My friend Susan posted this morning about Creating the Path by Walking It. And, of course that set me to thinking (her thoughts almost always set me to thinking) about paths, and examples and saints. Sometimes we do create the path by walking it — as uncomfortable as it may be. Other times, we can follow a path that someone else started by walking it herself/himself. I have been shown the path blazed by Vincent de Paul by my association with the Vincentian Father’s and others who are following that path – or parts of it. Saints and those who are in tune with them make good trail blazers.
When someone creates the path by walking it, and others follow, the path becomes a bit more defined. More feet walk it. It becomes wider perhaps. It can be seen from more of a distance. And some will follow the path without ever understanding why it was marked in the first place. There are both blessings and curses in following someone else’s path — the signs may seem more clear and the way is smoother. But, I find that while I might start off on someone else’s path, I always seem to have to diverge at some point and make or follow my own. It might cross the original again and again, and it might even be the same at times. I might find a shortcut or I might be required to wander in the desert for 40 days, learning as I go.
Thanks for those who have created the paths by walking them. And thanks for the responsibility and freedom to become one of them, on my own journey.
I am at a conference for work and traveling with a fellow who works done the hall. Breakfast conversation turned to the Catholic Church (he was raised Catholic) and faith and rules, etc. At one point he remarked that he hasn’t been to church in years because if one disagrees with so many of the rules why go?
Where else would I go? I’ve thought about this as I struggle with the rules and whether I can abide by them, or must follow my own way. And I consider that rules and rulings have changed throughout history. But, it focused me once again on why I stay: I need the community.
While faith and prayer are intensely personal, and require a personal relationship with God, it seems that the example of how to live that is only truly found in community. The Trinity is God as community. The Church lives out the individual vocations of its parts as community. Human life (except in really bizarre, artificial circumstances) requires the input of 2 people to create a new person. All life on earth is dependent on the ecosystem – the interaction of all the parts and pieces to create the proper environment for life.
Where would I go? I can’t come up with a satisfactory answer to that. I have no inner call to be a Christian of any other ilk than my current status as Roman Catholic. And so I stay, as one of many parts in the this one body… and I’ll just have to take that One Body, complete with scrapes, scars, warts and rashes mixed in with beautiful eyes, hands that take care of others, strong legs and feet. I can only hope to be a part of the that body that can help with healing the parts that need it — and allow myself to be healed when I need it.
We are many parts, we are all one body.
I’ve heard it said, and I believe it: the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Hate requires some sort of emotional connection and response. Indifference comes from being insulated from that sort of connection, it seems.
Today’s gospel begins:
Jesus said to his disciples:
If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
This makes me more than a little uncomfortable. First, the word “hate” is so strong. We fling the word “love” around so freely, sometimes it doesn’t hold the power of “hate.” I mean the word “love”, not actual Love. Love can be just as frightening as Hate. I’m not so brave about either of these.
And yet I can find some comfort in this passage. To be hated for the right reasons might mean I have done something right or at least tried to do the right thing. And Jesus repeatedly reminds us that we are not alone — the world hated Him first.
Several years ago, before I started writing here, I found that the more I struggled to come closer to God, the more negative response I got from a particular group within my [then] parish. Anonymous letters full of information about malformed consciences were not the least of the indications. Being informed that we couldn’t use “Gather Us in” as a hymn at mass because the 3rd verse (“Make us your bread, broken for others, shared until all are fed”) was heretical. (Go figure that one out) It’s hard to stand tall when your very being is being attacked. And, I hated back.
As I reflect on this, the message that finally comes through is one of support and comfort. Jesus was there, Jesus is there, Jesus went through this pain. I wasn’t alone – He knew these things would happen because He experienced them. And after being given a penance that involved offering every song I sang at mass as a prayer for those I felt were persecuting me (I did that for 7 months before I knew I had completed it), I was gifted with a change of heart in myself. I find that after many years, I still pray for those that I felt were persecuting me. I pray for them in their own walk with God.
I still don’t want to be hated. I don’t like being in these uncomfortable situations. But, at least I know I’m not alone.
Today’s readings seem to be shouting at me. I’m sorting through the cacophony of voices I hear and trying to find a central theme. In Acts, I see a group freed up from “serving at table” (I’m not sure exactly what that means, yet) to be out in the community ministering. In the second reading from Peter (1 Pt 2:4-9) I hear the clear call that we are all called to offer the spiritual sacrifice – a whole people who is called to be priests. And in the Gospel (an expanded repeat of Friday’s gospel), I hear Jesus calling me to follow Him, to know Him, to stay in relationship with Him and know that He is the way home.
Where does this leave me? I know that my deep-seated belief that we are all (man, woman, layperson, clergy) called to make Jesus present might get me into hot water with Roman Catholic faithful because I’ve just never understood why Jesus would not be just as present when 2 or 3 are gathered and break bread and share a cup as He is when a priest does the same at mass.
It might seem odd that I would say that, because when asked why I converted to Catholicism (3 decades ago) my answer would have to be “The mass.” And yet it makes perfect sense to me. We believe that Jesus becomes present in the Eucharist. Not just a memorial. Not just a memory. But present, here and now with us. I did not find that in the other Christian communities I explored. And then again, I don’t know why we hold that this only really happens when an ordained priest (male and celibate) is presiding at the celebration. That Presence is simply too powerful for us to declare that it can only occur when we say it is so.
So — I look forward to mass this morning. To hearing the Word proclaimed and being in the presence of God among us.
Last night we helped our deacon and his wife celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary. We means the parish, the family who came in from around the US and several local priests. From the mass (where the priest almost forgot to do the Renewal of the Vows) on through the reception complete with wedding cakes, it was a wonderful event.
Mind you, when it came to light that this was the Big 50, the couple in question said that they would like a small, simple service and maybe a potluck at the parish hall after. Like that was going to fly! Everyone told them, “Sure, if that’s what you want” and then proceeded to swipe a wedding picture from the house so that it could be scanned and reproduced for fancy programs and favors, and who knows what other skullduggery took place – all in secret.
It’s about Family and relationships and community. It’s about caring for another through surgery and loss of site, good times and bad. It’s the wedding feast at Caana. It’s sharing life in the breaking of the bread. It’s about Jenny’s group that makes sure that folk who have a hospital stay or some other disruption have a meal brought in. It’s about Don’s work with Confirmation classes and RCIA. It’s about a son who would show up with his family from the other side of US to surprise his parents and share in the celebration.
As it turns out, it was probably about the party as well. It seems that when they got married it was a very tiny wedding and reception (maybe 20 people all told). It was about time to have a big wedding reception — and after all of their gifts to our community, it was the least we could do.