Cimply Putting It…
When will we ever learn?…Probably one of the greatest testimonies of the fact of original sin and how we fail to learn from our past, is the problem of racism in our world. Today it has rekindled in many of our cities in the USA. What has our history taught us? Have we really learned anything from our past?
Monday we honor Martin Luther King. If you ask somebody who Martin Luther King, Jr. was, or if you go by what you might hear or read in the media, you will probably be told that he was a great civil rights leader and social activist. This is true. But at the heart of it, Martin Luther King was a Christian pastor—he was an American Baptist Minister.
One of King’s favorite terms was what he called the “Beloved Community”. As he promoted justice, his goal was not to defeat his opponents, not to bring down the oppressors, but to bring about reconciliation. As a minister he often prayed for his enemies.
One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King comes from an essay he wrote called “The World House”. Here’s a part of it.
“Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: “A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.” This is the great new problem of humankind. We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace…All inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors.”
Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people share in the goodness of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because human decency will not allow it. Racism, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. As early as 1956—I was just 4 years old—King spoke of the Beloved Community as the end goal.
Some of King’s detractors like to point out that he was a human being, that he had faults, and human foibles. This is true. He was certainly not a saint. He made mistakes in judgment. He put his marriage to the test. He suffered from human facilities, like anxiety and depression. But Christianity proclaims a God who came to us as we are, accepted us as we are, forgave us and gave us new life, and thus revealed that we do not have to be perfect in order to be loved by God.
It is often in suffering where we come together. I remember a story of a news correspondent who told about a time when there was a bomb that exploded in Israel. Bloodied people were everywhere. A man came running up to the correspondent holding a little girl in his arms. He pleaded with him to take her to the hospital. As a member of the press he would be able to get through the security cordon that had been thrown around the explosion scene. They jumped into his car and rushed to the hospital. The whole time the man was pleading with the correspondent to drive faster. Sadly the little girl’s injuries were too great and she died in the hospital. When the doctor came out to give them the news the man collapsed in tears. The correspondent was lost for words. Finally he said, “I don’t know what to say. I can’t imagine what you must be going through. I never lost a child.” But the man said, “Oh, no! That girl is not my daughter. I’m Israeli. She was Palestinian. But there comes a time when each of us must realize that every child, regardless of that child’s background, is a daughter or a son. There comes a time when we realize that we are all family.”
I wonder if I’ll ever see that time?
Two items for your consideration…First, if you have not yet scheduled a sitting for our new St. Michael pictorial directory, would you do so? You can schedule a time online on our Parish website or by calling the Parish office. Remember there is no cost to you and you receive a free picture and a new directory.
Second, in celebration of the 125th anniversary of our Diocese, Bishop Swain will be celebrating an all Diocesan Catholic School Mass at the arena this Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. If your schedule permits, please join us. It is to celebrate Catholic Schools Week and Bishop Swain has always wanted to attempt to get all the Catholic School children in our Diocese together for a Mass. It promises to be a wonderful celebration.
I feel so privileged to be part of this great family of St. Michael Parish. We are called together each weekend. Called to follow the Lord together, called to live together in this Beloved Community. May it be so. Amen.
Make it a great week. clc
Cimply Putting It…
Joy to the World the Lord is come! It’s Christmas. This time of year is profoundly fraught with multi-layered meanings; family traditions; economic success for merchants; in our part of the planet, in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice; the pause between the end of the lunar year and the longer solar year; and our year-end tendency to want to evaluate this year before embarking on another. All these things, along with a group of fictional stories like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, find their way into our consciousness, our decorations, our gift-buying habits, our parties, and into our expectations. One of the favorite movies is “A Christmas Carol” with its ghosts of Christmas past, present, and the future. I even get sentimental over a puny little Christmas tree, like the one in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
None of this is bad. Traditions instruct us, delight us, and remind us of our values.
Christmas past for me centers around my family. This is our second Christmas without Mom. It is, as many of you know, easier the second time around. My sister is valiant in her effort to help keep our traditions going. I admire her for it. I can tell it is still very difficult for my Dad to celebrate holidays without Mom. It will never again be the same. But if we really want to look at Christmas past, attempt to imagine the morning after Jesus is born.
The stable is full of animals. The cow is loudly asking to be milked. The straw smells like animal dung and the funk of childbirth. Stunned and exhausted Mary and Joseph wake up to an entirely different reality from yesterday: There’s a baby in their lives now. They rub their eyes: Were those really angels making all that noise last night? And what about those shepherds—they found us in this dim little stable because, they said, a host of angels showed them the way. The baby lying in the stable between them is somehow the cause of all the commotion. True, every baby is a miracle, but this baby—Mary and Joseph can’t stop staring at him, touching him, holding him, like any new parents—they know that God has plans for this baby, and they’re, I’m sure a bit concerned about his future.
This nativity scene, the morning after that dazzling holy night, isn’t just the end of Mary’s pregnancy and the start of a new family. The baby is none other than Emmanuel, God with us. The light emanating from this sleepy domestic scene is the light of God, come to be with us, come to dwell in us, come to transform us. The work of Christmas begins, but does not end, on Christmas Day.
I love the Christmas carol “Joy to the World.” Remember the first verse where we sing “the Lord is come.” “The Lord is come” says that Jesus comes to us here and now, not only on that first Christmas over two thousand years ago. Now we are faced with the task as Christians of making real that love of God, here and now, in this time and place we belong to. Christmas present should look different than Christmas past.
The other part of the first verse of “Joy to the World” that challenges us is this: “Let every heart prepare him room.” How do we make room for Christ? One way for us to “prepare him room” is when we make room for the Lord to challenge us and change us. To prepare him room means, perhaps, less retail and more giving; less concern about having a perfect dinner table and more feeding the hungry; less decorating and more real celebration of who Jesus is.
The Church celebrates a Christmas Season. Christmas doesn’t end tomorrow. Christmas is God’s continuing gift of God’s presence with us, and Christmas is our challenge to prepare room in our hearts, and in our lives.
One of the Christmas cards I received had in it a poem entitled “The Work of Christmas.” I share it with you.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among our brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.
We can’t hold onto Christmas. It is the nature of holidays to come and go, to intrude upon our ordinary lives with their color and music and sentiment. Yet we can, and must, hold on to the meaning of Christmas, which is the putting of flesh and blood on loving words. This is God’s action in Christ. This is our living out Christmas: in our own flesh living simply, justly, and devoutly, to the best of our abilities each day.
I am so blessed to be among such wonderful people. Frs. Cowles and Nicholas have truly graced my life since they joined with me this past July. Deacon John continues to be such an inspiration of dedicated service to our parish, to the poor, to prisoners and to our youth and the young people of the Juvenile Detention Center. But, we also have a top-notch staff to assist us in our ministry.
On behalf of all of our parish staff, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! clc