Archive for March, 2016

A Woman of Courage

March 31, 2016

A WOMAN OF COURAGE

In the early 80’s as I began my ministry there were stories about the new First Lady of Arkansas in the Memphis Commercial Register.  They were stories of a woman who spoke her mind, who spoke for  minorities, and stories that were very critical. They grabbed my attention  and through the years I have read all the books written both positive and negative, read all the newspaper stories in the 80’s until now, and have followed Hillary Clinton through the years.

She is a woman who has grown in her view points on racism, sexual orientation, and human rights.  She is mixture like all of us. I disagree with her on her foreign policy and the death penalty,  but like all of  us she is mixture.  And  out of that mixture comes a good woman.  She has been a role model to me in  three areas through the years:

1. Feminist:  She has been on the forefront of women’s rights.  She has fought her way to the point of possibly being  nominated  to the presidency of the United States.  In that journey she has illustrated that women are as equal to men. 

There is an old southern story of a  young southern bell, who when talking to people would hear much criticism and her answer was always, “How nice.” in a sarcastic tone, which meant “f” you.  That is the way Hilary Clinton has live her life, full steam ahead.

For me coming out as a gay male she taught me that first of all one must be true to yourself, and that like the southern belle you hold your head high, walk with courage and say “how nice” when they hurl the insults and hate against you.  Following Hilary’s Clinton’s journey saved my life.

2. A Woman of Faith:  Hilary Clinton comes from the same denomination that I once belonged to, and was imbued with social justice. She has lived that out.  I have read her book on her faith journey, I have read hundreds of articles about her faith journey, both pro and con, and she is a woman of faith. Her faith has sustained her through out her life. 

3. A Woman of Courage: Finally she is a woman of courage.  No one who has lived her life can do so without courage. She faces the worst criticism, threats on her life, criticism of her family with courage. She never shows her fear.  She has been a role model for me in this as well. You live out what you believe.

This has been my experience with following Hillary Rodham Clinton since I was a young boy.  I have had my doubts, and yet through those doubts I come away with much admiration. Win or lose I will always hold her in respect and give thanks to God for her presence. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Contentment

March 30, 2016

 

CONTENTMENT

Luke 24:13-25

Sr. Thea Bowman

The Emmaus story is a story of reasoning and doubt.  I can imagine it is a story of accusing each other, and then Jesus appears and in the breaking of the bread they know. For me it is in the breaking of bread with the hungry that I see the face of Jesus every time.

I have been told I am a “child”, frankly I consider that tag an honor to wear because when Jesus talked of children he talked of their openness and acceptance of people. 

People  often judge me harshly  because I am a vegan, I dress differently, my ministry is to the outsiders and I identify with them, and I speak my peace, and I am a Christian, who speaks of a living relationship with Christ. A vegan friend told me last night that the reason people judge is because we “are different,” and he is right–we all want to be clones, but the gospel calls us to value and treasure our differences. Jesus was different and he was crucified, but he fooled them all–he came back–you see in our  differences there is life, joyous life.

Dr. Will Tuttle wrote:

“As vegans, we may feel sad, bitter, misunderstood, and isolated by the apparently oblivious attitudes of our culture, friends, and families. What can we do?
In a few words, we can cultivate a sense of joy and thankfulness. In the face of our culture’s unrelenting pressure to view animals as mere food commodities, going vegan is a victory for peace, a real spiritual breakthrough.”

Personally I do not see my self as different, or as a mystery, but simply as a human being on a journey of seeking Christ and serving him. For me life is summed up in the words of Carla Ronci:

“I am happy to exist.  I am content with everything that surrounds me because in everything I detect a gift of God.  All the peace which fills and pervades my heart comes from possessing Jesus.”

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

http://www.temenos.org

April Peniel–Temenos Newsletter

March 29, 2016

 

Ap

April, 2016

PENIEL

“Where Jacob Wrestled With God”

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Fr. River Damien Sims, Director/Pastor

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JOURNAL OF AN ALIEN STREET PRIEST:

To everything
Turn, turn, turn
There is a season
Turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything
Turn, turn, turn (Pete Seeger)

There is a season for everything, and a time for everything, and as we enter the Easter season the Risen Lord reminds us that this is the season of a new creation, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; everything has become new.” 2 Corinthians 2:17. During this election year we are so divided by political parties, and divisions over race, class, sexual orientation, culture, and sexism.

Pope Francis in his address to Congress calls us to practice the Golden Rule:

“This Rule points us in a clear direction.  Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.  Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.  In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

At a time when some demonize immigrants and Muslims, exploit economic insecurity and sow divisions to score political points, most Americans are looking for leaders to unite people around better visions.

Faith in Public Life has teamed with Interfaith Power and Light to release a non-partisan reflection guide that examines the key moral issues at stake in this election.   The following points are offered as a guide for reflectiion, using it as an examination of our conscience:

1. An economy of inclusion:  St. Augustine said: “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”

In order to build an economy of inclusion our political leaders will need to:

(a) Promote policies that honor the dignity of work through fair wages and paid family leave; (b) Protect social safety nets that help the most vulnerable; and (c) Create a just tax system that serves the common good and not the privileged few.

2. Global Warming: A Threat to Creation and to Our Children’s Future:  Pope Francis writes, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

Our political leaders basically ignore, deny, or give only verbal acknowledgement to global warming and the effects of climate change.   We need to push them to:  (a) Transition from dependency on fossil fuels toward a clean energy economy; (b) Honor the emissions-reduction commitments our nation made at the UN Conference on Climate Change in 2015; (c) Take additional actions against global warming; and (d) Assist developing nations in coping with the threats of climate change.

3. Dignity, Welcome, and Citizenship for Immigrants:  All our sacred traditions compel us to protect the stranger, the migrant and the refugee.  As the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of Christian organizations, states:

“Our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic, and political crisis in America.  Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each others’ positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions.  This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at  a tragic human cost.”

We should: (a) Support comprehensive immigration reform that includes an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants;  (b) Address the root causes that drive migration to the United States: economic insecurity, violence, and unjust trade polices; and (c) Increase the number of family visas and reduce family reunification waiting times.

4. Gun Violence:  To reduce gun violence we should: (a) Support laws that require a background check for every gun purchased at a gun show, over the internet, or between private citizens; (b) End the ban on federal research of the gun violence epidemic, which prevents the development of solutions that will save lives; and c) Enact policies that improve the efficacy of background checks to prevent violent criminals and the severely mentally ill from obtaining guns.

5. Restorative and Racial Justice:  Redemption is at the very heart of faith.  Restorative justice begins with deep listening to those who have been left out of the national conversation.  Healing broken relationships means to move from state-sanctioned violence against people of color, mass incarceration, and capital punishment to authentic restorative justice.  All minorities experience oppression, and we should be sensitive to our words and deeds. We invite our candidates for political office and ourselves to commit to the following:

(a) Support sentencing reform policies that reduce sentence length for non-violent crimes and offer alternatives to incarceration; (b) Remove barriers to employment and take steps to reintegrate people returning from prison, such as “ban the box” legislation that removes stigma and opens job opportunities for ex-offenders; (c) End the death penalty; (d) Equip police forces to deescalate  situations without resorting to violence; (e) Address racial profiling at all levels of the criminal justice system; and (f) Invest more in locally based, effective peace-building programs.

6. Protecting Our Nation and Affirming Our Values:  We live in a time of anxiety and fear, and those flames are fanned by our political leaders and candidates. They are fanned out of their own fear and for their own benefit.  We need to have our leaders: (a) Decrease the United States’ role in the global arms trade, which fuels violence and destabilizes governments; (b) Increase peace building and development aid in vulnerable countries and regions in ways that respond to the root causes of conflict, violence, and war; (c) Pursue diplomacy and dialogue as key roots in efforts to build global peace and security; and (d) Create a world free of nuclear weapons.

Finally, we need to look at our sexism, to acknowledge we are sexist, and in so doing to change. That sexism has come out in the presidential race; we need to look within ourselves and deal with that sexism, for we are hurting many people.

“To everything there is a season,” and “In Christ there is a new creation.” We can experience the season of new creation in our lives when we move towards wholeness in our approach to living. New life can come when we “do unto others, as we would have them do unto us.” This is the call of Christ, and in answering that call our lives will find fulfillment. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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I am often asked “What exactly do you do?”, “Give me a day out of your life?” The truth is, every day is different.  I am on the streets each week doing outreach; I visit people in the hospitals; I go to court with people;  I cook and serve one meal on the street one day a week. I celebrate the Eucharist once a week on the street.  But the heart of what I do is in being present and listening to individuals, and that can be for a few minutes or for hours, just simply being with people, and just hanging out. Simply  being  a friend.  For me, being a pastor means loving people, establishing a relationship.  Recently I was introduced by one young guy in the Haight as “my old friend River,” and  through the years I have been pastor, friend, brother, father, and in a few years grandfather, to many.  Structure for my life is basically centered around the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book, in which I pray the daily hours eight times a day, wherever I am.  Other than that, my life is structured by the needs of people. My life is very structured, but internally, for I move with the flow of life around me. It has always been a rewarding and fulfilled life.

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We Are Beggars:

We are beggars. We do not accept grants. but live on the graciousness and love of each of you who supports our work and walks with us on the streets.  So please give:

By Mail:

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

or PayPal:

http://www.temenos. org-=pay pal

 

Meeting Jesus

March 28, 2016

 

MEETING JESUS  Matthew 28:8-15–Moses

Easter is a joyous holiday with large crowds at church, fancy receptions, Easter Egg hunts.  For some of my guys in the Park the first time they knew it was Easter  was when I held the Easter Vigil and passed out food early yesterday morning. Several talked to me last night about Jesus, and one said: “He is my only friend, he is always walking with me, and when people are talking about what the politicians  will do if elected I tell them bull sh.. . .t–because they mean sh.. . .t , only Jesus stays.”

That to me is an awesome expression of faith.  He hits it right on.  We get so caught up in that which is outside of us–the Church and it’s leadership, the political candidates, that we lose sight of the reality  that it is that which is  within us that brings changes.  I do not like the election season, in fact I stay away from friends during that time because they are so caught up with their  new savior” they hurt you by their remarks and insistence if you disagree with them.  We want to be “saved”, have our lives made better, but that comes from within.

I talk from my own life. No legislation has made my life better. No politician and his promises have made my life better.   It has been the changes that occur within me around acceptance, and love. Only until I realized I was loved immensely by God for myself, could I move out and work with others in love.  Only when I accepted myself, appreciated myself, could I find wholeness.  For example people who are homeless need housing, but to really have change they need to be loved, each for themselves, and in so doing they are provided for.  One young guy commented to me that as people come from city services to help  he feels like “we are cows being herded out of site.”  It is the care for the individual, the care for that person despite themselves. It is the love we give to individuals that brings changes.

Only in meeting Jesus can we let go of those dark dragons of our past.  And it is those dark dragons that destroy us.  I was asked if I could speak to a group about how my former denomination treated me many years ago, and my answer was a loud and decisive “NO”.  The reason is that the past is the past, and that God has used that experience to bring me into a fuller ministry and life  than I would ever have had.  My life is far more fulfilled, than it would ever have been.   I give thanks to God everyday for that experience, for all the pain, for the rejection–for without it I would not be as joyous as I feel now. I still love my former denomination, and the good it brought into my life.  For their is good and bad in all of us.  For me that comes from meeting Jesus within myself. 

So let’s meet Jesus during this Easter week, let’s meet him within us, let him stir our hearts, move from the past, and move into loving our neighbor as ourselves. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

http://www.temenos.org

 

In the Waves of Time

March 27, 2016

EZ

EASTER VIGIL

God in the Waves of Time

Gen. 1-2; Luke 24:1-12

We say God is timeless, yet in our first passage God sweeps over the water and time is cupped in God’s hands and poured out.  This passage lifts up a God who chooses to pour himself into the waves of time with us and promises never to leave. We are not alone.

That is the promise that sustains us  through the waves of time. Each moment brings us closer to the end, and we  know that God has cupped us  in his hands, and will still keep us cupped in the waves of time. The resurrection of Christ is the promise of God’s presence.

This past year there has been threats on our life, an attempt,  a threat of a serious illness, and the walking in the darkness with others who are homeless, suffering, afraid, hopeless, and dying.  We have buried people  whom we have been close to, and through those waves we know God has had us cupped in his hands.

People are always questioning us about our faith, and we frustrate them, because we have no answer accept that we experience God’s love, and we know Jesus as our friend, there is no rational answer; we are being questioned about why we are vegan, and Will Tuttle answers that, for we have no rational answer as well:

“Since the decision to become a vegan is at its core an ethical one, spirituality, which is the foundation of ethics, must be the foundation of veganism as well.
The spiritual element within us encourages us not to harm others, but to express love and practice compassion. Compassion brings the intuition of spiritual awareness into daily life as actions that serve to help and bless others. Veganism is clearly a vital expression of this compassion that springs from our felt sense of connectedness with others. While it may not necessarily be religious, at its core, veganism is spiritual, and it is an expression of love. It is a concrete way that we can all be lovers.”

What we have found is that there are no rational answers in life. Life is. It is like we can love people but that love means accepting them, for we can not change them-they can only change themselves through God’s grace.

We had an Easter Vigil tonight on Haight, young men and women were cold, worn out, many had had little to eat, all had struggled all day, and would go into the Park to sleep on the cold ground ,  but in those moments as they received the body and blood of Christ we felt ourselves being protected from the waves of time  in the cup of God’s hands.

On this Easter Eve, and the eve of our birthday we affirm that which we believe and live with our whole heart in the words of the Apostle Paul:

“the Christ  died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells us; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time. . .that he finally presented himself alive to me.” I Corinthians 15:3-9

We go into the year a head knowing we are cupped in God’s hands. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

www. temenos.org

Birthday

March 26, 2016

 

Tomorrow  is my birthday.  People always asked me :”how old are you?” And I never tell them my true age.  Not because I am embarrassed but as Ruth Gordon says, “Discussing how old you are is the temple of boredom.”  What is important is “how have you used your years thus far, have they given glory to God through helping others?”

Twenty four years ago  sitting with Fr. Frank Cordaro in a group discussing the Catholic Worker I heard a group of fifty plus year old’s talk of how when they retired that they would do a ministry like the Catholic Worker. Since I had first entered the ministry I had wanted to do the same, but my bishop never would let me consider that type of ministry, he needed me in the a church, but now I was free to choose, I thought to myself, “I am not going to wait, I am going to “retire” now and do ministry as a catholic worker. Over the next two years that call never left and I came to San Francisco where I have retired into forming Temenos Catholic Worker.

I have lived well  these past twenty two years, as I have done those before, so discussing a number is the “temple of boredom”, for me it is how well I will live my life into the next year, not a number.  I have been “retired” for a long time now, and delight in every moment. Of course as a friend of mine says, “pick a vocation that you enjoy and you never worry about retiring,’ and I have enjoyed my “retirement” since my first day at sixteen and a half in the pulpit, so I have “retired twice.”  Only two of the four years I worked in non-profits was I not really retired.

Another reason I  never share my age is you are labeled, either as too young, or too old, and the reality is I want to be judged by my work, not how much gray I have or how many wrinkles.  We judge, we label.  I know people who are in their 90’s who can run circles around most people. As  a friend of mine, who is in his eighties once told me, “never think of the number, it will deceive you every time.” And numbers are deceiving, not only to you but to others, so I never tell my age, I will pick a number from 1-100, and tell you.

This afternoon I was so exhausted from our Stations of the Cross Service, and a  young man I have known for four years who is a traveler. In other words he is homeless, and simply travels the country, He is 21, calls me, crying, and just had to see me. My first thought was oh f. .ck, but he begged me and I went to the Haight.  J had just been told he had an inoperable tumor. His family kicked him out because they caught him sleeping with a guy.  Have not talked to him since he was 15.  Scared to death. In the end all I could tell him  was that he would not be alone through out this, I would be with him, and that would see to it that he has a place and is taken care of. He hugged as he left to hang with friends, and gave me his parents number.  They live in Texas. I called them, told them the situation and the words they used are unrepeatable, but they are open for me coming and talking to them. And so i will fly to Texas next week, and see what can be worked out.  But regardless he will not be alone.

Today Tehmina Khan, a Muslim lady, who participated in our Stations of the Cross wrote me

“My imam says that we all take different routes to get to a particular destination  — BART, freeway, streets, walking, etc. — and no one says my way is the only way.”

Those words brought comfort to me, for all of us take different routes, we all end up in the hands of the same God. For when people asked me “what happens if something happens to you, you are all alone, all I know is I am not, like I will walk with my young friend,  God will provide some one to walk with me, and in that knowledge I go into the next year.

So I invite people to join me in this next year not counting the days but living out the questions of St. Ignatius:

What have I done for Christ?

What am I doing for Christ?

What will I do for Christ?

Frankly worrying about numbers, especially when you have  ADD like me is rather boring.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God?

Temenos Catholic Worker

http://www.temenos.org

P. O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

punkpriest1@gmail.com

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Outside the Gates

March 25, 2016

JESUS SUFFERED OUTSIDE THE CITY GATES  Hebrews 13:12-15–Holy Thursday/Good Friday

“Jesus suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood.  Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.  For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that confess his name” Hebrews 13:15-15.

Today after I prepared the meal, I celebrated the Eucharist with the food as the Body of Christ, and placed a pair socks on top of the food container and blessed them, they became the Eucharist for today as we passed out food on the Haight and Polk.  In each person there is the face of the broken body of Christ. 

Tomorrow as as process with the Stations of the Cross through the Tenderloin we remember the broken body of Christ.

We remember what Dorothy Day once said, that the “Church is both our holy mother and a whore.”   That is why we will love the church to our dying breath, we have been both a whore and the church, and we continue to be in our own brokenness. Christ calls us to look to him and try our best to be the holy mother to the world. 

Below is a poem that was written for the Stations, reminds all of us of the broken body of Christ in our midst. 

THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY CROSS

I wait,

And time passes by,

And all the riches of the world become nothing.

I gaze

Made silent by the sight

  Of people sleeping on the street,

  Lying in alleys, sleeping in the doorways with dirty blankets,

  No where to go to the bathroom or get medical treatment—

  In twenty first century America.

I watch,

As City workers throw tents and bedrolls into their trucks,

It is simply a job, without thought to the human being in front of them.

I gasp,

Still life lingers in his fragile broken form,

In the face of the mentally ill, the mother with

child wrapped in blankets in a door way, and the

elderly man sleeping under the bridge of Hwy. 101.

I flinch,

As blow by blow nails are driven deep through the

fine wood of the people who sit on the corner hollowed

eyed without belongings, a place to sleep, food or hope.

I stand

As he is lifted high, a shadow against the sky, a shadow

of the equality for all he has made visible.

I weep

As his cry echoes deep in my callused heart,

Callused  against the person without food, housing,

And health care sleeping outside my door.

I scream

As he tells me it is complete, finished, said, and done,

and death comes to our streets.

I fall as the light goes out in the faces around me—

as they say, “what’s the use”, it is done.

I kneel as world explode,

 as time ticks by,

What once seemed hopeful, has no hope.

I bow,

For part of me is dead, dead in the broken on the streets,

Kept forever on Calvary’s painful peak.

I wait,

At the foot of the cross to begin my journey home—

Home to where all are fed, clothed, housed, have health care.

I wait at the feet of the Crucified One.

FIFTEENTH ANNUAL STATIONS OF THE CROSS

Begins at San Francisco City Hall-Polk Street Side

Noon, March 25, 2016

Come Join Us–If you Have questions or Need Help With Location Call 415-305-2124

Fr. River Damien Sims

P.O.Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

Holy Communion and the Streets

March 24, 2016

 

March 24, 2016

HOLY COMMUNION OF THE STREETS

. . . . .The Master Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread.  Having given thanks, he broke it and said:

“This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.  After supper, he did the same thing with the cup : This cup is my blood, my covenant with you.  Each time you drink this cup, remember me.” I Corinthians 11:23-26.

Tomorrow night all around the globe, millions of people will celebrate Holy Communion, in remembrance of the first Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday, The Last Supper.  Paul calls us to remember Jesus each time we partake of the Supper.

Tomorrow we will be working in the Haight, and on Polk Street. We will be walking the street giving out food, talking.  The food we give will be the body of Christ, which will nourish them and be physical signs of love to them.  The majority are scarred deeply, hurt by people, wounds that will scar them for life. Our vocation has always been to call people to be transformed, and being an agent of transformation means being aware of our wounds. We are very aware of the those wounds, and in that awareness we are aware of the love of Jesus of Nazareth. That love has been a transforming power in our life.

The Eucharist symbolizes the love of Jesus, the love of One, willing to pour out his blood that people may  find wholeness.  On this Holy Thursday, may people find wholeness as they encounter Christ in the food  and love given. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

Fr. River Damien Sims

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.or

415-305-2124

 

Possessed By Love

March 23, 2016

A monument to Monsignor Oscar Romero, in the main square of Ciudad Barrios, 160 km from San Salvador, the place where Monsignor Romero, who will be beatified next May 23 was born. AFP PHOTO / Marvin RECINOS

WHEN LOVE TAKES POSSESSION Matthew 26:14-25  Oscar Romero

Oscar Romero said: “If God accepts the sacrifice of my life then may my blood be the seed of liberty. .A bishop will die, but the church of God–the people will never die.”

Here was a man who was simply a bureaucrat, who played by the rules, and after he became bishop of San Salvador the Holy Spirit worked through him as he identified with the poor and the oppressed. His life was transformed in three short years  to become a defender of the disenfranchised, and he was martyred.   He had a revolution of the heart.  He saw the suffering of the people he served and his heart was changed. He opened his life to the suffering of others, and in that opening God brought revolution.

We have candidates promising a revolution, our current president’s campaign eight years ago did the same, and there is no revolution because one person can not bring a revolution, and real revolution comes when our hearts are transformed and we change society so that everyone is met equally in all ways. That is what Holy Week is about–a revolution of the heart.

We can bring revolution when we take the blinders off of our eyes, and see the beggar, the person who is homeless, without housing at our door; when we are willing to give of ourselves so that others might have life. The older I get the less possessions I desire, I desire simply a place to sleep, food to eat, health care, friends–that is what we all desire, and for everyone to have access to the basics in life  we need to  have our hearts changed, so that we can share equally with all.

Oscar Romero had a revolution of the heart–love took possession of him–transforming all around him. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Stumbling

March 20, 2016

A THEOLOGY OF STUMBLERS- Luke 19:28-40

“Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self. But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world’s deep needs?

Their lives often follow a pattern of defeat, recognition, redemption. They have moments of pain and suffering. But they turn those moments into occasions of radical self-understanding – by keeping a journal or making art. As Paul Tillich put it, suffering introduces you to yourself and reminds you that you are not the person you thought you were.

The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative. They are not really living for happiness, as it is conventionally defined. They see life as a moral drama and feel fulfilled only when they are enmeshed in a struggle on behalf of some ideal.

This is a philosophy for stumblers. The stumbler scuffs through life, a little off balance. But the stumbler faces her imperfect nature with unvarnished honesty, with the opposite of squeamishness. Recognizing her limitations, the stumbler at least has a serious foe to overcome and transcend. The stumbler has an outstretched arm, ready to receive and offer assistance. Her friends are there for deep conversation, comfort and advice.

External ambitions are never satisfied because there’s always something more to achieve. But the stumblers occasionally experience moments of joy. There’s joy in freely chosen obedience to organizations, ideas and people. There’s joy in mutual stumbling. There’s an aesthetic joy we feel when we see morally good action, when we run across someone who is quiet and humble and good, when we see that however old we are, there’s lots to do ahead.

The stumbler doesn’t build her life by being better than others, but by being better than she used to be. Unexpectedly, there are transcendent moments of deep tranquility. For most of their lives their inner and outer ambitions are strong and in balance. But eventually, at moments of rare joy, career ambitions pause, the ego rests, the stumbler looks out at a picnic or dinner or a valley and is overwhelmed by a feeling of limitless gratitude, and an acceptance of the fact that life has treated her much better than she deserves.”

Those are the people we want to be….

David Brooks

Jesus stumbled through his life.  He was and is enmeshed in the drama of bringing people to new life both now and in eternity.  He had no money, no plan, accept to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and ultimately he was crucified, but he “stumbled” himself into the resurrection. 

We are  asked one or two times a week by people who meet meet  “How do you raise money?”, “What are your plans for the future?”, “How long did it take you to start your work in San Francisco?” and so on. The truth is we simply “stumble”,  We let the Spirit lead, and where there is need, we try to meet it.  For example we are low on money at the moment, we need socks, so we ordered socks.  Stumbling is caring and working, putting yourself second.

We need to let ourselves “stumble” this Holy Week, and in the weeks to come.  Stumble on the streets and see the faces of people who are homeless, without health care, and little food.  Walk in a restaurant and invite the beggar outside to join you,  or give them some food.  Ask yourself why are not our churches open at night for shelters? and work with them to do that.

Call on  the candidates from the national level  down to the local to accountability on homelessness.  Millions of people in this country are sleeping in the streets, we do not talk about it, we put our blinders on.  We often wonder how many on the social media are suffering from poverty and homelessness and do not share their stories. It would be a blessing if you would.Tell your story.

Palm Sunday always leads to the Passion.  The question is will we stumble into the Passion, and find resurrection on Easter Sunday in our lives as we open our lives to those around us and stumble in to a life of service in the weeks to come?  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!