Passing on the Torch of Compassion

We can only hope to give the best care possible to our heroes and heroines.

When medicine has gone to its limits

Or sometimes even beyond

In the compassionate care of the providers

It is then that the

Spiritual dimension of the human person

Shifts into high gear

It was already there, this spiritual dimension

Even in her denial

But at the moment of pain that escapes

the morphine

and encouraging words

and even tears of the soul…

that is when your RMT

Religious Ministry Team

facilitates the

Faith or lack thereof…

Within the indomitable

mysterious

wholly incredible

person

human being

and spirit

To save

That source and summit

Beyond death

And yet below, that is attainable

As I have witnessed

And borne with gratitude and trepidation

When a son or daughter of our nation is close to breathing no more,

Or even after the breath has been stolen away,

It is then that we ask their final wish and receive

their final statement

In the timeless moment before departure

stripped of all earthly desire…

life runs dry.

A chaplain records and witnesses this miracle of death

And the RMT can teach the Medical Team to provide likewise.

Let us journey with great love, hope, and humility.

Let us celebrate the hours and days and minutes

that will transform and transfigure

our wounded, dead, and their families forever!

AMEN.

We can only imagine what our kind acts, our compassion, our love, and our skills will create in eternity.

We can only imagine.

Chaplain Ron Moses Camarda +

Camp Fallujah, Iraq

February 24, 2005

Tear in the Desert

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Last night I watched in great horror and disbelief when our president evoked a standing ovation for the widow of a Navy Seal who was killed in an operation that was deeply flawed. It didn’t seem like it was done out of compassion, but to make him look like he is doing a great job as our president. Most notable is that the father of that sailor is estranged from the president who hasn’t shown any respect for the loss of his son. The father held that Navy Seal when he was a baby. He was proud of him. He is probably mourning the many civilians and children who were also killed in that raid. Our safety as a nation can’t be bought with the deaths of millions of displaced people. People who make arms and weapons profited from that fiasco. Where are the prophets?

Where are the chaplains and commanding officers who know this is not the way to go? When I was in Iraq, I knew that my most difficult task would be to comfort the families and friends of those who died in my arms or whose bodies I received from the battlefield. As a priest, there are times when I need to be quiet while those mourning the death of their loved ones pounded my chest. That is the Cross and that is the fast that God requires or desires. To feel hopeless at such loss.

I do pray for President Donald Trump, but I still believe that Jesus is trying to break through his stony heart. I am trying not to judge, but Jesus does give me permission to observe the fruit. “You will know them by their fruit.” So when I think of our leaders of our country (including the media, congress, lobbyists and military industrial complex), I see people trying to profit at the expense of bearing the fruit of love, joy and peace.

Think of anyone you are supporting and see whether they have any of these fruits of the Holy Spirit…

LOVE

JOY

PEACE

PATIENCE

KINDNESS

GENTLENESS

GENEROSITY

SELF-CONTROL

PURITY

FAITHFULNESS

These are more important than the Ten Commandments, because this fruit is what rules and laws are aiming for. This is what decreases the need for government; when people love one another. I have a long way to go, but at least I believe I am bearing some of this fruit.

For Ash Wednesday and Lent, I speaking out against hate that is often masked behind self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Of course, I am beginning with myself. It is not easy, but the peace, love and joy that rises in my heart is worth the fasting and sacrifice.

Love, joy, peace,

Ron Moses +

The fruit of silence is prayer

the fruit of prayer is faith

the fruit of faith is love

the fruit of love is service

the fruit of service is peace…

I prayed this prayer of Mother Teresa many times as the soldier, marine or sailor died.

 

Law of Love Within ~ 6th Sunday

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time   Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37

God is love.

All commandments coming from God are about love.

There are no exceptions and no amendments.

“Night to Shine” is an annual prom for people with special needs sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. The proms were hosted Friday at over 375 churches in all 50 states and 11 countries including South Africa, Peru, and the Philippines. In his welcome video, Tim Tebow proclaimed to people with special needs, “You are created by love, for love and in love.”

A follower of Jesus must be all about abundant love and fruit of God’s love. Followers of Jesus are like trees of life. We welcome all who come to our shade. It doesn’t matter if one is saint, sinner or lumber jack, the tree of life will freely and indiscriminately offer her shade, beauty, fragrance, fruit, oxygen, peace and even wood. The tree bears much fruit beyond what we see. The tree is gratuitous in that she gives while asking for nothing in return. The tree loves unconsciously in that she is unaware. She gives her gifts even when no one is present or appreciates her. What would it be like if we realized that each of us was created by love, for love and in love?

Jesus was baptized to fulfill the law. When he came up out of the water a voice was heard from heaven. “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus follows the law of love even if it costs him his life. Jesus knows that God has written all the laws and commandments of God into his heart and to his followers’ hearts. He knows the law better than lawyers, politicians and judges. We also must know God’s commandments this well. All we have to do is look within and share this wisdom and love with all.

It is something like learning to swim. When I asked my father to teach me to swim, he simply picked me up and walked me out to the end of the dock on that delicious morning and threw me out into the deep water. As I flew across the sky with panic and joy, I didn’t have time to be mad at my father for putting me out into the deep, because it was about survival. My heart was as pure as a six year old who grew up on the waters edge. My father knew I had the rules of swimming in my heart and soul. If for some reason my fear froze my ability to start the dog paddle, my dad was ready to jump in and save me if I cried out to him. I never cried then.

However, over the years there were times when I rebelled against my father’s commands. Some were unreasonable or mixed with anxiety or alcohol. Some of the rules I came to understand protected me from dangers. Some of those commands were good, but overkill.

So to begin his mission to teach us his Father’s laws and commandments (to swim in God’s love), Jesus climbs up the mountain and tells the people how loved they are by God. He tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, blessed are they who grieve, blessed are the clean of heart, blessed are peacemakers, blessed are the persecuted for helping the oppressed, poor and orphaned, and blessed are you when you share the cross with me.” He goes on to tell us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Basically we are love in the world!

Jesus is like my father. When we desire with all our heart, soul, strength and might to love like God and follow all of God’s commands; he is going to bring us out into deep water and throw us into the sea. We have the wisdom, courage, understanding, knowledge, counsel, reverence and fear of the Lord to interpret the law of God. Jesus knows we can swim even in the storms of persecution. If for some reason our fear freezes our ability to love (which is the law) in the storms of insult and persecution, Jesus is standing ready to plunge into the deep water and save us if we cry out to him. He might also say, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

So after fifty years, I am beginning to remember another commandment that my father gave me just before he threw me off that dock into the deep waters, “Do not be afraid, I will be with you.”

Jesus assures us that he loves us too much to ever abandon us. He promises to be faithful always, in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health. God throws us with love to be love for a world in desperate need of love and truth. Are you ready to plunge into the Good News and follow this law and love of God into the kingdom of heaven? Here is even Great News. Jesus doesn’t wait for us to cry out to him, he jumped in with us. Let us swim and dance. The Mass never ends, we take Jesus with us.

Eye has not seen

Ear has not heard,

What God has ready for those who love Him

Spirit of Love, come give us the mind of Jesus,

Teach us the Wisdom of God.  

(St Paul to the 1st Letter to the Corinthians 2:6-10)DSCF3464

Jumping in Cuba

Christmas Meditation

Holy is God’s name

My Soul bursts with love for the Living God

Morning pause, morning chill

Warmth in my heart, helping to warm the morning

Rejoice, Rejoice

Children and Lovers of God

Sun splashes the top branches and houses

Birds greet the morning, warming the sound.

 

“The Beloved has exalted me by a gift so great,

so unheard of,

that language is useless to describe it,

and the depths of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it.

I offer then all the powers of my soul in praise and thanksgiving.

As I joyfully surrender my whole life, my senses, my judgment…

for my spirit rejoices in the eternal Godhead (Beloved) of that JESUS, that SAVIOR, whom I have conceived in this world of time.”

(Mother Mary through Venerable Bede, priest)

Thank You God, my Father, my Mother, my Lover for the Gift of your wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, reverence, courage and wonder/awe…

Truly the best Christmas ever!

 

So for Christmas, God has prepared a gift for the World, You and Me.

God has wrapped us in swaddling clothes after Baptism in water and fire.

We are confirmed in the Holy Spirit and sent as Good News to the world.

The Spirit of the Beloved is upon us because Our Beloved God has anointed us to bring Good News to the Poor.   God is sending us from this Christ-Mass (Chrism Mass)

to proclaim liberty to captives (emotionally, economically, psychologically, physically), recovery of sight to the blind (especially inward and of the soul),

to let the oppressed go free,

and a Year (of mercy and love) acceptable to the Beloved God.

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Looking for a Real Christmas

 The Gospel According to Saint Luke 2:1-14

These two branches may look the same from a distance, and in some ways they are alike. But there is also a great difference between them. This is from a real Christmas tree. And this is from an artificial tree. You can see, feel, and smell the differences when you are near the two branches. One branch is wounded and will die. One never had life and came from a box.

It’s easy to tell the difference between a real and artificial Christmas tree, but can you tell the difference between a real and an artificial Christmas?

Maybe you never thought about it, but you can have an artificial Christmas. Just as the artificial tree can serve a purpose, an artificial Christmas can be fun. You can give and receive presents, go to parties, sing songs and still not have a real Christmas.

A real Christmas includes the coming of God’s Son to be a part of life with people on earth. On the first Christmas He came as the Baby at Bethlehem. But the Baby was God, and He came to be the Savior. Jesus still comes to the world as the Savior who gives new life to people who know and believe this.DSCF8609

When Jesus was here the first time, some people wanted to know for sure that He was the real Savior. They did not want an artificial Son of God. Jesus told them to look at what He did. Jesus healed the blind, deaf, and crippled. He brought a dead person back to life. He had a message of love and hope for all people. They could tell that He was real because what He did was real. His actions proved that His words were true.

Just as Jesus pointed to what He did for people to show that He was a real and not an artificial Savior, you can tell if your Christmas is real by seeing what it does for you. Jesus once said, “You will know my real followers by their fruit.” Ask yourself some questions:

Will this Christmas help me feel the presence of God?

Will I realize that God not only came to a manger but also to me?

Will I see again how much God loves me and feel that love in action?

Will I see that God came not only for me, but for all people?

Will I also produce abundant Christmas fruit of love, joy, hope and peace?

Let us celebrate a real Christmas. Recognize that many things that look like Christmas offer only an artificial Christmas. They are not wrong, but don’t use them as a substitute for the real thing.

VIRTUAL and REAL CHRIST-MASS TREE: Gifts of Holy Spirit beneath the Tree of Life… and Fruit of the Holy Spirit in the Branches. Jesus is the Light and Star radiating from the top of the Tree of Life. Jesus is asking us to be living trees of life, where people live off the fruit of the Holy Spirit God sends through us.

Christmas is real when you know Christ comes to you. Christmas is real when we ask ourselves how we fit into the Christmas Story in the living Nativity. Christmas is real when we hold the child like Joseph and accept Jesus as his real son. (Joseph is not an artificial father.) Each of us will have the best and merriest Christmas ever if we receive Jesus as God’s Christmas gift, gratefully, cultivate his love responsibly, share him lovingly with justice, and return Jesus with abundance to God! That is what we do at this Christmas Mass. That’s a real Good News and Merry Christmas!

Tear in My Soul…still!

After reading the first draft of the screenplay for A Tear in the Desert, I was moved, but something didn’t sit right with the ending. In truth, I did meet with April, the woman who gave birth at the moment her husband passed away when I breathed the last word of Mother Teresa’s prayer.

The fruit of silence is prayer

The fruit of prayer is faith

The fruit of faith is love

The fruit of love is service

The fruit of service is peace.

The almost miraculous birth of Shane Jr. is amazing and fascinating to millions…but there was something much more profound to April and Shane. April had been writing little notes to Shane on Myspace.com for over two years after his funeral. Anniversaries of certain dates were particularly difficult. I, the chaplain priest was simply the messenger. Shane called for help for his beloved wife who would become a widow and mother instantaneously…the death and the birth.

At the funeral

Recently I was almost miraculously transported to the small aircraft that carried the body of a young 19-year-old Marine. His family and wife of seven months stood a few yards away, including his grandparents.

There was no doubt that his dead body was in the silver casket partially draped with a U.S. flag. The dog tag dangled as the casket was lowered before me. As I stood on the tarmac with the family just a few yards away from me…I saluted in my summer whites that were slightly tight (I am a retired reserve officer and 50 years old). It was a bright sunny day on NAS JAX (Naval Air Station Jacksonville) with thousands of people and military holding their breath.

Time truly stopped in the literary sense.

Philip’s widow approached with his parents and family.

I wanted to escape and run away back to the desert. My entire tour in Fallujah was crushing and burying my soul at that moment, but I was frozen in my uniform caught between the ultimate death and life. It has been said that when people are in an intense firefight or 9-11 experience, they do one of the following: fight, flee, freeze, feed or make love. Most of us will not know how we will respond until we are actually in it. Those that fight end up getting a medal, killed in action, or both. Some who survive physically tend to die because they didn’t do enough to save their fellow soldier, sailor, or Marine. The truth might be that in the intensity of the battle we don’t think about it, we simply instinctively do what it takes to just try to stay alive or sacrifice our own life for our friends, partner or children.

A medal that says we were heroes or heroines in battle does not soothe the wounds of helplessly witnessing violent death, even of our enemies. The military puts a heavy significance on medals, but a study of the recipients might unveil the truth. I am convinced that the true heroes and heroines are the mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses and children of the wounded and dead troops, but they would be revolted at the thought of presenting them with a medal for their sacrifice.

As the petite and beautiful teenager approached her husband’s casket in the year of her dreams of a family and choices of the infinite possibilities that the fountain of youth inspires, she simply placed her face that was flooded with tears, upon the cold and exposed metal casket that beaded with the holy water that I had just blessed it with. Human beings are composed of over 97% water. The tears of this very young woman seemed to meld with the water on the casket. Time stopped. Jacksonville and all North Florida seemed to stop and gasp.

Silence.

Commanders, Marines, sailors, mayors, veterans, fathers, mothers, friends, firefighters, high school classmates, and an entire city stopped, paused and silently wept for this very long couple of minutes.

It was as if I could literally hear her tears splashing onto the casket and boring a hole through the tabernacle that once contained the tabernacle of Philip’s body. This reminded me of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears on the night before he succumbed to a gruesome and torturous death. Can you hear the tears coursing down her face and crashing onto the feet of Jesus? The woman and the widow’s tears washed over her beloved’s feet…such intimate, sensuous love.

We all watched in paralyzing wonder and fear. Our hearts were torn asunder. All was done for love. In that moment, we saw the vision that war and hate were crushed and defeated. With tender kisses and a tear in the soul and heart… the widow’s tears melded with the soul of Philip.

“Do not be afraid.”

Jesus said it to the woman. She will be remembered for this act of kindness and love.

Now I don’t know exactly how April Kielion experienced the body of her husband for the first time after his death in Iraq back in November of 2004. However she has clearly stated that she was in denial and expected him to return home. She wasn’t convinced that it was truly her husband in the casket because she only saw his face. When the body of a Fallen Marine arrives at the funeral home for the family’s viewing, he is wrapped in the burial cloths of a formal uniform. Usually even the hands are in white gloves. Medals are meticulously placed; wonderful words of his personality and life are shared.

Philip was a man with gifts and flaws.

Shane was a man with gifts and flaws.

Both of them were and are still loved. They were sinners like you and me. They were sinners and beloved. They died too, too young.

When S.E. Kielion (Shane) was before me moments before he died… he looked like Jesus on the cross. The wounded are stripped when they come to Bravo Surgical so that we can check for all pertinent wounds and so we don’t miss anything. It seemed that Shane was vulnerably stripped and beside Jesus on the cross.

I can still see the vivid image of the Guardian angels tattooed on his chest as only a reflection of the truth of my belief. My own guardian “angel” whom I call Patrick Moses guided me to this moment with his other friend angels. The open bible on S.E.’s right side was the Open Door that St. John spoke of in the book of the “Apocalypse (Revelation).”

The scroll was sweet like honey in the mouth…

and sour and bitter in the stomach.

That day was a vision and a warning.

On the left side of his body under his arm was the third tattoo.

Like St. John, I was at the foot of the cross with the mother of Jesus, Mary and the beloved Mary Magdalene. Many won’t believe my story. Many still don’t believe the women who reported the events of the empty tomb. The angel told them:

“Don’t be amazed. I know that you are seeking Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised just as he said. Come see the place where he was laid. Then go and tell the disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him.”

With that the women left the tomb and trembling and fear overtook them and they fled. And they didn’t tell anyone because they were afraid.

(Original ending of St. Mark’s Gospel)

Eventually the women had to tell the disciples even if the men wouldn’t believe them. How else would we know this story?

THE TEAR IN THE STORY

And now I am ready to tell this part of the story that began on November 15, 2004 and peaked on April of 2007 in a hotel lobby in Omaha, Nebraska. I have no choice.

“He’s alive!” as my friend Father Jeff said at the funeral Mass of Philip.

Shane is alive!

In Omaha…29 months after Shane died, I met April Kielion in that hotel lobby. I also met the living S. E. Kielion…Senior…Marine!

Just as I had anointed Shane moments before he died in Iraq, I anointed April in the hotel lobby. Shane was showing off his wife and the mother of his son. Words are inadequate to express the inexpressible and ghostly. Before I could hand over my tattered green notebook to April—Shane seemed to look into my soul and ask if he could be the one to share my tattered green notebook with his beloved wife. I sat in awe and disbelief as the two of them held my scribbled written words. The original version of the story in my journal is almost identical to the edited version in my book Tear in the Desert.

green-notebook-cover

(April and I calculated that with the time zone difference, Shane Jr. was born within a half hour of Shane Sr.’s death, if not the same minute.)

April and Shane were alive again. He gently held her, caressed her and kissed her. He comforted her and reassured her. He was no longer just a Marine; he was much, much more.

April knew that this would be the last encounter in this world…and protested…

She looked at me and stated, “He didn’t have three tattoos. He only had two.”

I couldn’t see with my physical eyes, but with the inner eye and ear, I could see and hear Shane insisting he was right there more present than in her dreams. He was firm. He basically said, “April, my beautiful and beloved Baby…I must go. I can only be in your dreams from now on…but I am with you always until the end of time. Don’t be afraid. You need to move on and fall in love again. Trust me. I want you to fall in love and have another child. She will be beautiful…and she will reflect your beautiful soul. I love you April…I always have and in all ways I will.”

Of course I wasn’t able to actually hear these words, for that was a sacred moment, a gift from God. But it was real and it really happened. It is a real love story that seems to travel down the face like a slow and gentle tear. Do you hear it?

April couldn’t speak. Her tears just flowed and mingled with his tears somewhere between heaven and earth.

Tear of love and tear of hope,

a tear of heart and a tear of eternity,

a tear in the desert and tear in my soul…o my!

2010_0530WalkingRosaryFeb0027

Philip Paul Clark

Laid to rest

His burial stone rests against the tree.

The tears of his wife Ashton and the holy water remain on the casket under the flag.

Thanks and praise

For our days

Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky

As we go, this we know

God is nigh!

                       Father Ron Moses Camarda +                                          June 2010

Take, Beloved, receive…

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them…Whoever does not carry one’s own cross cannot be my disciple…Anyone of you who does not renounce all one’s possessions cannot be my disciple.  Luke: 14:25-33

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          The good Jesuit priest Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to be missionaries. Ignatius never got the opportunity to go on mission physically, but he was the catalyst of an order which one day would bring about a Pope Francis with a missionary and merciful zeal. Every day, Ignatius would pray before a cross in Rome these words. I imagine he also sang them:

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is yours, dispose of it wholly according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace, for this is sufficient for me.

When couples marry, a man and a woman leave their parents and become one. In reality, they say those words St. Ignatius used: “Take and receive all my liberty, all I have and possess. Your love is enough for me.”

When a newborn is presented to parents, parents say to their children: “Take and receive all my liberty, all I have and possess. Your love is enough for me.” Beyond the anxieties, they said these words to each of us.

When we are ordained priests or enter religious life, it is not all blessings and bliss. We say to the people of God, “Take and receive all my liberty, all I have and possess. Your love is enough for me.”

So, when we assess what we will need to complete the most essential successes in life, those that manifest our love, whether we understand or not, the outlay will be all we have and possess. Discipleship is of course one of those successes that require us to be “all in for love.”

This weekend our Holy Catholic Church officially proclaimed what the whole world already knows: Mother Teresa of Calcutta is a saint. Having worked with the sisters in Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Guatemala, I know all of her sisters are saints who gave everything and received everything they need from God.

She once said, “Look at your hands; you have five fingers. Every morning ask yourself what you will do today for the Lord with these five fingers. At night do the same thing and ask what you will do for Jesus and humanity tomorrow.”

In the parables of the tower and the king preparing for war, Jesus reminds us that we do not live the life of God by accident, that to live our baptisms demands focused attention and deliberate action, courage, faith and hope and love.

Now Jesus is on the cross and says these words to each of us:

Take Beloved, receive… all I have and possess;

My memory, understanding, my entire will.

Give me only your love and your grace, that’s enough for me.

Your love and your grace are enough for me.

Jesus is simply waiting for our response. Jesus is waiting for us to say “Yes” to his invitation to join him on the Cross. This Cross has built more than bridges, but love to shelter us for eternity.

Mother Teresa suggested a “Simple Path,” for humanity to thrive (let’s say it together)

The fruit of SILENCE is

PRAYER

The fruit of prayer is

FAITH

The fruit of faith is

LOVE

The fruit of love is

SERVICE

The fruit of service is

PEACE…That would truly be good news!

***************************************

On the night that Mother Teresa died, September 5, 1997, I had a dream. I wrote the following in my journal that morning.

Mother Teresa  +

         forgive us God

         for all this pomp

         tell her we love her

         and push us and gently guide us

         to get back to work

         and quench the thirst

         of Jesus on the Cross

 

a dream I had last night

that I entered a special

and privileged group

everything was given to me

as I went from event to event

they smiled, the ones in charge

and freely gave me and my companions

everything we needed

         but

         but

I was very distressed…

uneasy

like something was expected

i had to earn my keep… pay back

i became angry in my dream

at these people who gave me things

i tried to ask them what they wanted in return

         but nothing

                  just a dumb smile

 

I was looking for the hitch

         the trap

nobody gives anything without

         expecting something

 

and then I got it

they were the rich who gave a lot

they were in charge

and wouldn’t look into our eyes

         touch our sores

we were the poorest of poor

and they were satisfied

         in us

when we are so grateful for their sharing…

which wasn’t totally true love… free of guilt

 

and then I woke up immediately recognizing how rich I am.

snatched with this thought…

God smiling

Teresa smiling

Holy Spirit smiling

   and Jesus smiling.dscf9236

At Eucharist

Jesus gives to all… the same plain bread and wine

         some places in the world can’t afford the wine

         but that’s okay

         sort of

Working with the Sisters of Charity

         they eat what the poor eat

         Cities of Joy

                  in

Haiti, Jamaica, Guatemala, Cuba

Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Tanzania, Mexico, Ghana, Liberia, Los Angeles, Jacksonville, New York, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Panama, El Salvador….

                                             They are there!

                                             Jesus cries out from the Cross:

                                             “I thirst!”

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We Are A Banquet of Love 22nd Sunday ~ St. Augustine

Then Jesus said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14: 7-14

Erica and Robert "True Joy"

Touched by Jesus

Upon my return from the war raging in Iraq in 2005, Jesus invited me to join him for a banquet that he was invited to in Haiti. Father Jeff was also going to bless the Home for the Elderly named Queen of Peace after this community. Queen of Peace is constantly inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to this table through their stewardship of the first 10% of your collection. Just like the Gospel passage we heard, none of the people we help could repay us back. Just by being a member of Queen of Peace Parish Community could be the first step to a really nice seat at the Table in Heaven and Earth.

After the blessing of this home, the small group of us Queen of Peace Missionaries and Jesus were invited to celebrate. Then Jesus invited Father Jeff and I to a home for the malnourished children in a town called Aquin. This was the most amazing place I have ever seen. Parents or family must stay with the very malnourished child and learn skills to keep their children healthy and avoid having to come back. Many times the mothers sit at the perimeter. On this occasion, Jesus had a little girl about 3 or 4 years old on his lap. She was licking a lollipop. Before I could save Jesus from what was unfolding, the little girl gleefully took the lollipop out of her mouth and forcefully thrust the lollipop into Jesus’ mouth. Jesus seemed to delight in the generosity of the little girl. I on the other hand was aghast.

Then the little girl who had invited Jesus to her own little banquet showered Jesus with another unexpected and humbling gift. When the good sister lifted the child off of his lap, the little girl had baptized Jesus with a generous portion of piddle. When I looked into the eyes of Jesus with my own horror, he simply smiled and had this look of radiance, acceptance, humility, love and great gratitude for this little girl’s gifts.

Beloved, all of us can invite people to a banquet or luncheon. We have been invited to this great banquet where Mary, the Queen of Peace is the hostess. We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. We become what we eat. We have everything we could ever possibly desire. Do you remember when Peter and John were going into the temple and came upon a crippled man? They said to him, “We do not have anything of value to give you, but what we do have you can have. In the name of Jesus, rise and be healed!” He sprang up. Peter and John invited the crippled man to the Banquet.

Let me tell you a secret. This is a true story, but it was Father Jeff who was really sitting with the little girl with the lollipop. It was Fr. Jeff who received gifts. Jeff was invited to Haiti as a guest of the poor and sat at the lowest place. He was humbled by the generosity of the little girl. He was the one whom I tried to save, but the little girl beat me too it. And she did it with a splash.

Let’s keep doing it. Let’s keep inviting the poor in body & spirit, the crippled by grief, and those blind to God’s infinite love. Let’s continue to invite them to the Table of Plenty where saint and sinners are friends. Let us become what we eat and invite people to this Eucharistic Banquet. Let us give from our want, not from our surplus. We need to love those we share our gifts with.

We are one with God. We inherit God’s love. What could we fear?

Tithing isn’t about repaying God, but rather it is an opportunity to invite others to share in our abundance of love with a splash and joy.

Do Not Be Afraid ~ 19th Sunday

Jesus said to his disciples: Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.                          St. Luke 12:32-40

IMG_1736Jesus says it over and over, “Do not be afraid.”

Let us ask the question: “What am I afraid of?”

Jesus shares with us that if we open the door immediately when the Master knocks, he will have us recline at table and then wash our feet, and then proceed to wait on us. What could we possibly be afraid of?

God was knocking on Penny’s door. She volunteered to go to Kalighat, a home for the dying run by Mother Teresa’s sisters, for the first time. I suppose she was intrigued by the love of the Missionaries of Charity. It was terribly traumatic for Penny—being a beauty therapist, she was used to everything being all nice and spick-and-span, smelling nice, so it was quite a shock. I am sure many of you can relate to this when you volunteered for mission work in a place like Haiti or Catholic Heart work camp. Or maybe the first time your first child had diarrhea. When I began volunteering as a retreat director for Ministries of Disabilities, the drooling, physical suffering, and people who violated my boundaries raised my anxieties. I had whopping headaches and emotional paralysis.

When one of the sisters asked Penny to wash this woman she just thought, ‘There’s no way. I just couldn’t.’ So the sister said, ‘All right, come with me,’ and she picked up this little bundle of bones, because that’s what this lady was, and took her into the bathroom. Even now it makes her cry—there wasn’t a lot of light in the room and she was absolutely catatonic. Then all of a sudden the whole room just lit up! One minute she was saying ‘I just can’t’ and the next she realized, ‘Of course, I could.’IMG_2740

Throughout our lives, especially those here at Queen of Peace, we have worked among the poorest of poor, people with severe mental and physical disabilities, social injustice, Marines, sailors, soldiers and families torn apart by IED’s and shrapnel to the soul. Whenever we tell God there is something we just can’t do, like shave a man who does not have use of his arms, comfort the grieving, embrace a person with AIDS, tell a person we love them just before they will die, or work with schizophrenics or drug addicts… God seems to knock on the door of our terrified hearts. Then all of a sudden, light floods our darkness. We no longer label people as a diagnosis; we see the whole person light up. One minute we are saying, “I just can’t” and the next we realize, “Of course, we can!”

God doesn’t ask us to do things he isn’t already doing.

God is hoping that we do small things with great love.

God is hoping to find us ready when he knocks.

And then Our Father will welcome us home, wash our feet and invite us to dine with him and Our Family.

When God asks us to step out of our comfort zone and we do it,

we are always better for the experience.

Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

Now that is Good News we can treasure.

 DSCF5701

Mission Statement of Queen of Peace

As Christians we receive God’s gifts gratefully,

cultivate them responsibly,

share them lovingly in justice with others,

and return them with increase to the Lord.DSCF0893

IMG_1710

Hostility to Hospitality

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ Hostility to Hospitality

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42

DSCF9030Hostility needs to transform into Hospitality. How often do we bring in a third party to solve our conflicts rather than working out our troubles with love, hospitality and understanding?

Martha had a valid complaint and concern for her sister Mary. Women of that time just didn’t do that kind of behavior. It is similar to how Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow women to drive a car even today. And yet some bold women have done just that. And they paid a terrible price. Remember the excuses men gave for women not being able to vote. Many paid a terrible price.

Mary was responding with her heart first. If she hears Jesus with her heart, she will later respond with her hands.

In our very turbulent and wounded world, the emotional response only heightens the anxiety. Martha was really anxious. Has anyone here been anxious about terror, violence, economics, relationships, teenagers or politics? Martha really wanted to sit and listen to Jesus, but she was programmed otherwise. It wasn’t Mary’s problem; it was Martha’s problem. Martha invited Jesus to her house (unusual for a woman) with joy. She believed she was going to be a great sacristan, Eucharistic Minister, altar server or lector or usher. But Jesus wanted to engage Martha’s mind and heart in the same way he connected with Mary, her sister. The Scriptures emphasize how Jesus loved these sisters very much.

Has this ever happened to you? Your generosity and hospitality turned to hostility? I know I have been caught. “Ron, Ron, you are anxious and upset about many things.” It is very hard not to get anxious these days. Psychologically, we know that if anxieties rise like in tragedies, conflict, atrocities or deadlines… thinking decreases dramatically and decisions are made with our emotions and reactivity.

I dunno. I wonder if Martha invited her sister Mary into her quiet space after Jesus left. “What did he say?” “How did you take it in?” “Did he like my matzo balls and leftover lamb?” If they had any conflict or hostility toward each other, it probably transformed into hospitality.

Jesus personally invites each of us to this Eucharistic celebration today. Some of us became the feet, hands, voice and heart of Jesus. His hospitality is outstanding, but his Word is divine! We welcome people through the penitential cleansing and baptism. We serve the Word as lectors. We are busy with live entertainment and musicians. We are stewards of our time, talent, treasures, AC, electricity and nutritious donuts. We experience the most incredible bread and wine transformed into Jesus’ Body, Blood and Soul. All are welcome. This is a 7 Star restaurant!

After the banquet we go home, but not alone.

The Mass truly never ends. We take it with us.

Martha did eventually listen to Jesus when death and tragedy struck her home. Martha begged Jesus to come and heal her brother who was quite ill. Jesus couldn’t make it to her home until her brother was four days in the tomb. This time it was Martha who first threw herself at the feet of Jesus. “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask of God will be granted.” Jesus replied, “Martha, your brother will rise.” She replied, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus then caught her attention again. He broke through her anxieties. “Martha, Beloved Martha, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even if he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha’s tears dried up and I imagine she looked Jesus in the eyes. “Yes Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” John 11:17-27

Amazingly, Martha leaves Jesus there and calls her sister secretly saying, “The Teacher is here and asking for you.” These sisters truly love each other with no grudges. In all of the Scriptures, Martha is the only woman called twice by name. She joins, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, and Saul now Paul. And let us not forget the 7th call from the Son on his Cross. My God, My God…

Love

Insignificant…Not!

Martha received Jesus in her home. She then took Jesus with her. Or did Jesus take her with him?   When we leave today from this Eucharistic Banquet, we will welcome Jesus into the home of our hearts. Then we will hopefully discover that we are the ones invited to our own home where Jesus is reclining. We listen first like Mary and then we serve like Martha and Jesus. Remember that during the Last Supper, Jesus got up and washed his disciples’ feet. Let us do the same.

First love with your heart, then love with your hands.

This is what it means to love God, self and neighbor equally with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength and with all your mind.

And if we are going to live for all eternity, what stops us from living eternity today? All we need to do is welcome him into our homes. Don’t be anxious nor afraid.   Jesus wants us to know that he will be with us always as reflected in this song:

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid. I go before you always.
Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.
If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
If you stand before the pow’r of hell and death is at your side, know that
I am with you through it all.

Song by John Michael Talbot
Bravo-Surgical

Let us pray for the people throughout the world subjected to terror.

People in places like Africa have been suffering for years. They too are neighbors.

Let us respond to terrorism with love and non-violence. Reactivity only leads to reactivity.

Caught Breaking the Spirit of the Law

Love with all15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

There was a scholar of the Law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply,  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor? Luke 10:25-37

 We go over the speed limit.

We text while driving.

We cheat at work. We exaggerate on our taxes.

Shoplifting something small. Drink too much before we drive.

Texting at the dinner table or when dining with someone.

We don’t complete our homework and we are in class.

You take on a job and realize that although you graduated with honors, you didn’t learn the material.

What is our number one concern?

Jumping in Cuba

Getting caught!!!

Sometimes our behaviors are dangerous and can cause serious injury. But getting caught is our number one concern.

When we do get caught, we attempt to justify why we broke the law or can’t do the work. We blame, we squirm, we dig a deeper hole. Or like a good defense attorney, we find the loopholes. We get further and further away from the truth and ourselves.

Every Mass we come with gratitude and blessings.

We also come with a question similar to the scholar of the law.

“Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus throws the question right back at us. “You went through Catholic schools or a great confirmation class. You came into the church through RCIA. What is written in the Scriptures, how do you read it?”

We all answer the question intellectually correct. Some still answer as cradle Catholics or with the Baltimore Catechism. Some answer with a conservative, traditional or liberal bent.

We all answer correctly. “Do this and you will live.”

But then we attempt to justify ourselves because we got caught. It was only 5 mph over the limit.

We believe we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind. We ask what is the minimum I need to do to get into heaven.

What does loving our neighbor with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind really mean?

How have you loved our neighbor who is often poor psychologically, physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually? Children are not born racist, violent, nor greedy. They are taught to be so. They do not have a choice. A puppy does not have a choice about whether they are mean or gentle. They simply reflect their master and their family. Behavior is automatic like stopping when the light turns red or crossing the street when we see trouble. But human beings have a choice. We choose a life in the Holy Spirit. But it takes great effort.

In the parable, we know nothing about the victim in the ditch except he was probably Jewish. We do know that Jesus loves this man in the ditch. That is why Jesus tells the story. He wants us to see him for who he is: God’s beloved son and our brother. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta pleads with us that the poor and victims are Jesus in the distressing disguise. This victim probably had a family and friends. The ripple effect of this violent crime will carry for generations. We all have similar stories in our ancestry. How would the story be passed down if the man eventually died in the ditch? What if the antidote to violence in our world was mercy?

The victim’s grandchildren would tell the story of the merciful stranger who loved him out of the horrific hole he was in. Jesus was stripped, robbed, beaten and left for dead. Love prevented the story from being passed down as a tragedy. Jesus freed us from the bitterness. God loved us back to health. There will be times when we are in the ditch. I believe the victim and the Samaritan are no longer strangers. They are friends. The best of friends.

Jesus is in all victims: war and sleep cartoonHe is in the people escaping tyranny and war, immigrants, Honduran parents who empty their savings to send their children to avoid the gangs and drugs, drug addicts and those on the brink of suicide. Jesus is in Minnesota, in Louisiana, in Dallas, in Baghdad, in Turkey, in Brussels, in Paris, in Nigeria and Orlando.

The law will not get anyone into heaven. It just teaches us. After we graduate and clothed in the Holy Spirit, we must put our knowledge and skills to the test. God can heal the world, but he needs each of us to do our part, not just 10% which is the law. Christians are called to a much higher accountability because we live in the love of God. Love one another as our own son or daughter, father or mother.

We must love God, love self and love neighbor all equally. Love them equally and without judgment like the mother of nine children even if a couple of them forget to send a Mother’s Day card. We are one Body in Christ.

To love is to be compassionate with suffering and mercy.

Let Jesus help you to be more than you thought you were.

Bear fruit 30, 60 or even 100 fold. There are neighbors you will meet this week who are in the ditch. The grieving mother of a soldier or policeman, a community responding to hatred with insensible looting, a classmate whose depression has them on the brink, a woman who realizes her abortion is crippling her.

How we work here on earth for justice is how we work in heaven. We are instruments of God’s peace. What are we waiting for? With Jesus in our blood and heart we already experience the joys of heaven. This parable is a call. The harvest is great, but the merciful laborers are few.

May rivers of God’s Mercy flow through you every day.

May your neighbors become your beloved friends.

Mass is ended. Go in peace.

The Mass never ends, we take it with us!