Sermon: St. Matthias

Today we celebrate St. Matthias and our reading from the Acts of the Apostles that we heard is all we really know about him. He is believed to have been one of the seventy-two that Jesus sent out, but when it came time to replace Judas Iscariot as an Apostle, he won the position by the casting of lots. Tradition holds that he ministered in and around Judea and would eventually be martyred for the faith. However, as I was thinking and praying on the message for today, it wasn’t Matthias that I kept thinking on. The passage said, “they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.” The casting of lots made Matthias an Apostle, but what about Joseph Barsabbas?

Can you imagine: soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the eleven remaining Apostles come together, have a conversation, and decide that Judas needs to be replaced. So, they sort through all the resumés and you and this other fella, Matthias, are up for the job. Then Peter grabs the dice, points at you and says, “Even number the job is your’s, odd it goes to Matthias.” And it is over that quick: Peter rolls a five, claps you on the back, and turning to Matthias, ushers him into the inner circle. You know, Jesus called Peter the Rock, but if I had been in Joseph’s sandals, I would have to liked to hit him with one! So close!

Back in 1858, Abraham Lincoln was running against Stephen Douglas for a seat in the Illinois legislature. Lincoln actually won the popular vote, but due to an obscure state statue, the seat was awarded to Douglas (which only goes to prove that we’ve never been able to hold a proper election!… anyhow…) A friend came to Lincoln and asked him how he felt. He is reported to have responded, “Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.”

I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if that is how Joseph felt, but apparently he demonstrated no ill feelings. St. John Chrysostom writes, “The other candidate (Joseph) was not annoyed, for the apostolic writers would not have concealed failings of their own, seeing they have told of the very chief apostles, that on other occasions had indignation, and not only once, but again and again.” If Joseph had been upset at losing, Luke would have recorded it. He did not, and Joseph went on to become a bishop, martyr and Saint.

We can look to the Apostle Matthias—also a martyr and saint—and understand that if God chooses a specific roll for our lives, his will will be accomplished, but we can also look at Joseph and see that although there are disappointments, God’s will is still accomplished.

When the disappointments come our way, which they most certainly will, then we must say with the Psalmist, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Why are you disappointed and cast down? God’s purposes will be fulfilled in us all.

Sermon: Lent 1 – “The Rain, the Ark, and the Rainbow”

Portland, Oregon: they have 222 days with what is considered heavy cloud cover and only 68 days that are considered clear, the other days being moderately cloudy; and it rains, on average, 164 days a year. Oklahoma gets 84 on average. With that in mind…

A fella dies and finds himself in line for judgment. As he watches, he sees some being ushered into Heaven and others directed to the Devil who is off to the side waiting for the wicked. As the guy watched, he saw Satan immediately throw some folks into hell, while a few he pitched over unto a pile. After watching Satan do this several times, the fellow’s curiosity got the better of him. He strolled over and tapped Old Nick on the shoulder.

“Excuse me, there, Your Darkness,” he said. “I’m waiting in line for judgment, and I couldn’t help wondering why you are tossing some people aside instead of flinging them into the fires of hell with the others?”

“Ah,” Satan said with a grin. “Those are Portlanders. I’m letting them dry out so they’ll burn.”

On Ash Wednesday, we talked about how the last twelve months have really seemed a bit like Lent with all the isolation, “fasting” from life, and denial of the lives we had. Continuing with that thought, we can use what lead up to our Old Testament lesson, the great flood, as an analogy for what has been happening. How? Well it’s been raining. As my Granma would say, It’s been raining cats and dogs. More than even in Portland. In fact, it’s almost comical at this point: pandemic, elections, masks, isolation, elections, Arctic blast, and that earthquake Friday morning was a real kicker! When it was over, I just kinda busted out laughing. With everything that has been thrown at us, the only thing I’m missing on my “This is Your World” Bingo card is Velociraptors, and based on what I read about some ridiculous cloning experiments… it wouldn’t surprise me! Yes. It is raining and I for one—and I know I’m not alone in saying this—am ready to dry out, I’m ready to see the rainbow. That sign of a storm passing and of peace. I know that God’s not going to wipe us out again like with what happened in the flood, but we could all use a reprieve; however, this is where we are and for now, it is still raining, and as Dolly Parton says, “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” If this is the case, the where are we to find safety between the two, between the rain and the rainbow?

I think most are aware of this: the area in the church where you all sit is called the nave. These two side areas are called transepts and this area in the center is called the crossing. The entire area up here is called the chancel, which is broken down into the choir and the sanctuary, the area of the high altar.

Between the sanctuary and the chancel with the transepts, we have the cruciform shape, with the altar, Christ as the head. Now, the word “nave” is quite similar to the word “navy” and they both have as their Latin root word navis, which means ship, which comes from the Greek word naus, also meaning ship. Not only that, but looking up—and the architecture St. Matthew’s does this marvelously—you see the form of a ship, as though you were looking at it from above.

Where are we to find safety between the rain and the rainbow? This ship… Noah’s Ark… the Church. Yet we know that the church is not just this building, but is the Body of Christ and Christ is the head; and it is only through that Body, that community of the faithful—both lay and ordained—that we find our salvation from the rain and storms while we wait on the glorious appearing of the rainbow, which is the coming of our Lord.

My friend, St. Josemaría Escrivá says, “No later than the second century, Origen wrote: If anyone wants to be saved, let him come to this house so that he can obtain salvation… Let no one deceive himself: outside of this house, that is outside of the Church, no one will be saved. Of the deluge – the great flood – Saint Cyprian says: If someone had escaped outside of Noah’s ark then we would admit that someone who abandoned the Church might escape condemnation.” (In Love with the Church, 2.24) But the truth is, no one, other than the eight on the Ark, survived, and they only by the grace of God.

While it is raining out, know in your heart and mind—and I’m not going to speak for other churches—but know in your heart that the community of St. Matthew’s is an ark where you can find fellow passengers who are here to give comfort and support and who need you for the same reason. Know that we are a church where you can find sanctuary from the storm so that your soul might know and feel the peace of God. In this ship, you can receive food for your soul, the Body and Blood of Christ. This church is a place where you can know that even when it is raining, the rainbow is present and reflected through God’s people as they continue to witness to the protective covenant that God made to his people.

Let us pray: O Lord, our God, You called Your people to be Your Church. As we gather together in Your Name, may we love, honour, and follow Your Son to eternal life in the Kingdom He promised. Let our worship always be sincere, and help us to find Your saving Love in the Church and its Sacraments. Fill us with the Spirit of Christ as we live in the midst of the world and its concern. Help us by our work on earth to build up Your eternal Kingdom. May we be effective witnesses to the Truth of the Gospel and make Your Church a living presence in the midst of the world. Increase the gifts You have given Your Church that we, Your faithful people, may continue to grow in holiness and in imitation of Your Beloved Son. Amen.

Sermon: Ash Wednesday

Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

Wisdom according to Bill Murray, “Whatever you do, always give 100%. Unless you’re donating blood.”

Here in a few minutes, I’m going to speak the following words to you: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination, and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” After the past twelve months, I kinda feel like we’ve done a fair amount of “fasting” and “self-denial.” In fact, it seems that we’ve come close to giving 100% of all we’ve got to give and so I’ve been asking myself, “When will it be enough?” But I also wonder if maybe we’ve been so focused on what we’ve lost, that we haven’t been able to focus on anything else.

One of the best books I know on loss and grief is A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. The book is a series of reflections on grief and loss that Lewis wrote following the death of his wife after only three years of marriage. Towards the beginning of the book he speaks about how everything revolves around what was lost: “I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache an about lying awake.’ That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.” (p.9)

We experience loss, then we think about the loss, and then we think about thinking about our loss. A horrible cycle that as it draws us into ourselves, it pushes everything else out. Lewis then speaks about grief and loss in terms of fear and suspense, which I think aptly describes where so many have been: “grief still feels like fear. Perhaps more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.” (p.33)

Sound familiar? In the past twelve months, we have lost everything from the opportunity to go on a cruise in the Bahamas to those we have loved the most. What do we do in our grief and our loss? We pace the house. We get bored. We eat too much. Drink to much. We binge watch TV too much. We’ve got more time on our hands than we’ve ever had before, and we’ve know idea what to do with it, even when we have things to do! So again, how can I stand up here and encourage you to self-reflect—when that’s all you’ve been able to do, to fast—when we’ve been fasting from life, to practice self-denial—because there’s not much left to deny? I can ask you to do these things—and perhaps it’s just me and this is a public confession—but in the midst of our loss and grief, we’ve, on occasion, lost the most important thing: we’ve lost our sense of God.

He just doesn’t seem as close as he use to be. We don’t talk to him as much as we did. We don’t sit with him in silence, enjoying the beauty of creation. We’ve drifted. You would think with all the isolation, fasting, and self-denial that we’ve done, we would have drawn closer, but, in many cases, the opposite is true. Why? Because we’ve been doing all the self-denial, etc., because we’ve been forced to do it, but when we do them for God, we do them out of love—that we might draw nearer to God, by placing our faith and needs in his hands. Therefore, I am going to ask you and myself to observe this holy Lent, with all of its practices, but to adhere to them—not because you are forced—but because of your love for the One True God. And if you don’t feel that love, then pray that he will show you, for he has not forgotten his people.

As a father cares for his children,
so does the Lord care for those who fear him.
For he himself knows whereof we are made;
he remembers that we are but dust.

And in remembering, he will never leave or forsake us.

Dominicans: Term 2, Week 4

Radcliffe: Part One, 10-12

In these chapters, Radcliffe looks at a number of topics, but with a focus on “relationship” and “community”.  We too all live in a variety of relationships and communities.  Identify one or two of those and (a)  identify a specific idea or experience that relates to one of your relationships or communities, and (b) suggest how that relationship or community may contribute to your own Dominican vocation.

The communities that I saw in these writings are the Anglican Communion and the Church in Pandemic, both of which provide points of celebration and challenge.

When questioned about a new Council, Radcliffe declares, “We are too afraid of debate!” (p.111)  We recently witnessed the postponement of the Lambeth Conference due to pandemic, but it would seem that the pandemic’s timing was advantageous, because just prior, the Conference had been postponed because of a desire to overcome the issues and fractures prior to meeting.  In other words, they were afraid.  Such fear must be overcome and Radcliffe points to a way: creating the space where the other can be and “both sides can talk to each other, in the pursuit of truth. (p.112)

The second source of community (or lack there of) is the Church in Pandemic.  With churches being closed due to the pandemic, our liturgical church has found ways to communicate the Gospel through means we may have considered, but never really planned on implementing.  In the nave of my church, we now have cameras, cables, computers, etc. (and my congregation lovingly refers to me as Scorsese!)  We reach further with the Gospel than we ever dreamed, hearing from individuals in Pakistan, Indonesia, India, England, and others.  The challenge is that such technology “does not always help us to escape the solitude of modern life.” (p.117)  It is wonderful that we can reach our congregation and others, but so many are still sitting in front of a monitor alone in their homes.  The Christian faith is one of “touch” and we must continue to find ways to do so.

While in seminary, I had many of my classmates almost demand that I abandon TEC for whatever fractured group that was popular at the time, but I have never seen that as an option.  It does no one any good pick up their marbles and go home, instead we must the radical message of the Gospel to heal our divisions.  As Dominicans, we are called to identify the common thread and provide a space for dialogue and “touch.”  That is how I feel I can contribute.

Verboven: Ch. 10-12

These three Dominicans have all been engaged in study which is not directly related to Dominican study.  How did these fields of study contribute to their Dominican life and spirituality?  How can you approach one of your own “outside” interests as part of your own Dominican life and spirituality?

Last week I began leading a book study on Being Human: Bodies, Minds, Persons by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.  In the opening pages, he discusses the fact that his approach to the topic is multidisciplinary, saying, “While we talk, and talk freely, about ours being a very specialized era where people go more narrowly and deeply into questions than once they did, it is perhaps also the case that the biggest issues that confront us as a human race are issues that require a certain amount of multidisciplinary skill if we’re to tackle them effectively.” (p.2)  All three of this week’s Dominicans would give Williams a hearty, “Amen!”

Helen Alford studied engineering and through those studies she became interested in how people interact with the modern world, which led her even more deeply into the study these systems and how to best care and support the workers.  Her later work with British Aerospace allowed her to put some of this thought into practice and witness the outcomes.

Katarina Pajchel helps us to understand that “science and theology point towards one and the same reality.” (p.129)  The Psalmist declares that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and scientist like Pajchel only confirm the depth and magnificence of all creation.

Finally, I learned more about Islam in the chapter on Emilio Platti than I have ever know, which shows why his work and study of Islam are so vital in helping us find points in common instead of points that divide.

I’m not all that great at it, but I enjoy writing and have self-published two novels.  Where they are fiction, I also hope to draw people to a deeper curiosity / understanding of faith.  As one who came to faith through reading a novel (a story for another day) I feel that we can reach many through the art of story and I hope to continue to this work.

Sermon: Epiphany 4 RCL B – “The Liar”

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

The Crucible by Arthur Miller: a story of the Salem witch trials and the false accusations that flew. John Proctor, although not an innocent man, is silent until his wife, Elizabeth, is accused and arrested of being a witch. The preacher questions John about his wife and “if” she is innocent. John becomes angry, especially at the girls, Parris and Abigail, who are doing the accusing:

“If she is innocent! Why do you never wonder if Parris be innocent, or Abigail? Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God’s fingers? I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem—vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!”

I came across a story about a middle school class of teens that were learning about the Salem Witch Trials, and their teacher told them they were going to play a game.

“I’m going to come around and whisper to each of you whether you’re a witch or a regular person. Your goal is to build the largest group possible that does not have a witch in it. At the end, any group found to include a witch gets a failing grade.”

The teens dove into grilling each other. One fairly large group formed, but most of the students broke into small, exclusive groups, turning away anyone they thought gave off even a hint of guilt.

“Okay,” the teacher said. “You’ve got your groups. Time to find out which ones fail. All witches, please raise your hands.”
No one raised a hand.

The kids were confused and told him he’d messed up the game.
“Did I? Was anyone in Salem an actual witch? Or did everyone just believe the lie?”

No proof… Vengeance. It was not what they knew of one another, but what they had come to believe, because if enough people believe it, then it must be true. Right?

A man with an unclean spirit entered the synagogue in Capernaum. Seeing Jesus, the unclean spirit cried out: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus wasn’t having any of that nonsense and rebuked the spirit, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

When I read that passage, I can hear the fearful squeaking of the unclean spirit’s voice when it speaks to Jesus and I hear the complete authority of Jesus’ voice when he rebukes that unclean spirit: “Be silent, and come out of him!” However, there are days when I hear the words of the unclean spirit spoken, but it is not that fearful squeaking voice. It is a voice that is full of confidence and sarcasm and vengeance. At times it speaks to me about others. Essentially it is just a variation of the message spoken in Salem. “I know that one, he’s a liar. And that one over there, look how different they are, definitely the wrong sort. Heck. Why care? They aren’t even Christian.” For my part, if I don’t rebuke that voice as Jesus did, then I’ll come to believe it and like those teens did with their classmates, I’ll turn them away.

At other times, that same voice speaks to me, but this time it is filled with condemnation: “I know who you are, ____.” Depending on the day, I can fill in that blank with any number of accusations: “I know who you are, a fraud… hypocrite… bigot… loser… racist, and on and on, and in the end, it all comes down to the cardinal accusation: “I know who you are, a sinner.” And in those words and with that tone, I start to believe it.

There is a political / propaganda tool known as the “big lie” and it has several primary components:
– The more outrageous the lie, the more weight it will carry.
– Strongly assert the lie.
– Repeat, repeat, repeat.
– Massage available data to “prove” the lie as being true.
– Reframe any vigorous denial as proof of guilt.

Does it work? “The rabid, impudent bias and persistence with which this lie was expressed took into account the emotional, always extreme, attitude of the great masses and for this reason was believed ” (Adolf Hitler) “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. (Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda) Does the big lie work? Absolutely. It worked during the Salem witch trials, the rise of the Third Reich, and so many other times in history; and the evil spirit is so very good at using it on humanity, both as a whole and individuals.

That evil spirit takes our faults and expands on them or it pulls one piece of our history and reminds us of some sinful behavior, then it elaborates on it to prove what horrible people we are and constantly places it before us; as the Psalmist says, “My sin is ever before me.” We try to convince ourselves that we are forgiven through the very blood of Christ, but our defense is twisted and restated as a sign of our continued guilt. “I know you… you are a sinner. You always have been and you always will be.” We hear those words time and time again and we begin to believe them.

Hitler and so many others knew this technique because they learned it from the greatest liar of all. Jesus said, “[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

I know that we aren’t supposed to talk about the devil. We are supposed to be too enlightened for such “boogey men”, but in my opinion, to say there is no devil is another of the big lies that we’ve all been conditioned to believe, and it is he that speaks those words in our ears: “I know who they are… I know you, you are….” To that, I say, “Don’t you believe it! For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Don’t you believe the big lies that seek to push others away who are different or rob you of your joy by convincing you that you are unworthy. Both these actions damage our souls and draw us away from God. Don’t you believe it. With Jesus beside you and within you, rebuke that evil spirit as Jesus did: “Be silent!” Be silent, for we were all created in the image of God. Be silent, for I am a child of God. Then… then say to God, “Speak, for your servant is listening” and allow God to speak the truth.

Let us pray:
Father in Heaven,
You made us Your children
and called us to walk in the Light of Christ.
Free us from darkness
and keep us in the Light of Your Truth.
The Light of Jesus has scattered
the darkness of hatred and sin.
Called to that Light,
we ask for Your guidance.
Form our lives in Your Truth,
our hearts in Your Love.
Through the Holy Eucharist,
give us the power of Your Grace
that we may walk in the Light of Jesus
and serve Him faithfully.

Sermon: Epiphany 3 RCL B – “The Planted Seed”

The preacher said, “There’s no such thing as a perfect woman. Anybody present who has ever known a perfect woman, stand up.”

Nobody stood up.

“Those who have ever known a perfect man, stand up.”

Well, Ol’ Man Boudreaux stood up.

“Are you honestly saying you knew an absolutely perfect man?” he asked, somewhat amazed.

“Well now, I didn’t know him personally,” Boudreaux replied, “but I have heard a great deal about him.  He was Clotile’s first husband.”

Charles Halloway is the father in Ray Bradbury’s, Something Wicked This Way Comes.  At one point, he comments, “Too late, I found you can’t wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.”

That is a very true statement and although we may try to fall as little as possible, we are still going to fall.  However, when it comes to our Christian faith and following Jesus, we’ve come to believe that we must first attain perfection with no falls.  Our pants must be freshly dry cleaned and properly creased, our halos on straight, our eyebrows not too bushy, and our sins far behind us.  Trouble is, we’ll be dead and we still won’t be there.

Imagine, our Gospel reading: “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’”  Peter responds, I’m sorry.  I can’t do that right now.  I stink of fish, Andrew is still sporting the black eye from when I popped him one last week for tell me I was getting fat, and I haven’t been to synagogue but twice in the last two months.  Jesus then, turning to look at Peter says with disdain on his face, “You’re right.  Never mind.  You are in fact a complete loser.”

Well, of course Jesus did not say that to Peter, even though most of it could have been true, but Jesus did not come looking for the perfect: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

A fable tells of a man who was casually shopping in a store but then discovered that God was behind the sales counter.  So the man walked over and asked, “What are You selling?”

God replied, “What does your heart desire?”

The man said, “I want happiness, peace of mind, holiness, to be without sin, freedom from fear… for me and the whole world.”

God smiled and said, “I don’t sell fruit here. Only seeds.”

Jesus saying, “Follow me”, is Jesus desiring to plant a seed within us so that he might begin a great work in our souls.  If there were finished products on the earth, he never would have come in the first place, but there weren’t.  There were people like Peter and Andrew who were no different than the rest, except that they allowed that seed to be planted within them and they allowed it to grow.  They also took their spills along the way.  Everything from denying Jesus, to doubting, disappointed, frustration, and all that we feel.  What made them great, was that they never gave up.  They never uprooted what was planted within them and cast it aside as though it were a weed.

Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, wrote, “What makes authentic disciples is not visions, ecstasies, biblical mastery of chapter and verse, or spectacular success in the ministry, but a capacity for faithfulness. Buffeted by the fickle winds of failure, battered by their own unruly emotions, and bruised by rejection and ridicule, authentic disciples may have stumbled and frequently fallen, endured lapses and relapses, gotten handcuffed to the fleshpots and wandered into a far country. Yet, they kept coming back to Jesus.”

Peter, James, John, Andrew and all the rest, we may not read about it in the Acts of the Apostles—seems no one likes to document their own failings—but they, like us, stumbled, fell, wandered and so forth, but they always stood back up again and returned.  Always.  We are going to do the same thing.  Some of those fallings are going to be more spectacular than others, but as long as we don’t intentionally uproot the seed that has been planted within us, then it will continue to grow and we do this to attain two main goals.  The first is perhaps the more selfish one: so that we might attain Heaven.  The second goal is not about us, but about the other… 

There is a legend that recounts the return of Jesus to glory after His time on earth. Even in heaven He bore the marks of His earthly pilgrimage with its cruel cross and shameful death. The angel Gabriel approached Him and said, “Master, you must have suffered terribly for men down there.” He replied that he did. Gabriel continued: “And do they know and appreciate how much you loved them and what you did for them?” Jesus replied, “Oh, no! Not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know.” But Gabriel was perplexed. He asked, “Then what have you done to let everyone know about your love for them?” Jesus said, “I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell others about me. Those who are told will tell others, in turn, about me. And my story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of humankind will have heard about my life and what I have done.”

Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical. He well knew something about human beings. He said, “Yes, but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What if way down in the twentieth-century people just don’t tell others about you? Haven’t you made any other plans?” And Jesus answered, “I haven’t made any other plans. I’m counting on them.”  (Source)

Jesus says, “Follow me” and if we accept, he plants a seed in our souls.  As it grows, we will experience times of sanctification and we will also stumble and fall, but when we fall, through faith, we rise again that others might know they can do the same, so that in the end, we might all have the seed of Christ planted in us and rise in glory, and together achieve the first goal: Heaven.

Let us pray: Most Holy Spirit of God, make us faithful followers of Jesus, obedient children of the Church and a help to our neighbors. Give us the grace to keep the commandments and to receive the sacraments worthily.  Raise us to holiness in the state of life to which You have called us and lead us to everlasting life. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Dominicans: Term 2, Week 3

Radcliffe: Part One, 7-9

In these three chapters, Radcliffe looks closely at the Roman Catholic Dominican family, but he speaks also to us as Anglican Dominicans.  Identify one quotation or idea in each chapter that speaks to you, and then summarize how these quotations or ideas  may apply to your own development as a Dominican.

Unity and Diversity: “The preacher must be human to preach this human God.” (p.64)  This reminded of Dominic’s approach in preaching to and living among the Albigensians, which was—simply put—preach the Gospel and model your lifestyle after theirs.  If we take on an air of spiritual pride / arrogance, we will begin to preach our own message instead of the message of Jesus.  The same applies to our lives in the Order.  Should we begin to see ourselves as superior to others—i.e. clergy vs laity—then the Order will fracture along those lines and others.

The Future: “It is true that we cannot let ourselves become museum keepers for tourists.” (p.76)  The future relies on solid proclamation of the Gospel—word and deed—or we risk the people of God becoming spiritual tourist.  Those who walk through the teachings of Jesus and the Church as though casually strolling through a museum: glancing here and there, pondering for a minute or two and then moving onto the next, without ever settling in and truly discovering the beauty.  We must be learned guides who can show and explain the Masterpiece.

Truth: “Knowledge implies intimacy.”  Whether it be a person, text, language, picture, etc., until you become passionate and intimate with them, you will never truly know them.  It is only when we become intimate with the painting, that we begin to see the details and brushstrokes.  It is only in those moments when we are truly intimate with another person that we are willing and even able to share our own secrets.  Part of our “job” is to teach people how to talk to and be intimate with one another and with God.  I actually believe this to be one of the primary reasons they come to church: to learn how to talk to God about their innermost self.

Verboven: Ch. 7-9

Most of us do not lead the extraordinary lives that the Dominicans in these chapters experience.  What can you take from these stories to enrich your own Dominican spirituality?

In many pastoral situations, I often try to remain the “professional,” the stoic, standing outside of the emotions that are boiling all around me.  I think this is necessary to a degree, but Margaret Ormond showed me that it was OK to not only experience the pain of others (which I do!, but try not to show), but to show it.  What is fascinating about her experience is that when she did, she opened up the opportunity for the one who was in pain, to minister to her and to wipe away her tears.  This is new to me, but it seems to be reflective of our shared humanity and the bearing of one another’s burdens. (cf. Galatians 6:2)

With Godfrey Nzamujo’s story, I continue to see how Dominicans adapt (not compromise) to the culture where they are ministering.  Instead of bringing in European / Western culture, he drew upon the strengths of Africa and allowed the people to live into those strengths as opposed to attempting to re-educate them on how they should think / work like Europeans or Americans.  Adapting is the Dominican way.  He also has a trait that all of these Dominicans have shown: passion and drive to not only proclaim and build up spiritually, but also physically—“If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:16)

Timothy Radcliffe continues to speak to us about “the other.”  “If you have a deep friendship with anyone, it means you hear what they are saying, not what you think they ought to be saying.” (p.107)  Perhaps the greatest gift we can give someone is our friendship.

These individuals are like icons, windows into the calling of a Dominican. 

Dominicans: Term 2, Week 2

Radcliffe: Part One, 4-6

In these chapters, Radcliffe describes his life as Master of the Order. What are two or three major characteristics of Dominican life in the Order that he prizes? How do you envision opportunities for these characteristics to be manifested in the Anglican Order of Preachers?

There was one sentence in these three chapters that summed them all up and seemed to me to be an overarching characteristic, it was: “We must not be afraid!” (p.57-8)  We must not be afraid to be friends.  We must not be afraid to love.  We must not be afraid to trust.  We must not be afraid (and here it is again) of the other.

Friends: with friends, the competition is set aside and each is given the opportunity, support, and encouragement to succeed, and that success is celebrated. True friends are not easy to come by, but within the AOP, we can follow the example of those whom Jesus called friends. These had a common mission, which was the proclamation of the Kingdom for the greater good.

Love: not the type of love that show’s up in a Hallmark card (or movie), but the kind of love that allows the other to be. This allows the AOP to provide many different creative expressions of the Gospel and draws people to it instead of pushing them away.

Trust: “Thy will be done.” I heard that petition when I read of Radcliffe accepting the election to Master and again when he stated that Dominicans place themselves in the hands of the Order, “without knowing what they will do with him.” (p.54) It is faith / trust that the Order has properly discerned the call on an individuals life and will act in the best interest of all.

The Other: I am beginning to get the impression that for the Dominican, ‘the other’ is the raison d’être behind all we do. The AOP will do great work if continues to serve the other instead of the self.

Verboven: Ch. 4-6

In these chapters, we learn about three people who had to deal with violence in their Dominican lives.  How can tales of violence in these countries, and sadly in the USA and in your own country affect our own lives and mission as Dominicans?

As a priest, I have attended more than a few deaths.  None are ever easy, but some are more difficult than others.  A teenager killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling and a very violent suicide were days when you just want to go home, turn off the lights, and sit quietly in a room with a stiff drink.  However, the four-year-old little girl who died from her injuries after being thrown against a wall by a babysitter because she wouldn’t stop crying… violence.  

Violence breeds violence and even as the priest, my heart was not pure when it came to thoughts of the young man that committed the crime.  It was as Pierce said, “a wound came in me that I didn’t know what to do with.” (p. 43)  So the question that arises is: How do we respond?  We can respond with ever-escalating violence or like Pierce’s parents, Pierce himself, Maria Hanna, and Henri, we can respond with respect, patience, love, hope, an unshakeable perseverance—even in the face of death—and laugh when the bounty on our heads is lowered.  These characteristics are all summed up in the questions of the 1511 Dominican sermon: “Are these not human beings?  Are you so blind that you do not see the other person?”  (p. 51)  Those two questions direct us to the mission of a Dominican when confronted with or witness to violence: to open the eyes of the blind and to make the invisible visible.

I can honestly say that I have struggled over this question more than any other we’ve addressed.  There is a passion for God and God’s people and an unswerving faith, and I’ve never been “tested” in such a way.  It is that same question that many have asked me about themselves, “Would I be able to stand in the day of trial.”  I’m good with the cheerleader answer, but to stand with the gun ‘truly’ to my head or in the face of a real trial… these people are rockstars and I don’t even know how to play an air guitar.