Sunday, June 29, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 30, 2008

Each and every human person is a manifestation of the holy energy
at the core of all life. Every human being is a sacrament of that Holy
Mystery - if I may use a venerable Anglican phrase, an outward and visible
sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Every person, irrespective of the
particular configuration or manifestation of their sexuality or any
other characteristic, is a unique, beautiful, sacred Being. God does
not disown or reject any person, for God cannot disown or reject Herself.

- Brian McHugh+, preaching at the Interfaith service at the beginning of
Gay Pride Week on the Central Coast of CA, San Luis Obispo, 2008

Yes you are. A sacrament of Divine Love. Freed by Grace to live fully and unhindered.

Fr. Dominic Crossan says, “Justification is the actualization and realization of Grace” (paraphrased). We must, in other words, make our faith real by practicing our utter trust in God’s freely given gift of freedom, of “salvation”, participating in God’s life of Compassion and Justice and Peace.

Let’s live it. Let’s make it real, every day!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 27, 2008

Truth is Mormonism. God is the author of it.

- Joseph Smith Jr., founder of Mormonism. He
and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob on
this day, 1844, in Carthage IL.

No. Mormanism is not “Truth”. And I doubt that God is the author of it. And I would say the same thing about Christianity. Or any other religion. Now: when I was ordained a priest, I signed an “oath” saying that I believed that the Holy Scriptures were “the word of God and contained all things necessary for salvation”. I do. What that means to me is that (1) if you enter with the mind and heart and spirit into the Bible, you can see the mysterious working of God seeking to reveal Him/Herself, and (2) in the Bible can be found the eternal principles by which human beings can become fully human, especially by seeing that we are not controlled by fear of failure in love or by terror of mortality. In other words, we can find the path to Life.

No one religion or faith or philosophy “has” the Truth. All, I would venture to say, understand part of Truth, and contribute to that understanding in the human community. I really want the bumper sticker I’ve seen that says “Coexist”, where all the letter are symbols of world religions. Come on folks. We’re all on this journey together.

Pride is the great danger of us all. Thinking that we have the full truth and no one else does. Whoever said that Pride goes before a fall was right on the money. Thinking that we do will only lead to division and contempt. So far as I can tell from the Bible, God does not desire division or contempt. God desires unity and compassion and universal brother/sisterhood.

Let’s forget this “I have the Truth” stuff. Let’s offer our bit of the Truth to each other and respect and receive what others have to offer. The Truth is bigger than us all. If we understand even a bit of it in our lifetime, our life will have been worth living.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 26, 2008

From childhood on I have had the dream of life lived as a sacrament...
the dream implied taking life ritually as something holy.

- Bernard Berenson, art critic, born on this day, 1865

Ah – I Tatti! So vividly I remember this wonderful house of Bernard Berenson’s. I visited it when I was in Fiesole for the second time. I remember sitting on the steps of the house (Berenson had left it to Harvard University), and thinking, “This is the way I want to live”. Oh, not so much the grandeur, as the whole ambiance. I knew it long, long ago. But when Dennis and I first visited the “Old World” together, we looked at each other and said, “We are definitely Old, not New, World people!.

I feel a deep connection with Bernard Berenson. From the very earliest years of my life, I have “felt”, dreamed, about “taking life ritually as something holy”. I know now it is why I wanted to be a priest from the very earliest age. Why I became a monk. Why I have remained a priest, even though there is some about maintaining institutions that is not a part of my soul.

I seem always to have understood, at some level, consciously or unconsciously, that Life is a Sacrament – an “outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible reality”. Of something much more vast and deep. This is why, having been raised in the Presbyterian Church for 18 years, I went to an Anglican Eucharist and knew instantly in my heart that here is where Truth was understood. We humans are prone to think that Life is just about our little existence. But it is far more. It is about our participation in the deep Mystery of Being and of “God”. Your and my personal Life is a piece of the Great Holiness of Being.

Wander around today knowing that you are a Sacrament. Feel it. You are a unique part, but you are dancing with every other form of Life. We are in This together. God I hope that very soon this awareness sweeps us all off our feet!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be in time
It's easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
All you need is love (all together now)
All you need is love (everybody)
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

- The Beatles, first sung on this day, 1967

OK. I’m not THAT simplistic! Love is at the core, at the foundation. Then you need to “work like hell” at it! It’s like “Faith and Works”. “Love” is the “Faith” part. “Works” is the “Work like hell” bit.

But remember: it takes two. Or more. We can have the intention. But the other has to want to do it too. Or it simply doesn’t work. Being open. Talking. Reflecting. Praying. Breathing. All part of the process.

I’m calling us all back to IT. Commit to Love. Be willing to work at it.

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some say horsemen, some say warriors,
Some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest
Vision in this dark world, but I say it’s
What you love.

….. I recall Anaktoria, whose sweet step
Or that flicker of light on her face,
I’d rather see than Lydian chariots
Or the armed ranks of the hoplites.

- fragment of a poem by Sappho, poet of Lesbos.
A newly-discovered poem of hers was read on
this day, 2005, on the BBC. It was found in the
wrappings of a mummy, 2600 years old

Jesus is reported famously to have said, Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Bang on, as they say. The problem is, of course, that there are many people who love power, war, competition, dominance, the ego, wealth, etc.

But remember: Love is a choice, a 95% act of the will (the rest is passion or infatuation or romance - not that choosing what we love can’t be passionate!). And Jesus, as well as most great teachers of the Inner Life, keep trying to show us what to choose to love if we desire true happiness. Jesus’ ultimate “commandment” was to Love our fellow human beings and their innate beauty with the fierce passion of the mind, heart and will - or, as the great Hebrew commandment goes concerning God, “with all your heart and soul and mind and strength”.

Today might be a good day to watch what we do, how we behave, both on the exterior and the interior. What does it tell us about what we have chosen to love?

It makes a profound difference, not only to ourselves, but to the way the World goes.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 24, 2008

People are queer, they're always crowing, scrambling and rushing about;
Why don't they stop someday, address themselves this way?
Why are we here? Where are we going? It's time that we found out.
We're not here to stay; we're on a short holiday.

Life is just a bowl of cherries. Don't take it serious; life's so mysterious.
..Live and laugh at it all.

- Bob Fosse, crazy man, terrifically talented artist,
born on this day, 1927

I have no idea why these George Gershwin lyrics are associated with Bob Fosse. He must have used or quoted them sometime in something, but I have no clue. But as you know, that doesn’t stop me!!

I love the image! Life is just a bowl of cherries. Inviting. Shining. Sweet. Irresistible. Bursting with sunshine and juice. A hard pit at the core you need to pay attention to or you can break you tooth on it (ain’t that just Life? We sort of discussed this at our morning class on Paul before worship this morning - one has to get down to the critical principles that lie at the heart of the decisions we have to make, and that can be a hard “nut to crack”, as we say).

True, we are not here to stay. And yes, we are sort of on a short holiday. Yes, it’s important to ask the important questions - Why are we here? Where are we going? But let’s not forget the obvious staring us in the face! Life is a big bowl of cherries to be enjoyed! If we do everything else, but we forget to eat the cherries and let the sweet juice dribble down our chin and stain our fingers and lips ….. well, we have missed something central to being human and being alive. If we don’t eat the cherries, we lose our soul.

Buy a bag of cherries today (it’s easy in CA; they are sold on every corner these days!). Eat them slowly with your eyes closed. And let them be a symbol for you: - Life has been given to enjoy as much as possible, whatever other serious stuff we must do.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 19, 2008

Throughout human history, the apostles of purity,
those who have claimed to possess a total explanation,
have wrought havoc among mere mixed-up human beings.

- Salman Rushdie, author, born on this day, 1947, in Bombay

Oh yes. And why would Salman not feel this way, after being the victim of Khomeini and his extremist Storm Troopers. I have to say that I have never encountered anything more blasphemous than the idea that a religion could issue a death sentence against someone for speaking their thoughts, for calling their religion to account. It was done to Jesus. To prophets. The Pope issued a fatwa against Queen Elizabeth I. To many religious leaders into the modern age.

Rushdie is right. We human beings are basically seekers. “Mixed up.” We don’t like that feeling, most of us. Thought I think it has always been the grace of Anglicanism, and it is why I am so opposed to making Anglicanism into a religion “of purity” – of black and white, of the imposition of a “total explanation” to which everyone must adhere to be “in”. Bullshit, I say. I’ll become a Christian Buddhist if we get to that.

“Purity” is the refuge of the bitter. Of the angry. Of the oppressed too, I must admit – for Khomeini became what he was because he had been oppressed. But. When he got power, his intrinsic warped mind and spirit isolated him from God. Same with Jim Jones, and the God Hates Fags man. And many others.

It seems to me (and it may be true of other places) that America is particularly prone to this stuff, having its roots in Puritanism (having ignored the Native Peoples). We are in for a bumpy ride.

We have no “total explanations”. That’s why Compassion and not “the Law” guides the Gospel Life.

Eschew “purity”. It leads only to “havoc”.

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One is taught by experience to put a premium on those
few people who can appreciate you for what you are.

- Gail Godwin, author, born on this day, 1937, in Birmingham

And I lift my hat to an unanticipated, but truly appreciated, group: the Justices of the Supreme Court of California. On whom I put a premium for allowing us to be appreciated for who and what we are. Due to the sacacity, and (I choose to think) their wise discernment of the American Constitution and the Constitution of the State of California, they voted that depriving same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional.

So: today I had a wonderful experience! We gathered at the courthouse of San Luis Obispo County. By some lovely “coincidence” and a decision by an unknown official, the tiny room where the first same-sex marriages could take place was changed. The Board of Supervisors was not meeting, so we gathered in the lovely spacious (public) lobby. A table holding two fine cakes awaited. Three Gay couple and two Lesbian couples arrived to get marriage licenses. It didn’t take long; everyone was pleasant. The Unitarian-Universalist minister presided; three Episcopal priests (including myself), a UCC minister and a Methodist (I think) pastor.

We handed the couples roses. They made their vows. We cheered, and clapped, and tears rolled down my and many eyes. Most important: the Love was palpable!! It was so clear that this is all about society supporting loving and faithful people who have been blessed by God with the gift of another with whom to learn how to love and care and be fully human. I will not forget this day!

More than the Justices of the CA Supreme Court, I have learned by experience to put a premium on the Divine Source of Life I have come to know in Jesus, in Christian community, in priesthood. “Christian community” may have wavered a bit, but never have God or priesthood wavered for me in affirming me for who I am. For this Mystery I am grateful.

I have arrived at a point in my life where others can think differently and I don’t take it personally (thanks to Don Miguel Ruiz!). But I know what is true to the God of Love.

What a great day in San Luis Obispo!!

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears have been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, Our God, where we met Thee;
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our GOD,
True to our native land

- James Weldon Johnson, born on this day, 1871,
in Jacksonville FL; became the “Black National Anthem”

Ponder. Fine words. The Episcopal Church has a supplemental hymnal called “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. It is time that racism ends.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 13, 2008

There's no use doing a kindness
if you do it a day too late.

We have used the Bible as if it were a mere
special constable's handbook, an opium dose
for keeping beasts of burden patient while
they are overloaded.

- Charles Kingsley, born on June 12, 1819, in England

Well, it has been such a hectic day (moving! and getting prepped for radiation-guiding implants tomorrow!) that I never got the Reflection done. So, I am using Kingsley’s thoughts for today. I’m sure he forgives me!

The second quote first. Aside from the fact that Kingsley is bang on, his insight is always a critical one. Tom Harpur and may others make the same point. The “institution” (read: church) dumbed-down the Gospel and the result has been that most people never discover the power of the Gospel message, that we don’t hear the call to radical transformation, that we never get the intended gifts that will make us fully and glorious human. Sad. However: I can’t help but wonder if “God” planned it that way – and if God did, I can’t think why - yet! This isn’t a “Christian” thing; it’s a Human thing. “Prayer” is the human language of Caring.

The first quote is very important, I think, in our understanding of Prayer. Remember that Paul said, “Pray always”. Why?? Because in Prayer, timing is of the essence. Prayer, as I boringly say over and over, is not to affect God. It is to affect US. The purpose of Prayer is to bind us to the Path that leads to Christ-likeness. We have to find ways to “Pray Always” - because there’s no use doing a kindness if you do it a day too late”. Kindness and thoughtfulness and generosity and compassion depend for their power on being there at the needed moment. Clergy are taught this: when a person calls for you to come to a dying friend, go then, even at 2am. That’s when the power of Divine Love radiates with all its full power.

My advice this weekend? Don’t accept any dumbing-down of Sacred Writing. (In our day, “fundamentalist” or “literalist” approaches.) It isn’t about keeping rules; it’s about Love, that core character of God and Humans. And, Work on your timing!


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The Feast of St. Barnabas the Apostle

It is absolutely unimportant in the eyes of God how many people
follow the "Anglican tradition" of belief and practice. It is of the
greatest importance how many people there are who have come
to know and love our Lord because of what we Anglicans have
said and done.

- Bishop Stephen F. Bayne, Jr. (1908-1974), ordained priest on
this day, 1930, at the Chapel of the Intercession, NYC [His con-
secration as a bishop was on the Feast of Barnabas as well.]

Stephen Bayne was, to me, a wonderful, wise, dry-humoured, vulnerable, gloriously blessed and flawed man - just like the rest of us human beings! I loved him! He had been Bishop of Olympia, and then the first Executive Officer of the Anglican Communion. When I met him, he was on the staff of the General Seminary, and then the Dean. I was a monk at the time, at GTS, and he would greet me in the lobby with the words, “Morning Monk!”. And when I refused to take the test on the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, he said simply, in his gravelly martini voice, “No screeds, monk!”.

He used to come up to my “rooms” for cocktails before Evensong every now and then. He had serious breathing issues – either emphysema or tuberculosis (according to the then bishop of Puerto Rico). I would send down a martini to the first floor landing, and he would amble slowly upstairs, and have his second upon arrival at the third floor. His lungs prevented him from ordaining me to the diaconate at Holy Cross Monastery – how sorry I am, as I would have delighted in that! He was in the hospital ………. getting people to bring him cigarettes and scotch, I heard!

Anyway: he was one of the most wonderfully human humans I ever met! He is one of the few human beings I aspire to be like. He wrote a prayer, based, I think, on Archbishop Temple. I share it with you. (I dislike the “conqueror in triumph” bit, but the rest, wonderful!) I use it often in the Liturgy.

O Lord,
we ask You not to lift us out of life,
but to prove Your power within it.
We do not ask for tasks more suited to our strength
but for strength equal to our tasks.
Give us the vision that inspires
and the strength that endures.
And give us, O Lord,
the grace of Jesus Christ,
Who wore our flesh like a king's robe,
and who walked the earth like a conqueror in triumph,
and who now lives and reigns
with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, World without end.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can any of you seriously say the Bill of Rights could get
through Congress today? It wouldn't even get out of committee.

-F. Lee Bailey, trial Lawyer, born on this day, 1933

OK. This is spiritual/political. If you are easily offended, delete.

For all the claims of various American political leaders to be “Christians” of a certain ilk, you can be damn sure that the Sermon on the Mount and its teaching (let alone any exact keeping of the Ten Commandments, of which many seem so enamoured) would never be promulgated as any kind of acceptable basis for political behaviour. Or anything resembling it. I can honestly say that in eight years I haven’t heard one word from any member of the present administration, let alone any action, that would even vaguely come close to the Gospel. Judgmental of me, I know; but that’s my opinion.

A woman in a store in Tubac AZ gave me a button one day last year. She must have sensed something in me, that I would be in agreement. It said: “Oh sure: like, Jesus would own a gun and vote Republican.” Well you know, I’ve tried to entertain the thought that maybe Republicans have some kind of insight that I’ve missed about Jesus and God and the Gospel. I’ve thought about it a lot. But, I have to confess: I see no connection. Zip. Nada. Can any Republican enlighten me?? I’ll listen. Really. (Skeptically, but I promise I’ll ponder it seriously.)

I thank God that the Bill of Rights was penned when it was, by sensible “Americans” who, irrespective of the twist of their Christian/Deist views, actually seem to have believed that every person was “equal” in God’s eyes and “under the law”.

What America could be if we all lived up to its founding principles! I hope we get the chance.

[ Disclaimer: Any references to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental!]

Bottom-line word of advice to aspiring Christian politicians and office-holders swearing your oaths on the Bible: the Cross is the standard. Think on this.

Good luck.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 9, 2008

I have conquered an empire but
I have not been able to conquer myself.

- Czar Peter I of Russia, born on this day, 1672

Well Peter – join the club. You’re in good company, believe me. As far as I know, there is no one who has been able to conquer her/himself.

Trying is a waste of time. Which is not to say, of course, that we don’t try to do our best every day to be our best human self. What our “best human self” is is, of course, up for grabs. Every religion and faith and philosophy has taken a stab at defining what our “best human self” is. Some want to be like God. Some want to be like ….. pick your villain.

But, let’s say that most of us want to be loving, caring, thoughtful, compassionate, generous, faithful, courageous, free of fear. There will be good days and bad days and mediocre days. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves, OK? That, I have found, doesn’t accomplish diddley. As Don Miguel Ruiz says, Do your best every day - and, our “best” will depend on a lot of changing factors. We need to cut ourselves some slack. We’re only human!

Here’s where self-awareness and forgiveness and “grace” come in. We need to understand that we aren’t and never will be perfect. We need to forgive ourselves and others their imperfections. And we need gratefully to accept every bit of help we’re offered, whether it be from the Divine Source of Being or our next door neighbour. And Do Our Best every day, whatever that may be in the circumstances.

Most of us will do pretty well day by day. Hey, I think that’ll be OK.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Saturday, June 7, 2007

It is the eye of ignorance that assigns a fixed
and unchangeable color to every object; beware
of this stumbling block.

There is always a heavy demand for fresh mediocrity.
In every generation the least cultivated taste has the largest appetite.

- Paul Gauguin, artist, born on this day, 1848

Well, I had to choose both quotes. I address the second first. Bigotry has taken over American society. “The least cultivated taste has the largest appetite.” I’m not being a snob. All of us have “lower” and “higher” tastes. We live in a culture that deliberately directs us to the “lower” tastes. Because that’s the way that those who want to control us (read: Government, politicians, worshippers of Mamon) manipulate us. Smart people. And we, suckers that we are, buy it. Or - is it because our spiritual Life is bankrupt, and we have abrogated our God-given freedom?? You betch’a. And God does not approve, say I, pretentiously “speaking” for God.

Jesus’ final gift to us was the Holy Spirit. We don’t “like” the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit is Wild. Uncontrollable. Unmanageable. The Holy Spirit “leads us into all Truth”. Unflinchingly. Without fear. The Holy Spirit can’t be bought. When we give evidence of succumbing to absurdity, the Holy Spirit smacks us up the side of the head. “Get a grip! Listen to the Living Word of Life!”

Artists know the Truth. Our fearful minds want to wallow in the false security of “unchangeable colour”. But the artist screams “Beware!”. There lies bitterness and stagnation and pettiness and self-destruction. “Learn! shouts the artist. None of us is fully human. There is a Journey to make. The Christ calls us to it. We are not listening. And the World is going to Hell in a handbasket.

Time to Evolve. Time to pay attention to the Voice Within that tells us plainly what we need to have Peace and Joy and Justice and Understanding.

There is no one else to “blame” but ourselves for our misery. Certainly not God.

Time to change. At the least, it is only self-interest. At best, respect for the potential of them human community.

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, June 06, 2008

I do believe we're all connected.
I do believe in positive energy.
I do believe in the power of prayer.
I do believe in putting good out into the world.
And I believe in taking care of each other.

- Harvey Fierstein, actor, best know for “Torch
Song Trilogy”, born on this day, 1954

Me too.

Someone asked me the other day if I “believed” in things like reincarnation and in near-death experiences (white light in a tunnel, etc). I said emphatically “No!” and “Yes!” The writer Thomas Mann, who was born on this day in 1875, said, “… myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious.” It doesn’t matter (to me anyway) whether the process of “entering into the fullness of Life” is by reincarnation or “resurrection to new life”. Both deal with the foundational myth of Life, that is, what is Life and where does it flow from and where is it going – and, importantly, how do we do it successfully. I do believe – or, I should say I think I believe, since my thinking constantly expands! - in a Universal Unconsciousness which connects us all, out of which flows all of the dimensions of the Mystery of Life, in differing forms. Life is eternal, and we amazing human beings will experience that in many ways and images.

Harvey said he prays daily – but doesn’t believe in God. I think that’s because “prayer” is not necessarily a religious concept. It is a universal human spiritual concept. Prayer has the power to change our life, open us up, take us on to new paths. Prayer rumbles through our interconnectedness like a seismic tremor. Prayer is essentially (as I persistently say) a commitment to a relationship with all manner of Existence and to growth – not a way of wheedling concessions from a grumpy God/ess.

Putting good out and Taking care of each other. Another version of Love One Another. Follow that path and, as my grandmother used to say, “we’re away to the races”.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, June 5, 2008

As I have not worried to be born,
I do not worry to die.

- Federico Garcia Lorca, poet, author,
born on this day, 1898, in Fuente Vaqueros,
Granada, Spain

I hope this was true. Lorca was killed by the Franco Fascists at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, in a degrading way, as a homosexual.

It is hard not to worry. Jesus pointed out that worrying was a useless thing. But it is hard not to worry, not to be afraid, fear being at the base of worry. And it is hard not to worry about dying.

But most sensible religions and faiths have beautiful stories about what it’s like to die and to journey on into the next world. Oh, forget the Hell nonsense. God doesn’t send anyone to “Hell” to be punished horribly. “Hell” is choosing fear and hate (of self and others) and ugly power-posturing. It’s easy to know these things – we have plenty of examples in our World today, especially in the grasping, greedy, venal politicians who dominate the scene, as well as perverted religious types.

The Gospel is clear. God is Unconditional Love. Every time hate and fear raise their ugly heads, God is champing at the bit to smother it all with That Great Eternal Firehose of Compassion - if I may be permitted a flight into the language of another Christian language tradition!

We came into the World without worry, without anticipation. It was a great surprise. Lorca is wise: best to view the dying in the same light. If we can, it enhances Life immensely.

Brian’s Reflection: Wednesday, June 4, 2008

.......The major influence on the level of "dis-stress" in our lives ….. is our self-identity - who we think we are. "A rigid identification with the personal `me' causes us to overreact to the events in our lives", Dr. Moss says, and can contribute to stress-related illness. Our best path to health, according to Dr. Moss, is to enlarge our sense of who we are: "Individuals of expanded consciousness are no longer exclusively concerned with `me'. They perceive issues differently and thus behave differently."

- Chop Wood, Carry Water

Gosh! Do I not seem to remember that ….. ah ….. Jesus might have proposed such a thing? And other “Greats”? Finding “me” by loving others?

Individuals of expanded Consciousness.” That’s the goal! Establishing our self-identity by enlarging our sense of who we are by getting unstuck on Me. Holding “ME” together as if this were unrelated to anything else requires too much energy, too much stress.

Makes sense. I think it would work for nations too, you think?? America and the rest of the World’s warring nation states could “perceive issues differently and thus behave differently”. What an imaginative thought.

Let’s all of us see if today we can really concentrate on “the other” - and watch our stress drop and our Me evolve nicely. And maybe even a little shift in the whole shebang!


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Do not mind anything that anyone tells you about
anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.

- William James, Sr., philosopher and theologian,
born on this day, 1811

One day, travelling through the Albuquerque airport, I bought a copy of the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. I’ve been reading it over and over again, bits at a time, for months. I read, I ponder. Ruiz’s mother was a curandera (healer) and his grandfather a nagual (shaman) in the Toltec tradition. After becoming a doctor, Ruiz was drawn to follow in his Toltec tradition.

The Four Agreements are: (1) Be impeccable with your Word (2) Don’t take anything personally (3) Don’t make assumptions (4) Always do your best. I thought of the third as I read James’s quote.

Yes, others may accurately now and then “see” another’s “truth”. But 99% of the time, we project our own stuff onto others. Making assumptions from what we hear from others is dangerous in many ways. It is critically important to trust one’s own experience and make one’s own judgments. And why it’s important to “know oneself”. This is hard work!

Not taking anything personally is the other side of the coin. Someone can say you’re great, or horrible; they like you, or hate you. 99% of what they say has to do with them, not you. Instead, know and be the person you want to be. James also said:

Live all you can; it's a mistake not to.
It doesn't so much matter what you do
in particular, so long as you have your life.
If you haven't had that what have you had?

Good advice, I think!


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 2, 2008
Feast of the Martyrs of Lyon

The Life of Faith is a Life of endless horizons.

- Brian McHugh, ordained priest on this day 35 years
ago, at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park NY

Thirty-five years. I remember it as yesterday. Liturgically, it met every desire. That beautiful Romanesque chapel designed by Cram. A hundred friends, and the OHC community there. An ordination stole from a dear friend, embroidered with the date – later stolen. Incense so thick that Bishop Stiff, coming down the aisle in procession, looked like he had only half a body. I had poison ivy so bad that my ankles were wrapped in thick bandage to prevent the ooze running down my legs. Palms anointed with oil. Many priests laying on hands with the bishop. I tell you, I felt, felt to my core that I had become what I was meant to be.

But the moment I remember most? My parents were there. My father, a long-estranged Roman Catholic, and my mother were the first to come down the aisle to the altar to receive the Eucharist. I was astonished! Giving the sacred elements of sacramental bread and wine to my father. First time I had known him to do such a thing. And afterwards, they were the first to receive the blessing of the newly ordained priest.

Today, I know that I was meant to be a priest. Exactly what it means to be a priest has gone through many changes in 35 years. And still is, into my “retirement”, it shifts. I hope I will never stop learning what this great mystery means.

I have loved some things about priestly ministry; some I have hated with a passion. The words I’ve quoted I said once in a sermon, and they were calligraphied on a watercolour given to me on leaving my parishes after 9 years in NY. But the remembrance I value the most is a Rainbow Flag that hangs on the wall of St. Peter’s and St. Andrew’s, Providence RI, where I served for 9 years. It was brought down the aisle at the Offertory of my last Sunday there by the Vestry. They said it wasn’t for me, it was for them. A symbol that they accepted me as a Gay man and priest, as valued as any child of God.

I realize now that I’ve lived my lived on these words. I’ve listened to voices calling, and moved on with trust and excitement into different experiences, having sensed that the moment had come to venture towards a new horizon in faith, with the hope that I had given what I could to where I had been. My “reward” has been superb friends, people I have helped to a vision of a freeing, glorious, loving Divine Companion, bringing of myth to life, willed love, and much joy and laughter and willingly shared sorrow.

Horizons are endless. And wondrous in the life of Faith. I look forward to many more adventures.

Would I do it again?