Teach Me to Listen

April 25, 2015

Mark 16:15-20   “Teach me to Listen”

Mark is the evangelist, and evangelism is about naming grace–not about brow beating people to “believe”, for God is present in every nick and corner of our lives, if we open our eyes. Grace is communicated in our loving and listening to another person–not in our brow beating.

Fr. John Veltri writes “Teach me to listen, O God, to those nearest me, my family, my friends, my co-workers. Help me be aware that no matter what words I hear, the message is “Accept the person I am. Listen to me.”

I listened, simply listened,  for two hours to a young guy last night from 3-5 in the morning. He felt all alone, not accepted by his friends, rejected.  I was burning up with fever. After he hung up I tried to go to sleep, but simply was too sick, and I felt feelings of total loneliness.  And in those moments I knew Jesus was present, in my pain, and that is why I am able to let people bring me their pain. Even in our own pain we need to listen and grace is named in our listening, in our caring.  I hear comments all the time like, “We all have problems,” which to me says we simply do not want to be bothered by another person and their pain.  But naming grace for me is to be bothered, even if   what to me seems the most insignificant, for what is insignificant to me is important to another–and some times it is life saving important. I have had people talked to me about the most insignificant, insane items, only to be expressing their hurt, anger, and tell me later they were thinking of suicide  until i took the time to sit with them.  In life I have learned it is the :”little things” that matter,not the big ones.  A former volunteer commented one time, “all you do is listen, that is a waste of time,” and that is why he is a former volunteer, for listening is the most important thing another person can do for another. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!”

Life is Messy

April 24, 2015

April 24, Life is Messy  Acts 9:1-20; John 6:52-59

Young volunteers were often surprised at Dorothy Day going to Mass and believing in the conservative doctrine of the church. They could not understand her commitment to the Eucharist. There are groups in town who will not support my ministry because I am Christian and Catholic; and there are Christians who want work with me or talk to me because i am too “liberal” so you have it.

When Jesus talks about his “flesh” and his “blood”, he is not talking about anything ideal or clean–but messy. Saul is an example–I love Paul, I love his writings, in his messiness he preached Christ and shaped the Church and our faith as we know it. God used him in a wonderful way.  If we want something black and white, clean, beautiful and perfect–than we get nothing but blandness.  That is what is happening with gentrification–blandness. Beneath the blandness of life is really terror and fear–and loss. We can not run away from that.

Last night I sat beside the bed of a young man who was stabbed over an argument over a blunt of 420, the  night before last I witnessed another stabbing.  Life is messy, and it is painful.  In the Gospel Jesus speaks of the Eucharist with intense concreteness- it is flesh and blood–it is real. It is in that realness that we find life. Scott Peck says, “Life is difficult”, and it hellar is, but in accepting its difficulty you can live it with grace and joy.

A young man once asked me what I did so terribly wrong that I had to give my life to guys like him, he said, “you bleed and hurt for us.” And i looked him in the eye and said, “Sean, I am as big fuck up, bigger than you will ever be, and because God redeems me every day, how can I not love you,” And the same with Saul who became Paul in God’s love he loved others. but he like me, and like you simply are fuck ups and we need to treat each other with gentleness rather than judgment, and let God do that. It is like today there was a photo of the young man in the Boston bombing giving the finger, and it was pointed out how he deserved death because he showed no remorse. Frankly what I saw was a 19 year old kid being a 19 year old kid, doing the same thing I have done–smarting off giving the finger. . I believe he deserves life with the possibility of parole in 25 years,but I believe he is a young man whose brain that has not totally developed, who has done a terrible thing, he needs to be punished, and hopefully some day can see the wrong and find redemption and give back.  When I start pointing at others I remind myself I have a third finger pointing at me. Let’s be gentle with one another–life is too fucking messy to do otherwise.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

The Bread of Life

April 23, 2015

John 6:44-51 “I Am The Bread of Life” Kathe Koilwitz

Paul  Vallely tells us: “So long as, I define my neighbor as a person next door. .my world will remain the same (but)if I define my neighbor as one I must go out to look for, on the highways and the byways, in the factories an slums, on the farms and in the mines, then my world will change.”

We are living in a new world here in the Bay Area, and it is our choosing if we want to create it into a an inclusive, healing place to live–not the government–for it is failing us; not-non-profits–but our choice. If we choose to see our neighbor in each person, and to share with that person of ourselves, than this “brave new world” will become more healing. Last week I was in the Haight and had forgotten my parking card, and one of the young women came up and put her last money in, saying to me, “You give all you have to us,  I can give you all I have.” All of us can share, and than we all will have enough. The greed is destroying us, destroying the meaning in our lives.

When we choose to be hear for God–God however we know God,and for me it is in the Jesus of Nazareth. When we choose to be here for ourselves–let our egos be large, and controlling–the more our body, physical, mental, mystical, suffers. When we choose to shrink that ego–than we are open to our neighbors–all of our neighbors.It is hard to be here when we shrink–but what hurts more is shrinking away from it.

I admit I suffer like hell sometimes–pain, depression, fear, illness–but I will suffer more, far more if I shrink away from that suffering, and from being present to my neighbor–for in them I find the face of the Risen Christ, and I find the resurrection.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

The Bread of Life

April 22, 2015

John 6:35-40 “The Bread of Life”  Fr. Engelbert Mvang

Jesus said: “I am the Bread of life. .” Beautiful phrase, but living in its reality can be” a hard and dreadful life.”  These past few weeks I have been struggling with my PTSD, and the malaria, both are the thorns in my flesh.The nightmares come, and the fever late at night.  The nightmares tear me  apart, I awake covered in sweat and am  weak. I force myself to swim or walk and to simply get going. But in it all I see the face of Jesus, the Bread of Life and I find sustenance. Last night as I walked on Haight I bought “James” a new sweatshirt, because I had forgotten to bring one of my own to give to him, and he cried, a twenty one year old started crying, because it was the first new piece of clothing he had had in a year or so.   Sean came up to me and  was sheep face because he had cussed me out last week and threatened me, and I gave him some food, and he asked me “how can you always forgive,” and the truth is that  it is easy to forgive when you people do not forgive you and when to hold on to it all is like having a chain around your neck–it is far easier to set yourself free by forgiving. And so the malaria, the PTSD have been simply stepping stones in eating the Bread of Life.

The other lesson I have learned through these years   is there is a third way, for example –there has been the anger towards the Archbishop over his stand on the policy of the Roman Church. The fact is the Roman Church just acknowledged Galileo a few years ago, after over 500 years, so they are slow in changing, but a force in working with the poor, the homeless.  The change will come from the bottom. But rather than attack and create anger and hate towards one another, why not meet where you can work together, and by example show the way.  Most people disagree with me on most things, but we agree on helping the homeless, and so we work together in that area.  I told him that we can disagree for now peacefully, work together against the death penalty, and when we get to heaven we can shake hands as he acknowledges that I was right on the issue of being queer–of course it is not going to matter in heaven, but I will have the satisfaction of being right. And than who knows we shall see, but until than we can agree to disagree and work to end hunger, poverty, climate change. But in the process of “agreeing to disagree”, change will come as we see each other for who we are, and simply as children of the one God.  In coming together, sitting down together and eating together–we become one neighbor–

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

The Bread of Life

April 21, 2015

August 21,  St. Apollinius The Bread of Life  John 6:30-35

There was a movie many years ago in which people were euthanized when they turned 30, and if they had blemishes on their body. I do not remember the name, but it was one that actually scared me, for in many ways we do that in our society.  As I was walking Sunday I noticed that I was often the oldest one out, all accept a very few were white, all had money–all basically the same. This is what we do unintentionally–we exclude people of different ages, races, and economic background. In so doing we lose our identity as human beings, and see people as either like us or “different”.  We place ourselves in our “white, middle class ghettos” and in our own isolation and fears we hurt a lot of people.

We do the same thing with religion–we fail to see the beauty in all religions and in so doing we make them our “enemies”. Each year during Ramadan I fast during the day with my Muslim brothers and sisters and read the Koran–and I have found like the Bible is is a book written by human beings, with their own biases, but shining through it is the God of love.  The Bible is scary if you take it out of context, but in context is a testament of the love of God through the ages.

Jesus, says: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  In the Eucharist I find nourishment–nourishment to sustain me through the ups and downs of each day–through seeing people violent towards one another, not having food, and clothing, tormented by drug abuse and suffering psychologically from abuse. I had a letter from someone whom I met twenty years ago talking about how he can not have an intimate relationship or friendship because of his abuse on the street. In the Eucharist Christ gives of himself to them, to us, and brings wholeness, and in receiving it each day I am reminded that we are called to be crucified with him, to become the bread of life to others. We are called to get out of our ghettos. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

In the Small Things

April 20, 2015

August 20 John 6: 22-29 “In the Small Things”

People often asked me about the number of people we serve–and my response is usually, “I do not keep count.”I am often asked to do things for other organizations: “Climate Change”, “Immigration”, and go to all the rally’s and I do not, for one reason I can only do one thing–the ministry God has given me–and do it well. Personally I am very singled purpose in my life because I have found in the words of Mother Teresa: “We can not do great things on this earth, we can only do little things with great love.” And Archbishop Romero said: “We can not do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.  This enables us to do something and to do it very well.” So I strive to do the small things and do them well.

We tend to look at life with our eyes focused on what is in front of us, but around us there is much pain and suffering in our midst. The Franciscan Network sent this email which I find worth reflecting upon.  We buy food which comes from the hands of these labors–I think of this as I look in the fields of Salinas and Southern California:

One theme throughout our readings this Sunday is that we are all beloved by the Father and “that we may be called the children of God.” (1 Jn. 3:1) In the Gospel, the image of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd reminds us that all are included in the “one flock.” (John 10: 16) St. John reminds us that the Good Shepherd is also the victim “who laid down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:15) Jesus recognizes himself in all victims, and lived His public life trying to bring justice and dignity to the victims in the society of the day. As followers of Jesus, we are called to also strive to bring justice and dignity to the most vulnerable in our society. These include the more than twenty-seven million children, women and men trapped in labor trafficking linked to our global economy.

These children, women and men are enslaved in plain sight all around us. They may include those who prepare meals, serve you, or wash dishes as you eat in your favorite restaurant. They may be those who clean your hotel room or work under inhumane and unsafe conditions in factories to provide the shoes and the clothes that you wear. They may be the children or adults who pick the vegetables and fruit you enjoy. They may be those who come to your door selling magazines, or those who work in your health club or beauty salon.

Labor traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will. One common thread that unites all victims is that they come from poverty and continue to live in poverty. Another common thread, far more important, is that they are all “children of God” (1 John 3:1-2.)

Labor traffickers could be compared to the hired man in the Gospel – “he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” (John 10:10) The victim is just a cheap and disposable means to profit. There are reports that in the commercial fishing industry many trafficked children are actually thrown overboard if they become too ill to work.

Just as the Good Shepherd seeks out the most vulnerable sheep, we are called to seek out the victims in our society and to do all we can to empower them. We are also responsible for being aware of how our consumerism is affecting the economically poor and powerless in the world and in our community. As consumers, we are complicit in benefiting from the trafficking of children, women and men. To find out more on how many slaves work for you to maintain your lifestyle please go to Slavery Footprint.

In 2012, California enacted the Supply Chain Transparency Act which states that large businesses in the state must disclose the working conditions for all people who supply the products for the company. National legislation which would require companies to be transparent with information about supply chains and how they are addressing labor trafficking within their business operations would serve to bring this hidden slavery to light. For more information on human trafficking, please go to the FAN website.

Sr. Maryann Mueller

Seeing the Risen Christ

April 19, 2015

April 19, Luke 24: 35-48  “Seeing the Risen Christ”

Edward Schillebeecks says that “one sees the risen Jesus when one has faith in the risen Jesus.”  

I received an email yesterday from an old friend, whom I met in 1995, one of the street kids, and whom I gave  care to. He thanked me for feeding him, giving him a place to stay, and being there for him.  He is out of hustling, and street life, but remains depressed, and can not have intimacy as a result of his experience. In him I see the risen Christ. He is still broken, but in his journey he has found hope to continue.

Yesterday a middle aged gentleman talked to me about wanting to die since he was 15. He is fifty now, and makes it minute by minute. I see the risen Christ in him as we work together. 

I have talked about depression, and I have received replies of “comfort”, and the reality is depression for me is a necessity for growth. In the depression I sort out what is real, it is me descending into hell,  and from it resurrection comes.  It is not something that can be “fixed”, but it is a growth process that I simply embrace. We are given “eternal life” now–I have no idea what happens when we  die, but eternal life is  to live in Christ’s presence in the here and now, and in that eternity to find meaning and purpose to existence, and in what we do.

It is the way in which we treat our neighbor that we truly experience eternal life, and show our belief and hope in that life. People often asked me when I “take off”, and the reality is I get away to rest, but I am never “off” for any where I go–to LA, Sacramento, Albuquerque, Palm Springs–I always run into someone who is homeless–and I will take time to talk and feed them.  Eternal life is not about placing our actions, and our time in compartments–but about living it out wherever we are. The first thing that I do every morning is to celebrate the Eucharist, and it is in that broken bread and poured wine that Christ comes offering eternal life in the here and now.

My friend Will Tuttle writes of veganism which for me is a good summary of eternal life:  “We are all in this together. The vegan revolution will never include violence; it is a celebration of the joy and beauty of life, and an awakening to the beauty and potential of our shared life on this planet. The only strategy for each of us is how to love and give more deeply, fully, and authentically, and in harmony with our unique talents and gifts. Together, we are transforming our world!”

Whether you are a vegan, a carnivore, a vegetarian or you do not eat at all–eternal life is to give of ourselves  more fully and deeply–in the aches, pains, joys and sorrows of life–and in so doing we experience much joy. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

“Be Not Afraid”

April 18, 2015

April 18, 2015 John 6: 16-21 “Be Not Afraid”

In the storm Jesus tells his disciples, “”Don’t be afraid!”  Mary Oliver in her poem “The Summer Day,” reminds us that we are given one wild and precious life.

I am afraid a lot–afraid of losing my housing, of illness, of being killed–and i envision this scene with Jesus and the fears go away and I hear Oliver’s words of being “given one wild and precious life,” and my life force is changed, for as I embrace Christ and know that I am in his hands–all is well, and others become the focus.

Julia McCray-Goldsmith says in her poem The Trouble With Easter “But…I want the tomb full, like temple or tent–with the Holy enshrouded in fabric un-rent. yes, I want death preserved in sweet-smelling spices; not my neighbor perspiring the aroma of Christ.”

When we hear the words of Jesus “Don’t be afraid!” we will walk out of the “temple or tent” and minister to Jesus on the streets, in the shelters, hospitals–where Christ perspires. Last night as I walked the streets I saw one person in the middle of the street screaming at cars, another masturbating in the corner of the alley, another yelling cuss words at people who passed–they are our neighbors “perspiring the aroma of Christ,” not very pleasant, sweet smelling or pretty to look at–but they are the broken body of Christ and our call is to love them in all of their messiness.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Feeding the Hungry

April 18, 2015

April 18  Fr. Max Josef Metzger  John 6:1-15

These past several weeks I have been really depressed–and depression is something that I simply work through–and what holds me together so often is simply Jesus.  Twenty five years ago there was a well known homeless advocate in Washington D.C., who committed suicide and in his note he said, “all this is in vain, there is no hope.” For me there is always hope- in Christ, and I am a fighter, win or lose I will fight until my last breath.

For the reality is that we live in a world of inequity–always have, and my guess we always will–some of us will always have more than others, and as I read today’s Gospel what it is calling us to do is to share what we have. Peter Singer, a wealthy man, gives a way a third or more, and that is what we are asked–to share of our own bounty.  Even if all of us would share  ten per cent of what we have–people would be housed, have health care, and food.

Gentrification is simply another name for the selfish exploitation  of those who have less.  It is putting the needs of a few over the needs of the majority.  The call of Jesus is to share.

Peter Maurin said: “The future will be different if we make the present different.”  And so the question is “How will we make the future different by caring for others now?” Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

“You Must Be Born Again”

April 13, 2015

April 13, 2015, “You Must Be Born Again” John 3:1-8

Jesus tells that we must be “born again”. There was a post on Face Book yesterday about attempts to prevent Food Stamp recipients from buying seafood and steak; I see very little in the Chronicle about the reality of homelessness; Each day as I walk up Polk, the Haight,,Castro, China Town, North Beach, in fact any where in the City I see people simply walk by people without housing, starving, and look the other way. James who is 15 had not eaten anything in two days, he had been kicked out of youth services, and was afraid to go to the soup kitchens, and we walk by.

The reality is that we humans are a mess, we can not get along, we fight over little things, and I hear Jesus tell us we must be born again–we must lift our eyes above our own navals of race, creed, sexual orientation, economic background and be born again to see that we are in this together and to take care of one another.

Thomas Merton once said: “It is in the darkness that we truly know God. We need to embrace the unknown of our fears and in so doing there is life for ourselves and for others.” It is in the darkness that I have found God–in the lives of the people I encounter each day of my life, and in that darkness I find resurrection; it is in the darkness of my own fears–of losing it all, being homeless, becoming an invalid, and simply growing old that I find God, and walk with a new life trusting in him. Let’s embrace the darkness and open our lives to the light, so that others might be in the light–let us be born again. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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