Generous to A Fault–Jamie

September 24, 2017

Generous to A Fault–Jamie, Cooking With the Fallen Ones

Laborers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius[a] a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’[b] 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Jamie is twenty one. He uses meth. Presently his parents have him locked down in his room to try to keep him from using, with the threat of not giving him a place to live, if he uses. So he sneaks out, and gets his meth, and returns. His life is one high, one frustration, and like he says “I fucking feel like God, when I am high.”

Addiction is not just about physical addiction, but there is the spiritual element, the element of having hope and meaning in life. I would have been where Jamie is presently if I had not, and still have, my faith in Jesus.   Spirituality in its many forms, and many faces of God, connects us to others, and we want to give generously. 

The Parable today illustrates that God is a generous giver, he gives equally to everyone. If we gave equally to every one all would have enough to eat, everyone have health insurance, a place to live, and from what Jesus tells us we all would have meaning in our lives. People criticize me for my generosity, but the reality I give is because Jesus has given so much to me and in that giving I find meaning, hope, and I find Jesus present in my neighbors. I always pay everyone the same thing when I hire people, whether they work an hour or eight–simply to remove the greediness, and see each person as the Christ.

There are many faces of God, and each face calls us to share abundantly, to find meaning and hope.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.\

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

http://www.temenos.org

 

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A Kaleidoscope of Colors

September 21, 2017
A KALEIDOSCOPE OF COLORS
 

Eckhart Tolle says of living life, “Your life situation exists in time, your life is here,” which leads to approaching death as Dag Hammarskjold comments “Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.”
 
In the last few days walking through airports seeing the suffering from Hurricanes, and visiting with one twenty three year old facing the death sentence, sitting with two seventeen and eighteen year old’s one as we play computer games throughout the night, and  the other smoking pot in the desert, who not by their own choice find themselves without parents, and living lives far different than they lived several years ago, and texting with a twenty one year old in the early morning hours who uses speed and comments, “The

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drug makes me feel like a god!”All of this reminds me of the many ghosts in our lives, from money, power, sex, and prestige, ghosts that are addictions

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dominate.

​All of us have ghosts, all of have addictions.​
​ It depends on whom we choose to following in living with those ghosts.​
 
For me these days has reminded me of how I walk on the edge, and have all my life, and if it was not for my relationship with Jesus, I wonder, where would I be. For this relationship at times 

​I have held on to by a thin thread​, but by holding on I have survived, and have worked with many. By following that transforming power, and allowing myself to be opened, I have lived life.  And in the midst of depression, fear, rejection, and misunderstanding, have known that I belong to Him. Jesus of Nazareth has loved me without judgment, none whatsoever, and out of that love I have had no choice but to love others, to give myself as totally as I  can to others. To meet people without judgment and simply love them for who they are. Paul tells us in Romans, that “Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God,” and in that knowledge nothing scares me, taunts me, or runs me off.
The reason I never offer judgment is simply Jesus never offers judgment on me, but allows me to find my own way, simply being present to me. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
However much concerned I was at the problem of misery in the world, I never let myself get lost in brooding over it. I always held firmly to the thought that each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of it to an end.
– Albert Schweitzer
 
(How might you do that today?)
 
 

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min., D.S.T.
Temenos Catholic Worker
Society of Franciscan Workers, Inc
Po. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164
www.temenos.org
415-305-2124

Cooking With the Fallen Ones–Matthew

September 17, 2017

Cooking with the Fallen Ones–Matthew

Feast of St. Matthew

Matthew 9:9-13

Matthew, in our photo, is similar to the Matthew of the gospels. He is an outcast in his society, he has been has sexually abused, used by men; He ran away from home because he was questioning his sexuality. Matt is homeless, and his mask is his way of relating to people around him. And he is fun to be around.

The apostle Matthew, found meaning in Jesus, and lived a life of service, but one of struggle.

I have been ill all week, and had lunch with some friends in Marin and then went to a foot ball game of a friend. My friends at lunch talked about remodeling their house and their plans.  During the middle of the game I felt really ill, and left. As I was leaving the area some adults yelled my name and handed me fifty dollars, and thanked me for “working with those other people.” They left and I threw up.

I do not understand this world, a world in which we see everything. I am afraid even  to take a leak in the Park for fear of being seen by a camera, and yet we can not not feed the person who is at our door, we can not speak to them, we turn our heads away. People have told me I should try to fit in more–and the reality for me to do so would be to sell my soul. I would be dead in my living body.

Shaggy came to my door late last night for  a pair of socks. He had been in jail for a month, and was proud of his new clothes, his clean shaven hair–he had bugs and maggots before–so proud, and was drunk again and going back into his old life. Shaggy deserves to be loved, no matter how he looks, acts, and what he chooses–he deserves to be loved without expectation.

I am often asked if I get lonely–usually I deflect, but the truth is I get lonely as hell, but whether or not there is a God this is my calling.  It is lonely when I can not share my true feelings with people because they would be offended, it is lonely, when I am expected to be different. It is lonely when I give of myself all the time. It is really fucking lonely. But in that loneliness there is grace.

I just found a person to be my power of attorney, who will answer the phone, if called, and she is a great woman, but I laughed to myself, as I confirmed with her yesterday, she does not know me, she thinks  I am crazy and sees me as her eighteen year old son’s friend,  yet she will do it. That takes some balls, and I am grateful. But it is lonely–no family to do it, no close friends.

The world is fallen, will never be different, but  Matthew’s call is one to all of us, a call  to look at ourselves and reach out and see people not as the “other”, but as ourselves. For you see we are all the “other”.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

http://www.temenos.org

Cooking With the Fallen Ones-The End of Times

September 16, 2017

Cooking With the Fallen One’s–Living in the End Times

Henri Nouwen tells us that “Jesus doesn’t support an optimistic outlook.  He foresees not only the destruction of his beloved city Jerusalem but also a world full of cruelty, violence, and conflict. For Jesus there is no happy ending in this world. The challenge of Jesus is to not to solve all the world’s problems before the end of time but to remain faithful at any cost.”

We all live in the end  times, for we are all dying, and our deaths are nearer than we think. Our deaths are the end of time.  Jesus calls us to focus on the present, to live in love. The truth is we are all fallen, creatures who have lost sight of the meaning of why we were created, and that state brings destruction to ourselves and everything  around us.

Emergencies, hurricanes, earthquakes, bring the best out of all of us–people open their homes, their pocketbooks, and their lives, but the ordinariness of life dulls us.

Look around, and one will see a state of emergency–in each alley, on ever corner, in our parks, people are sleeping in tents, they are crying for food, and for support. They crave individual attention, they crave someone holding their hand, giving them food–rather we simply walk by averting our eyes. They are no different than us–those of us with housing, money in our pockets, health insurance–simply have been throwing the lucky dice–and we can lose. We are not “blessed” we are simply “lucky”.  We are all in the same boat.

Let us open our eyes and see the endless war this country continues to wage, a war that has killed and maimed millions, and for what purpose?

Let us open our eyes and see the destruction of our environment. All for our own human self-gratification.

I have been very sick this week, laying here in my room alone, listening to my demons,  and the words of Henri Nouwen rings true to me:

“It is indeed a hard discipline to be useless in God’s presence and to let him speak  in the silence of my heart. But whenever I become a little useless I know God is calling me to a new life far beyond the boundaries of my usefulness.”

My own experience teaches me that we are redeemed by Jesus, and in that redemption we get a glimpse, just a glimpse, of a God who only has one desire-that we love each other, and it is that simple–to love each other in a way that we provide for the needs of all. All of us are fuck ups–but God loves us despite ourselves!  So simple, and yet so difficult! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.S.T., D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

http://www.temenos.org

 

Cooking With the Fallen Ones-Michael

September 11, 2017

Cooking With the Fallen Ones–Mike

On my computer and my cell phone I rotate photos of various friends. Presently I have my friend Matt’s, senior photo, and if there has to be a reason (God help me if I do not have a reason, right?) first of all he is my friend, and in the past few months has simply walked with me, taking me as I am,  but in  reality  his photo symbolizes hope. The hope for the future.  Matt is a compassionate guy, and in that compassion there is hope. For only as we live our lives in compassion can we offer hope to the world. In the days ahead I will carry other photos, one I carry often is that of Michael.
Three years  ago late one night I received a call, and my friend Mike had overdosed, just gotten out of jail and used too much. Mike was 32, I had known him since he was 15. He came from a good family, but in living the questions of life, became involved in the life on the street. He prostituted, went through girlfriends, and boy friends; would go home and have his life together for a year or two, and than back again.
I saw his body that night, and his face, still haunts me, and than two days later before cremation I saw his body wrapped in a blanket, head shaved. I still have night mares of the last two times I saw him–he was dead–never to struggle with his questions, never to hug me, never to hug his parents, never to fight with me, and argue with me, and question me. A hundred people were at his memorial service on the street. He was loved. I became so very ill after that night, and could not go to Oregon for his family service, and wrote the service for his family, and that has always been a sorrow that comes back to me. And yet maybe it was best for this stranger not be there, but only his family and friends.
A question Michael asked me one night as he was high on H one that  was really telling, and showed his heart: “Why do people allow people to live on the streets, when there is enough for everyone?” Smart guy.
There was an article in the paper yesterday about the lack of housing increasing, homelessness in our rural counties is out of control–and so all I can do is simply  like Matt and I did yesterday–feed the hungry, listen to people, live simply and walk with them, what can others do? That is the question each of us must answer, for the present and future depends upon that answer? Not on the government–for it is  our answer that dictates our laws–what are we to do? What would Jesus Do through each of us?
And I always asked myself the question:  When will my time come to be on the street?  There are no guarantees.The only guarantee we have is death.
Deo Gratias? Thanks be to God?
+Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min., D.S.T.
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164
415-305-2124

Cooking With the Fallen Ones-

September 8, 2017

Cooking With the Fallen Ones–Jake

It is an ongoing temptation to think of ourselves as living under a curse. The loss of a friend, an illness, an accident, a natural disaster, a war, or any failure can make us quickly think that we are no good and are being punished. This temptation to think of our lives as full of curses is even greater when all the media present us day after day with stories about human misery.

 

Jesus came to bless us, not to curse us. But we must choose to receive that blessing and hand it on to others. Blessings and curses are always placed in front of us. We are free to choose. God says, Choose the blessings! Henri Nouwen

Recently I was in Tucson and as I was coming out of the door of a restaurant –there was three young guys panhandling in the heat, and they recognized me and was more than happy to see me, and so I bought them a meal and we talked as friends do when they have not seen each other in a long time. My travelers, 19, moving around the country, begging, hanging out, simply having fun. But in the tents on Polk Street, on Divisidaro and other streets there is much suffering.

I was recently with an old time friend, visiting, and she brought up homelessness, and I told her I did not want to talk about it. I have to be careful when I talk to most of my housed friends–they see homelessness as a “problem.” They do not see the faces–I sometimes have nightmares in remembering faces of people as they sleep outside my door, or have moved on ,and the one’s who have died. Homelessness for me is people, and is very personal.

Homelessness for me is in the photo of ‘Jake”, a veteran, whom I have known for years, who sleeps on the street, has difficulty with his temper, whom I have seen racially discriminated against repeatedly. Jake is difficult, to say the least, sometimes I am clinching my teeth as he follows me down the street talking about who knows what.  Jake is difficult.

Homelessness for me is each young person I come into contact with in the Park and on the street. Late last night as I parked my car and was coming around the corner on Sacramento Street, a dozen people in their tents called my name. It  tears my heart up as I go into my nice place, and leave my friends on the street.  It hurts like hell, it gnaws at me, it tears me up. For they are my friends–when I have been ill it has been my homeless friends who have taken care of me; they have given me more than I can ever return to them.

Homelessness for me is in each person I know, for all of us are homeless in our own way–in our desperate search for friends, money, more material goods–all of us are homeless, but in different ways–we all suffer.

I am struggling with depression, yes, but this comes with the territory of entering into the lives of people who suffer; My depression is simply my humanity.  When I took my first church at 16 and a half I was told I would be “pricking the conscience” of the middle class for the next 60 years; well it wears you out when few hear you, when few can not cross their boundaries of housing, money, and enter into communication  in a more total way, and not be afraid.

My best friends are younger than I am for a reason-they are not afraid to be open, to accept me, and what I do for what it is. They take me for me.  I love hanging out with them–for I am just River or whatever name they choose to call me. Nothing more, nothing less. They see my fucked upness and love me anyway.  No expectations. I enjoy their ball games, hanging in their rooms watching T.V., driving them around–simply because–there is no judgment, only acceptance.

As Henri Nouwen tells us we must accept our blessings, and one blessing is the depression and the doubts that fill me for they empower me to think, to struggle, and to feel with all of my heart and give my life away. Yes I doubt, I scream at God, I go in and out of depression–and in doing so I come out screaming at the top of my lungs and keep on working.

John Steinbeck in his book The Grapes of Wrath describes the migrants and the Great  Depression–change the labels and you walk on our streets today–nothing has changed–only when our hearts change can  we find hope, only when we open our hearts and minds to others can there be justice, housing, health care.

Demonstrate–yes, but demonstrate first of all with your heart for love of your neighbor–for the neighbor in the dirty blanket, the dirty clothes and body, demonstrate for the love of your neighbor with your actions and heart for the undocumented, but give of your heart and mind without judgment. In all of the great demonstrations we have had in recent months I have seen few people give food to a homeless person–for me true a demonstration is with our hearts–give a sandwich. See the need of the other in front of you.

Demonstrate for our own homelessness, and see how all of homelessness plays into the hands of greed, and death–for homelessness ends when we realize that we are all travelers on the road to God, and in so doing we share of everything=ourselves, and our possessions, and in sharing find the common bond of our humanity. We are all in this together! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.S.T., D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Cooking With the Fallen One’s

September 7, 2017

Cooking With the Fallen One’s”

Making Way for Something New!–Andrew

Luke 5:1-11

“They left everything and followed him!”

Last night I talked to “Andrew”, a 19 year old college student. He hustles on Craig’s List for a “daddy”, and I asked him, “Why exactly do you want a “daddy” when you have everything given to you by your parents? He replied, “It relieves the boredom and gifts and money numb my feelings, and I get my dick sucked.” Andy talked about being so lonely since he has gotten out of high school–friends in college are preoccupied, don’t talk, and he has no one close..

Andy is every man, he is all of us. I have been struggling with depression and self doubt.  Someone made a quaint remark how Jesus “comforts you.” And my thought was “bull shit”.  Like Mother Teresa I have sloughed through my ministry–full doubt, lack of faith, centered in the hope that Christ is there, because he makes more sense than drugs, and working with people brings wholeness in my life.  To think that I have everything, and have it together–well forget about it, there are days I simply get up, say the Office, and work my ass off, simply to survive. The major reason I will  never retire is that my life would be hell–I have to stay busy.   As a kid filled with hope, and enthusiasm I left “everything and followed him,” with no regret, but doubts, fear, all go with the territory.

The effects of the malaria, the various wounds, bring me face to face with the Angel of Death.  And what gives me meaning is in simply listening to people, knowing that it brings hope and comfort.  Money, and physical items never bring comfort–but giving our lives away brings us into oneness with our brothers and sisters. 

People comment I am too generous, and see their spirituality in “believing in Jesus”, and what I believe, and have found in these years is that the more we give away, the more we receive. Jesus is not found in the sky–but in the giving of ourselves to others. He becomes incarnate in loving others.  For I have found that money, prestige, all are passing, they slip through our fingers, but loving,giving, and sharing is what we have for eternity. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.S.T., D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

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I never use real names, and I always check with people, if they are still living and present, if I write about them. Few object.

Cooking With the Fallen One’s–River

September 6, 2017

COOKING WITH THE FALLEN ONE’S–THE MIRACLE WITHIN–RIVER

Colossians 1:1-8, Luke 4:38-44

A PhD student recently completed his dissertation dealing with methods of working with youth. James followed me around for two weeks and observed.  He formed some new categories. One of  the the categories he calls the “Peter Pan Method”.  Out of the three hundred pages–thirty were devoted to this method, and only one person fit into his method –me. 

James summarized this method as: “A method in which the individual, enters into the lives of youth, where he or she is one in their world, in essence they are Peter Pan, it is as if they have never grown up….And yet one sees a way of letting them into one’s heart, that each person feels at one.” He concludes with: “The one contributing factor, the one sustaining factor, with River is his strong belief in the resurrection, for in that belief he has maintained a positive approach to life. Each is a new day with hope. Idealistic, childlike, yes, but mature, even more so.”

A friend, who was retiring as head of an agency, commented to me: “When are you going to give up being Don Quixote and provide for your future?”

Yesterday afternoon I sat down in Golden Gate Park and changed the bandage for  a young guy who had a knife wound. It was ugly, smelly, and I thought of Jame’s dissertation, and of my friend’s comments, and all I can say is the future is now, and there are no regrets.  All we have is the present moment–live it to our best. Each day is a gift of life to me, the Angel of Death, I hear often, and I am thankful for the present moment.

“Claim the good things of your life and see them as God’s gifts to you, temporarily entrusted to you. Cherish what is good, so good in your life. But don’t confuse your goods with your possessions. They’re not.” Unknown Author

For me the best thing in life has nothing to do with the expectations of the secular world–but with loving each person where they are. It is living life to the fullest. Peter Pan? I like it, it describes me. So be it! Deo Gratias!

+Fr. River Damien Sim sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Cooking With the Fallen One’s–Dwight

September 5, 2017

Cooking With the Fallen One’s

Luke 4:31-37

Simon is over 40, he has used drugs-H, Speed-for twenty five years. He was in treatment ten years ago, and was clean for four months, and relapsed. Simon felt like a failure, and we talked of his feelings as he was shooting up. Simon told me, “My addiction is like your religion, it keeps me  safe.” 

As I laughed, in the deepest corner of my heart I knew that  he had laid his hand on what the use of drugs means: it is the providing of comfort in the lives of people in the moment–from loneliness, feelings of failure, and all of the psych things we go through.” I smoke pot at times to simply let the pain go, to simply live in the moment.

For the moment is all we have.  Simon was placed in a hotel, with nothing to do–and his demons overwhelmed him. We think treatment is the answer–but it is love, a place to be, to feel useful, and wanted.    

I place no judgment on drug use, for it is like my addiction “religion”–used in excess it destroys.  It is like the extremes on both sides of the political spectrum–going to the extreme it destroys. People have used drugs since the beginning of time.  One size does not fit all. The War on Drugs continues to be a political storm that has demonized and destroyed millions, mostly people of color. It is racist in its very nature.

 

Last night as I sat in a coffee house, wearing a stole and  celebrating the Eucharist with a person, whom I suspect feels uncomfortable in the institution of the church,  I suddenly felt a nearness of Jesus, he was there, the bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ. There was a peace over me, a peace that said, fuck the artificial boundaries and limitations of society for they limit our ability to see Christ in each person. I know that each person whom I meet is Christ. Simon is the  Christ. 

Whether they believe or not–they are the face of Jesus. For spirituality is not about belief, it is not about affirming a creed, it is about the action of loving one’s neighbor. In that action God becomes present–whether or not you believe, God is there, God is near, in that act of love. My best friends are not believers in  Christ–but they are the closest people who are like  Christ that I have ever known, they have loved me, they have loved others, at their worst, without judgment.

I have found the fastest way to make enemies is simply to feed people, to treat them as equals, and to walk with them.

The source of happiness is found in the world of our creation. For me that source is caring–simply caring-being with people where they are; it is caring without expectation and meeting them where they are.  

For me there are two aspects of caring: First of all care for yourself, love yourself. David Burns writes: “Self-esteem is the commitment to treat yourself in a kindly, loving manner when you’re alone. This is an active process that requires effort and energy.” Learning to be alone opens one up to the presence of God, to struggle with one’s demons, and find rest in God. From that center one can move out in love.

Secondly, David Vryhof tells us: “True Christian hospitality requires a giving of ourselves, an opening up of who we are, a willingness to stretch our sometimes narrow lives, to step outside of our comfort zones.  If we truly try to follow Jesus, our outlook on the world–especially its strangers, its poor, its homeless, its helpless, its needy, even its enemies–will be forever changed.”

These words sound sweet, maybe even beautiful–but “love” in a paraphrase of Dorothy Days is “harsh, and extreme”, not gushy or pretty, but  to truly love you put yourself on the line. For loving means giving of yourself to the other, even when you really do not like the person. It means accepting them where they are, without judgment. Loving means accepting them at their worst and seeing through the harshness to their cry for being cared for. Sometimes when I feel myself getting angry I walk away for hours, because I know I will throw a fit, a temper tantrum. What I have learned is that a tantrum is an expression of a need to be loved simply for who you are, and so I walk away, calm down, and come back. Took me along time to figure that out, but I am learning. Our acts of violence, our acts of anger are all an expression of our need for love.  Down deep we are crave to be loved for ourselves.

When we love ourselves, we find meaning, hope, and courage in taking care of our neighbors, even to the point of going without.  I have reached the point where I can not look myself in the mirror if I eat in a restaurant and do not take a part of the meal out to someone outside the door.  It has become a matter of conscience. 

Each day Simon beckons my love, and the rest–it falls aside. All that matters is that we care, and when we care–even when it hurts we see the face of God.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

+Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.,D.S.T.

P.O.Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

http://www.temenos.org

Cooking With the Fallen One’s–Dylan

September 4, 2017

Cooking With the Fallen One’s–Dylan

Luke 4: 16-30: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

People jeopardize their lives and the lives of others in order to make the moment livable, to justify a crazy belief that what they are doing will save their world–a dose of speed, a dose of H, on the street makes life in the moment without food, shelter, in the cold, the heat, livable, it is a relief. It removes the feelings of loneliness.

Our acts of violence towards one another are out of our fear, and a need to create a sense of our own worthiness. One person, who had murdered someone, who was on speed, told me, “I am afraid of living, I simply wanted to lash out.” It always stems from our own personal need, rather than looking at the other, we tend to look at ourselves.

One cold night in L.A., so many years ago in the mists of time, a well-dressed man picked me up to “help” me. And as I let my guard down, he held me down and raped me. I fought my way up, pulled a knife, and held it to his throat. As I drew a speck of blood, the horror of what I was doing over came me, and I walked away. I almost took a life–and it horrified me.  From that moment on I knew I would die first, rather than take someone else’s life. We are all capable of violence, in a moment, we can and do hurt people.  People see me as easy going, but I have fired interns, volunteers, in a moment when they threaten violence to another, even though they were simply being simply arrogant. For all of life is sacred.

Dylan Roof is a scared and broken  young man, he will grow older, as he faces going to his death. His swagger will leave, and his brokenness and fear will show. Dylan will become very lonely, very isolated, and his justification for his actions will be in the dust. All will be vanity.  Evil overcame his life, and drove him to the murder of many, but evil never has the last word,never, for in all of us there is the possibility of redemption.  For the Spirit of God moves in ways we do not understand, and redemption draws nigh to all of us. Dylan is not a terrorist, just a scared, scarred kid, who did the most awful of things, and hurt, and scarred so very many.  As I look into his face I think “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

So rather than judgment, let us look at mercy, and in seeing all of life as sacred extend mercy to the most violent, for only in mercy is their life.  I always remember that when I point my finger, four are pointing back at me–and I know in that moment–we all deserve mercy. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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+Fr.River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124