Archive for December, 2014

Leaving Fear Behind

December 20, 2014

December 20, “Leaving Fear” Luke 1:26-38 Rabbi Abraham Heschel

“To enter Advent we leave fear behind.” Sam Portaro

Fear gets us in trouble because it cripples us from doing our best. I have always worked best as my own boss because fear cripples me when I work under someone: my fear of not pleasing, my fear of saying the wrong thing, and my fear of being inferior to another. . When I have been afraid of moving ahead because of fear of not having money, my health, not having friends–I have always been handicapped.

Fear is what cripples the world. Fear of attack, fear of losing money, fear of sharing, and fear of another person–because of religion, sexual orientation, gender, of nationality, and of simply being different.

“To enter Advent we leave fear behind,” and walk with Christ trusting with childlike eyes in God who will lead us to see people as fragile beings, simply wanting to be loved and cared for.

There is a twenty one year old who is in prison for life for murder and he asked me recently how I can show my care without judgment–for he says everyone judges him- and I sent him this quote:

Tolstoy summed it up when he said: “I see a new religion based on mutual trust, which appeals to our deepest selves and which teaches that a person should love goodness without reward, and that the divine exists in everyone.”

As we approach the end of Advent let us leave fear behind. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

It is problematic to determine whether our lives as humans have actually improved over the centuries and millennia, for all our valiant efforts.

Although we have comforts and possibilities undreamt of by our forebears, we also have stresses, diseases, and frustrations that they could not possibly have imagined.

For animals, however, the situation has plainly deteriorated, especially over the more recent human generations. Dr. Will Tuttle


December 20, 2014

December 19, Silence Hagar the Egyptian Luke 1:5-25

There was a song when I was growing up entitled “Silence is golden,” and through the years I have come to enjoy the silence, for it is in the silence that I become centered and I can hear God in the silence. I have a twenty five year old friend who in his teens listened constantly to music, and now he spends his free time in silence–and the reason is: “to hear myself think”. The world needs to spend time in silence, to let life calm down around themselves. . It is in silence we can see different perspectives, and come to understand how in the scheme of things how unimportant we really are, and how God is the One who is important.

Dr. Will Tuttle writes: None of us is completely innocent, because to some degree we all are, and have been, in all three roles as victims, perpetrators, and bystanders It is in the silence that we can see ourselves for who we are and reenter the world in God’s grace to let God serve through us. And we can work with people in a non-judgmental way.

Chiara Lubich writes: “When we worship ;you in the form of bread. .we always see you as an adult. But every year at Christmas, you reveal yourself to us as a child born in a crib. We stand in silent amazement.” It is in seeing that child that we can reclaim our on innocence of childhood, see our selves as forgiven and redeemed children of God Each time I see the child in those I work with I have a different perspective, rather than the meanness and the toughness I see the fragility and the brokenness. In the story of Hagar God loved her because Abraham was the perpetrator in this case and she was the oppressed. God always sides with those who are oppressed.

As we come to the end of this third week of Advent let us look at the child in each of us and in those around us, and look at our own fragility and that of others. Simply be aware, and see where that leads you. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Sharing Our Journey

December 18, 2014

December 18, “Sharing Our Own Experience” Sr. Alicia Domon Jer. 23:5-8. Matt. 1:18-25

I have been told that I share my personal journey a little too much. I remember when I was a young preacher boy in my mid twenties being assigned to a small church in southeast Missouri. There was a lady my congregation of around 35, a mom with three children, whose husband died suddenly. Every Sunday she would cry out to me, “Share your story of how Jesus is real–let me know he is real in your life!” She desperately needed to hear of the reality of Jesus, not simply theological arguments about beliefs and how to live your life.

At the time I did not grasp what she was saying, and I am sure I was a lousy pastor as a result, but in the years since with my own journey, I have come to understand exactly what she meant. We need to know God is real, we need to experience him as a person, and we need to hear people share their journeys. So I share my pain, my journey and the experience of Jesus in my life who walks with me in the ups and downs, even when I do not experience him I know Christ is present. For ultimately Christ is all we have to hold on to. As I age I see the path narrowing to God, and I can embrace that in Christ or walk with fear, I choose to follow Christ into Galilee

The Gospel today shares with us how Joseph saw God’s presence in Mary’s pregnancy, and embraced that presence. Simply imagine how you would react if your girlfriend or wife told you she was pregnant by God–how would you react? Joseph chose not to embarrass her or to put her in danger of being killed for her sin–whatever he thought he embraced that sense of the presence of the Divine.

Sr. Alicia Doman who was tortured, and then dumped from an air plane into the Atlantic in Argentina tells of that real Jesus in her life:

“I didn’t come here to shanty town to tell people what they had to do but in order that we could help each other and share life’s joys and sorrows.”

That is all we are called to do–“to share life’s joys and sorrows.” Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

The new extremes to which animals are now subjected without remorse or awareness require that we adopt a more radically conscientious orientation that addresses the roots of our violent mentality.

While it may seem extreme to our mainstream culture to advocate for a vegan revolution that utterly rejects our commodification of animals, it is only such an apparently extreme position that can be an antidote to the extreme abuse we now force upon animals.Dr. Will Tuttle

“Living in the Divide”

December 17, 2014

December 17, St., Virginia Centurione Bracelli Gen 1:1-17

“Living in the Divide”

Tolstoy wrote: “We manifest in love our understanding of the unity of our being with others, and in so doing we make our life greater. The more we love, the wider, larger, and more joyful our life becomes.”

Personally I feel like I live in the divide, a great divide–between wealth and poverty; homelessness and being housed. And the reality this is the way it has been since the beginning of time. Many days it hits me square in the face ever so painfully.

I was cooking our meal at the church and it was raining outside. A mentally ill woman came to the door, a woman I have worked with a lot, begging for a hotel room–mind you not just any hotel room–but the Holiday Inn. I offered her a place she could go to find housing for the night–but mind you she wanted the Holiday Inn–and she blew up and screamed at me. I had to ask her to leave.

People see the toughness in me, they sometimes are surprised, but they see the toughness, but what they do not see is that each time I exercise that toughness it beaks my heart. It is f. . cking hard for me to see these guys on the street. As I walked the street last night and talked and gave out food in the rain–it was frankly f. ..cking hard for me to love, to care and to leave them on the street. For I know them, they call me their friend, they call me when they are sick, lonely, and cold, and I do what I can, but I have to say “no” a lot, and it hurts like hell.

I am reminded of a time when I was kicked out of a place I was living because I was queer. I slept in my care for a whole week, but I have always felt sorry for myself for a moment–and then I come out fighting. So I worked with it out with in a week. Even now I look back to those days when I had so little, prostituting, living from one motel to another, having $15.00 a week for food, and I become afraid it will happen again. I find myself stuffing myself at meals for fear of not having another meal, and worry if I will be on the street if I lose my place.

I then look at my non-negotiables and I see now that the only non-negotiable that I have is to never, never, turn my back on these guys, and in doing so on Jesus. That is my one non-negotiable.

For in looking at our Gospel this morning we have the list of the ancestors of Jesus–he is one with all us–he is one seamless cloth with us–and he calls us to be one seamless cloth with each other. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

In fact, veganism is not extreme from the point of view of our innate nature, which longs for love, creativity, and spiritual evolution. Dr. Will Tuttle

Of Christmases Yet to Come

December 16, 2014

December 16, Blessed Francis Schervier “Christmases Yet to Come” Matt. 21:28-32

Jesus points out in today’s Gospel, that many in positions of authority have failed to listen to the Gospel, and that even those who follow him have failed, , and that the real message is “Time is wasting! Change your ways!” This is the message of the Christmas yet to come–it is never to late, God is waiting with open arms.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty makes a good summary: “What you do matters–but not much. What you are matters tremendously.” When I left the Midwest twenty plus years ago a journalist said to me: “What are you going to do, you are going without a portfolio.” For me my portfolio is who I am and whom I am becoming. It is not the quality of food I give to people but the quality of the person I share with them. One of my volunteers commented in front of some of the guys one night that I could serve them more than beans and rice, and one young guy, said: “He gives himself, that is all we want.” And so for me my portfolio is the giving of my self.

It is important that we see Christmas not as an event of the past, but one that is, and is coming, and that we grow into Christmas as we grow into the Christ we worship.

Will Tuttle commented:

“The more we live in alignment with our values, the stronger the truth-field we emanate will be, and the more our words, gestures, and actions will carry weight with perpetrators.”

That is what becoming Christmas is all about, we live out our values day to day, we screw up, we dust off our pants and we keep on going; The only portfolio we need is the commandment of Jesus: “You should love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your mind and your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

“Be Cheerful No Matter What”

December 14, 2014

December 14, “Be Cheerful No Matter What” 2 Thess. 5:16-24; Jn. 1:6-28

“Black Lives All Matter”

“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” 2 Thess. 5:16-17.

Yesterday as I walked down Polk it was “Santa Day” everyone had Santa outfits on, and suddenly I turned and one of my guys who was black was pinned in a corner by a white guy in a Santa outfit. I got between them, to keep my guy from doing something he would regret and the racist remarks out of “Santa” out of Santa’s mouth were horrible.

Today has been designated “Black Lives All Matter” Sunday and we are invited to wear black to signify this day. I will wear black, but I will be wearing it with the thought in mind that “All Lives Matter”. We break off in our groups: “black”, “queer”, “Native “American”, “mental illness”, and so on that we forget that we are all human beings, we have the same blood within us–we are no different from each other–we all bleed, we all die. I wear black today to remind myself and others it is time that we open our hearts and minds to each other and listen. For only when we do that will we will able to change the way we treat each other.

Dr. Will Tuttle writes: We are only comfortable eating animals when we exclude them from the categories we use to define ourselves, but our differences from animals are far less than our eating habits force us to believe they are.

I wear black today reminding myself that ALL LIVES MATTER–all of creation matters. We need to look at the totality of creation—to the smallest of creatures and respect life.

“Be cheerful in no matter what.” Paul reminds us that in God there is always hope, and that in holding on to that hope we can be cheerful, and in that cheerfulness with faith in God we can change our attitudes.

I saw “Exodus: Gods and Kings” yesterday and I thought it was a great movie because it shows the growth of Moses from that of an atheist to the following God with all of his heart, and that meant giving his life away for his people. Life is not pretty, we can hide all we want to, but life is difficult, it is ugly, but at its heart there is a loving God and when we open our eyes up to this God our lives and those around us are transformed. Today wear black, but wear it for all living creatures, and in wearing it think of one thing you can do to open your life to those around you. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Returning Home

December 13, 2014

December 13, “Returning Home” Matt. 17:9-13

I viewed yesterday “The Imitation Game”, a movie about Alan Turing, who created a machine that beat the Germans. The underlying story was of his being gay and the secrets in his life. The title is a sub title about his sexuality–he imitated being straight, and eventually was persecuted and committed suicide as a result of his sexuality.

The story was painful to see because it hit home for me. Being openly gay is difficult in our society. There are parts of the country where it is a death sentence. In the same way being a person of color is dangerous–accept one can not hide your color. Our laws cover up the reality of racism and homophobia, our being “nice” and “politically correct” blocks us seeing the reality of both in our daily lives.

Will Tuttle writes:

“The more we connect, the more we understand and the more we love, and this love propels us not only to leave home, questioning our culture’s attitude of domination and exclusion, but also to return home, speaking on behalf of those who are vulnerable.”

The more we connect to people who are different than us, the more we can return home and speak on behalf of those who are vulnerable. For me “returning home’ of being open about who I am as been redemption The words of J. Philip Newell speak to me this Advent as we journey home to Christ:

“Redemption is the journey of being reconnected to the light of God within. It is a journey home that takes us through what seems like and unknown land. .Redemption is not bringing the light to a creation that is essentially dark, but rather the liberating of light from the heart of life. ”

Our call is to journey home to the God within us and as we become comfortable with ourselves so will we be with all of creation and that liberation will spread throughout society. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Advent Retreat–Week III

December 13, 2014

DECEMBER 14-20, 2014

Lighting of the Advent Wreath: Week III–EARTH
Miren C. Tiraba
Our first Advent candle honors flame.
Our second Advent candle honors water.
Our third Advent candle honors earth.
From the dirt on which the donkey trod to the straw in the stable,
from the baby in the manger,
to the seventh generation beyond our lives,
we see you imprint on the world.
We light this candle to represent your incarnation through the element of earth.
Prayer of Dedication:
You plant your blessings in our lives, Ground of Being,
that we might become blessing to others.
Receive our gratitude for allowing us to participate in the care of your whole creation. Amen.
The Examen-“Rearview Mirror Meditation”
Set aside a half hour or more, have paper and pen, or writing device nearby.
Breathe deeply for five or more minutes. Feel into your physical self. In your body, where are you tense? Spacious? Flexible? Are there spots of bliss or resistance? Simply notice any sensations without judgment or analysis.
Allow your attention to travel your life timeline. Recall age five, or the youngest age you remember. What energies, sensations, or memories surface? For what are you thankful, grateful, and least grateful? Acknowledge without judgment, and move on.
Recall age 10. ..
Recall age fifteen. . .
Recall age twenty. . .
Pause for a minute, and fast track into present time, on this present date. Acknowledge the road you’ve traveled, together with any consistencies and incongruities.
Now recall age twenty five. . .
Recall age thirty. . .
Recall age forty. . .
Continue to your present age—or stop at your present age.
Tune Into Your Birthday Age, This Year
Pause to idle in the present time: what reveals itself to you about here and now, the life you live, the silence you do-or don’t—cultivate, the kindness you embrace and share, and life blessings for which you give thanks?
Reflect on the Year Ahead
Choose one aspect of your life to tend with care and compassion. Be willing to give permission to fine tune the necessary actions and changes to involve all the best parts of yourself to engage and shift into gear. Who and which activities fuel your creativity, compassion, kindness? Can you create a roadmap?
In your own words, on paper or in silence of your mind and heart, give thanks for life in all of its beauty, complexity, and simplicity. Then, park all your thoughts, and simply attend to the present moment.
The next time you meet with your spiritual guide or companion, give permission for this reflection to become part of your exploration and inquiry together.
Contemplation on the Incarnation Part Two: Mary’s Human Response
By Daniel Ruff, SJ
A recurring pattern in the Spiritual Exercises has St. Ignatius starting the retreatant off praying at the “cosmic” level, and then leading him or her gradually to the more intimate and personal plane. This pattern is certainly operational in the Ignatian contemplation on the Incarnation.
Thus, as I discussed in the previous article, Ignatius invites the retreatant to enter imaginatively into the God’s-eye view of the unredeemed human condition in the first “panel” of the diptych. (I always think of those spectacular photos of the earth taken from the space shuttle.) Responding with a “leap of divine joy”1 born of love, the triune God decides to “work the redemption of the whole human race.”
Note, then, the dramatic shift as one moves to the second “panel” of the diptych. The subject matter of the second half of the meditation is found in Luke 1:26–38, the account of the Annunciation. As Fr. Fleming puts it, “I try to stay with the eyes of God, and look upon the young girl Mary as she is greeted by God’s messenger, Gabriel.”
Give this a try during Advent. Be present to the scene, “hearing the nuances of the questions, seeing the expression in the face and eyes [of Mary], watching the gestures and movements which tell us so much about a person.” In other words, get to know Mary intimately―this young, simple girl from a small town whose yes to God makes possible “the redemption of the whole human race.”
Keep the cosmic sweep, the eternal significance of what the Triune God is doing, as a backdrop. But then, zoom in for the close-up on the surprising ordinariness of the scene: an obscure provincial town, a humble single-room dwelling. A young girl, not long past puberty, of ordinary lineage and meager means. As your imagination presents her, is she doing housework? Perhaps embroidering a towel? Maybe praying or daydreaming?
Into this mundane domestic setting comes the angel, Gabriel. And what is that like? Does the angel have wings, as in so many paintings? In one famous and beautiful rendering by Henry Ossawa Tanner, housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the angel is depicted as a glowing column of light at the foot of the bed where an adolescent Mary is seated. How does Mary react to this divine intrusion? How would you react? Luke reports that she is “troubled” at the angel’s words and ponders, “what sort of greeting this might be.” (“Oh, Lord! What does one say to an angel? Why me? And what on earth could God possibly want?”)
Encouraging her not to be afraid, Gabriel announces that she has, “found favor with God,” and will conceive and bear a son to be named Jesus. “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” If you were 14 or 15, what would you make of all that? Would you perhaps wonder if you were ill and hallucinating? Would you wonder, What will my parents say? And Joseph?!?
As it happens, Mary asks a practical question. How can all this come to pass? Maybe she is partly reasoning with herself. She is, after all, a virgin. The response comes, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Wow! Is that helpful? Is it welcome news? Or is it just scarier and more confusing? Yet somehow, Mary finds the inner courage and strength and faith to respond, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
As you immerse yourself in the mystery of the Incarnation in your mind’s eye, “[you] may want just to stay with Mary or with the eternal Word, who has now become human―for [you]…. [You] may want to speak out [your] joy, [your] thanks, [your] wonder, or [your] praise to the three Divine Persons.” The human race waited for centuries of struggle and hope until God made this astonishing and utterly unpredictable move. Allow yourself to wait on God’s grace this Advent, hoping and trusting that you will be granted deeper understanding of what all the Christmas fuss is really about.
1 All textual quotes from David L. Fleming, SJ, Draw Me Into Your Friendship: A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996.
.Feel Free to Call Fr. River any time: 415-305-2124 or email:

Dressed Appropriately

December 12, 2014

December 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Dressed Appropriately, Zech 2:10-13, Luke 1:26-38

Twenty five years ago at about this time I was sitting in the Old Cathedral in L.A., I had finished a “date”, and was headed East to defend my Master’s thesis the next morning. I was tired, depressed, actually ready to throw the towel in. I had been a prostitute for three years, fought a church, and finished a degree and I was wondering who the hell I was. I sat down before a statue of our Lady of Guadalupe and I noticed her clothing was simple and her eyes were so kind.and in those moments I seemed to hear Christ speak through her, “I called you to ministry when you were in your mother’s womb–and in ministry you will do” And I felt a strange warmness of my heart once again and I felt so loved. From that moment my life was turned around and I also found out that our Lady was a patron saint of prostitutes–and thus she was mine. And has been mine since for she leads all who fight for injustice.

It has rained all day, and I have spent most of the day preparing food and then out on the streets. No one complained, and one young guy read me a poem he had written saying it described me, and the line that meant so much to me went like this, “you live your life however you choose, but if you choose to give it away for others you really live.” And for me that is what ministry is about “giving one’s life way for others.” Tonight I myself served over 200 people on Haight and Polk, others served far more, and as I walked by churches that were dark I thought of how they could be sheltering people from the rain, and the cold. In this City of so much wealth thousands are sleeping on the street in the rain—if we would but open our eyes and hearts and really see and feel. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Being willing to look, see, respond, and reconnect with all our neighbors and live this interconnectedness inspires us naturally to choose food, entertainment, clothing, and products that cause a minimum of unnecessary cruelty to vulnerable living beings.Dr. Will Tuttle

As we do this, we become more mindful of the ripples our actions cause in the world. Our spiritual transformation deepens, and as our sensitivity increases we yearn to bless others more and to be a voice for the voiceless


December 11, 2014

December 11, 2014, “Catch” , Walter Sullivan, Matt. 11:11-15–

“Are You Really Listening?” Matt. 11:15 The Message

My attitude has been changing the past few years, and this year I am practicing more and more that attitude. First of all I am not worrying about volunteers, calling friends and donors, and putting out a last appeal for donations, and rushing around going out to dinners with people–I am simply listening, working with my guys, listening to them, loving them, letting everything else simply be. And in the process I am catching hold of the reign of God more.

Today I talked to a lady whose husband was recently shot–little news about it–her fears of living in her neighborhood now, her children’s fears–as I moved on the street tonight I heard the fears of people of the coming rain. I was catching the reign of God in our midst.

Secondly as I catch hold of the reign of God I am hearing the words of Charles de Foucauld:

“The moment I realized that God existed, I knew that I could not do otherwise than to live for Him alone. . . Faith strips the mask from the world and reveals God in everything. It makes nothing impossible and renders meaningless such words as anxiety, danger, and fear, so that the believer goes through life calmly and peacefully, with profound joy—like a child hand in hand with his mother.”
– Venerable Charles de Foucauld

(Pray the grace to go through this day “calmly and peacefully, with profound joy . . .”)

I am simply trusting in Jesus, and “running the race fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith.” Life is difficult but it is worth living. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!