Archive for September, 2009

“Grasping the Challenge of Selflessness”

September 20, 2009

Mark 9:30-37

As I have been reflecting on the death of an old friend and the downfall of another I am reminded again and again of the Gospel for today.  This statement invites us into God’s life in a particular way.  The early Christian hymn recorded in Phililppians talks about how Jesus emptied himself and became obedient to death on the cross. In response God exalted him.  The hymn describes the dynamic that is the heart of the Trinity:  Each person of God is constantly pouring out the divine self in love and service to the other persons.  Each person is constantly welcoming the other, ceding their place to the other, making room.  We are called to make room for others, to cede our palce for others.  We become unselfing in this process and this is what makes it life giving. I see the selfing process on the streets every day of life, I see it in friends as they get older–grabbing whatever, holding onto whatever, to have enough–and in the process they never have enough and they are destructive to themselves and others.  As I get older I am seeing that letting go is all that we have, becoming more and more unselfing.  It is in being unselfing that one becomes one with life, at peace with ones self, and without anything to lose–one has it all to gain.  Only in losing our lives do we find them. Only as I give do I find life, do I find hope and peace. I have a pride meeting planning next years pride today. I am celebrating the Eucharist now–the complete example of unselfing. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“The Moment Is All We Have”

September 20, 2009

Mk 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

The hunger pains hit me this afternoon, reminding me of how many people do not have food. I meditated on the emptyness and the pain I was feeling, and am more compassionate to people as I feed them on the street. I learned tonight of the death of a high school friend. I read of another who was forced from being a circuit court judgeship because of an affair. I feel my own mortality, and I feel like I am at the bottom of the heap.  My anniversary is coming up and I have no idea who is going to be there.   I spend my life on the streets, I have not promoted myself, and yet that is the life I have chosen to live. I have chosen to try to live as Jesus calls us in the Gospel.  For me life is seeing the moment as all we have, each moment.  On the street tonight there was such desperation, such pain.  I watched the partiers pass people by without noticing. The hustlers were trying to get dates, the dope dealers were selling dope–and all I have to hold on to is the hope in the One who has said “follow me” since I was 12, and that enough. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“Sowing the Seed”

September 19, 2009

When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, Jesus said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; the seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:4-5a, 11 b

Yesterday the text had several women as followers of Jesus.  They were always prominent, but through the centuries males have kept them in second place.  The Church in general has been discrimatory, and it is time we start reading the Bible through the eyes of the oppressed, rather than the oppressors.  Ramadam, two days left, has been difficult at times because I live an active life, but not eating and drinking all day makes me well aware of those around me who can not have food whenever they want it. I read of the Mayor’s ideas in the paper, and nothing mentions homelessness now, they are all “green” ideas. Thousands of people are hungry in our midst, I feed people every night on Polk, they are in the shadows, begging for food, and I feel for them as I pass by and give them food. Not eating all day makes me aware of their pain.  I eat every night, some do not.  In the parable for today Jesus tells us to sow the seed, to plant the crop, and from there it will grow. We are called to plant, to sow, to sow the seeds that ends hunger, to feed the person on our door step, to clothe the person on our doorstep. We are told by Jesus it is not in the end results we should be worried about, but in doing it  now and he will take care of the rest. Let us plant the seeds, the seeds that give health care to all, food to all, housing to all, and let Jesus do the rest.  My time off ends at noon. I did go out on the street for an hour last night, but watched T.V. and hung at home the rest of the time. It was great not worrying about anyone accept myself, but now I go back to work at noon. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“Relating to People as A Human Being”

September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17  Robert Bellamine  Luke 7:36-50

I am in Sacrmento. Walked the American River Trail for five hours. Beautiful hike, beautiful walk within the City.  Peaceful. It is difficult to walk on Polk Street and see the pain, the pain of people begging for money, the pain of people hustling, drug addicted, it gets to me, and I simply need to get away.  On the Trail I saw countless homeless people, hid from the mainstream, hid from society, pushed out by the police. They were camping, and biking. No matter where I go there are those no one wants.  And I do not want to stay away.  It is sad in this country that we push so many people outside the mainstream.  The Gospel for today is that of the woman who washed Jesus feet. It scandalized the people around him because it looked seductive, it pushed the boundaries, but to Jesus it was natural and being human. For her it was receiving forgiveness.  I find people are scared to death of the way I relate to people who have no homes, who use drugs. I receive them as I receive my friends, they come to my place, I eat with them, and I treat them with the same respect. Through the years social service agencies have been frightened of my “unorthodox approach” but for me it is treating people as I want to be treated, as human beings. There are ministers who stay clear of me, I scare them, and I understand why–I am outside their box, the box of “normal” people, of  having money, prestige, and yet I believe this is the way we are suppose to treat people, I believe this is what Jesus calls us to do–as we ourselves want to be treated–as human beings in the need of love. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

September 18

I Tim. 6:2-12:  Lk. 8:1-3

 I am at the motel getting ready to catch the train home. Ready to go back to work, ready to enter into the fray as you may call it.  It has been a good two days, a great hike, a reminder that there is pain everywhere, but yet a time away.  In I Timothy we read:  In realtiy religion is a treasure if we are content with what we have.  We brought nothing into the world and we will leave with nothing.  Let us be content with having food and clothing. Each time I pick up the newspaper I am well aware of the desperation of people in need, I see it in the streets. But what concerns me is the desperation is to have more and more.  We need to have a value system in which we seek to have simply what we need, and share the rest, if we did that no one would go hungry.  More and more has been the theme of most people.  We can not take it with us, and I see the pain people go through on both ends. We need to  be content with the basics, and share the rest, and we will  find our religion to be fulfilling. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!”

“No Differences”

September 16, 2009

Lk 7:31-35

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare the people of this generation?
What are they like?
They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine,
and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by all her children

Both John, in his austerity, and Jesus, feasting and living life to the full are models of wism.  The service of God comes in all sorts of forms, and they have this in common: they are are shot through with love.

I served a meal last night. I had a volunteer, a thirty one year old young woman, who is living at the catholic worker farm, trying to find her place in the world.  She was touched with the work, but over whelmed.  My guess is it was a “good experience”, but one that she will move on from because she can not face the pain day to day.  She kept talking about how different I am from other clergy. And after a while it gets old and it is painful. I have clergy in the neighborhood who just do not have time for me, they make excuses about having coffee– just no time. They find me “weird” because I live like I do, I work like I do, I dress like I do, and I do not go after a big salary. It hurts, it is painful, for in their rejection they are really saying more about themselves than me. Like John and Jesus we proclaim the same message, it is just that I proclaim it in a different manner, to a different set of the population and I proclaim a message that might call them to change some. Sometimes I wonder how I have survived all these years. I get more negative than postive, and it is from fellow Christians. What is ashamed is that they can not see there are really little differences–accept economically, and the reality that I challenge them to give and to share more. That is the only difference.  I am worn out at the moment. I am having computer trouble and in tears alot. I need to go a way for a couple of days. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“Do Not Hesitate to Love and to Love Deeply”

September 15, 2009

John 19:25-27–Our Lady of Sorrows

I sometimes think that some of the feast days of the Church are a little much, but in looking at today I find that when one looks at it through the lens of life it is most fitting.  Henri Nouwen said:  “Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply.  The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper.”  I have found through the years that the more I give myself in love, the more suffering I encounter, but the more joy and fulfillment I have in my life.  To embrace the sorrows of life enables us to embrace life, to live life to its fullest. I have friends who are wealthy who will not come down here to Polk because they see so much suffering, I have others who will not visit people in hospitals for the same reason, and I believe because they are fearful they too might end up there.  We can not avoid life, we must embrace it, and there will be no fears when we embrace life. People ask me all the time if I am afraid on the streets, and I am not. I have simply embraced them and what comes with them, and walk them in the love of God.

Dorothy Day had this quote: “The only way to live in any true security is to live so close to the bottom”
that when you fall you do not have far to drop, you do not have much to lose.” What she meant is if you try to hold on to life you will lose it, it is only in letting go, that you will find it.

I spent yesterday going to the foodbank, I did outreach last night. It was slow. There were several guys just out of jail, back on the street trying to hustle, no other choice. They are on methodone, but not for long, they will be back on drugs. Same old cycle. Both the guys are in their thirties, one of these days they will find themselves totally encompassed in their own worlds and totally embittered..  I am cooking for the meal tonight, celebrating the Eucharist. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“A Question of Love”

September 14, 2009

John 3:14-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.

 I attended a concert last night by the Gay Men’s Chorus, entitled, “A Question of Love”.  It was about relationships and about how the history of same sex relationships have been distorted, but its theme was about the beauty of relationships.  It was about “A Question of Love”.  Through the years I have thought about having a relationship, and I have been pushed into thinking about it, and told there was something wrong with me because I did not have one, and how lonely I would be in my old age.. What people fail to see is that I am in a relationship, a relationship that has guided my life, a relationship just as tumorours as any “human relationship.” I have fought him, I have run way from him, I have spat in his face, and each time he pulls me back, and points me in the right direction–that relationship is God.  I have had a love affair with God since I was 12 years old-calling me, pulling me, wrestling with me–like Jacob of old I have been at Peniel most of my life.  And in the last fifteen years I have wrestled and fought God in my ministry here, but as I have come to see Him as my primary relationship and the work I do as an expression of that relationship have I found peace, and contentment.  It is in God that I find the strength, the peace, the contentment, that fulfills me, that holds me, that guides me.  This struggle, as in all relationships, will go on until I breathe my last breath, for I will fight to stay alive, but it is in that relationship that I am committed and that I find my meaning, my wholeness.  It is a question of love, and I have chosen God, above all love, and I have no regrets.

Attended the concert last night with my friend, dinner, and outreach.  Several young guys were on the street,  All needing drugs, one waiting for his boy friend.  They are so driven by drugs, so driven, and in so much pain.  My friend last night to is driven by his demons. He wants to be accepted so much, to be a part of the mainstream, and the reality is he never will be. He has enough money, but he fears for his money, again never enough. There comes a time when you have to look those demons in the eyes, face them, tell them to go to hell, and take your life in the moment and live it, live it in its imperfections, and with what you have.  I look back and see myself driven by the same demons.  I struggle now with those fears of never having enough, and not being accepted. There is a hospice run of the Mother Teresas nuns in Pacifica. They never say anything to me, but they comment to one of the guys I see about me not being a “real priest’ because I am not Roman. I find myself cringing, and wanting their acceptance, but then I realize I would never want to do what it takes to have their acceptance. I am a priest, I have been for over thirty years, and my ministry is to those no one wants to have ministry to for the most part. I am proud of who I am, so why should I let others take that away from me.  It is not them, but it is me, and it is in my own acceptance of myself that is important.  We will never be accepted by some parts of the world, it comes from within. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

Saving Our Life

September 13, 2009

September 13-24th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Is. 50:5-9; James 2:14-18; Mk. 8:27-35

If you save your life, you lose it, Jesus says.  How do we save our life? How do we find our life?.  We do it basically by finding our place in the world, our niche in society. We do it by living our lives, paying our taxes, going to church. But that job is fraught with danger because the world is a crooked place.

There is a moral crack that runs clear across the earth and right through every human heart.  Before we enter any situation, it is already compromised.

Some of it is not directly our fault.  We live in a country that wastes more resources than other nations use for survival.  We spend more on one fancy cup of coffee then the coffee picker earns in a week to keep his family alive.  Our country is the arms merchant of the world.  And just as the generosity of Americans influences our personality, so do the sins of our country warp our personality, and diminishes our selves.

We then add to our distorted  self by personal choices.  We twist our bodies out of shape to fit passing fads; we overspend to keep up; we cheat to attain world success; we consume to fill the vacuum we create as our real self shrinks to fit the tiny space allotted to us.  If we are not careful, we trade our true self for an artificial, acceptable self.

From the very beginning, starting with its founder, Christianity has warned us about the danger of saving our self.  Tradition has devised a pattern of life, a discipline, a set of exercises that help us lose our worldly self.  The first step is to avoid sin, which is the greatest destroyer of any self.  That is because we are made to do good.

Next we separate our self not only from sin, but from anything that might encourage us to sin.  Then we gain control of our choices by getting detached from our inordinate desires. According to Ignatius, the perfect person would be so indifferent to the lure of this world that  she would not care if he were rich or poor. She would save his real self by losing her false self.

This kind of living presumes that life is a warfare.  But you can lose your self in two ways:  first you can hand control of yourself to the law, become legalistic and judgmental or you can hand your life over to love.  You can choose to be a loving person, to live your life in the way of love.

What if we experience life as a love affair?  What if we recognized our time one earth as a time we are given to create a personal self?  What if we paid more attention to the good, rather then the bad things?

What if we looked at everything as a gift rather than a temptation?

A gift to be shared, appreciated. Each day I see life at its rawest. I see people who are totally selfish, out for themselves.  The live their own lives, and they do not care if others suffer.  And it is not just those on the street who live that way, for the housed cover it up a little more, but we see it all the way up to the very top of our government—pure greed, only caring about one’self.

But if we looked at everything as a gift, as a temporary gift, to be passed on at our death—what would that look like:  I believe if we approached life in that way we would share with others, and if we shared, there would be no hunger, no homelessness, no lack of health care.

If we saw life as a gift—a temporary gift—we would see our environment not as our personal property, but as the property of everyone, and we would treat it with total respect.

In otherwise if we lose our life—lose our live in sharing with others—we will find it.  Love is a risk—but without it life is barren.

I spent yesterday and last night with a young man who is “visiting catholic workers”.  What I found interesting about him is that he is searching for meaning and a place in life, but that he is really unwilling to pay the price.  He dropped out of college, he has gone from one program to another, now he wants to do organic farming and not finish college.  He wants to have a “community”. He found it difficult with me on the streets seeing the pain of people.  And I see that with a lot of young people. They have been disallusioned with the world, and they are afraid to encounter the pain directly.  So they want to do “organic farming”, or live in “community” rather than face the pain of life directly.   They find me “weird” as he said last night because I am basically alone on the streets encountering people–feeding them, taking care of them.  In other words it is scary, very scary to enter into another persons pain. You are confronted with your own pain, your own fears, your own doubts. Every day I am confronted about my own fears of being homeless, about being hurt, about my own mortality, it is a part of the journey, and ultimately no matter how we live we are confronted with those same fears.  The Gospel challenges me to find my idenity in Jesus–and that idenity is found in walking with, living with, taking care of the hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the captive–because he is good news for them, but he is also good news for me in that he releases me from my own bondage to things, to my fears.  Jesus is known through the gospels and in the sacramental presence of the Eucharist.  We find him in the Body of Christ, the body of the poor, and those who struggle for justice.

Carl Jung summed up for me my journey in this quote:

I believe that we have no real access to who we really are except in God.  Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are.

I rest in God in walking, living, working with those who are poor, and I rest in God in the Eucharist.

At Eucharist we ask ourselves, “Who do we say we are?”  That is why I take it daily. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“A Growing Process”

September 12, 2009

Lk 6:43-49

Jesus said to his disciples:
“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?
I will show you what someone is like who comes to me,
listens to my words, and acts on them.
That one is like a man building a house,
who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock;
when the flood came, the river burst against that house
but could not shake it because it had been well built.
But the one who listens and does not act
is like a person who built a house on the ground
without a foundation.
When the river burst against it,
it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.

In looking at the text from yesterday I was thinking today how I am my own worst enemy–I feel like I never do enough, I do not talk to enough people and so on, when the reality is my task is to simply do my best–be faithful.  I am surrounded by judgment all the time–nothing is ever enough, my hair is too long, I do not dress appropriately, and the reality is can not fulfill people’s wishes, I just have to be true to myself.

In looking a the text tonight I am reminded that a resolution only becomes real when you put it into practice.  My life has become more and more of one cloth, living simply, doing ministry with the poorest of the poor, and as it has become more real and consistent my contentment has increased.  I am very content and happy.

Tonight, 25 year old Jay was disgressed, anxious, he is a native american young man, and not getting  many dates.  Up and down the street there were various people–all hungry, sleeping in the doorways.  As I listened to them, I thought of people who have material possessions, and they too have the same problems–loneliness, fear of death, and so on.There is not much difference in our humanity. It is too bad that we can not all see that, and share.  Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“Judging: Such A Waste of Time”

September 11, 2009

Lk 6:39-42

Jesus told his disciples a parable:
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite!  Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”

To pick at another person, to judge them, is such a waste of time and energy, and it says a hell of alot about ourselves. For when we judge another we are really seeing our own faults, simply blaming them on another.  And why waste so much energy.  Derek, 23, was killed this week, by his lover. He is a hustler I have known since he was 12. As I stood on the corner tonight, talking to people, giving them food, noticing how they were all about themselves I thought of how no one will notice another hustler gone.  He was abused as a kid, he never had a chance, and now he has been murdered. I feel overwhelmed by the grief, and the uselessness of it all. Today is the 8th anniversary of September 11, again, useless sacrifice, and the useless sacrifice of lives in the wars sense. We humans kill each other, we hurt each other, and Jesus stands saying “Judge not”, and we judge and kill. How futile it all seems. I look at the cross and at Our Lady of Guadalupe and they only make sense out of any of this for me, on do I find any hope in those two symbols. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!