Homily – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, as I always tell you, these Sundays in Ordinary Time are anything but “ordinary” and perhaps it is Jesus’ way of telling us that as his followers, our lives will not be ordinary.  There are plenty of people out there who live by the status quo, who look to others—see what most of the people are doing and then, follow suit. But not for us my friends—not if our intent is to follow Jesus.

His intent was to shake things up a bit and not just for the sake of shaking things up, but for the distinct purpose of making life better for all the people in his world.  He was about inclusiveness, equality, justice, expansiveness-of-heart (LOVE) and all of that, demanded more than the status quo.

In Jesus’ world half the population—by gender, had no voice—at the synagogue, they were placed in back behind a screen—no participation intended or expected.  In his society, due to ignorance, fear, or inconvenience, those with any kind of skin ailment (all called lepers) were shunned, living deplorable lives.  Children, like women, had no voice, no place, no power—unless they were independently wealthy themselves, the women, that is, which was rare.  As Jesus “grew in wisdom,” the wisdom talked about in our first reading today, the greatest gift the writer proclaims—in so many words; Jesus came to understanding and a righteous anger about the world in which he lived! The Scriptures tell us that Jesus also grew “in grace”—that “life force” that enabled him to move with power, speaking truth about the unequal conditions to the powers that ruled the world in which he lived.

For Jesus, the Scriptures ruled his world, not what his neighbor did or did not do.  It could be said of Jesus as the writer to the Hebrews proclaims today, “God’s word is living and active” [in this one].  And because this was true for Jesus, it must be true for us, and like him; we must act upon the truth we know—there must be something deep down that moves us beyond the comfortable and the convenient.  Most of us would consider this “deep down something” our morals, what when, “push comes to shove,” we can act alone, if need be, to do the right thing.

Today, I would like to tell you about a man who has visited our community twice this year, once in the spring and again, just two weeks ago, Father Jim Callahan. I would say of him, if it could be said of anyone, when push comes to shove, his eyes are on Jesus and he acts accordingly.

Eight years ago, when he was sent to pastor St. Mary’s Catholic church in Worthington, MN; he found two communities, basically an Hispanic community and an Anglo-American community—at least that is how they presented themselves for worship and the sacraments.  He asked “why?” the two separate communities and each answered, “They don’t want to be with us.”  So, as a true leader would do, he brought them together.  Prior to this, there were separate Masses, separate sacramental preparation times, etc.—duplication of all services.  Again, a true leader will find the path to inclusion.

And before I continue my story about Jim Callahan, a bit of an aside.  In the beginning I mentioned that he had been sent to Worthington to pastor the people of St. Mary’s Catholic church.  It is my contention that if the priests of this country and around the world would begin using the title, “pastor” instead of “father,”  “monsignor, or “most reverend,” they would go a long way toward helping themselves to get back on the right path to truly serving their people because every time someone addressed them as “pastor,” they would be reminded of what they are truly called to do and maybe not as easily go astray. That is why I tell you that if you need a title for me, “pastor” would be the one that I prefer.

So now, back to Jim Callahan.  Some of the back story to understand the separation and perhaps the feelings that, “They don’t want to be with us,” Father Callahan discovered eight years ago when he learned that there was an ICE raid on Worthington’s then, Swift plant that captured 1300 undocumented persons.  At that time, before his arrival, people fled to the church and found the doors locked.  When the priest was asked, “Why?” he basically said, “They didn’t want to be involved!”

Our gospel reading today seems to speak to this dilemma in the life of the Christian.  “How hard it is for the ‘rich’ to enter God’s kindom.” Jesus, of course is talking about those who are materially rich, but there are many ways that this Scripture can be applied—people are “rich” who have power, position and status in their communities, places of business, their families and to do something counter-culture, against the status quo can be difficult, if not down-right fearsome to do—there are penalties for being different! One part of us wants to do what is right, but it can be very hard.

This is where hope comes in—that ability to trust and move toward what is best for all believing in a good outcome.  The psalmist today says well, “When morning comes, fill us with your love and then we will celebrate all our days.”

My friends, our commitment as Christians, as followers of our brother, Jesus, doesn’t allow for such a response [as] “we don’t want to be involved.” In Jesus’ memory; we can hardly do less, than be involved! Father Callahan thought the same.  Two years ago, when the president issued his crackdown on the undocumented in our country, shortly after his election in 2016, Father Callahan and his community in Worthington made official what they had been doing right along by becoming a Sanctuary church, caring for their needy sisters and brothers in their midst as they worked their way toward citizenship. He made it known then that the doors of St. Mary’s would always be open to those seeking asylum or presenting with any other need.

In a talk that I attended at St. Mary’s University here in Winona approximately two weeks ago; Father Callahan gave some of his rationale for his actions in Worthington. First he spoke about the notion of “image of God” and that this is the core symbol of human dignity—that each of us is made in the image of God.  He reminded us that a common theme in the matter of immigration or other issues of power is always, “dehumanization”—if someone can be made out to be a criminal, a rapist, etc. we are perhaps “justified” in our abuse.

Next, he spoke of “the Word of God,” our Scriptures, our holy books—these words tell us the way we are to go! And finally, “the Mission of God,” that calls us to basically, “walk the talk.”  Father Jim shared that the hardest part of being an immigrant, “is to be no one to anyone!”

He went on to say that immigration is not a problem to be solved, but is about people who need to be healed.  We have to remember why these people have risked their lives to come to this country—for a better life for their children, free from bloodshed, fear and hunger.  And in this regard we must again remember our brother Jesus—who is God—the same God who takes on the form of the most vulnerable throughout history.

Father Jim shared his experience of listening to the stories of the immigrants and said, “In the face of that; you cannot NOT act!” In answer to a question from the audience that he describe an immigrant from his experience; he related the harrowing experience of a woman, in her struggle to get to this country, losting most of what all of us hold dear; spouse, children, livelihood and yet, in the end she could still express gratitude that even though her family was gone, she had been blessed to have them because they made her who she was today.

I would think that at times like this, a person would have to realize that they are in the holy presence of God! Father Jim concluded his comments by saying that in such matters as these, it is “Jesus who crosses borders” and that in our response as a country, as individuals, that the walls of our heart” are many times the greatest” borders to cross!

Finally my friends, I knew that I needed to share Father Jim’s story with you because he is really a soul mate to all of us in our ministry here—as the mission of St. Mary’s Catholic church comes from John 17 also—“that all may be one.” Indeed! Amen? Amen!

 

 

Homily – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, we come to this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time amid many other significant mileposts in this month of October in its first days.  Thursday was the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, one of our brothers in the faith who lived over 800 years ago, but has been and continues to be loved to this day by Catholics and others, the world over, due to his respect, care and actual delight in all of creation.  It has been said of Francis, that probably more than any human who ever lived; he lived closest to the life of our brother, Jesus.

The first Sunday in October on the Catholic calendar is always Respect Life Sunday.  Many staunch Catholics use this Sunday as their “flag Sunday,” so to speak, to uplift life within the womb and the need to defend that life and rightly so.  Those who take the longer view as did Jesus and Francis realize that all life, in every form, human and animal, animate and inanimate, must be respected and it is here that the issue of life moves into a gray area—which life, when, where, how, as we deal with our very complex world.

Our baptisms, confirmations, our well-formed consciences demand that we struggle with these life issues and with God’s help, come to the best decisions.  No one can do this tough work for us; we must each struggle in order to come to the best answer.

There is much in our world at present that causes us to “go deeper,” again as our sister, Hildegarde of Bingen wrote.  Some of the tough work at present is as follows:

  • Placing people on the Supreme Court that live by the values this country stands for, certainly among them, respect for life, all life, from beginning to end.  What happened in Washington this last week calls into question whether “respecting life” was even on the agenda, especially when it comes to women.  The candidate confirmed had been credibly charged with abusing women.
  • Finding just and compassionate ways to treat the alien residents among us—the current situation in Arcadia, WI with recent arrests by ICE are certainly cases in point. Our board, in your name has gifted, through the Winona Sanctuary Network, those working with affected families, $250.00. We are aware of one family, a young mother with a 10-month old who our gift will aid, both with material needs and legal assistance for her husband, and there are others, we are told.
  • As we consider the full range of issues included in Respect Life Sunday; we cannot forget, care for our beautiful blue planet. Wisconsin Public Television this last week aired a special report on the crisis of plastic on our planet—it is everywhere, so much in our oceans and it lasts forever! This is something we all have to be aware of and look for ways to use less and to properly care and redistribute that which is already here. San Francisco is a model in this regard.  They are striving to be self-sufficient in energy through the use of solar power by 2030 with measurable increments through the years! They have fountains throughout the city to fill water bottles, centers to recharge batteries for electric cars, and recycling is top priority there. The project is called The Years Project and cities with a will to do the same could replicate their efforts.

Our readings for this Sunday speak to the idea of “relationship,” both with God, our neighbors on this planet and with the most vulnerable among us.  In addition, these readings call us to our basic need as humans, for other humans—we can’t do it alone. The current situation in my family of origin with my sister-in-law, Stephanie reminds me once again of this.  The first reading from Genesis says as much and more—“it is not good for the earth creature to be alone—this is why people leave their parents and become bonded to one another.”

As an aside and here, I will shift our focus a bit; we can be most grateful for The Priests for Equality text in this regard as it aids us in seeing the equality and inclusiveness of our God.  In older texts, “Adam” is read as the male form of humanity and of course, created first by the male God—remember who wrote the text! But in this more inclusive text from PFE; we learn the true derivation of “a-dam”—which is, “earth creature.” Upon putting “a-dam” to sleep and dividing the creature in two, only then are male and female forms created!  And when the male creature noticed what had happened, he said, “This time, this is the one!” But we must notice too that the text does not say, “this is the only one,” who will make a good mate, thus our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers can read this text and find themselves within it—“this is why people leave their parents.

We always have to look for the grandest, most important message that our good, inclusive God is trying to convey.  And here, it is that the “earth creature” should not be alone—not that the man must bond with the woman.  Such a small reading of this text makes our God small too.  We might say, “Relationship, relationship, always, relationship!”

In conjunction then with “respecting life,” the second reading from Hebrews fits well too.  Here we read that because Jesus became, “little less than the angels,” human that is; he is not ashamed of us, but indeed uplifts humanity by calling us, “brothers and sisters!”  We see too in the Genesis reading the true disposition that we as humans should take toward our bodies—“the woman and man were both naked, but they were not ashamed.”  I know that is not the training I received growing up concerning my body!  Jesus then confirms this disposition in Hebrews through this writer declaring that Jesus is not “ashamed” either to take on human flesh.

The Gospel reading in fact takes this one step further in uplifting all of humanity, especially, the least among us.  Jesus is calling the community in which he lives to reverence, to respect, in deference to today’s special Sunday, for the very least among them—the children.  In Jesus’ time, as you know, children had absolutely no place, no power.  But, he changed all that in telling the people that unless they became like little children, they could not be part of the kin-dom.

Bringing this to our present day, if we are too to be like little children, how different might the month-long Synod on Youth in Rome among the bishops look if in fact any youth were invited to be part of the deliberations? How different might the actions of priests and bishops be with regard to clergy sex abuse if they had taken Jesus’ words here to heart?

Respecting life is really about reverencing life in all its forms as that first Francis, 800 years ago did.  Pope Francis has indicated to his world in Laudato Si his concern for our world, its environment and climate and he must continue to expand his notions in this regard to include true equality between women and men.  Only when the “earth creature” is seen inclusively as “God-infused” in its feminine and male forms, while different, still equal, can we truly celebrate Respect Life Sunday within our Catholic church.

When the clergy speak the same thought as I just did; they underscore the different, not the equal, really meaning, not equal, but in fact, different, and so, less than. Their actions through time with regard to position, inclusion within the highest places of the Catholic church are proof of that.  Women’s voices are missing—it’s as simple as that and because they aren’t included and considered, abuse can continue.

By extension, this abuse continues into society as well supporting the patriarchy there—the current Supreme Court fiasco is proof of that! Those who aren’t considered are ultimately, forgotten. On this Respect Life Sunday then, let us truly respect all life and live as though we believe that should be the case! Amen? Amen!  

 

 

Homily – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, our world these past few weeks has swirled with stories from Church and State about abuses of power, lack of accountability, lives of privilege, and within this milieu, the sense, in both areas that, “We are better than all of humanity beneath us,” whether it be in a Jesuit prep school or within the hierarchy of the Catholic church.

The interesting thing to realize is that this abuse has been with us, in Church and State for many, many years, only now; we are at a pivotal time because of the presence of the #MeToo Movement and the advancement of women in many areas of our world.  Through education and the realization, to a certain extent, within our Church and more so in our world at large, that women are equal to men and must be treated with the respect that equality demands; there has been some improvement, but much is yet needed.

And, before I get too far, one further comment on the culture out of which these abuses flow, whether in Church or State, because they work hand in hand.  As a country/state, or Church, when all the voices are not heard; there is always danger to become elitist, to feel privileged, to be above others and the longer such systems continue, the effects become insidious.

This condition exists, as we know within our country, our political systems, where women are still trying to break the “glass ceiling” of the presidency, where just the other day a woman’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was spoken of by one male as “attractive” and “pleasing” and no one but women called attention to it.

This condition exists within our Catholic church and many other denominations as well in the form of patriarchy that clearly names God as male and routinely places women second, certainly not worthy to serve at the altar!

For these reasons and many more, women must be willing to demand that their rights to fair consideration for jobs, for pay, and for respect in this world be uplifted.  Men who love women must do the same whether it be in State or Church matters and it must be done now!

The time has come that misogyny must simply not be tolerated wherever it is found, whether that be in Catholic high schools, colleges, Congress, the presidency, the general public, wherever—it must not be tolerated and we all must say so!

Our Scriptures for today are reflective for us in many ways.  Beginning in the first reading from Numbers; we heard the clarion call from Moses, “If only all of God’s people were prophets.”  When we speak about “prophets” and “being a prophet;” we are talking about proclaiming the truth, given to one, against all odds.

James is speaking to the people that he is called to prophesy to—in his words, “To the twelve tribes of Israel.”  He is calling them to equality in their lives—it’s a rich versus poor kind of thing—treating others basically as they themselves would want to be treated.  That has always struck me as quite a basic concept, yet hard, it would seem, for some to do.  James states rather pointedly, “It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered no resistance.”

The same can be said my friends for those who are victims of any kind of abuse of power—many in these situations often feel there is no one they can turn to. Our nation saw this very thing in the proceedings this past week in Washington—women often have to work very hard to have their stories of abuse first, listened to, and then have any action taken against perpetrators of these crimes.

In the Gospel for today; we hear our brother, Jesus, speak quite inclusively when he answers the apostle John’s question about whether they should allow someone, not of their group, “to expel demons in Jesus’ name.  They hadn’t quite got his message yet, it would seem, that his, “way, truth and life” was for everyone.  He answers simply, “Anyone who is not against us is with us!”

Jesus goes on to spell out what they and all others (including those not in their group) are called to:  giving drink to the thirsty, and we can assume, food and clothing to those in need.  He states that the greatest evil would be that we would cause a little one to stumble and the penalty for that minces no words!

So, my friends, how do we talk about our life as we find it today, without seemingly coming down on one side or another, especially when it comes to politics?  All I can do is to keep my eyes on Jesus, his actions and his words and act accordingly making it clear that what I will try and do is not about making a political statement, but a heart statement.  Misogyny, a basic hatred of women that causes men to disrespect and use them for their own pleasure is wrong no matter who does it, Democrat or Republican. Religious groups that advocate for life in the womb must carry that concern through to care for those children once here and through every aspect of their lives—life is life, birth to death and again, not a political, but a “heart” or moral decision.

Miriam Williams, a Kentucky writer who lives in Philadelphia and writes for the National Catholic Reporter penned a piece recently entitled, A Strong Faith Can Handle the Test of Startling Questions.  She is responding primarily to religious evangelicals and other conservatives who want to have their faith all laid out for them—do this, do that and you’re saved! Williams writes that [she] “believes a strong faith can handle the test of ‘tough meat’ when it comes in the form of startling questions.  What if God sees nothing wrong with women delivering the Gospel?  What if homosexuality isn’t a sin? What if it is, but God has enough grace to cover it? What if the Bible is literary, but not literal?”   She goes on, “I chew, I listen for God in the bites.  I digest.  I am energized and satisfied, even as I wonder how much longer so many people will feel full on theology that starves them.”

So, my friends, this may sound like I am swirling around, not getting to the point, but my intent here was actually not to step on any “political toes” but “to go deeper” as mystic, Hildegard of Bingen is known for encouraging.

We must move beyond the political, the seemingly religious, the pious, the law, in all its coldness and respond from our hearts as Jesus did.  We must look for the truth in these troubling times, not in rhetoric, but in actions of goodness, kindness, compassion—devoid of arrogance and self-centeredness—deep enough to realize that when I look into the face of another, suffering due to something that I believe or have done; I can see my own face, and in all of that, the face of God.

Looking this deeply my friends will hopefully assist us to find the most inclusive and heartfelt decision for all of God’s people.  Amen? Amen!

 

 

Homily – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, first on behalf of the All Are One Catholic parish here; I wish to publicly welcome members of the graduating class of Cotter High School, 1968!  Back then, we were on the cusp of our lives—everything was ahead of us, everything was seemingly possible.  And now with the passage of 50 years—incredible when you think about it,  and the reality that these years have brought; we are more seasoned. There have been ups and downs and hopefully, more ups than downs! Our lives have grown beyond us through spouses and children and grandchildren and growth in other ways—in hopes and dreams, marked by our lives’ work.

The Wisdom writer in today’s first reading speaks indeed with wisdom about the struggles that can befall us in life—how we may have suffered “at the hands of enemies,” but also about how we may have triumphed by doing the right thing—not just for ourselves, but for others.

Reunions of any kind, whether family or school reunions are always times to look back, assess what was, both the good and the not-so-good and be conscious of what we learned and experienced then, but more importantly, all that we have learned and experienced since that has made us the people we are today.

Recently, a friend and family member of ours completed her life’s journey here as she succumbed to cancer.  Those who knew and loved her gathered for a celebration of her life.  The celebration was complete with what makes such celebrations memorable: hugs and kisses, tears, laughter, sadness, joy shared—memories, pictures from the past and the present, prayers for the family left behind, the meeting of old friends not seen for a while, remembering together all the good and fun stories, promises of getting together sooner, rather than later, because none of us knows how much time we have left.  I remember a few years back realizing that I had lived the greater portion of my life and of having a sense that I wanted to do the best with whatever I had left!

I have been struck these last few days with how the gathering of old classmates or the celebration of a loved one’s life is quite similar. How many times have we all said, “We only get together or see each other at weddings and funerals,” and then lament that we don’t do it oftener.

Such times often allow us to see life more clearly, the goodness of it, and of how we don’t want to waste it.  With regard to a high school reunion, we realize that we have all grown, have all changed in many ways and often times for the better—we have been “tested and proven,” so to speak, by life—hopefully become and did what our life called forth from us.

In James’ letter, our second reading today; he speaks about how jealousy and ambition can get in the way of peacemaking and that these two can bring about disharmony and all sorts of other evils.  I think with the passage of 50 years; we can see how jealousy and ambition probably played a part as we all struggled with our teen years.  James is writing to the early followers of Jesus and they could probably be likened to a high school class in its early days.

Back in our earlier years, 1964-68; we as students were struggling with growth changes in body, mind and soul much like the early Christians struggled with new ideas that Jesus shared with them. The personal changes that we struggled with as teenagers were part of our becoming who we were meant to be.

Father Paul Nelson, our principal, one who most in our class looked up to as a model of the way to go in life was constantly reminding us to “have the intestinal fortitude to be men and women!” Most of us probably strove to become that woman, that man that he asked us to be to please and make him proud of us and in the end we actually became the mature peacemakers that James talked of today, “sowing seeds that will bear fruit.”

My friends, today, it would seem, even more than at any other time, our country and Church are in need of people “who have the intestinal fortitude to be men and women.”  Within our country there seems to be an exclusive nature that pits those with means against those without, rather than a sense that we are all equal, endowed by our Creator and worthy of having those things that make life worth living—a home, food, clothing, a sense of safety in this world.

Within our Church, much reform is needed to curb “the jealousy and ambition” that James talks about today.  Our hierarchy needs to become good listeners of their people so that the Spirit of Jesus can instruct them through the People of God as to the way to proceed. A male priest in good standing recently said that what is happening in our Church at present is comparable to the Lutheran Reformation.

In other words, the struggles brought on by the clergy sex abuse crisis that were made possible because of the clerical system are very serious. The structure of the Church needs to be looked at from top to bottom and the changes needed must come from all the People of God and all the voices must be heard and listened to for the changes to make a real difference.

Jesus gets at the tone that should be taken in the gospel from Mark today.  He tells the apostles and others that they must welcome a little child as they would welcome him.  Now for us to get his meaning we must remember that in Jesus’ time, children had absolutely no status, so he is saying, for our purposes here that all the voices must be heard—we as Jesus’ followers must uplift the rights of all for our Church to reform and become something that Jesus would recognize.

Recently, I have been working my way through Richard Rohr’s book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation.  Rohr, a Franciscan order priest has spent his life trying through teaching and writing to help people see that we can’t just be hearers of the Word, but must somehow, take that Word and incorporate it into our lives.  He challenges the powers-that-be too within our Church to make Jesus’ message understandable in today’s world—it isn’t and never was about law, but love. In so many words, he really is saying, “Keep your eyes on Jesus and if you do, you can’t go wrong. Jesus always moved past the law when it didn’t include love, mercy and understanding.

Now if we were to apply that thought to the clergy sex abuse crisis; we would never expect our so-called leaders to show that preserving their power was more important than protecting our children, which is what they did.

But, as I said in the bulletin; we want to hold onto our hope and in that light, I share a letter from a priest friend in response to letters that I originally wrote to the Winona bishop, John Quinn and to Pope Francis asking for reform within our Church, stressing that they both needed to be real leaders in this effort.  I then shared my letters with seven priests that I know in this diocese and across the country.  The priest in question wrote the following:

    “Kathy, thanks for your note. I appreciate your words to Bishop Quinn and Francis—well said.  We are planning listening sessions here. Please keep us in your prayers.” 

So, my friends, there is hope and we must hold onto that! Additionally, we must do our part, whatever that is to make our voices heard. We must decide what kind of Church we want, what kind of country we want and do our part to secure that.  The Spirit of our Loving God lives within each of us to help us to be all that we were meant to be—let us pray and ask for all that we need! Amen? Amen!

Homily – 24th Weekend in Ordinary Time

You will recall that last week we spent time talking about the virtue of hope, deciding that it is what allows us to go on many times, when life situations within Church and State leave us feeling confused, helpless and even lost.  It is at times like these that we may realize that the God we have come to know is too small, too distant, to meet our needs.

With these beginning thoughts; I would like to share a story, apropos as the East Coast deals with the land-fall of Hurricane Florence.  This is a story that many of you have no doubt heard, so use it as stepping-stone toward more fully answering Jesus’ question from today’s gospel, “Who do you say that I am?”

It seems that the rain and inevitable flooding had forced a woman by the name of “Faith” to her rooftop.  I might underscore that the word, “faith” is one that means, trust.”  That having been said, Faith sat on her rooftop, believing and trusting that God would save her life. As the storm raged on and Faith kept praying, a boat came along and offered her help, to which she answered, “No, God will save me!” Being that the operator of the boat had others to save, he moved on.

Faith was given another offer of help from the pilot of a helicopter going by who noticed her plight.  Faith, displaying a great deal of trust, once again declined the offer.

The storm continued to rage on; Faith kept praying and the waters continued to rise.  That day, she met her Maker and at first glance she protested vehemently, “My God, I have always believed in you, prayed and trusted that you would be with me, that you would save me in time of trouble—why did you let me drown?” Her Maker smiled at her and said, “My child, I sent you both a boat and a helicopter!”

Now clearly, Faith’s image of God was far too small!  This past week; I took a day and a half for a retreat at Assisi Heights in Rochester.  My book of choice, for this time of reflection, by Fr. Richard Rohr, Franciscan, was, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. I would say that his image of God is so large and all-encompassing, ever growing still, that if our fictional character, Faith, had believed in such a God; her life would have been profoundly different.

Rohr’s thesis seems to be, that our relationship with God has to in fact, be about “relationship,” in the best sense imaginable. It can’t be top-down, power-over, but “power-with” us.  Think, if you can about the best relationship you know of or have been part of.  Such a relationship is about mutual sharing, even intimate sharing at times; respect, giving and caring—everything really, that is good.  Our relationship with God must be that way.

Rohr goes on to call this relationship, “flow.” The flow of love for and with the other must naturally continue on to include others, and on and on.  This is why Rohr says, “trinity” is such a perfect way to describe the essence of God.

He speaks in the traditional terms of, Father, Son and Spirit but says this is only the starting place.  God is genderless, yet encompassing all gender, the animate and the inanimate of creation, which gives us then, many names for God that at any point can be quite meaningful.

The love, the flow between the first two persons of the Trinity, as we have understood them, becomes an even more elusive third person, the Spirit, and the relationship of all that love flows out and onward to encompass all in its path—it has to work that way, Rohr says.  The relationship between the three is where the strength is.

This same notion of relationship is what theologians like Teilhard de Chardin in the past and Ilia Delio and Diarmuid O’Murchu in the present were and are talking about when they unite concepts of theology and science in the study of the origin, evolution and eventual fate of the universe, or, cosmology. Richard Rohr would say, “It all fits.”

But western religion, he continues, made the mistake of basically “making” God into a substance that can be explained away.  “Transubstantiation” on our Catholic altars being one of those mistakes, he says.  The trouble with “boxing God in” defining what God is and what God is not makes God narrow—very small, one really that couldn’t be expected to keep us safe.  The fictional character, Faith, had such a small, inflexible God.  And she can’t really be totally blamed—religious institutions have long been guilty of trying to “explain God away,” or at least make God in their own image.

Rohr goes on to say that we need to see God in all of creation—he asks us to think about how hard it is to resist [showing love] to a wide-eyed baby or petting an earnest dog.  You want to pull them to yourself with love because they are, for a moment—forgive me, he says—“God.”  Or, we can think of it the other way around, “Is it you [or I] who have become “God” by standing in such an unresisted flow?” [Love, that is].

He answers his own questions—both are true! This flow, this love that is seen in “all beauty, in all admiring, in all ecstasy, in all solidarity with any suffering, is God, he says. Anyone who fully allows “the flow” will see the divine image even in places that have become ugly or undone.  This is the universal seeing of the Trinity,” he says.

And we could have no better model than our brother, Jesus, in showing how to make our God really big and visible.  Jesus taught that you don’t have to be perfect, or belong to a certain group to be part of the “flow of God,” the love of the Trinity.  The only question he ever asked of people who came to him for help was, Rohr reminds us, “Do you want to be healed?” He continues, “If we are willing to be touched by God; we will be healed.”

And so friends, when we attempt to answer Jesus’ question in today’s gospel, “Who do you say that I am?” think first that we can only speak of God with metaphor or see God through a dim glass, as Paul said.  Now while on the one hand, this may seem confining, on the other, it really opens up our images:  Creator, Savior, Rock, brother, friend; or for the Spirit; wind, falling fire and flowing water.  What image feels right for you when thinking about your relationship with God? Maybe your image needs updating.

I will conclude with several images, faces, if you will, of God that Rohr gives us: He begins by saying, [Our] “Triune God allows [us], impels [us], to live easily with God everywhere and all the time: in the budding of a plant, the smile of a gardener, the excitement of a teenage[r]  over [their] new [special friend,] the tireless determination of a research scientist, the pride of a mechanic over his hidden work under the hood, the loving nuzzling of horses, the tenderness with which eagles feed their chicks, and the downward flow of every stream.

Thus says Rohr, “Everything is holy, for those who have learned to see.” The prophet Isaiah today in the first reading says, “God awakens my ear to listen.”  We must be engaged with our world, my friends—see all of creation, especially the beauty, but the ugliness too, as the place where our God dwells.

I began these thoughts today speaking of hope and it seems to me that if our God can be as big and diverse as creation itself, than we have a great deal to be hopeful about!  It takes a good deal of faith at times, to live in our world but our faith will lead us to action, James instructs today. And the more that we ask for the grace to see God in everything, the more this divine awareness will be ours.  Amen? Amen!