Sunday, December 16, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, December 17, 2012

Have courage for the great sorrows of life,
and patience for the small ones.
When you have laboriously accomplished your daily tasks,
go to sleep in peace.
God is awake.

Victor Hugo

“God is awake”. Only someone like Victor Hugo could make that happy phrase! A poet. In my view, poets are the guardians of and the voice of the Mystery … and as such they are invaluable to any society and culture.

The concept of “God” is essential to any healthy human society … whether it is a “religious” concept or a philosophical or metaphysical  or mystical one. Remember, “God” is not  a human being. God is a “spirit, without body, parts, or passions” (in the phraseology of the Anglican  “Articles of Religion”). God has no gender … and I am committed to affirming this truth as I think it would greatly expand our concept of “God”.

Allow me to tell you what I think Mr. Hugo was saying.

We have a Life to live. We awake each morning to it … if we do. But if we do … and there is no guarantee … our lives have many tasks. Eat. Share food. Do our work. Anchor ourselves in Compassion. Offer our love and generosity to each one we meet. See the anxiety or the joy in the eyes of those we meet. Feed the hungry, tend the sick, comfort those in pain or loss. Remember how completely we are loved … and pass it on.

Do you think you are unconditionally loved? Do you think you are valued? I believe that such knowledge is what each and every one of us needs to know in order to face down fear and anxiety and take the risks to live our lives fully in Love.

This is how “God” works. God is the great Mystery of Life itself … and Life reverberates in the core of every atom of our being. Any religion that is authentic will sense and reach out to this Presence. “God” is not a tyrant. As Hugo understood, “God” is in the simple reality of Being. Religion that “works” will teach us this.

Go to sleep in peace tonight. If you awake tomorrow, the mystery we call God will ask you to walk the path of Life.

Yes … we know not how. But. God is Awake. Let is not be asleep.


Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, December 16, 2012 - Advent III C RCL

John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water;
but one who is more powerful than I is coming;
I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fork is in his hand,
to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary;
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

The Gospel called Luke, chap 3 (for Advent III, Year C, RCL)

[ The complete Readings for Advent III can be found at:

The Collect (Gathering Prayer) this morning asks of God that She “stir up Her power and come among us”. It speaks of God’s “bountiful grace and mercy”. It speaks of our deep awareness of our Sin – our often deep lack of Love which so diminishes both our own and everyone else’s humanity. It speaks of our awareness of our need and desire to turn to Love – to “repent”. Yes, Advent III is full of both our sense of our failures at reflecting Divine Compassion and of our hope that we can find and claim our loving Self.

The prophet Zephaniah calls the people to Rejoice and “sing aloud”. Despite their continuing sin, God has “taken away the judgments” against them, and “turned away” their enemies. The message is – at least to me – clear:  each of us will find the core of Love at our very center if we welcome the God Who is Love into our hearts … and that indwelling of Love will “save us”.

People respond to John the Baptist’s call from the Wilderness; they flock to the Jordan. I’m often a little cynical:  were they sincere, or just hedging their bets? But then I recognize myself there among them … and I join them in their longing and hope for “salvation”. “Salvation” is not magic. Salvation is to be drawn onto the path of Divine Compassion and held onto that Path by our own daily turning to Love and by the divine grace that frees us from getting stuck in our failures.

Philippians says:  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. There is our template for living:  Rejoice; Be gentle; Be not anxious; Trust and Be thankful; Seek peace.

In these clashing days in politics and religion, Luke has some good advice for a Humanity that seeks personal and global well-being:  Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.

The Baptist says of Jesus: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." The message is for each of us for this very day and every day of our Life:  Choose Love. Love is that Holy Fire which consumes that which is unlovely. It helps us to follow John’s call to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” … to light the World with Compassion.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, December 2, 2012 Advent I, Year C, RCL

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, December 2, 2012
Advent I, Year C, RCL

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Collect for Advent Sunday

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made …

The prophet Jeremiah (chapter 33)

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you

The apostle Paul (I Thessalonians 3)

"Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Luke 21

[ The complete Readings for Advent Sunday, Year C, Revised Common Lectionary

What do we Christians do for these next four weeks, this holy season of Advent? Essentially, we “rest in hope”. Actively. The Advent season builds the context for our life for the next 11 months in our yearly mystical and mythical Journey through “Kingdom Life” … what our Rector has been calling the “real” World. Sometimes, perhaps always, we arrive at the end of that Journey – at the end of “Ordinary Time” – a bit tattered. Sometimes battered! Along with some joy and peace and wonder, we’ve weathered disappointments, frustrations, conflict, self-doubt, questioning, struggles with mortality, brokenness, etc …. The human condition!

Then comes Advent, inviting us again into a quiet, solid center, refocusing us and reweaving us into the web of the life of the God Who is Unconditional Love, healing, justice, peace, clarity, reality. We know that we will probably come to the end of our Life – if we’re lucky and we’re not cut off too young -  looking worn and tattered like the Velveteen Rabbit … but hopefully having lived Life in the pursuit of Love with passion.

Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all things shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”. What will make that not pie-in-the-sky? The human experience teaches us not to think of God and God’s work-in-us as magic. It teaches us to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light”, to “increase and abound in love for one another”. To do our best, and leave the rest to the mystery of the Spirit.

Blessed Advent!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Saturday, December 1, 2012 - World AIDS Day

There was so much suffering,
so much anguish
so much anger
so much sadness …
but so so much love, compassion and caring
for those of us who walked together.

Priest Brian McHugh

I’ve posted on Facebook, as I do every year, the names of those who were friends, or seminary classmates, or acquaintances, or persons to whom I was privileged to care for pastorally, and who died of the various complications of AIDS.

There are 81 names. The journey of those years started for me in 1982, when I was a parish priest in Cincinnati. A friend called and asked me to bury his lover … whose Roman Catholic church wouldn’t because he was Gay.

I am proud of the Episcopal Church, and of all those other churches and other organizations who had strong and loving outreach to those suffering with AIDS. I still struggle to forgive all those, especially Presidents and politicians, who ignored and condemned.

Of all the years, now 45, that I have spent in ministry, it was in those years of AIDS, in those with AIDS and those who cared, that I most deeply experienced the reality of Love and understood and embraced the God whose nature that Love is.

In all the sadness, I am grateful for all that amazing Love.

I remember you all, my friends. Thanks for being my teachers.