Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Let us not forget!

Last year many took part in prayer rallies focusing on Religious Freedom. I stood in the midst of thousands gathered in front of the Federal Building in Detroit to make a stand for the right to worship the God I love and live the tenants of my faith openly as a citizen of the United States.

This year, while the hype may not be as loud, the Fortnight for Freedom, which begins on June 21 and runs through the Fourth of July, is just as important. Our rights as guaranteed in our country's founding documents, should be read by every adult and youth in this land. Men and women have laid down their lives for these rights--both here and abroad. Blood has been shed for these ideals. They are sacred.

Let us not forget our responsibility as citizens of this United States to defend these rights, to protect those who cannot speak or defend themselves, and to ensure that all who call this land "home" enjoy the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as guaranteed in our Bill of Rights.

I invite you to click on the video link to prayerfully reflect on the call to live our faith boldly, not only in the pews on Sunday, but more importantly, in every aspect of our life--from the workplace, to the street, to our families, and into every corner of society.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Walking Dead

It seems our culture has a preoccupation with zombies. I don't understand the trend, but there are zombie movies, TV series, video games, and a plethora of books and Websites on the topic. We are intrigued by the plight of the walking dead.

This past Sunday's readings from 1Kings 17:17-24 and Luke 7:11-17 give witness to the prophet Elijah and Jesus raising widows' sons from the dead. So what do these two miracles have in common with our fascination with zombies, you might ask?

It was later on Sunday the words of Scripture came to light in a new way for me.

Our families and friends had gathered at a local establishment for my daughter's 30th birthday. The party was a surprise, held at one of her favorite family fun centers, which included the all-too-popular zombie shoot-em-up video games.

As we were leaving, I noticed a little boy of about 10-years old standing outside of the main entrance. His little brother, who was all of about 8, was standing just inside the lobby. Both were staring out into the parking lot. The look on their faces contained more fear and hurt than any child should ever have to experience.

Bending down to the older child, I could see his eyes were welling with tears. "What's the matter, sweetie?" I asked. He looked up at me and began to cry. "Oh honey, are you lost?" I asked. "Do you need help?" With that, he began to choke out his story, between sobs.

"My mom and dad are fighting out in the parking lot, " he sobbed. "I don't think they are going to be together much longer and I am scared." My heart went out to him and his brother, whose look of concern for his brother was evident as he peered through the lobby window.

Scanning the parking lot, I couldn't see anyone but he let me know his mom and dad were in their car.

"Let's go inside with your brother," I said, walking with him back into the lobby where staff members were on guard. Bending down to both of them, I tried to calm and comfort them, all the while waiting for mom or dad to enter the building.

Finally after a bit, the couple came into the building, walking right past their broken children, who were left to follow along. It was then the words of the Sunday readings came back to me.

The images of those two young boys haunted me for the rest of the day. Reflecting on the experience, I realized how many "walking dead" we have among us. Those who may be upright, but whose souls are dead. Hate, fear, and confusion--all the fruits of sin, have numbed so many to the ability to love and be loved, that we are literally, walking zombies--the living dead.

Like Elijah and as disciples of Jesus, we are called to bring the Good News of New Life through Christ to all--especially those caught in lives of sin who cannot seem to find their way out. We live in a society built on immediate gratification and "if it feels good, do it." While this lifestyle may lead to short-term highs and "happiness", all too often it is the top of the slippery slope of sin whose true fruits are destruction--the demolishing of relationships and families. These two young boys were evidence of that.

God is love and it is up to us to give witness to His unconditional love.

There is much talk in today's communities of faith about evangelization. Debates over programs and strategies abound. The answer is simple, however. The best way to evangelize, to bring Jesus to others, is to be love. Whether by sharing words of compassion and care or even, when necessary, words of fraternal correction given in love, we are called to be and share Jesus' love, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion with others.

When we do, we share the invitation to new life in Christ--to a life of joy, peace, true happiness, and contentment. What a remedy for a society fixated on zombies and the walking dead!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Relationships and the Holy Trinity

This past Sunday the Church celebrated the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. The Feast preceded Memorial Day, which gave me pause for reflection on how our human relationships are called to mirror the loving relationship of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

My Father and father-in-law were both Marines. I have children in the military and many family members and friends who are in active service to our country. When I think of the sacrifice our soldiers have made over the years, both in their service and many with their lives, I am humbled.

When I think of the duty of a soldier, I stand in admiration. Soldiers have a Creed and values by which they are called to live. These values push them beyond human limits in times of adversity, calling them to a higher level of loyalty and commitment than we might think is impossible in today's world. The Soldier's Creed talks of never accepting defeat, never quitting, never leaving a fallen comrade. The Creed also speaks of the care a soldier takes in regards to their own body, arms, and equipment. Soldiers are called to lay their life down for another so that our American freedoms and way of life may be maintained. In short, a soldier is called to think, act, and care for others ahead of themselves. A soldier knows what it is to make a commitment and live by it--even if it means laying their life down for it.

How does this relate to the Holy Trinity, you might ask?

The loving relationship flowing between God the Father and God the Son is the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that flows from the heart of Jesus Christ to us, drawing us into this holy relationship. The love that flows is a love that knows no cost. It is unconditional. This love is the passionate love of creation (God the Father) as well as the sacrificial love of one who is willing to lay down their life so that others might live (God the Son).

We are called to live this love in every relationship that we have--whether as husband and wife, parent and child, neighbors, co-workers, citizens, and we see this lived out every day in our soldiers.

As disciples, we know personally the Savior who loved us enough to die for our sins, opening the door to eternal life. We are also called to live deeply this love and be this love for others. This means a love that is forgiving, merciful, unconditional, eternal, self-sacrificing, loyal, trustworthy, truthful, and all of the other attributes of Divine Love.

We will always do this perfectly? No--we are a sinful people. Our sin ruptures the loving relationships that we have. Sin causes great pain and hurt--but we cannot and should not despair. It is the Holy Trinity that gives us hope that in and through God, our loving relationships can be healed and glorified--just as Christ's Passion, death, and resurrection did.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta discovered the relationship between love and hurt. "I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only love."

When our relationships challenge us, we must love more deeply. When we feel lost, we must love those around us and God more deeply. We must pray for strength through the Holy Spirit, that the Spirit may draw us ever closer to the heart of Jesus. Let us be comforted by Him and thus, bring that comfort to those in our lives whom we have hurt or are hurting.

In the end, love is the answer--to love as we see exemplified in the Love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit--three in One. May God give us the strength to love and when we fail to do so, have mercy on us and fill us with all the greater capacity to love.