Parish duties this week...Below is my homily for the Feast of the Holy Family if you care to read it. I had two goals, one not to get into gender roles and secondly not to have minds closed to the reality of gay families. There may have been a third goal, how not to say the phrases "gay families, lesbian families, same sex families." In my judgement the congregation I faced is probably very conservative. So I only whittle away, carefully.
Folks started getting restless after the somewhat long theoretical introduction. They settled down for the story, thanks to Leo Tolstoy. There is a link to his story of Where Love Is, God Is at the end of the homily. Tolstoy's story is set in Russia and is about a man named Martin the Cobbler. In any case it is a great story.
The Feast of the Holy Family fits comfortably into our celebration of Christmas. Most of us have celebrated Christmas Day with our families and friends. All the meals and gatherings with warm and tender feelings, good conversation, being with those we love merge well with The Feast of the Holy Family. On this Feast of the Holy Family, I probably could say something about the daily grind of raising a family. It’s interesting that once Jesus was presented in the temple, he and his parents returned to Nazareth and nothing more is heard about Jesus until he begins his public ministry. We only hear briefly about Jesus birth and the early years of his life from two gospel writers, Matthew and Luke. Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus’ public ministry and John’s gospel begins with that theological reflection on how the Word was with God from the beginning and then became flesh. All of you with children could probably fill books about what might have taken place in the home of Mary and Joseph and Jesus. Some of the choices for the readings today talk about various roles in the family, like wife, husband, children. I’d like to step away from reflections like that because, again, we could fill books with reflections and advice on how that all happens. Today in the spirit of the gospel writers, Mark and John, I’d even like to step away from those very traditional pictures of Joseph and Mary and Jesus representing father, mother, and child because it limits our thinking about family. We talk about the family of nations, we talk about our workplace family, our church and school family. Then there are single parent families, blended families, and foster families. It would be possible to go on. Then there is another scripture for today: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love...” In the spirit of that scripture and the Feast of the Holy Family, I’d like to share a little story about a man who lives alone, whose family has died. The story is called “Martin the Cobbler” and was written by Leo Tolstoy. It’s a story about a cobbler, a shoemaker named Martin. He has grown old and is tired and despairing of life. It is winter. Recently a pilgrim encouraged Martin to begin reading the gospels. This is something Martin has begun to do regularly. One day In his drowsiness while reading the scriptures Martin hears a voice about his Lord coming to visit him. The next day as Martin goes about his work in his basement shop he sees a number of people. When he looks out his basement window on the world about him he sees various people in some kind of trouble or need. First it’s an old soldier clearing snow away from his window. Martin invites him in for warmth and tea. Later after the old soldier has left Martin sees a young woman with a baby poorly clothed and the baby crying from hunger. Martin invites them into his shop for warmth and food. He provides some warmer clothes for the woman and baby before they leave. Later Martin sees an old woman with an almost empty apple cart heading home when a small boy snatches one of her remaining apples. The old woman catches and hangs on to the little boy. Martin goes outside and talks with them both. Martin pays for the apple and asks the woman to forgive the boy while he asks the boy to beg to be forgiven. As they depart the boy helps the old woman carry a sack of wood chips she was also struggling to carry home. Later that night as he prepares for bed while reading the gospels, Martin is startled to hear what seem like footsteps near him and hears whispering: “Martin, Martin, don't you know me?”
“Who is it?” muttered Martin. “It is I,” said the voice. And out of the dark corner stepped the old soldier, who smiled and vanishing like a cloud was seen no more. “It is I,” said the voice again. And out of the darkness stepped the woman with the baby in her arms and the woman smiled and the baby laughed, and they too vanished. “It is I,” said the voice once more. And the old woman and the boy with the apple stepped out and both smiled, and then they too vanished. Martin's soul grew glad. He crossed himself put on his glasses, and began reading the gospel just where it had opened; and at the top of the page he read: “I was hungry, and you gave me food: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in.”
And at the bottom of the page he read: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of these my brothers and sisters, even these least, you did it to me” And Martin understood that his dream had come true; and that the Lord had really come to him that day, and he had welcomed him. In the spirit of Martin the Cobbler, Let us celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. For where love is, God is.
This is an AP photograph following Pope Francis' gifts of coal and switches to the cardinals on Christmas Eve. I do not recognize the cardinal to the center right in the photo, but slightly to the back and right, it appears to be Cardinal Bernard Law. He does not look pleased.
Here are the questions without the need to go to the old blog post.
The questions she asks are these: "In what ways am I hibernating, turning inward, and resting at this time? What new ray of insight am I looking for, to guide me in the coming year? What's being born in me in the dark season, to be sheltered for a while and brought forth in the spring season? Solstice meditations can feed the year ahead."
Here is one more result of the Francis' effect on the Roman Catholic Church.
The final report on the Religious Sisters was released today after five years of investigation by the Vatican which was prompted by the sisters' involvement in social issues. The language was conciliatory and praised the sisters' work. It reversed the direction from what seemed like the nuns were going to be taken over by the men of the Vatican.
Sister Sharon Holland at the conclusion of the article in the New York Daily News says of Pope Francis leadership: "I'm willing to give him all sorts of credit."
The picture made Finland look romantic enough to me to make me think: "I'd like to go there." On second thought: "It's probably too cold." Then I read the comments that indicated the picture accompanying the article was not Finland.
A commentator suggested the writer skipped past the pictures of Tom of Finland and picked the first spectacular scene and landscape that "google" provided for Finland. The consensus is the picture for the article is not Finland.
For this post, here is one of Tom of Finland's drawings. Maybe Finland wouldn't be so cold.
There's the beatification of Paul VI. There has been speculation over the years that Paul VI"[suffered] from same-sex attraction." The words Cardinal Burke uses to describe same sex orientation. Then the mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, transcribed sixteen same-sex marriages into city hall registers today. These same-sex marriages had been celebrated in other countries.
This extended family looks pretty happy to be with their gay relatives and right next to the Vatican, also.
The news today has the Vatican backtracking on the positive statements about gay people and same sex relationships made yesterday in a working report from the Family Synod. CNN is saying this and quoting Cardinal Burke that the document has no foundation in scripture.
In a significant development from Friday, Pope Francis has added six progressives from four continents to work on the final document. This is after the conservatives elected several of their own to the same committee.
UPDATE...10/15/14: Cardinal Burke is an Aristotelian and Thomistic idiot. I think Aristotle and Thomas would at least begin with the real world and human experience. It also sounds like Burke has breathing difficulties. Burke just rattles on with, it seems no knowledge of experience or life.
At about 1:40 Burke talks about someone living a disordered relationship with another person. Then, it seems he only presumes that this relationship is centered and focused around acts that are evil and wrong. Can he say what he means? What acts? How does he know? That is about point 2:15. Then Burke, I think in total ignorance and with absolutely no knowledge of any persons in a same sex relationship, has the audacity to say the people in these relationships are unhappy. 2:35...How does he know? Has he talked to any gay or lesbian couples?
The people I know and have known in same sex relationships are very happy. My guess is they are not sex maniacs engaging in, what Burke calls, acts that are evil and wrong. I have to admire whoever wrote those lines in the relatio about the sacrifice in the lives of gay and lesbian couples.
UPDATE 2....10/17/14...Cardinal Burke exiled to an island in the Mediterranean.
Here is only one sentence from the document. The tone is at least pastoral. It is about time.
"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony." Now what was Cardinal Burke saying the other day about keeping gay couples away from their families and others?
"Rather than limiting our consultation to those with financial and legal abilities, we also need to listen to those who work side by side with the poor each day, and who are on the frontlines in health care, education and other fields of ministry. We diminish our effectiveness when we do not call on these brothers and sisters to gain insight before making decisions in these areas. But, even more importantly, we pass up the chance to see how God is working through them and to more fully know God’s will."
It may have been impolite and offensive back then when someone trashed Nienstedt's CD on marriage equality while he was eating dinner with another priest. Nienstedt has no idea, or at least is not willing to say, what the sheep smell like. Now the cover up!
I am tired of looking at Fred Phelps. There is more I could say, but I will leave it unsaid. This past weekend, I had parish duties. I appreciated the readings. I decided to share my reflections.
Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Cycle A
A number of years ago when I was a pastor in northern Alabama, the neighboring town of Tuscumbia, Alabama was the home to Helen Keller, a woman not blind from birth but whose hearing and sight vanished by the time she was about a year and a half old. Through the efforts of her teacher Anne Sullivan, Helen learned to name and recognize objects by the braille method as Anne, her teacher, tapped letters into her palm. Later Helen learned to speak. She went on to college, wrote several books, and lectured around the world. Helen's life has been celebrated by the movie and play titled The Miracle Worker.
I always thought Helen Keller was a woman whose life in many ways exemplified what I thought this gospel story about the man born blind was trying to say. Helen Keller was a person who was blind but could really see. There is a heroic quality about her life.
The gospel and the first reading about the choice of David as the successor to Saul are very much about seeing and blindness. The Pharisees in this gospel from John think they have all the answers and profess to see, but they are blind.
The blind man who is not too steady or sure of himself is the one who sees. By the end the gospel passage the man born blind sees so well that he recognizes and professes his faith that Jesus is the Messiah.
What is the blindness of the Pharisees? In John's gospel the Pharisees were the authorities and thought they had all the answers. The Pharisees argue for the established way. They were legalistic. They accuse Jesus of not keeping the Sabbath. In their stubbornness the Pharisees refuse to recognize goodness in the man whose sight had been restored. The Pharisees failed to rejoice with him. They reject the man born blind and cured of his blindness by throwing him out bodily.
In the first reading the focus is also on seeing. This time the scriptures remind us that it is not always simply by judging the external appearances that we arrive at really knowing the truth and the value of the other. When the person to be chosen to follow Saul as king is being picked by Samuel from among Jesse’s sons, it is not the tallest, or most handsome; the words the scripture uses: mention “his appearance or lofty stature".
After examining and rejecting seven of Jessie’s sons, Samuel settles on the youngest who had been sent off to the fields during the selection process to tend sheep presumably because Jessie did not think him kingly material. He is the one God chooses. Today’s scriptures especially this account of the choice of David as Saul's successor, as they often do, favor the underdog. The sacred writer reminds us that God sees into the heart, beyond external appearances.
The readings today, particularly the story of the person born blind, are meant as a meditation for those who will be baptized at Easter. They are meant to be a reflection on the quality of life that faith in Jesus brings. The gospel tells those who are to be baptized that Jesus comes as light and sight for the blind. That quality of life that Jesus brings through baptism is an invitation to us,also, who have been baptized to get over any of our blindness whether it is blindness like the Pharisees that keeps us entrenched in some kind of stubborn position. Faith that comes with baptism enables us to see. We are invited to overcome that kind of blindness that perhaps keeps us from valuing the goodness and beauty in the other person.
In the yard of Helen Keller's home at Ivy Green, the water pump is still there, that water pump where Helen and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, made the breakthrough that allowed Helen to fully live. It was the water from that pump splashing over her hand as her teacher tapped out the braille letters w-a-t-e-r on her other palm that Helen made the connection that this liquid was water. The world opened up for her. Helen referred to that day as her "soul day". This Easter will be the "soul day" for those preparing for Baptism. The waters of Baptism are just like that. Baptism takes away our blindness and allows us to see in a whole new way. Baptism offers us life in a whole new way to live.