Monday, August 24, 2015

Just Thoughts: "I was a Stranger in a Strange Land . . . ."

Just Thoughts: "I Was a Stranger in a Strange Land . . ." 

Unless you are of Native American heritage, your family has an immigration story. This puts you in good company, because both the Old and New Testaments are full of immigration and exile stories. We hear of the Hebrews in exile in Egypt or in Babylon, where they are "strangers in a strange land." The hymn sung years ago by Linda Ronstadt captures it: "By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, and there he wept, when we remembered Zion . . . Carry us away captivity, require from us a song, but how can we sing . . . in a strange land?" Immigration and exile are full of tears and loneliness. That is why the Bible honors the tradition of hospitality and kindness toward strangers and immigrants.

Jesus, scripture tells us, was in exile in Egypt as a little baby. And growing up in Galilee, he was far away from the centers of power in Jerusalem or Rome. Even when he was acknowledged as a great preacher and prophet in Jerusalem, he was recognized by his accent and ways as an outsider (same was true for his disciples, as we see in the Passion and Death narratives). Many of the stories about Jesus depict him treating outsiders, Samaritans, fallen women, sinners, tax collectors, lepers, with the greatest respect, kindness, and love.

So the kind treatment of immigrants and outsiders and minorities is a central them of Judaeo-Christian scripture and tradition. It is not optional. All our families have immigration stories. That's why the phrase "the stone that the builder rejected has become the cornerstone" is repeated so often in our readings at mass. We were (or maybe are) that rejected stone--and we will be the cornerstone of the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God that we are trying to build. 

Be kind to immigrants. Like them, we were once strangers in a strange land.

[This essay was written for St. Mary's Painesville--for the August 30, 2015 bulletin.]

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Be the Church!" Just Thoughts Essay

"Be the Church"--Just Thoughts

A banner in front of the Church of Christ in Chagrin Falls proclaims:

Protect the environment. Care for the poor.
Forgive often. Reject racism.
Fight for the powerless.
Share earthly and spiritual resources.
Embrace diversity. Love God. Enjoy this life.

At the bottom right, the banner proclaimed, "God is still speaking. United Church of Christ." A tear came to the eye because this is exactly what we Catholics ask of the Church. Pope Francis has spoken repeatedly, loud and clear, on exactly these issues. His apostolic exhortation, Evangelii gaudium, and his great encyclical, Laudato Si', are emphatic and powerful writings asking all humans to "protect the environment, " "care for the poor," and "share earthly and spiritual resources." 

The Holy Father radiates great joy, and even with the heavy burdens of the papacy, teaches us to "enjoy this life." The Holy Father, the great advocate of the environment and defender of the poor, walks the walk!

Is it such a surprise that the United Church of Christ is in such agreement with the Catholic Church? It shouldn't be. Remember that our creed says, "We confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins." We share the same DNA! We have many of the same beliefs and goals. Both traditions ask us to BE THE CHURCH!

[This essay was written for St. Mary's Painesville--for the bulletin for Sunday, August 23, 2015.]

Monday, August 10, 2015

"No Closed Doors! No Closed Doors!" (Pope Francis, August 5 2015)

Just Thoughts: “No Closed Doors! No Closed Doors!” (Pope Francis, August 5, 2015)

Last  week Pope Francis, speaking about Catholics who divorced and then remarried, said, “These persons are not by any means excommunicated.” The pontiff then repeated: “They are not excommunicated.” This is indeed good news to the thousands of divorced people who love the Church and want to remain in communion with the Church.

The Pope’s remarks are right in line with his compassionate and welcoming approach to all people--like Jesus, he welcomes the flawed, those who have stumbled,  and those who have sinned. He welcomes them back to the Church.

Many of us still recall from our youth how divorced Catholics were almost shunned. Yet today, how many families have had some experience with divorce? Few have been untouched!

A Catholic news service reports it this way: “Quoting from his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (‘The Joy of the Gospel’), the pontiff said: ‘The church is called to always be the open house of the father. No closed doors,’ he told the audience, repeating: ‘No closed doors!’”

Hopefully this becomes a rallying cry for the Church in the 21st Century. It echoes Saint Pope John XXIII’s call in early 1959 to “throw open the windows of the Church.” Gather all in to this good, loving,  and nurturing community--our Church.

[Above is the "Just Thoughts" column for St. Mary's Painesville--August 16, 2015]

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful for August 9, 2015

Below are the petitions I wrote for St. Mary's in Painesville for August 9, 2015. I considered the day's readings, the upcoming Feast of the Assumption and Mary's intercessory role for the poor and needy, and the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I also thought about the mentally ill--their own terrible suffering, and the suffering they sometimes inflict on others.

Prayer of the Faithful for August 9, 2015. 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Celebrant: As we celebrate our coming together for the Eucharist, let us, dear sisters and brothers, approach the one God to voice all our needs.

  • Like the Psalmist, let us be able to pray, “I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” We pray to the Lord.

  • Help us follow St. Paul’s exhortation to “be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” We pray to the Lord.

  • In thanksgiving for Jesus’ words, “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” We pray to the Lord.

  • In thanksgiving for Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose feast takes place this week; she has always been an advocate for the poor and those in need. We pray to the Lord.

  • That we never forget the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and that nuclear war never happen again. We pray to the Lord.

  • For the mentally ill; for their healing and consolation. We pray to the Lord.

  • That we may restored and refreshed by summer activities and vacations. We pray to the Lord.
and for those for whom this mass is offered [name them]. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pause now and silently offer to the Father our own particular intentions [...allow for silence...]. We pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Father, we believe that you will hear and respond to our sincere prayers, asked in the name of your Son, and in the power of your Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pope Francis, Saint Francis, and Mentor Headlands

Just Thoughts: Laudati Si’--Praise Be to You Lord

Walking on Mentor Headlands Beach the other day brought to mind Pope Francis and his great concern for the environment. He has shown this so clearly by taking the name Francis, after Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of environmentalism, and by the title and theme of the Pope’s great encyclical, Laudati Si’. For the title of the encyclical, the Pope actually borrowed the first two words of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, written in his own Umbrian dialect of Italian. In the Canticle of the Sun, Francis wrote, “Praise be to you, My Lord, for Brother Sun . . . Sister Moon . . .  Brother Fire . . . Mother Earth.”

The reason St. Francis and Pope Francis came to mind when walking on the beach is because in Ohio we have done such a terrible job of caring for Brothers Wind and Air, and Sister Water. At Mentor Headlands the water was filthy with debris; a sign was posted saying the water quality was poor and that there was a risk of toxic poisoning from algae blooms. The sand was also filled with garbage. The bathrooms were filthy and unmaintained. What a judgement on us and the State of Ohio, allowing for such a tragedy to befall Ohio’s most magnificent beach, on one of the world’s great treasures--Lake Erie, the 12th largest lake in the world.

It doesn’t have to be this way. An hour and a half east on I-90 is the magnificent Presque Isle, just off Erie, PA. There are over 20 beaches on this peninsula, clean, cared for, with maintained changing facilities and bathrooms. Ohio’s Lake Erie shores could be like this.

St. Francis wrote, “Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.“ But Lake Erie is not clean or pure. In many places it is shameful and an abuse of God’s creation.

Let us work to clean up this resource. It is a matter of political will. Let us follow Pope Francis and Saint Francis on caring for our home, the Earth, and our back yard, Lake Erie.