Tag Archives | discipleship

Seven Deadly Sins: Pride

I’ve pondered this budget that the new President has thrown out for consideration. I’ve listened to those, like Senator Ryan, who make claims about cutting out services as “an act of mercy.” I listened to those who voted for a candidate who is definitely not going to make their lives any better — who seem to vote in opposition to their own good. I’ve struggled with a feeling of superiority when I think I have a better way.

The source of all these ills it seems is Pride. Yup. Those currently in the White House are very proud of their own success. Senator Ryan it seems is very sure that his position and benefits are completely due to his own work. He is proud of himself and his accomplishments and is sure that those who have failed financially, relationship-wise and otherwise are simply not putting out the effort. He wants to push them to work hard and be proud. Those in coal country and others who voted for the current administration so often did so because they seek to be in a place where they can feel proud… no handouts, nobody to be as good as them, no need for a little help from their friends, no need to acknowledge that the Prosperity Gospel is not Christian Gospel.

And myself — I have to fight being proud that I don’t subscribe to so many of those ideas. Once you start thinking you are humble, you are not humble.

Yes, I believe that the government should serve the people. I believe that at least basic health care is as much a right as food and water and not being beaten up and abused by your neighbors. Yes, I think that tax dollars should support the common good such as the EPA, arts and humanities organizations, health care and food security — oh, and clean drinking water. On the political spectrum I probably tend a bit toward socialism, if that’s what you have to be to believe that the government is there to serve and protect the populace.

And still, I find that my beliefs cannot be allowed to make me feel proud and superior to those who see the world differently. These beliefs must call me to prayer. They must call me to a place where I respect others even while I disagree vehemently with them. If I let pride drive my actions, I find it all to easy to make fun of the other instead of pushing for justice.

Yeah — I know, they make it all to easy to make fun… but the results aren’t going to be any fun at all.


Blast from the past

We watched the movie “Woodlawn” last night. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have friends who were students at Woodlawn High School (Birmingham AL) when the story took place. To them, it seemed that the movie was reasonably accurate. I was in college at the time, but my own high school years were during the opening years of mandated integration, and the closing of the black high school which forced far more integration into the two [originally] all white high schools. And this story of Birmingham high schools and football was set against some of the most violent times and places of this time in Alabama history.

But the part of the story I was totally unaware of was the back story of the “evangelist” (I think maybe a Campus Crusade for Christ “missionary” or some one inspired by a similar group). He called himself a “sports team chaplain.” He offered a simple message and challenge to a predominately “Christian” football team and things began to happen.

First off, the coach, while skeptical, allowed him access. This would never be allowed today. And, indeed, over the next 2 years, as the team began to be a single team, not a divided squad, pressure was brought, and the coaching staff pays for its choice to let this happen. And, in the story, it spreads to the rival school, Banks, and that staff pays a price as well.

There were quite a few of the opening scenes that I remembered seeing on TV first hand: George Wallace in the schoolhouse door trying to block the first black students at the University of Alabama and Bull Connor with dogs and firehoses. These are not just file footage for me — they were live.

The moment that was the real blast from the past for me, was when the chaplain talked about Explo 72 in Dallas Texas. 100,000 plus college students in the Cotton Bowl with Billy Graham. A totally dark Cotton Bowl that is finally lit up starting with a single candle who’s light is shared until all 100,000 candles are lit. Think Easter Vigil — we start in darkness and light the many small candles from the Easter Candle. I was there. I was in the Cotton Bowl. I experienced this. And, it had faded from my memory.

I listened to the message in the movie and I watched the “One Way” hand signal ( a raised hand with the index finger pointing up). And, as I listened to the message weave through the movie, I heard the simplicity of the calling of God: “You are not alone. You are loved. Come to me.” That’s the message of the Gospel that still bores it’s way through to me. I slices through church laws and practice (I’m now a practicing Roman Catholic); it overrides denominations of Christianity. And, in many ways, though not all, it moves beyond Christianity.

This movie could have been preachy, but I think it avoided that. And I’m glad of that. It showed examples of overcoming anger, fear and discrimination. It even showed Bear Bryant in a light that made me not so “anti-Bear” (I’m also of the Auburn persuasion). It was a quiet witness to the power of allowing God to work in the everyday world we find ourselves walking through.


Who Knew? Or encountering God in strange places

I read the readings before mass this morning. I listened to them again. I listened as [Fr.] Bruce reflected on them, and how each represented an encounter with God that made a permanent change in the person who had the encounter.

Isaiah — now he sees the Lord in the temple. That is is a powerful encounter, and a fairly frightening image of an ember touched to his mouth/tongue. But, it occurs in a house of worship, it seems. A place where we might expect to meet God. I found myself singing [in my head] a refrain from my experience in pentacostal circles:

We see the Lord. We see the Lord
And He is high and lifted up and his train fills the temple
He is high and lifted up and his train fills the temple
The angels cry “Holy”
The angels cry “Holy”
The angels cry “Holy is the Lord!”

Enter Paul and his description of how his encounter with Jesus changed and transformed his life in unimaginable ways.

But, the one that almost made my laugh, just because of the almost day to day ordinariness of the situation was Peter and the fishing trip. OK, the scene as I felt it went something like this:


Peter and his coworkers have been working all night. Yup, at work. Ordinary, regular, making a living, feeding the family work. Along comes Jesus and climbs in the boat. He hitches a ride out from the shore, so he can teach the folks on shore without being overwhelmed. Peter and crew go along with this. Then Jesus says – “Hey Peter, head out to the deep. We need to catch some fish.” At this point I can just hear Peter sighing as he grouses at bit. “Jesus, we’ve been working all night, and we have nothing to show for it. Are you nuts? But, OK. If you say so, I’ll do it.” It wouldn’t surprise me to see this said in a sort of “I’m not really thrilled with this, but if it will make you happy, I’ll give it a shot.”

Whoa! A catch of fish beyond belief. Riches beyond any expectation. A change in vision for Peter. The very idea of becoming a “fisher of men” is born.

Sometimes God catches us in the most mundane, boring, un-fun points in our life. All he asks is that we be open to the occasion.

Photo credit: Image was found on Fr. Dan Borlik, CM’s website

Trinity Sunday

Jack’s homily today touched heavily on a sequence of orders given in the Gospel reading. It seems that Jesus admonished his followers to 1) go an make disciples of all 2) baptize and finally to 3) teach.  His observation was that the church seems to have gotten this a bit upside down. We do lots of teaching and put great resources there. We do quite a bit of baptizing — infants and even older folk. We seem to have somehow lost the first priority, which is to make disciples. I can definitely see that there are a large number of well taught baptized [Catholic] Christians. It is more difficult to see that same number of disciples.

I’m trying not to be judgmental. But, if we were all disciples in love with God, I would think that there might be more evidence in the world. I’m sure I would make a bigger impact if I were more of a disciple.

Be that as it may, there was another thing about the Gospel that caught my attention. Jesus tells the disciples to go [back] to Galilee and go to the mountain. Back to Galilee — back to where Jesus himself began his journey and ministry. Go to the mountain: as Jack reminded us, the mountain is always “close to God.”  If it was good enough for Jesus, I guess it has to be good enough for me.

This week, I think I’ll try to get to Galilee and spend some time trying out that mountain. Maybe it will work, and maybe I won’t know if it worked or not. The “knowing” about whether it works is not so important as the willingness to go there.

Time to get walking. Time to head up the mountain. Time to remember that God beyond all names has filled us with Her Spirit.


What kind of greeting?

Today’s gospel is one of those where the angel Gabriel comes to Mary:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

I have to admit that I’ve had this reaction — someone greets me with a smile and a message that is sooooo positive. And my first reaction is one of suspicion. What does she want from me? Anyone/anything that happy to see me must want to eat me for dinner. The list goes on from there, but you get the idea.

And so, I look to Mary for the followup. She hears the rest of the story and ponders it a bit. And then she simply asks – “How can this be?” That is where I fall short, it seems. I hold my questions and suspicions close and don’t reveal my hand most of the time. I can only ask for Mary’s simple courage as she wonders aloud “How?” She doesn’t try to sidestep the issue, she doesn’t play at false humility — she just goes with it.

It seems I must accept that the questioning is essential, but so is the acceptance.


I’ve listened to a couple of friends lately as they reflect on changes and calls. They are truly witnesses to me.

I see faith and commitment in one of them as he reflects on possible changes in his life. He struggles with his feelings. He tries to make lemonade. He always amazes me with his ability to be where he is — truly be there and be quite happy doing whatever it is. He makes really great lemonade.

I see faith and wonder in another friend as she copes with answered prayers… “Be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it” she told me the other day. I see her joy mixed with awe and at times almost confusion as she deals with a spouse who has recently been touched deeply by God.

I see faith at work in a coworker as he tries, and succeeds in not stomping out of a session with another coworker. It takes great patience to stay positive in the presence of this difficult personality. He works very hard to see the positive in the situation. Me? I might get through it, but I also might explode and get myself fired.

My friends are not trying to “witness” to me. At least I don’t think that’s the case. They are simply trying to answer a call. They are walking this road with me, and by do that, and sharing the joys and sorrows found on the way, they offer a living witness of faith.

Thanks guys. I love you all.

But where would I go?

Yesterday, Susan’s post Master, to whom shall we go? over at Creo en Dios! caused me to stop and consider. Susan is so good – so organized, so focussed. She is a born teacher. I follow her on Creo, and I always come away with a new, positive way to approach life and God.

On days when The Church and her many parts are frustrating me, I often find myself thinking — “I’m outta here!” I struggle with the institution. My gut screams, at times, when the it seems that the goal is not finding God and responding in with love to the gift of Jesus, but the goal is the enforcement of outer trappings. All those i’s to dot, and t’s cross. Get the official baptismal certificate for my son so he can the paperwork in place to get married. Make sure all the music is in acceptable to the powers that be for this service, or that ceremony. Shake my head at the priest who is uncomfortable with a certain devotion because it must be prayed at 3pm (and I understand his discomfort with something that seems almost superstitious) but then he turns around and becomes a hind-bound, unmovable rock with respect to the performance of other church rituals.

And then I stop – “But where would I go?” At this point I find that, just as Susan describes the path of discipleship, I have no other path that I am called to follow. I can’t leave because I can’t walk away from the Heart of the institution. I can’t walk away from the Eucharist that we celebrate. I know that other flavors of Christianity “have communion” – I’ve been there, and been a part of those celebrations. It’s not my walk. I sucked it up, and said “Yes” to joining this community when I was a college student. Even then I had my questions and my doubts, but there was no other way to go. In looking back, the decision to join the Catholic Church took more courage than going away to college, going away to grad school, going into counselling, getting married or staying married. In some ways, it was more difficult than the decision to actually be a Christian in the first place.

Where would I go? Nowhere. And when I accept that as truth, then the question begins to melt away.

Mary, again

I’ve long had difficulty with traditional Marian traditions/prayers/worship. Probably partly stems from my Calvinist introduction to Christianity. But, I think it may go deeper than that. I believe it involves the traditional image of Mary who honor is that she was submissive — and the idea that we often get that she was submissive to men. Yes, I see her as submissive – but only to the will of God. One has to be pretty well centered and strong in faith to submit to God’s will. One has to be ready to stand tall, face opposition and be willing to stand their ground to carry this out.

I’m not so strong. I am often submissive (and resentful) to the wrong things, to the wrong people.

And so, last week, at the vigil mass for the Assumption, I was very struck by Fr. Alex’s message. He asked each of us to share the virtue(s) of Mary that we wish to emulate in our lives. We’re a pretty talkative group, so there were several responses. Then he followed with the idea that the ultimate virtue of Mary was that she gave birth to Christ — she brought Christ into the world. And that is what each of us is called to do, over and over again.

This morning as I made my way through morning prayers and the readings for the mass (Queenship of Mary), the power of Mary as the first among the disciples, the first to bring Christ into the world came back fiercely.

I can only pray that on ocasion I too can bring the Light of Christ into the part of the world I inhabit.

The well isn’t totally dry

I’ve been eratic about posting of late. I can make all manner of excuses: busy, busy, busy. Or not much to say. Or too much to say.

The truth is I’ve set some standards for myself that are sufficiently difficult to attain so they give me the opportunity to just not do anything because I don’t think I good enough. See, if I don’t do anything then I can’t be accused of falling short because there is nothing to measure.

Somehow, I don’t think Jesus is going to buy that argument. He tells us that “when I was hungry you fed me, when I was naked you clothed me…” (or you didn’t, as the case may be); He don’t see a qualifier on how well you feed someone or how fashionable and stylish the clothes were. It’s the acting out of love and doing something.

If you hang around here you might find some oddball stuff because when I woke up in the middle of the night with these thoughts about Jesus saying “Just do it because you love me” I decided I should do it. I also realize that the “because you love Me” has to be present. And I realize that knowing what to “just do” comes from knowing Jesus better. Knowing Jesus better happens through being still and listening (otherwise known as prayer) and being in that space where I am and God is.

It is about staying in the relationship — and understanding that my own rules about what is “good enough” must just simply go by the wayside.  God is so much more loving and forgiving than I. Thank God!

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