April 3, 2015

A few brief thoughts, but first this Thomas Merton quote:

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”

I love this quote because it so full of the Good Friday drama in which Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion and death played out. Given all we know from Scripture, it’s pretty apparent Jesus felt his life’s work had failed as he hung beaten and bloody on the Cross. If he had a clue about the glory ahead of him he sure disguised it pretty well. But that didn’t stop him from being gracious and charitable to the end (Luke 23:43).

Over the last year or so I’ve found myself rebelling against the idea of boundaries in terms of how my life should be lived and to what end. I look at myself at the age of 59 and think, “what do I want out of the rest of my life?” And I think the same for Tracey. Fact is, we have no children, and, outside of the monstrous debt we’re working hard to eliminate once and for all, no obligations to anyone but ourselves and those we love. Jesus refused to be constrained by the social and religious orders of his day; he knew they had corrupted God’s teachings in return for wealth and position within the social order of the time. Jesus had a radical view of how the society he lived in needed to be turned upside down; why shouldn’t anyone of us seek the same thing?

Debt is a killer, both morally and psychologically. Not just because you’re tossing the dice and betting that you can live long enough and live healthy enough to see the day when you are beholden to no one, but because during that time of debt you are beholden to your job and the ability to make money to pay down that debt. It’s OK, I suppose, if you enjoy your job (as I do), but in this day and age nothing is carved in stone; all it takes is some bottom-line, bow-tied corporate bum-kisser to look at your name on a printout and put a check-mark next to it and you’re whacked. I’ve told Tracey that eliminating our debt is the moral imperative of our time, and I believe that. There are so many causes and institutions I would love to help support, but until we’ve eliminated our debt that is not possible. All the more reason to be debt-free.

More than anything else, Jesus taught his followers to see and seek the Glory of God in everything. I’d like to think that over the past year especially I’ve gotten better at trying to find time each day for contemplation in order to see and experience the beauty of God’s creation in everything around me. It’s not an easy thing to do: Jesus said you cannot follow two masters, but that’s what separates the saints from us mere mortals; that’s what (to quote George Harrison) “living in the material world” is all about. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to try living my life as a monastic, but I also love all those things the material world offers: hitting golf balls, Mexican food, cocktails on the patio, Vegas, baby. I’m no saint, for sure, but I’d like to think that more often than not my heart is in the right place. If you seek love amongst truth and truth amongst love I don’t see how you can go wrong.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 02:57 | Comments (0)
March 30, 2015

I’ll admit, Holy Week is tough for me. It’s the time of year I feel most the connection between God, my soul, and my Christian faith – even when that connection seems as tenuous as it feels this year. I’m more convinced now as ever before that I was meant to be a monastic. Not as a way to escape the world and to run away from the decisions I’ve made in my life, but because it’s part of (if not all of) the calling I feel in my soul, what God is or was or always has been calling me to do.

It ought to be said up front that I’m perfectly capable of being happy in my present situation. I’m happily married, have a job that I’m both good at and well compensated for, and have an enjoyable life here in the Valley of the Sun where you don’t have to shovel snow and on any given day of the year one can walk to the mailbox in lounge pants and bare feet. I never get tired of sunsets or late nights on the back patio with a glass of Pinot Grigio and contemplating life and my on-going to-do list amidst the quiet of “Pleasant Valley Sunday” subdivison life. And I’ve got a wonderful family and great friends who, while far away, are never far from my thoughts.

That being said, there’s “soul stuff” going on that Holy Week somehow brings to the fore each year. Twenty years ago I heard and felt God’s call to be a priest, and for the next ten years I pursued that calling from Massachusetts to Kentucky, and finally here to Arizona without any success. It was hard sledding at the time and for a time thereafter, but I came through it OK. Throught that time, between the Episcopal Church and a couple of semesters at a Presbyterian seminary I saw how the Church works internally. It’s a fascinating business, though not especially kind to those who sense they have a calling but are not able to articulate it in a way that speaks to ROI (return on investment) to the bishops and the powers-that-be who decide those who get in and those who don’t.

A religious calling is a funny thing, because at some point the rubber always hits the road and the Church has to make the tough decisions about the kind of people they allow into the process for the priesthood and those who don’t. I still remember a night back in Kentucky getting a call from a guy who had been turned down for the priesthood. I didn’t even know him that well, but he must have thought we were in some ways kindred spirits and I listened to him pour his heart out for the better part of two hours as his life-long dream had been dashed by way of a letter – the same letter I would receive a year later. On the surface, he seemed to have all the qualities the Diocese of Kentucky was looking for in priests. After I hung up the phone I knew that if he didn’t have “the right stuff” to be accepted I was in a world of hurt.

As the years have gone on I’ve had a chance to think about things and have come to realize that the bishops of Massachusetts and Kentucky were probably right in their deciding I wasn’t called to be a parish priest. Which is not to say I couldn’t have been a damned fine priest and better than 90% of the people that got in based on their connections, gender, and sexual orientation, because, in the end, the Church is a flawed business and that’s what (especially in the Episcopal Church) it all comes down to.

As I’ve grown older, it’s the monastic life I realize I’ve always been called to. The calling that everything you are is focused solely on Jesus Christ and the Cross, and the work of God to whatever purpose you were put on this earth for. And Holy Week is a reminder that the monastic calling is something that will have to wait until the next life. As hard as it might seem, to become a monastic is not the easiest thing in the world to do, nor, I guess, should it. For one thing, coming late to the game as I seem to have always been, no monastic order is going to take someone over 50 unless they come without any baggage and with plenty of do-re-mi to cover the inevitable health expenses that come with the territory. There’s the “God side” of being a monastic and there’s a practical side which is something you can’t avoid in this day and age.

Sure, I could “play monastic” by living my life around the monastic life at places like Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York, but let’s be real: either you’re part of “the in” or you’re not. I could, I suppose, go through all kinds of calisthenics to work a spiritual life around my work life, but it’s not practical. So I choose to live my life as I do, seeing the spiritual amidst the material, living my life in the material world while recognizing that little calling inside that always seems to surface whenever Holy Week comes around.

This Holy Week I think I’ll try and read a little Thomas Merton, someone who has always been close to my soul-person. Merton was as much of a reality mystic as anyone, someone who always struggled with his monastic calling and ultimately found it too confining for his perceived calling. And maybe, had I chosen the monastic route earlier in life, I would have found the same sense of being boxed in, confined to some orthodoxy and rules of Order. But it’s something come every Holy Week I wish could have been different from the road I have traveled, and something I know I should have been given an opportunity to pursue in one fashion or another.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:46 | Comments (2)
November 1, 2014

Halloween passed fairly uneventfully here at the Richard household. Sadly, the much-anticipated chili reception across the street never came to pass (we’ll do something about that next year!), and the trick or treaters came largely in two fell swoops upon our house. We didn’t have our light on, but that didn’t stop a young band of marauders from ringing our bell. I ignored the first one, but when they rang a second time I felt compelled to open the door:

Me: Sorry, I don’t have anything for you.

Angry Pumpkin: But it’s Halloween, and your light was on.

Me: No it wasn’t. You saw the plant lights in the dining room.

Angry Pumpkin: But it’s Halloween…

Me: Would you like some carrot sticks? That’s all I have.

Angry Pumpkin: It’s Halloween and you had a light on.

Me: Sorry… Hey, carrots are healthy, Michelle Obama says so!

So that’s how Halloween went here. On All Saints’ Day I think of those who have passed before me and inspired me and my life in so many ways: my godfather Milt, my grandmother and grandfather, and my brother Mark. I think of all the saints I immersed myself in a gazillion years ago when I was up for the ordination process in both the dioceses of Massachusetts and Kentucky, especially St. John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, and Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. Neither Thomas Merton nor Henri Nouwen have, or will ever, achieve sainthood in the Catholic Church, but I’ll bet they’ve influenced more people than the Church would be willing to admit. Of course, both were deeply flawed – as am I – but that’s the way it goes.

I have little doubt that there is a saint – known or unknown – who has been a guiding force in your life. Reach out to them in thought and prayer, and know you are never alone.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:02 | Comments (0)
October 9, 2014

I remember seeing Fr. Benedict Groeschel for the first time on the Eternal Word Network for the first time back in the early ’90s when I was in the early stages of my spiritual renewal. A Fransciscan who took the Order’s original vows of poverty and charity so seriously that he began a new congregation, the Franciscans of the Renewal, smack dab in the middle of the Bronx to bring the light of Christ and service to the poor in the midst of the inner-city poor, he was brash, didn’t believe in bullshit of any kind, and didn’t hesitate to speak his mind in that marvelous New Jersey accent of his. He hosted numerous shows on EWTN, wrote a number of books (his Arise From Darkness is one of the few keepers in my once-extensive spiritual library), and helped kindle the interest in Roman Catholicism that brought me to where I am today. So it was sad to hear of his passing a week ago:

Fr Groeschel was a friend of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and helped her set up a convent in New York in the 1970s; he also established the St Francis House for homeless young men and the Good Counsel House for pregnant unsupported young women in the city. Later, with his long beard and distinctive grey habit, he became a familiar figure to viewers of the Eternal Word Television Network, the Alabama-based international Catholic station. As a spiritual writer he published more than 40 books; he gave retreats and spoke at conferences around the world, and contributed to a range of Catholic and secular magazines and newspapers.

He was deeply involved in ecumenical activities, numbering several Protestant ministers and rabbis among his close friends. The Friars of the Renewal – all bearded and sandalled, always apparently cheerful and invariably travelling in a small group with at least one guitar and perhaps a football – have become familiar at all major international Catholic events, notably World Youth Day. Fr Groeschel, stooped in his old age, quietly spoken and unpretentious, seemed in his later years to be an unlikely founder of this vigorous network of energetic young friars, but his forceful teaching and deep spiritual commitment were nevertheless the real heart of the community.

After all the hard work of his life and the joy and wisdom he brought to so many people over the years, and his health struggles over the past decade, I’m certain Fr. Groeschel was ready for some rest and peace in the bosom of Christ. May his soul flourish in the eternal light and joy of Christ’s kingdom in Heaven.

Well done, good and faithful servant of our Lord. You will be missed.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 18:54 | Comments (0)
April 20, 2014

…But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body.

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.”

And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

—Gospel of Luke 24: 1-11

Today is what the Christian faith is all about. While Easter Sunday is also filled with wonderful and cherished memories of our family gathering every year at the now-closed Hilltop Steakhouse and other places for more than three decades, my heart today brims with the simply joy renewed at this time every year.

Christ the Lord is risen indeed. Halleujah!

A happy and blessed Easter from all the Goodboys and Goodboys Nation weblog!

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:35 | Comments (2)
April 19, 2014

A reading from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

“What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

‘See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.”

Hat tip: Vatican.va

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:46 | Comments (0)
April 18, 2014

A poem for this most solemn day of the Church Year:

Mother, why are people crowding now and staring?
Child, it is a malefactor goes to His doom,
To the high hill of Calvary He’s faring,
And the people pressing and pushing to make room
Lest they miss the sight to come.

Oh, the poor malefactor, heavy is His load!
Now He falls beneath it and they goad Him on.
Sure the road to Calvary’s a steep up-hill road —
Is there none to help Him with His Cross — not one?
Must He bear it all alone?

Here is a country boy with business in the city,
Smelling of the cattle’s breath and the sweet hay;
Now they bid him lift the Cross, so they have some pity:
Child, they fear the malefactor dies on the way
And robs them of their play.

Has He no friends then, no father nor mother,
None to wipe the sweat away nor pity His fate?
There’s a woman weeping and there’s none to soothe her:
Child, it is well the seducer expiate
His crimes that are so great.

Mother, did I dream He once bent above me,
This poor seducer with the thorn-crowned head,
His hands on my hair and His eyes seemed to love me?
Suffer little children to come to Me, He said —
His hair, his brows drip red.

Hurrying through Jerusalem on business or pleasure
People hardly pause to see Him go to His death
Whom they held five days ago more than a King’s treasure,
Shouting Hosannas, flinging many a wreath
For this Jesus of Nazareth.
—- Copyright by Herb o’ Grace

Hat tip: Cutechoice.com

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 02:08 | Comments (0)
April 15, 2014

We gaze on that cross this week. Enter into that love, be immersed in it, be overcome by God’s mercy — this is the life Christians are called to. So that we might be beacons of his merciful love, transformed by it. So that this is who we are — configured to Him.

And give thanks, too, for our common spiritual director, Pope Francis, and this walk to Christ — to live lives of real Christianity, in all its radically redemptive ways — he is urging.

…so writes Kathryn Jean Lopez as part of a great post on her blog. For me, Holy Week is such a cavalcade of memories and emotions from my youth to my flirtation with seeking ordination to the priesthood, to coming out the other side bruised and battered, yet still alive. Holy Week reminds me of Palm Sundays singing in the choir with family and friends, serving on the Altar Guild, and spending hours in an otherwise-deserted church during the annual “Night Watch with Jesus” at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, the solemnity and breathless anticipation towards Easter Sunday during Holy Saturday services, attending the Great Vigil of Easter at the Church of the Advent in Boston (no one does it better!), and, most recently avoiding the Easter crowds by spending a quiet hour or two with my Monastic Breviary in my prayer grove.

As I get older I find myself withdrawing from the large crowds at St. Mary Magdalene parish during Christmas and Easter. I don’t want to make it sound like I’ve seen it all, but the large crowds and boistrous celebrations don’t move me much anymore. And besides, with everything I’ve gone through and been a part of between Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Arizona, I feel I have. Seeking God’s presence amidst the bougainvillea while enjoying coffee and the Breviary are enough for me these days, and I feel I get as much – if not more – out of it as I would attending Mass with the throngs.

What Holy Week does for me is to bring my relationship with God and the Church full circle – the memories of childhood and adulthood all rolled into a big emotional ball that makes it hard to focus on little else except the movement of God in time – my time, my family’s time, and all the memories that go along with it. And in doing so I find the Church and my current relationship with it to be less important than what it once was. Just like everything else, it’s a phase, and perhaps next year I’ll be spending Lent doing the Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent and immersing myself in the Church’s commemoration of Holy Week with the best of them.

I remember a Good Friday several years back playing gold with a couple of my Goodboys buddies at Trull Brook and wondering if it were appropriate on such a solemn day. But there came a point just prior to our round starting where I found myself virtally alone on the bench by the first tee and being struck at how glorious the surroundings were – the quiet beauty of God’s Creation, the whisper of God’s presence in the breeze that rustled the dead oak leaves that had yet to be pushed to the ground by the new foliage just beginning to appear. At that moment, I felt I was surrounded by a holiness no sanctaury could ever match – immersed in Creation, surrounded by death and life emerging from the dead of winter. On that Good Friday, it all felt so right.

Holy Week serves as a poignant reminder of what our lives are at any point in time: death and life are always around us, behind us, and waiting just around the corner. Accept it for what it is and embrace the now and everything life both good and bad has to offer. It’s God’s plan for all of us. Just this week, one of my co-workers’ brothers passed away after a long battle with cancer only days after one of her fellow team members became a grandmother for the first time. Beginnings and endings, endings and beginnings.

At the close of Mark’s Gospel the angel instructs the frightened women to tell Jesus’ disciples to meet the risen Lord in Galilee, where everything began (Mark 16.7). The endless cycle of humanity and God’s creation which we are and have been since our conception a part of. Alpha and Omega. Death and Life. Holy Week illustrates both in ways never before seen or since in human history.

My prayer is that all who make Goodboys Nation weblog a regular stop find some time for yourself this Holy Week away from the assembled multitudues to find some quite time to drink in what this most holy week of the Church Year is all about.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:58 | Comments (0)
February 26, 2014

OK, it’s time to get this off my chest.

I’m beyond tired of hearing about it and reading about it no matter where I go.

To put it plain, I’m sick of the media’s unending focus on folks’ sexual identity. A basketball player comes “out of the closet” and says he’s gay. Great. My only question is, can you play basketball? A football player comes “out of the closet” and says he’s gay. Big f’in deal. My only question is, can you play football? The state of Arizona wants to protect people who, for religious reasons, don’t want to support a gay couple’s marriage and don’t think they should be prosecuted simply because they don’t want to bake a wedding cake for, or shoot wedding photos at, a gay marriage ceremony. And so we’re now a bunch of homophobes on top of being racists and sexists.

I’m sick of it.

Let me state for the record that I could give a rat’s a$$ if two guys or two women want to go to the local JP and get “married”. Good for them, I hope it lasts. What I consider “marriage” and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony as Christian doctrine and tradition are two different things. What “the State” considers to be “marriage” is up to a bunch of bow-tied, bum-kissing politicians who couldn’t chew gum and fart without a set of instructions. What the Church considers to be a holy union in the eyes of God is something people can choose to agree or disagree with, but that’s the way it is. And no bow-tied, bum-kissing pol is gonna be able to change that – there is such a thing as separation of Church and State called (you may have heard of it) the Constitution.

Before I go further, let me state that there’s a huge different between people who consider themselves gay, lesbian, transgendered, or whatever they want to call themselves, and the Organized Homosexuality lobby. The former – and I count myself as long-time friend of someone in this group – is a bunch of folks that go about their daily business in a way no different from you or I; they live their lives in search of the same happiness anyone else does. The other makes a living out of seeking ways to further their agenda through lawsuit and intimidation whenever anyone makes the mistake of looking at them the wrong way. Refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple? Refuse to take photographs at a gay couple’s wedding? Refuse to rent out to them a flat that you yourself own? Sue them.

Because you can’t take them out back and shoot them.

Listen to what your Uncle Shank is saying here. I could care less what you do in your bedroom, so don’t expect me to have to dance to your tune. Neither would (or should) I expect you to dance to mine, whatever it is. You don’t like my lifestyle? Fine. But don’t expect me to have to like and support yours if I don’t agree with it. There are plenty of other photographers and cake-bakers who would love to have your business, so frequent them and encourage all your friends to do likewise. It’s called live and let live.

Oh, and don’t expect me to support the idea of “gay rights” as being the next great Civil Rights battle. There’s no comparison. And I guarantee you, while Dr. Martin Luther King (who was all about people respecting one another as God’s creatures) would call for tolerance and respect when it comes to this kind of thing, he’d find absolutely zero commonality whatsoever between the true evil of segregation and the pathetic bleatings of those snubbed by Christian cake-bakers and wedding photographers. And I guarantee that thousands wouldn’t march on Washington to protect the rights of people who (and believe me I’m being kind here, this is a family blog) desire sexual relations with someone of the same gender.

As much as the Organized Homosexuality movement is all about making sexual identity the primary means by which people are judged, I don’t. I don’t care what you or anyone else does in your bedroom. I also don’t care what you fantasize about, who you want to shack up with legally, or the fact you insist upon others to make you feel good about certain sexual choices you have made or are making in your life. Neither should I care or insist upon what you or anyone else thinks about what I do in my bedroom, or who I want to live with legally.

If you really want to make a difference in the world, do us all a favor and keep your sexual preferences and desires to yourself. Anyone or anything that judges or identifies a person by whom they desire sexually – or insists that others do likewise – is a pea-wit, and that goes for most of the mainstream media. And anyone who uses their own sexual identity as a weapon to force others into your own idea of what “tolerance” and conformity” is, is not just a pea-wit, but someone who supports a dangerous form of tyranny at that.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 02:18 | Comments (0)
December 1, 2013

And so a new Church Year is upon us, and the liturgical countdown to Christmas has begun. I’ve always loved the season of Advent, its color of purple, and its incurable sense of quiet and earnest hope when all around us seems so rushed, harried, and commercialized. Amidst all this craziness, Advent asks us to take a deep breath and contemplate God’s place in the world around us and in our lives.

Lots of sermons written for this season speak of Messianic expectation and the need for preparing one’s self for inviting the Christ Child anew into our world with Christmas. But what, exactly, does that mean for us in practical terms? After all, Isaiah’s prophecies to Israel were made during a time when there was very little for anyone in the dispersed tribes of Israel to hang their hats on beyond simple faith. Same holds true today: one might well ask how relative the message of Advent is to a world two thousand years after God became human and died an ugly, anonymous death on the Cross? After all, the blights on the human condition then are the same as today: wars, poverty, strife, conflict, and all sorts of crappy stuff in spades.

But here’s the thing: just as we cannot see the impact our lives have had on this world and those around us, the same holds true in that we cannot see the full work of God at work in the lives of those and the world around us. The truth is, we all tend to have blinders on as our personal lives flitter from one priority or crisis to another. We’re so focused on our life “to do” lists that we spend precious little time contemplating the various ways our lives interact with others and whether those interactions have been positive or negative. And the same holds true not just with others but with God’s creation. What is our footprint on this earth we inhabit? Has it been positive or negative, or does it really matter?

And this is where the spirit of Advent comes in, for, no matter how you slice it, Advent is all about our perception of God at work in the world. Does God exist? Where and how is God at work? What do we see of God in others? What do we want to see but don’t? Advent’s message of longing and expectation, and how to “prepare the way of the Lord” are eternal in nature, for Advent in and of itself doesn’t provide us with the answers, it only tells us that in asking these questions we are not, nor have we ever been, alone. This homily by Fr. Charles Irvin, I think, strikes the right chord. Here’s a key bit I found particularly interesting:

We often speak of Advent as being a season of time in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives. Perhaps we should see it as a season of heightened awareness, for the truth is that we should be looking for God already at work in our lives every day. God is always offering Himself to us. We, however, are not always responding because we’re not paying attention. Advent is a time to conscientiously, deliberately, and with awareness respond to His offer of Himself to us. We have to “see the Light,” so to speak.

It’s all a matter of seeing eternity in every season of our lives. It’s all a matter of paying attention to God’s presence to us in our lives as children, as teens, as young adults, in our middle age, and in the final seasons of our lives when we mirror the time when the leaves fall from their branches and the world goes to sleep under a blanket of snow. In each of those seasons of our lives God’s ever-present and everlasting love can break in upon us. We all, each one of us, feel it to be unexpected. But what is so unexpected about it? Why should we be surprised? God is always calling us to climb to the top of the mountain, look for His coming, and take a look over the broad range of our lives.

Countless sermons this season will talk about the need for us to consider what we need to do in our lives to welcome the Christ Child anew come Christmas, but the fact is we live our lives in a perpetual Advent where God is at work within us – whether we know it or like it or not – and constantly knocking on the door of our hearts and souls to prepare Christ’s way into our lives more fully. For some it’s just His toe in the door, for others we see an arm or an elbow. Still others refuse to answer the door or perhaps don’t even hear anyone knocking. But Advent reminds us God is with us and has always been there in countless ways we will never know. As we prepare for Christmas and the celebration of the Incarnation of Our Lord, Advent asks us to take a few minutes out of our busy lives to reflect on the way God has been at work in our lives and in the world around us, in ways we might otherwise simply be too preoccupied to see.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 02:38 | Comments (0)


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