Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Declan Deane: If Jesus Returned

 [Today, I invited my dear friend, Fr. Declan Deane, who passed away from cancer last December, to share a bit of his wisdom with us. He said, "Yes, if you think it will help someone." I do, so here it is.]

 Homily of February 14, 2010

Based on the Beatitudes
(Luke 6:20-26)

So that little lecture [the Beatitudes] by Jesus has been called a series of bombshells. Another writer, G.K. Chesterton, a great English Catholic writer, said that to understand a passage like that you should learn to stand on your head, because Jesus sets the world's values upside down. And, you know at that time people did not really respond very well to Him. There might have been a huge crowd at one time, but one by one they all faded away and finally there was only a tiny little nucleus left because they were alienated by the things He said and did. And some of them turned completely against Him.

And so I asked myself the question, What would happen if Jesus came back today, February 2010? What if He did the things and said the kind of things that He did 2000 years ago? Would I follow Him? Would you? Would many people? How would we respond? So I allowed my imagination to run a little bit riot, and I thought it would go maybe something like this.

Jesus landed at SFO. He was invited to address the Commonwealth Club. The scheduled lecturer was postponed until next year; it was meant to be given by Deepak Chopra, entitled, "Finding Peace of Mind." So first thing Jesus did was He asked how much the fee was to be. And they told him $50,000. He said, "Please go out into the street and distribute it among the beggars and the homeless people."

And then in His lecture He said, "If you want to find peace of mind, avoid greed in all its forms. The best thing you can do to obtain peace of mind is to sell what you have -- your homes, your cars, your property. Give everything you have to the poor, and then you will truly find peace of mind." At the end of the lecture people came out shaking their heads a little bit in bafflement and saying, "What a strange man. He didn't have a whole lot of comfort to offer us. Perhaps we should have stuck with Deepak Chopra."

The Archbishop of San Francisco invited Jesus to dinner with all the religious leaders of the city. Jesus said He would be happy to go to the dinner the next evening, but that this evening He had a prior commitment. He planned to dine at a restaurant in the Castro with friends from the gay and lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. He invited the religious leaders to join Him, but they politely declined.

From then on Jesus was picketed wherever He went by members of the Christian Coalition. They carried banners saying, "This cannot be the Messiah. He welcomes sinners and dines with them." Jesus visited San Quentin prison, and He called a press conference and stated, "All human life is sacred, from the unborn child in the womb to my humble friends on death row. Each one of them has an angel that worships day and night before My Father in heaven."

By the things He said and did Jesus alienated both liberals and conservatives. Day by day the numbers of His followers decreased. But among those followers were some faithful women who seldom left Jesus' side. Their presence was a great boon to the hoard of paparazzi who trail Jesus everywhere. The Papal Nuncio approached Jesus and tactfully suggested that He might invite the women to go home. "They are giving a bad impression," he said. "People are beginning to say that women can play as important a part in Your community as men." To which Jesus replied, "Have you not read what my servant Paul wrote, 'In Christ there is neither male nor female, but all are one in Him'?"

Later that week it was announced that Jesus was being investigated by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As Jesus walked along the street, there were always crowds surrounding him. And one day a man who was identified as a leading member of the Mafia -- in fact, he was commonly referred to as the godfather. He was very eager to see Jesus. But being short of stature, he climbed up into a tree. Jesus walked past, looked up, saw him and said, "Come down, godfather. I plan to dine at your house today." Delightedly, the godfather invited all his friends to his mansion. FBI agents went up and down [the street], recording the license plates. At the end of the meal the godfather rose and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement to make. Here and now I have decided to give half of everything that I own to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone -- and regrettably I have -- I am going to repay them fourfold." Jesus smiled and said, "Salvation has come to this house because you too are a child of God." 

Next day, the San Francisco Chronicle carried a banner headline and it said, "Jesus Loves Crime Baron." Many politicians now jumped on the opportunity to denounce Jesus as a dangerous radical. And everywhere He went He was shadowed by weary local and federal agents.

Finally one day He was accosted by a Muslim, a wealthy man, who had a sick servant. "Sir," he said, "I am not a Christian myself, but I can tell that you are from God. Now, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Say but the word and my servant will be healed." Jesus said to him, "Your servant is healed as of this very moment." And then He turned to the crowd and said, "This man has more faith than all the Christians I have met." This was the crowning blow for many people. Jesus was warned that His life was in danger and He was forced to flee to another place.

So that's how I allowed my imagination to roam free. Maybe it'd be a little bit like that if Jesus returned. Certainly, it's imaginable that He would have done and said much the same things as He did when He was here 2000 years ago.

And the question then arises, how would you and I respond? Would we give Him praise, and blessing and honor, or would we, like the majority of people, either drift away or turn against Him? So let's take a few moments of silence to ask ourselves the question: "How would you and I respond to someone so wonderfully disconcerting as Jesus of Nazareth?"

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rick Steves: A Side I'd Never Seen

Rick Steves at the Mountain Hostel, Gimmelwald...
 I discovered a side of travel writer/guru Rick Steves that I did not know before. I have many friends who have traveled on his tours and swear by him. Until now, he's been just a travel writer and tour master. I was pleasantly surprised to unearth his exceptional spirituality and worldview. I urge all my blog followers to read his interview in US Catholic Bulletin online.
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama is Dead: A Reflection

Osama bin Laden is dead. Killed by US Navy Seals and CIA agents. What does this mean, Lord? How many others will die because of this? How many more would have died if he had lived? Possibly the same number, just different people.  

Evil is so deeply rooted in this event that it seems beyond redemption. I watched the reports of his demise with a mixture of "he got what he deserved" and sadness for the state of humanity that operates on an eye-for-an-eye scale of justice, not "love your enemies." Lord, your Easter greeting, "Peace be with you," gets lost in CNN's reporting and scenes of gloating crowds at Ground Zero and the White House. Because we do not value peace, we shut our ears to Your salutation and invitation. Revenge is the sweet nectar we drink to the point of intoxication. But the hangover will follow.

Am I happy Osama is dead? God help me, yes. Do I feel the "closure" so many are claiming? No. Am I happy being happy he is dead? No. It reminds me how far I still need to go in my own conversion to the peace-giving Christ. 

And so it goes in this complex affair we call life.
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Adult Faith: Growing in Wisdom and Understanding

Catholics wondering when their church will rise from scandal’s ashes can take heart. The change they desire is already present and growing like the gospel mustard seed. The roots of this movement are scattered but taking hold.

This is the hopeful message of Diarmuid O’Murchu’s Adult Faith. This straight-talk volume takes its place among a body of wisdom literature emerging from spiritual guides at the forefront of this growth spurt, including Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr, and Ronald Rolheiser, to mention a few. Discerning Catholics are invited to reimagine the Good News and actively cocreate a spirituality and theology suitable for 21st-century evangelization.

With razor-sharp clarity, O’Murchu presents not only a vision of what must come but a chronicle of the Spirit-led movement already underway. He identifies three concurrent approaches to faith in today’s Catholic experience: "conventional inherited wisdom" (controlled by a patriarchal, male-dominated institution), "embedded codependency" (passive enablers of the gatekeepers), and "adult empowerment" (openness to new ecclesial and universal realities through adult understanding and wisdom).
Diarmuid O'Murchu

Adult Faith may evoke a mixture of reactions, depending on the reader: anger and fear among those who currently hold power; discomfort and denial among their enablers; reenergized hope among disaffected believers who long for church-wide spiritual and theological adulthood.

Lest anyone criticize O’Murchu as bent on tearing down the church, he dismisses neither the relevance of the hierarchy nor the millions of clerical and lay Catholics who support the inherited structure. Rather, he challenges his brothers and sisters to recognize that the renewed, post-scandal church they hope for is in the making. Adult Faith is a major and welcome contribution to the spreading wisdom revival within Roman Catholicism. 

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Copyright (c) 2011 by Alfred J. Garrotto
This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic magazine (Vol. 76, No. 5, page 43).
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