Recognizing the Lord
After the Resurrection, Jesus has a hard time being recognized. Mary Magdalene thinks he is a gardener. The disciples on the road to Emmaus think he is a stranger who didn’t know anything about the week of events. And in this week’s Scripture, the men and women followers think he is a ghost. Until he eats real food with them.
I have been thinking a lot about what it means to eat real food with others who are considered gardeners, strangers, and ghosts. In many ways, these are often people I just don’t know, or I don’t know them YET! John in the Epistle for this weekend says we can’t say “I know him” referring to Jesus without keeping the commandments. Knowing people and actions that do not hurt people go hand in hand. If we know Jesus, or claim to know Jesus, we are treating people the way Jesus would. What would Jesus do, the famous rubber bracelet expression of some time ago, becomes a measure of both our knowledge of Jesus and the actions that follow.
For weeks now, I and a growing number of St. Francis parishioners, have been putting our faith into action. We, like Jesus, have been recognizing some of the same sufferings of our brothers and sisters in SA and Bexar County that Jesus confronted. With love, compassion, and mercy, Jesus recognized the ways in which those who had power exercised it was convenient to their way of thinking, their idea of economics, and their view of who should succeed. Jesus challenges and confronts; Jesus creates tension with those who have power and authority. Jesus acts to change the policies that kept people outside, separated from access to the fullness of life.
What was the disciples’ task, having recognized the risen Lord, and having seen that he “opened their minds to understand the scripture,”? Is our task now to preach the good news of God’s mercy and goodness to all? Is it our task to act on those teachings?
This Sunday from 3-4:30, citizens of all faiths, from all over the city will hold candidates for public office accountable for priorities that I feel confident Jesus would support. COPS/Metro leaders have spent many hours during this past year advocating for gardeners, and strangers, and “ghosts.” Ghosts can simply be the people we “don’t see” because we never go to their part of town.
In this past year, during this time of isolation, I realize that I have come to know my brothers and sisters on all sides of town through action with them. Now that I know them, I cannot turn away. I have “recognized them” in “breaking open the word” of Scripture.
I may not need or benefit from what they are asking for; but because we are the “community that holds all things in common” from Acts of the Apostles and the “beloved community”—our relationship to each other that activists (people who act on values, priorities, and love for each other) ACT on. To know them is to advocate for them—to live God’s commands of love of neighbor.
Putting the Gospel into action this week means that I will be at that Accountability Session on Sunday afternoon. I invite you to join me and others from our parish.
Here is the Zoom link to register: www.copsmetro.com/accountability_20210418
Here are the priorities identified that we are asking support for: http://sfasat.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/COPSMetro-Issues-Agenda.pdf
The Easter AWE!
“The community of believers was of one heart and one mind…” I know without a doubt that all of us learned something about ourselves during this past year. We learned it about ourselves as individuals, as couples, as families, as a parish community, as a compassionate city, as a country, and as world citizens, as explorers of the universe. Did we get closer to being of “one heart and one mind” as Jesus envisioned life after His resurrection?
Jesus was so present to his disciples. He showed them the way. To reinforce the witness He had given, the teaching He had done, the ways of being with them, He spent even more time with them. He had them experience the power that they had to heal, to show mercy, to care for all. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles does just that. They held all things in common and everyone had all they needed.
This “holding all things in common” is a real struggle for us. Perhaps we have had inklings of what that is like as we shared during the ice storm in mid-February. Perhaps we get glimpses of that knowing that we can care for migrant children who come here with nothing. Perhaps those who have had COVID-19 are sharing their blood to provide antibodies for those who are fighting the virus.
As we enter the time of recognizing signs of “new life”—the meaning of resurrection—we are being given opportunities to name the ways that we can be of “one heart and one mind” and to “hold all things in common.” During this time of Jesus’ reinforcement of His teachings, the boosters that He gave His disciples, we too are entering into a new journey, a new way of being community.
We don’t know exactly what that looks like or feels like. All we know is that we have been waiting, we have been learning, God has been working in our lives. It is time as we journey to Pentecost to open our minds and our hearts to how we want to be with each other in the future. We can’t go back to the past, the way it was. It is a different time. We are different. We have the opportunity to re-connect, to renew relationships, and to form new ones. What are we willing to do, who are we willing to be when we too have the opportunity to live and to be as the community described in ACTS?
This is our call to be witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus. Only then can we call ourselves disciples. Only then do we enter into the dance of discipleship: Accompany, Welcome, and Encourage—the very real AWE of Resurrection!
May we all be filled with AWE!
So You Must Do
Did we fall asleep last night as we entered into the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus? Jesus asked that his followers pray and be present, to recognize the anguish of suffering. On the first night of the Holy Triduum, we too were asked to be aware of the suffering of many in our world today, to pay attention, to not fall asleep.
Ron Rolheiser observes that in John’s gospel read last night, we don’t hear about the institution of the Eucharist. The gesture of washing feet replaces that institution. Ron says, “It specifies what the Eucharist is in fact meant to do, namely, to lead us out of church and into the humble service of others.” Jesus modeled a new kind of leadership and service.
Each Sunday, we are sent with words like, “Go forth and live the Gospel.” Yes, we are indeed being led out of church and into service.
“As I have done so you must do.” To bow and to kneel, to act with love and compassion, to recognize the humanity and goodness of all of God’s creation is to do as Jesus did. Jeannine Grammick offers some ways that we wash feet today.
We wash feet when we make a phone call to a friend inviting her to dinner or a party. We wash feet when we smile at a senior citizen and bid him a bright “Good morning”. We wash feet when we scratch the chin of a cat, stroke her fluffy fur, and hear her purr “Thank you”. We wash feet when we write to our Congressperson or the White House to support a proposed bill to enhance human welfare or end violence.” (paxchristiusa.org/2021/03/31/reflection-for-holy-thursday-april-1/)
One of my favorite songs at Easter is “Roll Away the Stone.” Easter 2021 seems the perfect time to acknowledge the need we have to see the Glory of God. Let’s roll away all the stones and tombs depicted here, all the “they have been saying” and proclaim new life! We rise too when we cast away the stones and the tombs in our lives. Let it be so this Easter!
These are the lyrics to “Roll Away the Stone”
They have been saying all our plans are empty.
They have been saying “Where is their God now?”
Roll away the stone see the Glory of God. Roll away the stone.
They have been saying no one will remember.
They have been saying Power rules the world.
Roll away the stone see the Glory of God. Roll away the stone.
They have been saying no one hears the singing.
They have been saying all our strength is gone.
Roll away the stone see the Glory of God. Roll away the stone.
They have been saying “All of us are dying.”
They have been saying “All of us are dead.”
Roll away the stone see the Glory of God. Roll away the stone.
Living the Way of the Cross
The Way of the Cross, or the Stations of the Cross, a devotional prayer of the Catholic Church, has taken on new meaning for many of us during this past year—what many of us call not just a season of Lent, but also a YEAR of Lent! As I recall the events of this past year and hear the reading of the Passion of Jesus, I am reminded of the ways in which the Way of Jesus has come to focus in the grief and suffering of so many. For many of us, this year has awakened us. Like the disciples, we have fallen asleep to so much.
When I was teaching high school religion, I would ask my students to create their own Stations of the Cross using modern images of how we identify with suffering. Who and how are people today condemned to death? Who are their accusers? How are people today stripped of their dignity, called names, spat on, whipped, and tortured? In what ways do people fall, over and over again, being forced to “carry a cross?” Who are the persons who help to carry the cross? Who offers to “wipe the face of Jesus?” Who among us have been burying the dead? Who dies by execution today? Who keeps watch over the graves? Who stays with, persists in attention, and believes in resurrection?
In Jerusalem, people walk the Via Dolorosa, places designated as stopping points to pray and remember in the midst of all the busyness of the streets, the vendors, the residences, the churches. The way of the cross is in the midst of the realities of our lives.
Each Lent, I look for different versions of the Stations of the Cross—those that have meaning for me in the midst of life. This year I was caught sleeping about many ways of seeing others. Here are two that I suggest.
April 2, 2021 at noon – Good Friday Stations of the Cross with FutureChurch Staff
Write on My Heart
What is God writing on my heart these days? I often hear people use the expression, “it was on my heart today.” That expression is usually followed by some act of kindness, of remembrance, of love, of compassion. During this past year, I believe that God has been keeping the covenant of love alive in our hearts in bounteous and extravagant, compelling, and challenging ways.
We have been a light to each other, a life-line at many times and in many ways. We have connected with family and neighbors, with workers and strangers in very personal ways. We have strengthened our bonds of being in this together.
I have also been listening to many of my sisters and brothers who are reflecting on the paschal mystery in their lives. What is the suffering, death, and resurrection that we have experienced, personally and in common, during this year of life? Providentially, we are given readings that remind us that Jesus too “offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears.” What have been our most frequent prayers and supplications? How have we cried out both for ourselves and others? For whom have we shed tears? Ourselves, others, strangers?
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” This Sunday, we are invited to reflect on what we put into the ground, what did we let go of, bury? And are we seeing signs of new life? Have we been changed? Do we have new priorities? Do we think differently about our relationships? Have we pushed fear aside and been emboldened to learn to talk to people who are “different” from us, who weren’t part of our circle of friends in the past? What has God been writing on our hearts? With whom do we choose to share that? How will our seed planting bring new life to our families, to our church, to our country?
Listen to David Kauffman’s music and lyrics here:
Quit That Site; Quit That Sight
Just one month ago, we all had the experience of living in darkness due to the power grid outage! It wasn’t a choice; we were subjected to it. This was physical darkness, something we endured. How did we handle it? How did we change as a result of that experience? The slogan of The Christopher’s is “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” We certainly lit many candles. Amazing Grace, a very popular song, repeats the refrain, “I once was blind, but now I see.” Perhaps we had tangible experiences of seeing many things in a different way. Certainly, we learned of the plight of many of our brothers and sisters in the city who experience utility insecurity on a daily basis. Our St. Vincent de Paul volunteers hear the stories of many of our brothers and sisters who live in constant fear of having their “lights cut off.”
Darkness is not something that we seek, unless we are suffering from a migraine headache. But darkness does provide an opportunity for many things to “come to light.”
Those of us who are part of the learning community called “Adult Faith Formation” recently viewed Bishop Robert Barron’s talk given at the virtual LA Religious Education Conference. He named social media as one opportunity we are given to choose light over darkness. In his talk, he challenged us to post the gifts of the Holy Spirit next to our viewing screen. If the site we are visiting, Facebook, Netflix, cable TV, or anything we are viewing, doesn’t bring us joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, or gentleness, he suggests that we quit that site. If we are experiencing conflict, anger, jealousy, hatred, dishonesty, divisiveness, untruthfulness, and selfishness among other “works of the flesh,” we probably have confirmation of the need to quit that site. We need to take it out of our sight!
In the Gospel of John for this weekend, we read: “…. The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
May this season of Lent be a time when we recognize increasingly what it means to choose to live in the Light of Christ. Merciful God, give us the courage to do so each day!
Our Common Thirst?
As he meets the woman, Jesus is not afraid to admit “I’m thirsty,” and to suggest, “Thirst makes friends of us all.” Later, he even proclaims to her, “God is not on the mountaintop—but in your thirst!” What are we thirsting for? Friendship? Acceptance? Community? Forgiveness? Healing? Boldness? Economic security? Biblical justice? Human dignity for all? How is our thirst inviting us to open more deeply to God?
Imagine the shock of encountering what seems like a suspicious stranger. The woman (nameless, worthless, having a “reputation”) has done everything to avoid encountering anyone. The stranger asks her for a drink. Their common thirst establishes a relationship. Both are thirsty. The desire to receive from each other—remember Jesus asks for a drink from her. He needs her. He pursues her, even in her resistance. He heals her wounds with words of acceptance—knowing everything about her—and still, he offers her a gift—living water. She receives from him, a stranger, someone she believes despises her.
When are we the recipients of life-giving water? Where in our lives are we experiencing something being brought back to life? Relationships, activities, the environment, hope in a future? Where or who is the well that provides the springs of living water?
How are you like this woman? How do you differ from her? If you met this woman, what would you want to say to her?
Anything can happen at a well. Thirst makes friends of us all. Can we find the well? Can we receive from a stranger? Can we find God there? Do we want to?
As a closing prayer, listen here.
Blinded by the Light
After the snowstorms, many of us found ourselves looking for sunglasses. The light outside was so bright, so dazzling that it was blinding. What a contrast to the dark, the extreme dark that we experienced in our homes without electricity or candlelight. When the three apostles climb the mountain with Jesus, they experience such a blinding light in the vision they had of Jesus transfigured, transformed. It took just such a blinding light for Peter, James, and John to begin to see or understand who Jesus was. They couldn’t see but they could hear God’s voice, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.”
In the midst of all the voices we hear on a daily and nightly basis, which ones do we listen to? How do we make space and time to listen to the voice of Jesus speaking to us? Perhaps we too heard the voice of God during the literal darkness of the snowstorms. What did we hear? Think? Feel? How did we speak about it to others? Did we reflect the work of God in our lives?
“Coming down the mountain” is a familiar experience for persons who have made a powerful retreat, birthed a child, had a significant religious experience like Baptism, Marriage, a healing, an experience of forgiveness and reconciliation. We too are transfigured or transformed from the experience. Thomas Merton describes it as “We are all walking around shining like the sun.”
In the midst of our Lenten fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, perhaps as a fruit of those practices, we can shine like the sun, be light for others. We can intervene for others just as Christ intercedes for us. Part of our almsgiving can take the form of intervening for someone, taking a stand for him or her. We can ask God to illumine some of the problems of our country and help us to see what we can do to become anti-racist, to care for our earth and all living creatures, to cross boundaries and borders to include “the other”—someone who looks, acts, thinks, lives differently from us—in our love and care.
In this holy season of Lent, we ask for enlightenment, we ask to be purified. We seek to listen to the voice of Jesus over all the competing voices. For this, we work and pray.
Deacon Johnny Flores’ Homily for the First Sunday of Lent
We lost power, heat, and water.
Ordinarily, we would be thinking about what we should give up for Lent right now. But this year, it seems we already gave up a lot.
We gave up comfort, we gave up community, we even gave up loved ones.
But have we learned anything?
What have you done with more time at home?
Has almost a week of cold and dark given you a new perspective on life?
One response that I’ve seen is anger. Anger at the utility companies. Anger at the government. Anger at not knowing whom to blame. Anger at the unnamed “them.”
But there is no “them” in the human family. There is only “us.”
I wonder if Noah’s family felt anger?
Anger at the flood, anger at the animals they had to live with, anger at God. No doubt they had a rough time of it.
But the story of Noah tells us that, after the ordeal of the flood, Noah and his family built an altar, made sacrifices to God, in praise and thanksgiving!
God renewed His covenant with Noah’s family. He tells them that the rainbow will be the sign of His promise to never destroy mankind again.
In the Gospel today, we see Jesus allowing himself to be led into the desert. Like Noah and his family, he gives up his comfort and goes where the Spirit directs him.
We know the details of Jesus’s ordeal in the desert, thirst, hunger, temptation, from the other Gospels.
Mark’s version is less detailed; he focuses on the main point, Jesus’s time in the desert.
We just experienced a modern version of a desert. Our usual creature comforts were taken away and some of us found ourselves alone in the cold and in the dark.
Can we accept that isolation the way that Noah and his family accepted their challenges? Can we use it to improve our spiritual strength as Jesus did?
I’ve heard it said that the trick to fasting is not to struggle against our appetites, but to acquire a taste for simplicity and austerity.
In the very early days of Christianity, men and women went out into the desert to grow spiritually. Some of these hermits contributed much to our modern understandings of spirituality and humility. Even today, men and women remove themselves from the noise of our culture and place themselves in silence and communion with God.
Our response to the trials we experienced last year and even last week should help us in our spiritual life.
Instead of looking for blame, maybe we should be looking for forgiveness. All of us have made mistakes have sinned against God.
But God always forgives those who ask.
The promise of the rainbow is just one of the signs that God gives to show His love. He will always love us, no matter what.
When we sin, we sin against the Creator, the Father of us all. But God doesn’t destroy us when we sin against Him, He forgives us! If the Almighty God can forgive us, what right do we have to be angry with someone else?
Jesus went to the cross for us. How minor is it for us to give up anger and recrimination and instead forgive those who may have hurt us?
This is the first Sunday of Lent. We are at the beginning of our own forty days of fasting and prayer.
It is not a coincidence that God flooded the earth for forty days and forty nights. It is not a coincidence that Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for forty days and forty nights. A long time is needed to rid ourselves of our connection to the material.
Our shared pains this past week can be a wonderful blessing if we let it. Most of us went without light and heat. We all dealt with problems with our water supply.
We can think of these difficulties as time in the wilderness.
But how many of our brothers and sisters deal with these problems every day?
Our recent time in the fasting from our normal comfort should remind us of how much we have and how little others have.
We should take the experiences of this past week as an opportunity to share in their constant struggles. Let our response be a renewed sense of solidarity with the whole human family.
Remember the poor here in San Antonio who do not have insulated homes and central heat.
Remember the poor around the world who struggle every day to obtain clean drinking water.
Remember the homeless without warm clothing and a roof over their heads.
We come together today as the human family, the Family of God, the Body of Christ. We share in the joys and successes of life. But so, too, do we share our pain, our troubles, our mistakes together.
Do not be angry towards those who may have failed us in the recent crises. They are also part of our family.
This Lent, let our little everyday sacrifices be prayers for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Let us make contributions from our hearts.
Let us make a special effort to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.
And when our comforts are suspended for a while, let us remember our brothers and sisters.
When you think about making a sacrifice this Lent, remember these verses from Psalm 51:
For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.
Remember that God forgives you always when you return to Him. The smile of a child, the colors of the sunset, the buds on the trees, are all part of the rainbow that God shows to us to remind us that He is always with us.
When you pray during the Eucharistic celebration, remember the challenges you felt this past week and remember the trials that Jesus endured for us.
Use this time, as we heard in the Collect today, to grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ.
And remember our everyday rainbows.