Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saul to Paul

Greetings Fellow Network of Love Lovers,

As I gaze through my window toward Lake Michigan, I see a dreary day, but one I must fill with hope and anticipation...for exams are five days away from being done! I am looking forward to the end of the school year and I am grateful for the experiences of junior year in college and at seminary. The year has been full of many new things and people and places and I thank God for it all!


A short one...simply on Saul to Paul.

Today's first reading, coming from Acts of the Apostles, mentions the persecution of those first and second generation followers of Jesus Christ: "Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment." (Acts Chapter 8). This Saul, this character who is imprisoning members of the early Christian is hard to imagine that he becomes SAINT PAUL, one of the most influential, motivational voices of the Christian faith. His conversion story is one of epic proportions–––and his life after conversion is one that continues to bring people to want to preach, teach, and reach Christ. Paul "finds a new life in Christ." He considers loving one another to be a sign that a person has come to believe and is living an eternal reality connected with Christ. It is a saved living, one that confidently but humbly tries to re-trace the steps of Jesus, re-live a life worth reliving. In this attempt, those who seek to follow will not realize perfection per se...but in the seeking, God is present, alive, real. There is great joy in the city of God, as there was great joy in the city of Samaria in today's reading.

Sometimes I am Saul. I persecute others who I should be loving.
Sometimes I am Paul. I love those, living through the Spirit, that I might not love in another mind frame.
Sometimes I am living in between Saul and Paul. I want to act out of love but I am fearful of what that act might bring me---what realization or bolt of lighting will enter my life.

Is God calling me to take that step from Saul to Paul? Am I being called to preach a gospel message, a life worth living, laying my life down for others?

It might not be bad to reflect on these kinds of questions, especially when we are feeling as if we have mistreated someone with our words or actions. Our wake up call, on the road to Damascus, might be hardly a lightning bolt, but rather the silent stirrings of a God who is love who seeks us wherever we may be in life.

"I will not reject anyone who comes to me." (John, chapter 6 verse 37)

peace and blessings.

with love,

your friend bob : )

Thursday, April 23, 2009

God in the Gray Area

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Today we expect remarkable weather here in Chicago. Sunny, bright skies...surprise, surprise. I look forward to a "Waterloo Sunset," for any of you Kinks fans out there (band from the 1960s---before my time but music I really really enjoy).


"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not have life" (John, chapter 3, verse 36).

I start with this quote because it struck me this morning. It makes me uncomfortable when our faith becomes one of "insider" vs. "outsider." Those who believe get this. Those who don't get this.

God in the form of human person, Jesus, in a sense, deconstructs the binary oppositions of how we interpret commonly considered opposing terms like divine/person, real/unreal, mystery/reality, seen/unseen, life/death, etc. A never ending, eternal abyss of gray area, having been seated on earth, yet seated "at the right hand of God Creator," Jesus IS a person that helps our Spirit come to believe. And it can, and really must, be a constant search in trying to grasp the mystery of faith. Faith empowers us to "do something I could never do without faith," as Jesuit priest Mark Link writes. But it is something that we don't quite understand. We are in the process, as believers, of trying to understand. But we humbly accept that we can never attain a full realization.

As a Christian, one is baptized into the Christian faith. But this initial baptism points to a lifetime of constant renewal growth, development; we grow to try and better understand and live in harmony with, struggle with, wrestle with, but ultimately, in time, to be comfortable in and with our world and our self. All people of God, liberated by God as human person, can assist in the building of a kingdom of God dwelling on this earth. All of us who consider ourselves disciples of Jesus are called to commit to actively and continually search for ways to bring about the love and joy and peace that faith has granted us. It is in a spreading of the transforming ways of faith–in dialogue and friendship and love with all neighbors, that we might humbly bring about a world that sees eternal life as something real, something mysterious yet obtainable.

To paraphrase John 3:16, one of the most famous passages in the new testament: "For God so LOVED THE WORLD... that God gave us Jesus, a person living, breathing that we can learn from and we can believe in." It is in this image of God as Lover of the World that indefinite reconciliation seems a possibility. Even the greatest skeptic, the harshest critic of religion, of humanity, of the world, of life, is ultimately LOVED by God and, in turn, should be loved by us.

I fully understand that it is no easy task to love all people in our lives. But, I propose that faith empowers us to do something that we might never do without faith. For me, that faith comes through the life of Jesus, in God who became human person, who suffered, died and then rose to give us hope and greater faith in the possibilities inherent in this world. But it is only with searching, discerning hearts–––with compassion, open minds and open eyes, that we can hope to share in this faith. All of us our searching, no matter what we profess. I pray for all seeking, all journeying toward belief. May they be empowered! May faith become something that has no insiders and outsiders, knows no beginning or end. There is a beautiful gray area that transcends the limits of language. And in cultivating and resting in this area, we might just find God in those unspoken moments of our lives.

peace and blessings.

with love,

your friend bob : )

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Spirit Shakes Us

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

It's a dreary, mopey Monday weather-wise. But I hope the Spirit fills you with good things today, with sunshine and hopes of pleasant journeys.


"As they prayed, the place where they were gathered SHOOK, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness" (Acts of the Apostles-ch. 4, verse 31).

I read this line this morning while reading the daily readings before our seminary community celebrated mass. It struck hit SHOOK me. It made me reflect on times in my life when I have been shook while gathered with people in prayer.
Recently, a member of my student prayer group here on Loyola's campus, shared an absolutely moving account of how she, only two years ago, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The diagnosis made her uncertain of her future on this earth–––but it made her all the more certain of her faith in God. She told our group that the tumor went away and that she has been tumor free for two years. Thank God! She said that that moment of her life, amidst a struggle that many of us cannot imagine enduring at the age of sixteen, she realized that she had a calling to fulfill. Her faith has led her to believe that she walks with Christ, every day of her life. Indeed, her story inspired both myself and the other member of the prayer group that night. I was shocked, taken aback, SHOOK by her story. It made that moment of prayer a window into the depths of not only my friend's soul, but the heart of faith–––our shared, communal faith.

A second moment that always SHOOK me when I was a kid (quite literally) was the organ at my home parish on special celebrations. Our organist Joe (he is still playing at our parish–––has been for something like 30 years–––is never shy when it comes to cranking out the sound on the organ. And I love that. Music has always been one of my passions–––so, as a little kid, I thought it was so radical and "cool" that music could be played loud and proud in church. Alleluia! Amen! Praise, praise, praise. The music SHOOK me.

And there are times in our life, moments of great sadness, that shake us. A close friend of mine just lost his father. While he seems to becoping with the loss much better than I feel that I could, I can only imagine the inner struggles he faces as he mourns the loss of someone who helped give him life. Hearing that, on Easter Sunday morning, his father had passed away in Kenya and that my friend would not be able to return for the funeral, all of that really SHOOK me. But hearing my friend's words about his father...that the man has discovered the "absolute healing" shook me with its beautiful boldness and total faith in God. Amen.

We gather together to pray, whether in church or at a table or at a special ceremony or event, because we crave that community that brings us closer to each other. In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of a young community, with struggles, with joys, with hopes, with dreams and IN prayer. Living together in prayer, the place where they are becomes sacred. It is transformed by the Spirit of God. And each member of that community is "filled with the Holy Spirit" and is able to "speak the word of God with boldness."

peace and blessings~

with love,

your friend bob : )

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To serve, to be served

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Happy Easter to all of you! We celebrate five more weeks of the Easter Season, as we all also usher in the coming of spring. And here in the Midwest, we surely need a spring pick-me-up to set our sights toward summer.


I want to talk briefly about service. What it means to serve. I propose that there are two ways to serve. The first way would be what tends to come to mind when someone suggests that they are going to serve in some capacity–––to give you, to give your time, talents, and effort and expect little to nothing in return. An example I would draw from Christian scripture: Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. After he presents this “model” to his disciples, he urges them to do the same for one another. “So that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John, chapter 13, verse 15). The basic interpretation of this verse is that if your Lord can wash your feet, then you should be able to wash anyone’s feet. No one is too important to not serve a friend in need. Likewise, no one is unworthy of being served, of having his or her feet metaphorically washed. Whether we heal someone physically, spiritually or emotionally---whether we show them faith in some manner, the presence of God in their live or the presence of hope---we can be of service. And this leads me to a second way to serve.

When I went to El Salvador last year, I struggled with the idea that a family that did not have much in terms of material goods was treating me like royalty. My friend Laura and I were given two chairs at a small table while we ate, while our host family gathered in various places to eat meals. We were given the choicest portions, served first. We were almost like the priests in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the priests in Ancient Israel who were given the greatest portions during sacrifices. This made us uncomfortable at first. We both struggled in the sense that we felt that we didn’t deserve this type of service. Who were we? What were we DOING for these people? Couldn’t we be doing more? How dare we take what little they have?

These questions took time to be resolved. Sometimes, they still eat away at me. But, just recently, a wise person made me aware of just what I WAS doing for my host family in El Salvador. By being a guest, by trying our best to be humble and grateful guests, we were serving our Salvadorian friends. How could this be? Again, I turn to a Gospel story. From John, chapter 12, we imagine Jesus in Bethany, only days before his crucifixion; Jesus is eating with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. “Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair.” This act of service, of elaborate hospitality troubles Judas. “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” While Judas might have been asking this question with less than genuine concern for the poor (we are told he was stealing from the disciples’ money bag---further, he betrays Jesus), we can at least consider our own reaction to his question. Sometimes I think to myself…you know, Judas, if he would have been speaking with genuine concern for the poor, might have had a legitimate issue with the lavish oils being poured onto Jesus simply to relieve him or serve him.

However, Jesus’ response is crucial: “Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” Jesus seems to say that it is worth our time to allow others to serve us. And if they care enough about us to do so, to turn down someone’s gift would be to deprive them of something. We might even consider it a form of betrayal. And in this sense, we see Judas’ question, even if it was asked with the most sincere of intentions, is lacking something. It is lacking in gratitude and acceptance of another person’s desire to show you that they care and love for you. To allow someone to serve you is a sincere form of service. It empowers another person and lets them enter into your life in a way that says I am open to your love and your hospitality. You warm my heart with your sign of appreciation. In turn, we then go to another person to serve them, to show that person we care. It is in giving of ourselves that we receive. It is in service that we are sometimes served and sometimes we serve.

May charity and love prevail!

A blessed continued celebration of Easter and Resurrection and Hope in new life to all!

Peace and blessings.

With love,

Your friend bob.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One of those Connection Moments

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I hope your Wednesday is turning out nice. This day has been traditionally nicknamed "spy Wednesday" by some Christians because it is a day where the reading in the Gospel pertains to Judas being the "spy" who will ultimately hand over Jesus to officials to be put to death.

Today I don't have a reflection, just a comment of sorts.

After my Ancient Philosophy course, I was walking and talking with a friend from the class. We were talking briefly about our summer plans; I mentioned that I would be in England this summer for some time. She said in a joking way she was jealous. I said I was jealous of myself too. Anyways, she mentioned her boyfriend had some family in Chelsea, a district or area (I'm not quite sure as to the specifics really) of London. I had mentioned earlier in the conversation that I would be spending some time in Liverpool, staying with some friends. (I can't wait to write while in England staying with my wonderful friend Sheila! You will probably here about her in coming months!). Anyways...finishing my's where it turns sort of interesting. Before we are both ready to go our separate ways, I look up at the TV in our student lounge (we were passing through after class). I noticed there was a soccer game on the television (football by most other country's terminology). This was a rugged football game being played by two teams in England. Can you guess the two clubs? I'll give you a of the areas begins with the letter "L" while the other begins with the letter "C." Crazy enough, Liverpool and Chelsea were playing each other and were being broadcast on ESPN the moment we mentioned the two places in England. Wow!!! It was one of those "connection moments."

I hope you make plenty of connections with family or friends this weekend if you are taking part in any church celebrations or picnics or dinners or festivities of any kind. And remember, even if people are not with you in person, there is that "connection" that we all don't quite understand, and that makes us step back. To think that we are all not connected by some beautiful, life-giving force is difficult for me to do. I know I am only human. But those signs...when you are least expecting them...those signs point us to think in a certain direction.

peace and blessings on your day!

with love,

your friend bob : )

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I am posting a reflection that pertains to the coming week---Holy Week. The pastor at the parish I grew up with, my home parish in West Allis, Wisconsin, mentioned in an e-mail several days ago that he was thinking about what to say for Palm Sunday (today). It got me thinking a little bit...

As we were saying rosary in the house tonight, the fourth sorrowful mystery struck me as something to possibly ponder in light of Palm Sunday. Jesus carries the cross...we each carry a cross---individually and collectively. Whatever that cross may be, it sticks with us for a lifetime.

We each walk the path alongside Jesus, following him to the place of his death. We, as Christians, seek to hoist our crosses on the mountain alongside our Lord, dying where he destroyed our death. We cry in the valley of tears, on top of Mt. Calvary with Jesus as we contemplate his death. We relate his death to the death of someone we hold near and dear. It gives our theology substance and an intimacy that is both beautiful and painful. His suffering on the cross becomes the pains we cannot understand---the emotional, the physical pains we experience individually and collectively. Why does a woman expecting a child miscarry seven months into a pregnancy? Why did I lose my job after 25 years of faithful service to my company? How could a person abuse his own child? What compells a teenager to take her own life?

These kinds of questions are crosses to bear---societal, philosophical, mysterious questions that have no short and easy answer. They are shrouded in mystery and they bring us to despair in actuality. But these questions---these crosses---need not be carried by us alone. And, as we hope and pray, these crosses do have some kind of meaning, a mysterious explanation that, though we may never be able to humanly give, our Lord provides us with the courage to place into his life. When our cross becomes unbearable is presicely the time that we can realize that the burden is light---there is a light. But that light has to experience complete darkness---the light has to be beaten and battered, strip to the core of its very existence, for us to realize that that light cannot be burnt out.

When we feel that our crosses---the individual ones we have trouble admitting of and the societal, group crosses that we sometimes can point out, other times take a part in producing---are too heavy for us to walk with, we might want to turn to Jesus at his time of most painful suffering. Hanging on a cross, ready and willing to die, the Gospel attributes these words to Jesus: "Father, into your hands, I commend my Spirit." Our Spirits, though wounded and broken at times---though we can sometimes feel so much pain that we or our world seem or seems to be on the eve of destruction---can always be redeemed by echoing these Words of Christ. That is what we believe.

We believe that in dying Christ restored our life, and in dying to the message of Christ, we can actively live to carry our cross in a way that becomes a burden with a purpose, a burden with meaning.We all sin---but we are all called to be saints. We all Spiritually starve sometimes---but we are all worthy of the Heavenly banquet. We all were there when they crucified our Lord. We were---are---all there when they nail God to the tree. And we are asked to have no fear in hoisting our own crosses alongside Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, person stripped of everything...dripping of blood and tears and sweat and emotion whispers "it is finished."

And then...

We hoist our cross in the same mountainous valley of tears in confidence that the peaceful valley rains down to wash away all that death could not do to Christ. His life is done but he is miraculously undone. We believe that stones can be rolled away. Away and away and away until the heart of what is meant to be revealed is revealed. As we anticipate Easter Sunday, let's consider making this week a Holy, Passionate week where we are made deeply aware of the crosses we can and can't communicate to others, ultimately bringing them to communion with our Lord and with one another at Supper. We gather at table to be made aware that the crosses we bare can be carried by a Resurrected Jesus. "It is finished." But not really.

peace and blessings!

with love,

your friend bob : )

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Keep the stone on the Ground...Turn our World Upside Down

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Hoping your Thursday brings you peace and solitude.


"I am amazed at the sayings of Jesus...[They] turn the world upside down." This quote, said by Katharine Butler Hathaway, is a wonderful way of explaining how Jesus' shocking statement in today's Gospel (John, chapter 8) might have affected his friends followers and enemies.

Jesus says, regarding Abraham, the father of Israel, that he himself came before Abraham. He says "I AM." This is a divine expression in Ancient Hebrew, a rough translation is essentially God. In saying this, Jesus puts himself with God. Such a statement would have been considered blasphemous and in Jesus' time would have condemned a person to death.

Jesus shatter his little world in a really big way with these words. His Word, his claim that he is not only speaking the word of God as a prophet but that, somehow, someway, he is "I AM," is about as bold as a person could ever get. And yet, Jesus emphasizes that he is no liar. He speaks truth, just as the people who have been listening and following him have been led to believe. Jesus has been a teacher that has transfixed people, uttering words and acting in a way that has made them better understand God. But when he says that he knows God in a way that no one else ever has, that he knows God in the most intimate way possible in the sense that he IS, people have a hard time committing themselves to his message.

Following the law, the people with Jesus pick up stones to throw at him. He should be put to death for what he has said, according to the understood law code.

It may be easy for us to think that we might have actually believed this person Jesus as we imagine ourselves in the story. I might think to myself, "I would never throw a stone at this peaceful, Messianic human. He came to save, how dare I help in throwing his life away?

But, pondering on the story a little more deeply, if we really stop and think about it, we might have very well picked up a stone, thinking and believing that THAT was the proper thing to do in the situation. How many times have I honestly picked up the stone to throw at an innocent person?

I pray that we all have the strength to defy the odds and to let Jesus turn our little world upside down in a really, really big way. Keep the stones on the ground and may our hearts be de-stoned in order to be in union with "I AM."

peace and blessings~

with love,

your friend bob : )