Saturday, September 29, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, September 30, 2012

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed
than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot
causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two
feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is
better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be
thrown into hell

From Mark 9 – the Gospel reading for Sunday (Proper 21 B Revised Common Lectionary)

[ The Readings for Sunday can be found at:

“Heaven” and “Hell” are a literary and a theological  and a philosophical device. To what end? To teach us what Life is like with and without Love, without Compassion. Personally, I don’t believe they are “places”. But I had a chilling thought:  what if there is a consciousness after death … and we carry with us forever in our hearts and minds and bodies either the joy of “heaven” or the desolation of “Hell”! For Christians, “Heaven” is to “be with God” … and “hell” is the absence of God. I firmly believe that the essential purpose of a longing for Heaven and a fear of Hell is to teach us how to live Life here … other existences are, at best, hypothetical … sometimes called a “matter of faith”.

Today, Jesus is telling us simply and in a powerful way … for who of us doesn’t cringe at the thought of the loss of a hand or a foot or an eye … Do not trade the “joy of Heaven” for things that “pass away”. “Finding the Great Pearl” is to be a citizen of the “Kingdom of God” … of that state of existence in which Love is All.

The life of death and resurrection, of repentance and reconciliation  -  which we see manifested in the life of Jesus  -  is the daily path of discipleship with Jesus. We are constantly, often moment by moment, “laying down” Life (dying) and “taking it up again” (rising) …. and this is what we will be saying to little Ruben (and to his parents and family and to ourselves) when he is baptized at our parish Eucharist on Sunday. Die and Be raised, Die and Be Raised. Or, in the metaphor of the Gospel today, cut off hands and feet and eyes, and be “re-membered” with limbs which touch Love and walk with Love and see Love. This is why we “go to church” every Sunday … to “re-member Jesus” and be re-membered  -  put back together in wholeness of Life. This is the Life to which all the Baptized are called …. and we are a sign to all people … as is Jesus … as to where Life is to be found.

“Love one another” … there is Heaven … and indifference to Love is an eternal Hell.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Saturday, September 22, 2012

Remember what Bilbo used to say:
It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.
You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet,
there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.

From “The Fellowship of the Ring”, by J.R.R. Tolkienxi
Today is the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins of the Shire

I love that about Life … “You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to!”. That’s just what I want Life to be! My Life has been like this … and along with the to-be-expected surprises, it’s been a great 66 years! Tolkien was a wise man.

Dangerous? I don’t know as I would call it that. It’s human beings that make it dangerous. Life itself is “neutral” …. It just offers possibilities. We must learn to accept the invitations.

I find the phrase “if you don’t keep your feet” to be especially helpful. Personally, I find that we are a society that has given up educating our people on how to “keep our feet”. Oh, I think we think we’re doing that … teaching the young how to succeed financially. But what is the point of learning that if we haven’t learned the deep mystery of Life and how to live it?? What a chagrin to learn, by experience, that being financially successful and being successful at Life aren’t synonymous!

KEEP YOUR FEET. That’s the whole point of faith and religion and “the inner life” … and it doesn’t have to be theistic. I think if I were elected Pope tomorrow, that is the phrase I would choose as my motto.

I would say, however, that perhaps “being swept off to” unexpected places may just be part of the humour of “God”! I’ve tried to follow the Gospel path for decades ... and I’ve found that being swept off is part of the Journey. What a Path is most useful for is recovering from the inevitable surprises.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, September 16, 2012

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to
save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake,
and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them
to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

From the Gospel called Mark, chapter 8
[ Gospel reading for Sunday, Sept 16th, Proper 19, Year B RCL {Revised Common Lectionary} ]

September 14th was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is the titular feast of the religious Order of which I was a member for 15 years. When I was a parish priest, I used to “keep” it on the following Sunday, so that all our parishioners would have a chance to enter into and to ponder the Mystery of the Cross. The Feast of the Exaltation is in honour of the “holy cross” itself … celebrating the critical part that the cross on which Jesus is crucified plays as the instrument by which Jesus can make His gift of Love to the whole of God’s Creation. In a hymn written by Venantius Honorius Fortunatus (530-609), the cross is implored to let go of its normal rigidity in order to embrace and support the Christ so that He can make His offering.

I understand the Holy Cross as a metaphor for all of Creation. The theological principle undergirding the Mystery is that what we call Divine Compassion/Love is the core reality of Existence. It is what gives Life to all Being. I think of the scientific Big Bang as a metaphor for the pent-up power of Divine Compassion waiting to explode and create the Universe … and the Cross as a metaphor of every single atom of Existence becoming a vehicle of that life-giving power of Life. Everything must play its part in the unleashing of Divine Compassion bringing Life to life.

That means you and me. In our great Christian Myth, Jesus calls all who would follow the path of Love to “take up the cross”. He means, Choose to be an instrument by which Divine Compassion can be given birth … “die” to all that is not Love in you, and you will receive Life, overflowing. This kind of Life can’t be had by holding onto old understandings of what makes Life authentic (“saving your life”); it can only be had by giving over one’s Life to the Way of Compassion (“losing one’s life”). Dying to Live is the great paradox of the Gospel … and of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

“What the World needs now / is Love Sweet Love” says the song.

It does. And it always will.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, September 6, 2012

The essence of immorality is the tendency
to make an exception of myself.

Jane Addams, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Reformer,
social worker, and peace activist;
she was born on this date, 1860

Jesus had a wonderful parable about that! The one about the two men praying … one tells God the truth about himself, the other tells God how wonderful and pious he is and proudly says he’s “thankful I’m not like that other guy”.

Now, this is the big problem in American politics today … and, in this upcoming election, it’s starkly seen in difference in the rhetoric and the policies of the two parties. Simply put, as I see it, the Republicans see themselves as the “exception” that Jane Addams points to. They seem to see the very rich and the powerful and the however-privileged as “not like the others”. Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton deftly pointed this out last night in their speeches at the Democratic Convention. Beautifully and clearly, I thought. (I couldn’t believe I was watching the Convention … I never watch such political things! But as soon as I started, I was hooked.) Anyway, enough said; it’s for you to think about.

Once we make an exception of ourselves, the Pandora’s box of Immorality is set free. “We” and “Them” are set up … the bottom line of which is, only some are deserving of respect and compassion and acceptance. The “exceptions” get to judge. An example:  the politicians have their own health insurance … because they deserve it … and to hell with everyone else. But Bill and Elizabeth are right, theologically and scientifically:  we are all a part of the whole, and if one is hurt, we eventually are all hurt.

Now:  will the Democrats change much if in power? We can hope … but we see all can see how seductive it is, and how hard it is to live up to one’s principles.

My principle core of morality is the Gospel. I heard it reflected last night. So I say:

Preach it Baby! And live it!