Mr. Rogers, Fr. Stanley, Uncle Ted

I am supposed to be writing about the Mr. Rogers movie.
But I can’t.

It’s always good to be Catholic. But sometimes it’s really hard. My heart is heavy this morning for the big picture. I have friends amidst the Carr fire in Redding, CA. I am heartbroken for the scandal of Theodore McCarrick and others. This is one of my favorite times of year for keester-kicking saints, including today’s saint — a first-timer! And we have great poignant readings today that speak to this. Yet I have no idea how to pray about this.

I’m afraid there are lots of things intersecting for me today.

And so I find it interesting and poignant that on the first feast day of Blessed Stanley Rother, the priest who faced martyrdom because “the shepherd cannot run from the sheep at the first sign of danger,” is the day our Pope Francis accepts the resignation of (I don’t even really know what we call him now) Theodore McCarrick. Another big report is going to be released on Tuesday out of Philadelphia that will be just as damaging. There are voices of victims crying out in the wilderness longing for shepherds — or anyone — to prepare and make straight the ways of the Lord.

Sometimes the shepherd needs to get booted. But how do we tell? And what now? How do I cry the gospel with joy amidst this terrible reality. And yet I know it is the voice of God who tells me there is still important work to be done — even amidst the ravaging, consuming fire of evil and sin in our world.

I am supposed to be writing about the Mr. Rogers movie.

And perhaps he has the answer.

Everyone has seen the meme/story about Mr. Rogers’ mother telling him he need not focus on what frightened or upset him; he needed to “look for the helpers.”

And so today, I am trying to remember
…that God is never the cause of suffering…
…that He never allows suffering that He does not also intend to comfort or heal…
…that our God is wild! And always creating! And always doing the mighty work of restoring, redeeming, unifying, and reconciling all things to Himself. He can open doors no one can open and shut doors that no one can shut…
…that He has proven again and again that he can make the most amazing good come out of the most gut-wrenching bad…

It’s not a game. But God will not interrupt our free will. Otherwise we cannot freely love Him.

And so today, with the help of Mr. Rogers and his mom — I am thinking and praying about the helpers.

I’m thinking some too about Mary’s mom — St. Anne — whose feast day we celebrated earlier this week. She and her husband/St. Joachim must have had to really dig deep and rustle up faith amidst their fears — even in their own lives as God’s great love for the world poured out over more than one potentially wild scandal in their family.

Like the Mr. Rogers movie — I wonder if St. Anne encouraged her husband amidst confusion, heartbreak, and scandal, to “look for the helpers.”

They would have found Joseph.
And Elizabeth.
And Zachariah.
And Baby John the Baptist.

And later on — this would prove to be valuable faith formation for Mary, as she accompanied Jesus from the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross.

Where even today we suspect — just as we have encountered in our own tradition — we dare to hope amidst scripture and tradition that Mary also encountered helpers:
Pilate’s wife…
Simon…
Veronica…
The Weeping Women and children…
John…
Mary Magdalene…
Joseph of Arimathea…
The Roman Soldier(s)…

I so desperately desire to believe there existed and earnestly pray for those who were the helpers in the lives of victims. Those chosen to receive the most difficult of stories. The most tragic of encounters.

Fred Rogers, in his applied study of communications, particularly television and it’s medium, and message — after leaving the Presbyterian seminary — called the space between the message and the receiver “holy ground.” A place that was “wide open Christianity,” and a way for “direct communication into their hearts.”

How extraordinary!

In my life right now I am being challenged on multiple fronts to consecrate space…new space in my life in new ways for God. For prayer. For a deeper friendship with Jesus. And this is exactly what Mr. Rogers pointed to.

He identified point A and point B — but what he really cared about was the space between. The sacred space between. Dave Matthews Band would be singing their most famous song. Our British friends across the pond would say “Mind the Gap.” And that’s what Fred Rogers took care for. The space between. Sometimes it was space that needed to remain empty — like “slow space,” “wasted space,” and “silence.”

And sometimes that space — that gap — had people in it. Children and families. Those who were marginalized, judged, hurt, afraid. People and puppets communicated the societal impacts and implications of current events even for those visible yet voiceless subjects.

Fred Rogers and his family believed that there was human dignity in tv and in silence. In hurt and in triumph. In sickness and in health. That “love is at the root of everything.”

When there didn’t seem to be many or any helpers, he became a helper; and inspired others to become the same. He said “let’s make goodness attractive.”

That’s really the thing, isn’t it?

He was outward about each individual’s dignity and inherent value as a beloved son/daughter of God. And that each person had been endowed by the Creator with GOOD.

And when there wasn’t much good — he charged himself and others to be repairers of creation.

Sounds a lot like the precursor to *that we may merit to be co-heirs to eternal life.*

Finally — my favorite part of the move was the end — when the viewer is challenged by his words to consider and remember for a moment “the person who loved me into loving.” Participants shared about all kinds of people in their lives — and I was moved to tears by that Who Mr. Rogers truly used that question to point to was God. And the people He has given to us to mediate His Presence.

Mr. Rogers was always all about invitation. Encounter. Love of God and Neighbor. Authentically Christian and *whisper* more catholic (universal) than maybe even he understood. But we do.

He was never really my favorite as a child — but today as an adult I recognize that my life was just as impacted by his accompaniment as the shows before and after — Sesame Street and Electric Company.

HA! Again — Mr. Rogers — even without me realizing it until right now — existed in the Space Between my 2 “favorite” shows. Sat silent in the Invisible Sacred Space — until I noticed it.

Well played, Mr. Rogers. And thank you, God. For helping me write my way out of the desert of the world today and into a new confidence about really desiring to be #WheatAmongWeeds — like Blessed Stanley Rother — and so many others who lived out courageous accompaniment of God and neighbor.

A certain triumph over sadness and sin by #SweatersAndShoes

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The Solemnity of Pentecost: Getting Our #Acts Together (see what I did there?)

I have often said if I could be part of any time in history — time-machine-wise — I’d want to live among the apostles in the 10 days between the Ascension and Pentecost.

With the knowledge that I have now, of course. Because I’m a total wimp. And there must have been critical moments of despair, fear, and frustration. I don’t want any of that, thank you very much. I want to be in the know. I want to know how the story ends.

I’d want to be an encouragement to the women and men during what must have been a pretty stressful, confusing, and yet fascinating 10 days.

I’d want to see how they worked it all out: what they agreed on — what they fought about — who was the Bossy-McKnow-It-All? Who was on board from the start? Who needed more convincing? Who sat in the back, arms crossed, waiting to see how things shook out? Who was in danger of getting voted off the island? Who kept the coffee made?

How did this band of misfits, sinners, and saints get their proverbial #Acts together (see what I did there?)?!

I think 10 days can go really fast when you’re excited by a new project. 

But probably 10 days can also feel like forever when you are faced with the prospect of explaining something to people they’re not going to believe. Or understand. Or care about.

Especially if you don’t know that Help is coming in 10 days.

Or what that Help might look like.

…or feel like…

…or sound like…

We know it was 10 days. They didn’t. They thought it would be soon — but they thought it would be Jesus. What caused them to trust? To move? To cross the bridge that was still being built? #ThoseGiftsTho

God always comes back bigger than He went out. There is always a bookend. Sometimes we live in between the bookends and sometimes we don’t.

And in this case — the coming of the Holy Spirit is the scriptural bookend to…you guessed it…

The Tower of Babel.

People who did not desire a relationship with God — who just wanted to build a tower to heaven to be “on the same level” as God. No encounter. Just a move in and take over.

Vs.

People who were in deep and intimate relationship with God through direct encounter with the actual person of Jesus. Who desire right relationship with God and others: to love, to worship, and to serve.

From a set of directions for tower-building that suddenly seemed to come from an ancient IKEA…and a separation of people by language…confusion…lack of communication…

VS.

An experiential and explicit set of directions:

In WORD: Peace Be With You

In FEELING: A Strong and Rushing Wind

In SOUND: Doors Broke Open

In SIGHT: Tongues As Of Fire

In EXPERIENCE: Of Languages and Understanding

Nothing gets in God’s way. The Tower of Babel is majestically and masterfully undone and redeemed in the experience of Pentecost. Seriously. We have a WILD GOD! Who wouldn’t want to be CATHOLIC???!!!

Go. And baptize all nations.

Tell the great story of Jesus.

Launch your kerygma into the world.

Incidentally — I loved the Bishop’s sermon at the royal wedding. It was actually great for our celebration of Pentecost. A little Catholic. A little Episcopal. A little Baptist. A little trickster. A little Scripture. A little music. A little humor. A little Jesuit. A little Chi-Town. BIG KERYGMA! A LOT of power and love and A LOT of FIRE! And he was right!

You can link it here on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/fTMWJU9Nafk

Veni…Sancti…Spiritus…

COME HOLY SPIRIT

#EnlightenTheHeartsOfYourFaithful

#EnkindleInUsTheFireOfYourLove

Coming soon to a procrastinator’s blog posts near you:

Hover-cropping the Kerygma: Field knowledge vs. bottom line and Maintenance vs Mission

The Aftermath of the Sower

What a city girl doesn’t know about soil and discipleship

Royal Wedding vs. school shooting(s) — and Acts of the Apostles — joy/fear/sorrow/hope

Avengers

Mary, Mother of the Church Memorial — #DayAfterFireAndWind

 

#Tardy and #Sheepish: John 10: 11-18

So I know I’m a week late but I’m here to talk about SHEEP.

I can’t remember where I learned this or from whom — but sheep aren’t really a lot like what we think they are…

…more dirty than white (like not so much with the Mary had a little lamb…)

…more nervous than calm…

…more smart than dumb…

I will treat the second 2 elements of the 3.

Sheep are actually pretty smart. Well…more clever and rational than smart. And maybe…like us…a little bit lazy. Sheep are pack animals…they long to be part of the community…but they have sort of bad vision…partially based on the placement of their eyes. So — they make up for this by just following the tail/behind of the sheep in front of them as they travel. Not necessarily in a straight line — although that does happen — but watch them…they are often clumped up together…with each sheep following 1 other sheep and so on.  And — there is 1 sheep called the Head — who follows the shepherd.  A wise shepherd — like Jesus — learns the look, call, and gait of one sheep — and once that one follows him — all the rest follow the sheep in front of them.

Sounds a little like charisms, gifts, evangelization and discipleship, eh?

And then our guest homilist this weekend mentioned that he learned in seminary that shepherds actually lay down in front of the pen, or the area where the sheep are enclosed or sleeping. To keep them in. And to keep wolves out. I love that image of laying down one’s life for the sheep.

AND THEN…also of interest…despite kind of bad vision — sheep apparently can hear and process pretty specific sounds. They learn the bleat — or call — or cry of their own baby lambs — and they instinctively recognize it when one has wandered too far away. To know one’s voice by heart. That’s pretty big.

DUDE. JUST LIKE GOD. JUST LIKE JESUS.

AND…

Sheep/bovines have a unique element in their nervous system that causes almost electric panic and paralysis when they realize they have been separated from the fold. They fall on the ground motionless and just cry until someone comes to get them.

“Those sheep are pretty smart,” I remember thinking, when I first heard this new information. There were no sheep where I grew up. So any information about sheep would be new information. “They just hang out and wait to be rescued when they get lost. Let someone else do the work. Fly under the radar. Well played, sheep.”

But then the storyteller noted that laying on the ground…throwing a loud tantrum…is not always going to get the attention of the Good Guys.

Oh. RIGHT.

This is exactly how sheep get eaten. One one hand — they are trying to signal their mother or theshepherd (YO! The Church…Mary Our Mother…or Jesus the Good Shepherd…WUT?!)…but on the other hand…all that whiny bleaty racket could also attract…the enemy.

And a clever enemy will know if it waits long enough…either the rest of the pack will come and place themselves also at risk of being eaten — or they will be smart enough not to come — and that sheep will be dinner on its own.

OH SNAP.

This is what Evil does.  It tries to separate me from the pack.

It takes away my resources.

It makes me believe I am alone.

It sends me into panic and noisy whining.

It paralyzes me. Panics me.

It makes me believe I am really really really alone.

And then…all it has to do is wait me out.

BOO. LAME. I’m LAME.

This is what we do, when it comes to sin, isn’t it?

And we have plenty of alternative options:

Stay in community.

Pick a good sheep to follow and trust it.

Stay near the front where the Head sheep is.

Make friends with the Head sheep

Become the Head sheep.

Stay close to the shepherd.

Trust the shepherd and your community if you get lost.

Don’t get lost.

Don’t wander away.

If I find myself lost — don’t make a bunch of noise.

Don’t stay in that place I got lost in. Don’t stand still. RUN.

Jesus the Good Shepherd is a little like Wesley from the Princess Bride. Only better.

He will always come for me.

Believing in True Love is laying down one’s life for the sheep. Or friends. Or beloved.

Being Catholic is awesome. #NotSoBAAAAAAAAdAfterAll

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Search and Seizure: The Great Three Days

Bishop Robert Barron wrote this morning about the readings from Chrism Mass — which are among my favorites — really useable and applicable anywhere throughout the life of a Christian. And it’s also the gospel associated with one of my favorite homilies from Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento. This will be a hard Triduum for them, I think.

Barron notes that Jesus allows himself to be seized and animated. In many ways — but in this gospel he is seized and animated by the Holy Spirit in the synagogue. We will remember later tonight when he allows himself to be seized and animated — right up to the cross — by the Jews, by the Romans, by my own sins and the sins of the whole world.

I desire — but with some fear — to allow myself to be seized and animated by the person of Jesus. By the Holy Spirit. By my God Himself.

What motivated Jesus — propelled him — guided him towards that seizure and animation is his family.  His church of the home. His domestic church. How do we know? Because we know he approached the synagogue on the sabbath day according to his custom.

He worked his ministry into the custom that flows out of the family. His family. His town. His grocery store and gas station. Whatever Jesus’ church of the home looked like — it led him to worship. And worship sent him to ministry and service. Seizure and animation.

It’s supposed to be the same for me. For us.

Pope Francis breaks this idea of propelled outward to the community a little more in detail in his homily at Chrism Mass this morning. He opens up the willingness of Jesus to discern, listen, and live his vocation. THE vocation.

Jesus finds the passage and reads it with the proficiency of a scribe. He could have been a scribe or a doctor of the law, but he wanted to be an “evangelizer”, a street preacher, the “bearer of joyful news” for his people, the preacher whose feet are beautiful, as Isaiah says. The Preacher is always close.

This is God’s great choice: the Lord chose to be close to his people. Thirty years of hidden life! Only then did he begin his preaching. Here we see the pedagogy of the Incarnation, a pedagogy of inculturation, not only in foreign cultures but also in our own parishes, in the new culture of young people…

Closeness is more than the name of a specific virtue; it is an attitude that engages the whole person, our way of relating, our way of being attentive both to ourselves and to others… When people say of a priest, “he is close to us”, they usually mean two things. The first is that “he is always there” (as opposed to never being there: in that case, they always begin by saying, “Father, I know you are very busy…”). The other is that he has a word for everyone. “He talks to everybody”, they say, with adults and children alike, with the poor, with those who do not believe… Priests who are “close”, available, priests who are there for people, who talk to everyone… street priests.

You can read his homily from today in its entirety here at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2018/documents/papa-francesco_20180329_omelia-crisma.html

Pope Francis goes on to identify for both clergy and for the rest of the laity the importance of closeness to each other. Intimacy in the example of Jesus. His love wasn’t blind or simply obedient. He knew each of his disciples. Each of his friends. Each of the people he encountered. Jesus never accepts a label in place of a story. He knows their stories — whether or not we know the great kerygma of His Story.

And his love for us through his availability to the Father and the Holy Spirit to be close…be intimate…know us before the creation of all things…is what leads him to seizure and animation.

I feel dizzy with your presence, Jesus. I am challenged to consider what it really is that motivates me in my baptismal priesthood towards search, seizure, animation, proclamation of the kerygma, and missionary zeal.

Help me be brave during these days, Lord. Help me remember that this is a time of passion and challenge as much as it is about triumph and victory.

Because I know how the story ends. But I desire to journey with you. To be seized alongside you. To be animated in you. To be cut to the heart by your love.

…according to my custom.

Palm/Passion Sunday Mark 11: 1-10 and Mark 14: 1-15:47

The broken alabaster jar.
The anointing with spikenard.
The waste of perfumed oil.

I wonder if this is ever how God feels when He considers how we behave sometimes.
But we know He doesn’t.
Jesus is the jar broken open.
The blood spilled.
He who is precious yet wasted — but not according to God — on us.

Just like the woman — Jesus willingly breaks Himself open for my salvation.
Even when — with great enthusiasm — I quickly and wastefully turn from HOSANNA! to Crucify him!

Help me Jesus, to accompany you this week. Give me Simon of Cyrene’s resolve, if not his heart. I desire to encounter You.

Also, I am curious:
Could Simon the Leper in this Mark 14 possibly be the leper Jesus healed in Mark 1?

John 11: 1-45…Lazarus

This gospel is contains my 2nd and 3rd favorite lines in all of scripture.

v27: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe…”

Martha, who — the last time we saw her was caught up in housework (#MarthaMarthaMartha) — makes this bold declaration and confession of faith — about who Jesus is. To her. And also to me.

And she starts with what seems to be a phrase with some extra words: “I have come to believe…”

Why doesn’t she just say what we say every week?
I believe in one God, the Father, the almighty…
Cut to the chase, Martha.
Find an editor.

[n.b. — Peter will use the same curious phrase later in the gospels.]

The names for Jesus are important. Believing is important. But I think the primary word in that sentence is not that she believes. Or even what she believes. It is first and foremost — that she has come.

The derivation and etymology of the verb to come refers to “movement with the purpose of reaching.”

That suggests motion. A journey. A pilgrimage. Even a short one. Maybe just advancing your spiritual self 1 spot. But there is definitive motion. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are always in motion. And they call me to join them.

To come.

To come with a purpose. With an openness. A sense of that there is more than what I see or experience. A humility and smallness in the understanding that I am never done getting to know God through the person of Jesus. That I will never not be called to encounter Him more deeply and intimate than where I am standing right now.

I have to come before I can do anything else. Including believe.

And though I may be afraid of who or what I have become. Whether God can smell my stinky sin. Or can see that I am bound by the things of this world — I must come. I may be surprised at what God reveals through whatever Jesus says to me — it is about a unity of mind and heart — a recognition that there is more. That I am more. That Jesus is more.

So I cannot stand still. I might not know what I will find when I take that next step. What He will ask me. Where it will take me.

We say and sing all the time about *drawing near* to Jesus. In prayer. In sacraments. In the Eucharist. Don’t forget about in person. Especially in the poor.

I desire to draw near.
I have to move.
My purpose is to believe.
And so I must reach Jesus.

Martha has had a journey to arrive at her belief. It doesn’t happen overnight. She has encountered and re-encountered Jesus many times and under many different circumstances. Sometimes in the foreground and sometimes in the background. Sometimes in the kitchen, and sometimes on the road. Once at the cross — and twice — at the tomb.

But once we have an authentic encounter with the person of Jesus — we cannot stop. We will never have enough. We will always desire to be closer. And my thirsting for God is nothing compared to His thirsting for me.

And even here — Jesus always gives us back to our community first. Mary and Martha are actually the ones who join the Woman at the Well and the Man Born Blind — for without their brother — presuming he was their only male relative — they would have been sold into slavery.

And Lazarus is going to have quite a time of things too. What will he say to his friends when he shows up at the coffee shop on Monday morning? Think about it. Lazarus is immediately placed into a role of evangelist. He cannot NOT tell his story!

We have a wild God — whose plan for us is way bigger than that for ourselves.

This weekend as I recite the Creed — may I dare to whisper in my heart:

I have come to believe in one God; the Father, the almighty…

The pilgrimage doesn’t end. There is always more I can know.

I have to move.

Good job, Martha.

Lazarus

Been There Done That…(John 9:1-41)

Been There Done That…are the lyrics of the song playing in the place I am writing…it’s a terrible techno song and I have no idea who sings it…but I’ll bet this would be a good soundtrack to lay under the gospel scene this weekend.

Blind beggars by the road or temple area — Been There Done That
Snarky Pharisees — Been There Done That
Men claiming to be prophets — Been There Done That

Spitting and mud and healing…maybe not.

It occurs to me the geographical path — pilgrimage if you will — of the story this unnamed blind man takes is pretty involved:
The place where he encounters Jesus
To the pool of Siloam
Back to the original spot
To the Pharisees
To the parents (actually they were summoned)
And then he is summoned in and out
And then Jesus comes back and finds him

That’s a lot of traveling for someone who has only been able to see for like 5 minutes.

It reminds me of Jesus’ journey back and forth between officials and trials on the day he dies. In fact, it feels like a mirror image. Although the most details and the addition of being sent to and from the Sanhedrin, and Annas, and Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod, and back to Pilate is found only in Luke’s gospel (not John’s — which is what I was sort of hoping…) — we know that Jesus stands mostly silent — allowing His conviction of unconditional Mercy and Love for us to convict Him in the end. And we need this to happen: “…so the works of God might be made visible through [H]im.”

This is the inversion of the Man Born Blind — who also gets sent all over the place and actually — I only noticed this this year — really develops his defense…his apologetics…his testimony right here over the course of the story. This is what my life is supposed to be about. Telling the story of Jesus in my life to others. Sometimes on demand and sometimes unsolicited. And while I will spend most of my life wasting time and occasionally working on my craft, this guy gets pretty far all in one day.

I went back and actually counted how many times in one story he has to witness to all the people who question and challenge him: it’s 7 times. An interesting choice, John. And if you read those pieces carefully — this Unnamed Evangelist gets better, stronger, and more bold in his personal kerygma — his story of his personal encounter with Jesus — as the story goes on.

I will be lucky to be able to get my proclamation of the great story of Jesus — together over the course of my life. And I will be bad at it. And I will struggle with courage. And timing. And pride. And arrogance.

This guy had it together in 1 day. And if I am truthful with myself — that’s really how it’s done.

Like the Woman at the Well — an encounter with God through the person of Jesus changes my personal trajectory immediately. And permanently. It’s an about-face. A stopping short. A turning around. A cut-and-run. A bold challenge to authority. It’s shocking. Dangerous. Outrageous. Scandalous.

Like marrying a woman already pregnant. Like escaping to Egypt. And lots more.

And telling the story of Jesus very rarely ends without a casting out of some sort. Including Jesus Himself. There are consequences for telling the truth. This guy is now restored and can see, but with presumably no life skills and no connection to work outside of begging — which he can’t do anymore.

It might occur to an observer that Jesus has left this guy in worse shape than he found him — but that would be incorrect…so we have to *look* a little closer:

The man’s great gift and skill — is his story — his personal encounter with Jesus — and he already has the experience of depending upon the sympathy and charity of others. Except now he knows it’s really God’s Providence. I like to imagine he takes his show on the road and is able to survive using both his old skills of trust and stewardship and his new charism of evangelization. Because God never sends us anywhere without exactly what we need to succeed for His glory. We don’t always like where we are sent or to whom — but I must believe — in the words of a very wise evangelist in my life — that God’s Timing is perfect for my salvation. Mine. Not others.

Jesus’ curing of this man prefigures lots of things about himself, I think. But this year — I am inspired by the Unnamed Evangelist’s immediate pilgrimage along the thresholds to intentional discipleship. And we know this by his bold and delightfully developing desire to tell his story, identify Jesus, and bring others with him regardless of what it costs.

So — I must work on my craft.
Been There Done That — but I can totally do better. 🙂