Jun 052020

Fighting hatred and racism with love

Say no to racism

I am saddened and dismayed at the amount of hatred and division that exists in our world today. Many people are standing up to violence and racism in our world. Others are content to allow things to remain as they have always been. And others are indifferent to either viewpoint.

Even sadder is the fights that are occurring within each faction. There are those who feel we are not doing enough to combat racism, bigotry and hatred. Other feel that we must only work with, love or support those we agree with 100%. And still others feel we have all gone too far.

Jesus was a radical protester. He stood up to oppression, hatred and bigotry. A prime example of this was the story of the Samaritan woman. We read in John 4:9, “The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” Jesus was friends with the outcasts of society. He spent time with tax collectors, prostitutes and the Samaritans. He shattered their ideas of social class, racism and bigotry.

And yes, he even flipped over a few tables and whipped a few people. Yet, he loved them all. Even those who crucified him. From the cross he cried for God to forgive those who murdered him. He begged for their immortal souls even as he drew his last breath. He left us an example of how we ought to live.

Jesus wants us to stand up for the defenseless and the downtrodden. He also wants us to love one another. Saint Paul encourages us all to, “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (2 Corinthians 13:11-12)

Today, as we stand against racism, bigotry, hatred and division, let us not forget to love one another. Love those standing shoulder to shoulder with us. And love those standing on the other side of each issue. Pray for our own conversion of heart as well as theirs.

Won’t you join me as I struggle to walk this path as well?

Jun 022018

Dark and Light

Dark

They say the night is darkest right before the dawn. Given the struggles I have experienced in my life, I believe this to be true. But the dark can never truly overcome the light.

The last two weeks have been difficult. Today is day 16 of my life without my pain medication and my anti-depressants. The worst of the withdraw is behind me. And now I begin the process of finding my new normal. It has been tough, and the last week has been the darkest by far. But now the light is beginning to shine over the horizon.

One the interesting parts of the journey through PTSS and depression has been the rediscovery of my emotions. This means that I am experiencing a full range of emotions where in the past I had a rather muted range of emotions. That process of discovering my new emotions and normalizing them can take months or even years.

Father Rick reminded me today that in life “sorrow and joy walk side by side.” This is so true. We cannot experience light without the darkness. Sorrow helps us understand joy. Unrest helps us know peace. And doubt helps us know what true faith is all about.

When life is its darkest, we must remember that Christ is right there with us. He experienced all the pain, sorrow, frustration, joy, peace, love, and even darkness that we do. Christ comes to us in the moments to walk with us and provide us with the strength and love we need to survive and flourish.

And the church is here to provide you with the support and love you need to move forward. Without my brothers and sisters in the church (especially my fellow clergy in the OCCI) I would not have made it this far. It is our goal to provide a church family where you can find strength, love and support through the struggles of life.

Come and experience a different way to be Catholic!

Mar 242018

We must change our view of each other

change

Today, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people gathered throughout the United States to demand a change in our nation’s policies on guns. This March for our Lives is a long overdue process toward better accountability when it comes to such lethal weapons.

However, it is only one side of a multi-faceted problem. One of the major problems we face in our nation is a lack of respect for each other. Once you begin to devalue other human beings, it becomes easier to kill them. This goes hand-in-hand with the continued us versus them mentality that has consumed our way of life and our politics.

It is our calling as Christians to love our brothers and sisters as well as those who are strangers. The Holy Scriptures repeatedly tell us to respect one another, to love on another, and to accept one another as we would Christ. Sadly, many Christians today engage in devaluing of our fellow human beings for many reasons. Some Christians use race, gender, sexual identity, nationality and social status to separate people from the Body of Christ.

And even more disturbing is the continued use of the term “illegal” to refer to our fellow human beings. No one is illegal. And we as Christians must stop using this divisive and demoralizing term to refer to our brothers and sisters.

Saint Paul tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV.) Scripture reminds us that, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:34 NIV.)

And further more we are warned, “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things (Note: Refers to idolatry in the Hebrew) before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50 NRSVCE.)

If we do not want to have Sodom and Gomorrah rise up to accuse us before God, then we must value each human being. We must respect each other, treat those who are different or foreigners as part of our family. It is important that we show everyone the love of God. We must give them the respect they deserve as bearers of the Spark of the Divine.

Let us resolve to respect each other and to shine the light and love of Christ to all those we meet!

Feb 162018

Thoughts and Prayers

thoughts and prayers

Positive thoughts and prayers have been the best means available, since the beginning of time, to transform darkness to light. – Cat Stevens

This week we witnessed another school shooting. This brings the number since January 1st up to 18. I chose to post that those killed and wounded are in our thoughts and prayers. Their families and friends who were grieving the huge loss of their loved one are also in our thoughts and prayers.

Someone decided to take me to task for making this statement. The poster said, “Enough with the “prayers and thoughts”. God demands we act and change this!” While I understand this person’s feelings and concerns, their tone upset me.

We are doing what we can to change this cycle of violence in our nation. We write letter, we protest, attend town halls, vote, and make phone calls. Yet, at the end of the day all we are left with is people who refuse to listen, refuse to do anything to protect people from the growing tide of violence. So we have a choice. We can allow ourselves to become depressed and give up or we can pray and continue to fight.

I choose to pray and fight. So I offer my thoughts and prayers for that reason and because it is the compassionate thing to do as well. We tend to forget that we are dealing real people in real situations. It is our instinct to get angry and upset at times like this. That is all well and good, but we must remember to extend compassion and empathy to those who are effected by these acts of violence.

You may think that thoughts and prayers is a cop out. The reality is that it is only one part of what we do in these situations. In between our work to stop the violence, we will continue to offer our thoughts and prayers. I hope you will too.

And hopefully, some day, we will be victorious!

Jan 052018

Step out in faith

faith

I watched the Saint and the Sultan last week. One of the things that struck me was the willingness of Saint Francis to go against everyone in an effort to bring peace. His faith was monumental in the face of overwhelming odds.

Saint Francis was not worried about his own safety or well-being. He braved the battlefields to get to the Sultan and then risked not even getting a chance to speak to the Sultan. The soldiers could have killed Saint Francis before he even got to the camp.

Regardless, Saint Francis had faith that he was on a mission that was worthwhile. He wanted to see peace and to get the chance to show the Sultan the love of God. The Sultan in turn showed Saint Francis the love of God as well. Together, they discovered that they worshiped the same God. In that realization, they were able to find common ground and have productive dialog. This act by Francis may well have prevented thousands of deaths.

If Francis had listened to the voices of the naysayers, this transformative experience for him and the Sultan would have never occurred. War would have continued and would have been extremely brutal. Also, the vision that Francis had about the nativity of Christ, which led to our modern creche scene, would have never occurred. That vision happened on the way back to Assisi from Francis’ visit with the Sultan.

That is why we have to be willing to see beyond the negative messages around us. While others are predicting failure and bad things, we need to allow room for God to be God and to work miracles in our daily lives. Only then will we experience the great grace and love of God in the most unlikely places and situations.

Be willing to step out on faith. Take time to help those naysayers see the great power of God to overcome even the most outrageous of odds. And remember to give God all the glory when he works those miracles in your daily life.

Step out in faith and join us today to experience a different way to be Catholic!

Dec 292017

Our Human Family

Family

Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. This has me thinking about family a lot. As many of you know, growing up, I had a very dysfunctional family. I have used these experiences as an example of what a family should not be.

As I ponder family, I also see the work the evil one is doing to divide all of us. This is not just a divide in society, but also in our families. We spend so much time looking at all the things that divide us rather than considering the vast amount of things that bind us together. This is the greatest weapon the evil one has today.

We allow him to use this weapon against us rather than stopping him by working to look beyond those differences and working together toward our common goals. I really doubt that any of us want to see people homeless, cold, poor, hungry, sick, and dying. Only a person with no conscience, no soul would find pleasure in the suffering of others. Rather than seeing these people as fellow human beings who need our help, we have allowed the evil one to whisper in our ears that these people do not deserve our help. He uses the message that they deserve their lot in life because they are lazy or unmotivated.

The reality is that they are part of our human family. Yes, they are family. And they are hurting. They need our help and rather than judging them, we need to stop and help them. I don’t care what led them to where they are today. It is not my place to pass judgement on them. No, it is my place to help them. It is my place to show them the love of God.

It takes little to nothing to help someone in need. We only need to a take a moment to change their life. It only takes a moment to make them part of our family. Are we so divided that we cannot help those who are in most need? If the government is going to turn their backs on these people, which is deplorable in and of itself, then it is up to us to help them. Are we so jaded and cold that we are willing to look the other way than to reach out a hand to help them?

They are family. They are Christ. Scripture tells us that we will be judged by how we treat those in most need among us. When we help them, we are really helping Christ who sits as the beggar at our door. Saint Miriam in Flourtown, PA has a wonderful statue at the church door of a beggar. You have to almost lay down on the ground to see under the beggar’s hood. And when you do, you see that they beggar is Jesus.

As we continue this Christmas Season, it is not too late to show the love of God to those who need it most. We need to stop and reach out a helping hand to the beggar on the street. It is up to use to help the single and abandoned mother. Our calling tells us to hug the leaper, the AIDS sufferer, the person with cancer, and bring the love of Christ to them.

Today be the hands and arms of Christ to the members of our human family who need our love and help most.

Nov 182017

Depression and walking on water

depression

I will admit that I allowed my depression to get the better of me this week. It is hard not to at this time of year. Reflecting on the past year has reminded me that 2017 has been a very difficult year. However, I know that I am not alone. So many others have it far worse than I do.

Saint Peter understood this tendency to focus on the wrong thing. When the disciples were in the boat on the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up, they found themselves worried that they might die. Jesus was not with them. Then they saw him walking on the water toward their boat! And Saint Peter, being the one always willing to put his foot in his mouth or show off his lack of humility, asked to walk on the water toward Jesus.

His first few steps were fine. He was doing it! He was walking on water! However, he allowed his human nature to get the best of him. He took his eyes off of Jesus and looked down at the water and immediately started to sink. Jesus grabbed his hand, pulled him up and helped him back into the boat.

For me, especially this week, I took my eyes off of Jesus and started looking at the world around me. I started looking at all the things I wanted to do, the things I wanted to get, the things that I thought should be done differently. And when I did, I got depressed. I took my eyes off what mattered most.

As we draw closer to the Christmas season, it becomes more and more of a challenge for those of us with chronic depression. However, we as Christians also have the great advantage that we can turn to Jesus and ask for his help. We can focus on him and find new purpose. He can guide us to those things that will help us battle our depression. Jesus may not take away our cross of depression, but focusing on him can help make it a little easier to carry.

So look to Jesus today and find the strength you need to keep walking on water!

Aug 172017
hate and peace

During the past week we have seen the worse of humanity. It has been plastered all over our televisions and the Internet. Hate has been held up as a beacon and praised by the President of the United States.

However, it has also been a chance to see the best humanity has to offer. There have been counter protest that remained peaceful. People have gathered to pray for peace and to spread the message of love and acceptance. They have come together to help total strangers who were hurt and damaged by hate.

Churches have taken the opportunity to stand up to this hate. Many have proclaimed loudly that hate has no home in their churches. Churches have engaged in the hard discussions about racism and bigotry on a local level. Some of those churches have declared that they are willing to offer sanctuary to those being hunted by hate.

Saint Francis Old Catholic Church takes a firm stand against hate. Hate has no home in our community. We believe that it is time for us as a nation to take a firm stand against the forces of hate and bigotry. It is our belief that we must engage in non-violent resistance to hate. We must allow our love to overcome hate.

If we allow ourselves to be drug down to the same level as those marching in the name of hate, then we will loose this battle. We cannot meet hate with hate, violence with violence. We must meet hate with love and violence with peace. Anything else will fail!

The prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi offers us a road map to stamping out hate and division in our world. I leave you with those words. I pray that we will strive daily to live these words and to bring love to the world around us.

May you be filled with peace and love in abundance!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.