Monthly Archives: October 2008

Obama = “Evil??”

This reflection is not about Obama.  It’s about the power of words, particularly the word “evil.”

This morning, listening to the News, I heard a McCain supporter who had gone out to see Sarah Palin last night say that Obama is evil and that she is frightened of him.  I bristled at the use of the word “evil” to characterize Obama (or Bush for that matter) because speading such a perception could be very dangerous.  Words are powerful and form perception.  It’s also interesting to note the difference in perception as to what is “evil” or, let’s just say “bad” for the country or world.  Some think that hammering a young, unenlightened connection with an anti – American terrorist and the perception of socialism is evil, frightening or bad.  Others think that going to war under false pretences, pandering to the wealthiest among us and an isolationist foreign policy is evil, frightening or bad.

No matter what our political affiliation or perception, I think it’s dangerous to use highly charged, emotional and dangerous words like “evil” to characterize a political opponant.  No matter what I may think or feel about past Presidents and the choices they have made and the directions that they have taken us, I would not use the word “evil” to characterize them.  I may well wonder how they can sleep at night, but I would not use such a dangerous word.

When I was growing up, my Mom use to tell us to be very careful about the words that we use, because words can hurt and cause more damage than physical violence.  I think she’s right, . . . not only only on the personal level, but on the world stage as well.  Whether it’s about the upcoming election, an issue at work or school, or a relationship difficulty, it’s probably better to step back and use our minds, rather than spouting emotionally charged words.

Perhaps out political campaigns would then take on a more civil and clear minded character, rather than throwing highly charged words around which serve to further polarize instead of bringing people together to form reasoned solutions.

Political and Religious Humility

Luke 13: 22-30


“ ‘We ate and drank in your company.  You taught in our streets.’  But he will answer, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from!’”


I believe a sign of authentic spirituality is a palatable humility. I get very nervous around those who think their way is THE way and who look down on others.  Jesus, in this passage from Luke, is talking to such people.  You think you are on the right path, he says, but you are so off the path.  Humble yourselves and open your eyes!


Humility is not a virtue held in high esteem in our culture.  To be humble is perceived as being weak, wishy washy and unsure.  Just look at our political landscape.  Strength, being “right,” and fighting are the qualities that are respected.  Unfortunately, such qualities even spill over to our religious landscape.  Personally, I think that a politician  who exhibited a sense of humility would be a great leader.  How very refreshing this would be!


Do I stand in a place of humility with others?  Or, am I closed off from others, thinking that my way, is the only way?

How Are You Behaving?

Exodus 22: 20-26

Matthew 22: 34-40

Notice in Matthew that a scholar of the law posed the question as to which commandment is the greatest, after he found out that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees.  He posed it as a test.  But notice what Jesus does.  He speaks to the great commandment, the great “Hear O Israel, . . . you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul and mind”  But then Jesus combines this commandment with another:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Then he says that the WHOLE LAW is summed up in these commandments.  Again, I imagine, the scholar of the law sat silent, unable to contest what Jesus had said.

In Exodus as well as elsewhere, what it means to love is spelled out.  Our love of God is to be reflected in our love of others.  As a matter of fact, even if someone says they don’t believe in God, but they exhibit love and care for others, they, in fact, are headed in the right direction.

Is the love that I claim to have for God reflected in my actions?  If someone didn’t know anything of my “spirituality,” but only observed my behavior – would my spirituality be evident in my actions?  Francis of Assisi said:  “Preach the Gospel. . . . And when necessary, use words!”

How am I behaving today?

I Want to Say Something to All of You.

Luke 12: 13-21

“Thus will it be for those who store up treasures for themselves, but are not rich in the matters of God.”

Sometimes on the evening News we are given the announcement that this or that movie star or world leader from the past has died.  I remember years ago a friend of mine saying “Sic transit gloria mundi!”  “Thus passes the glory of the world!”

We think we’re going to be here forever.  And so much of our time is swept up in the building of our kingdoms here.  In the end, will any of that matter?

Years ago, when I was in High School and falling in love with boys left and right, even though I wouldn’t admit it, there was a song that was sung often during Mass.  I went to a Catholic High School, a small, close knit all boys school.  This song was often used at graduation Masses.  It was published by the Monks of Weston Priory and it’s called “Wherever You Go.”  It’s based on that wonderful text from the book of Ruth.  “Wherever you go, I will go.  Wherever you live, I will live. . . .”  In the middle of the two verses of this song was a wonderful spoken part and, if I can remember it correctly, it went something like this:

“I want to say something to all you who have become a part of the fabric of my life.  The color and texture which you have brought to my being have become a song and I want to sing it forever.   There is an Energy which makes things happen, when the paths of other persons touch ours and we have to be there and let it happen. When the time of our particular sunset comes, our ‘thing,’ our accomplishment won’t really matter.  But the clarity and care with which we have loved each other will speak with vitality of the great gift of life that we have been for each other.” (Monks of Weston Priory)

I want to say something to all of you.

I hope and pray that somehow my life, and yours, is not so much caught up in the building of my “thing” or accomplishment, but the building up of you as a person.  I hope and pray that the affect that I leave on the world won’t be so much about the size of house I had, how much money I made, how smart I am and how many degrees I have, how big my business has grown, etc.  But I hope that the affect I leave on the world will be the spark of vitality and life that I have given to others.

To what are we giving our time?

To What Do I Give My Time?

Matthew 22: 15-21

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but give to God what is God’s.”

Obviously this was an attempt to trap Jesus into saying the wrong thing.  Instead Jesus confounds them by this saying and gives them nothing with which to hang him.

What can it say to us?  When I reflect on this Gospel placed before us today, I have to ask myself:  how much time am I giving to “Caesar” and how much time am I giving to God?  That is, is my daily focus about the building of my “kingdom” here or about the building of God’s kingdom here?  Is a majority of my time spent in concerns about my own life, my house, my relationship, my, my, my, my. . . ?  Or is my focus more on building up people, lifting and guiding them, healing hurts etc.?

How and with what concerns do I spend the majority of my time?

From Dream to Reality

We all have dreams.  Dreams of the way we want our lives to be.  Dreams for our children.  Dreams for our world, our faith communities and our society.

Sometimes we get paralyzed by thinking that there is nothing that we can do to make real the dreams that we have.

In reality, all that we need to do is simply take a step to make our dreams reality and chances are, that one step will have power to begin to make dreams a reality.  If we simply dream without taking concrete steps, nothing will happen.

Teresa of Avila, a mystic and reformer in the 16th century said this:  “If a person should do no more than take one step, the step will contain in itself so much power that they will not have to fear losing it, nor will they fail to be very well paid.”  (The Way of Perfection).

What step can we take today to give birth to a dream that we hold within?

I Surrender!

This morning as I meditated I felt a sense of surrender. My thoughts and my prayer were not centered so much in what I want or need, but in how I could be an expression of the Divine.

So often our prayer can be about what we want or need in life. Ultimately we are an expression of the Eternal or Unmanifested spoken into form. If I am an expression of the Divine, perhaps my emphasis in prayer should be more on how the Divine wants to express itself in my life, rather than how and what I (read – the ego) want the Divine to do in and for me.

It feels good to surrender, to be taken, to allow oneself to enter an adventure – to walk into the unknown, to be lead. There is a sense of ease about surrender. Instead of the work involved in trying to arrange my life as I want it, there is an ease about surrendering and allowing myself to be lead.

The synchronicity of things amazes me sometimes. Just as this sense of surrender was emerging from within, I read this passage in my morning prayer: “We must let ourselves be plowed so that the furrows of our person become deeper and deeper, so that our earth becomes softer and softer” (Jean-Marie Howe, Cistercian Monastic Life/Vows: A Vision, p. 367). Perhaps it is in surrender that I become a softer person and, conversely, perhaps its in running and trying to arrange it all myself that I become hardened.

Perhaps today we could think more about what the Divine wants to do in us, rather than what we want out of the Divine.

Jesus Wasn’t A Nice Guy

Of late the common Lectionary has been following the stories of Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees found in Luke’s Gospel. The one today is from Luke 11: 47-54 where Jesus is really lambasting them. When we read these accounts, we get a picture of a not so nice Jesus, a picture of one who did not fear confronting people. This confrontational Jesus only comes out when he is confronted with self righteous religious types. The Pharisees were a group of lay people, very devoted to the letter of the religious law. They were the “church police,” or “liturgical police” of their day. It is only to such as these that we see Jesus getting very upset. And it is these very upstanding religious folk who sought to kill him.

What can this say to us?

Sometimes the “church police” are in our heads. Do you often find yourself berating your own self for this or that transgression? Some of us live with a perfectionism that is so deep-rooted that it paralyzes us and weighs us down. Ironically then we look for relief in the very things which make us feel guilty in the first place. Guilt has its place. It can be very motivating and sometimes we need this motivation in order to change for the better. However, when guilt becomes the norm it becomes paralyzing.

Jesus confronted the church police of his day. Sometimes we have to confront the church police in our own mind – to step outside the negative tug of this incessant judge and be born into a way of thinking and living that lifts us up.

Unbridled Passion

Remember a time in your life when your passions were running amuck? Remember when you used to stay out too late, drink too much and could barely remember the name of the person or persons you had sex with the night before? Remember a time when you just ran after pleasure, any way you could get it? Perhaps you are one who has been blessed not to have gone through such a time. Or perhaps, like a lot of us, we are still tempted and, at times, run after pleasure only to find ourselves empty once again.

Passion is a good thing! But unbridled passion leads to emptiness. Part of being free is having the ability to make good choices which lead us to good places in life. Paul puts it this way. His word “flesh” I would translate as unbridled passion. “It is obvious what proceeds from the flesh: lewd conduct, impurity, idolatry, rage, envy, drunkenness, orgies, bickering . . .” (See Galatians 5: 18-25)

And believe me, I’m no prude! Been there. Done that. And still do at times! But think back to a time when your incessant search for happiness was focused purely in people, places or things began to drive you, instead of you driving it. Were you REALLY happy? I don’t find myself happy when my passion is running every which way. However, when I am focused and doing what I need to stay that way, I am much more peaceful, happy and serene. Life might not be very “exciting” but it’s good, really good!

“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness . . .” (See Galatians 5: 18-25)

Uncut = Unsaved??

Why is it that religion inevitably has lead to the creation of various hoops through which one must jump in order to be assured salvation? For the Jews, one of the hoops was circumcision. For Christians, it’s explicit belief in the name of Jesus – and no one else! I don’t know that the God of Abraham and Sarah would have meant to create such hoops. I don’t know that Jesus would have condemned any who did not explicitly put their faith in him! For Jesus, it wasn’t so much a matter of religious adherence as it was loving action. In this, one expressed and worked out their “salvation.”
“In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor the lack of it counts for anything; only faith, which expresses itself through love.” (See Galatians 5: 1-6)

I still meet people who fear for their salvation due to strict and scrupulous upbringing. They, like I, were formed from early childhood with an image of God as a severe judge and the necessity of holding strictly to religious practice. Religious practice is meant to facilitate one’s life in God and in loving action toward others. Unfortunately what it turned into was a god itself. Instead of guiding one’s life in good ways, strict adherence to the practice became the focus. Instead of focusing on loving action toward others and justice in the world, one’s favor in the eyes of God was relegated to the fulfillment of various religious practices! The pain of those who live under the weight of this scrupulosity is palatable. Did God ever intend this? I don’t think so.

“You Pharisees! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but within you are filled with grasping, clinging greed!” (See Luke11: 37-41)

What’s really more important, cutting off your foreskin, or being a giving, loving person? It’s almost laughable when we see it this way; but what religious practices are you still a slave to? “Christ freed us for liberty. So stand firm, and do not take on yourselves the yoke of slavery a second time!” (See Galatians 5: 1-6)