor the hour...
Yes, you're looking at a clock, believe it!
Dear brothers and sisters:
May these simple words find you in peace and joy.  I have have to tell you about s conviction that I have been nursing now for the last 15 or 20 years.  It has to do with a Gospel character who has become very dear to me.  I have to tell you that I have come to the personal conclusion that this individual is laboring under the effects of a "bad rap."  You all know him well.  He is the one a who is hardly never quoted as the tough character who was not afraid to say,  “Let us also go to die with him.” (John 11;16)
It's been a long time that I have been admiring him for his ability to stare death in the eye and not be afraid. So this year, during the Holy Week and Easter season I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on the strength of faith and it's victory over doubt as we see it in the Bible.  
May I start with Sarah and Abraham?  Of course Sarah is the one who giggled.
Then I have to jump to Peter on the water.
Then we see the eleven disciples in Galilee where Jesus had told them to meet him, and we read the words of Matthew:  "The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.  When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted."
This was after Mary Magdalene wondered if the body had been stolen.
After the apostles ran to the tomb to check it out.
After the two disciples from Emmaus had their theophany.

I say that we cut Thomas a little slack and admire him for the courage of his convictions.  This man is brave and humble at the same time.  Who among us can imagine standing in front of our community of love and fraternity and stand our ground?  Furthermore, who among us has the strength and courage to accept our doubt in humility and love and atone for it?  
The man who had the courage to "...go to die with Him" also had the courage to go and live the way that the Master directed,  
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28;18-20)

Yes, Thomas is a big hero of mine.  I never call him "Doubting" because it is not fair to single him out from among the other doubters, many of whom still populate today's world.
Keep what I have said here in mind if you are ever slightly tempted to cry at my funeral.