Thoughts on yesterday

Yesterday as I sat in our kitchen reading and listening to Gregorian Chant on Pandora the horrific events that happened in Tucson, AZ began to unfold. First as a tweet from @npr on Twitter  and then eventually to breaking news on Huffington Post to CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CSPAN and all around the world wide web. As I sat there in stunned grief and anguish for people I had never known nor perhaps will ever meet my heart was breaking for our country. I’m not a knee jerk liberal. I’d describe myself as  socially progressive and fiscally conservative. I’m a pro-peace veteran of the United States Navy. I love my country and I’m patriotic too. I even say the pledge to the flag in the morning with the students at the school I work at.

There are some on the left who want to ascribe all of yesterday to vitriol emanating from the right wing and there are those on the right who want to blame the left. I want to blame no one but to examine our conscience as a nation and say where to do we go from here? In the words of Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along.”  We have differences and that is what makes us strong. We need to celebrate those differences but in a way that encourages each other. I’m a Secular Franciscan and I don’t really wear that on my sleeve. In fact I go out of my way to not make statements about my faith. Instead I prefer to live what I believe. Tonight in surfing along the web I came upon a short talk by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM who is one of my favorite authors. Richard like our seraphic father St. Francis issues a clarion call that goes beyond the boundaries of any faith and instead speaks to the heart of the message of Jesus. I hope you enjoy it.


Worshiper or follower?

This past week I had dinner with my friend, Br. Kevin Kriso, OFM. We’re both reading a book by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM entitled Naked Now. As we chatted over dinner at the Linger Longer Cafe in downtown Allegany, New York Kevin mentioned that one of the points from that book was whether you were a follower of Jesus or a worshiper of Jesus. I think it’s an important distinction and actually very radical too in the best sense of that word.

In the past eight or nine years I’ve had many discussions with pro-war folks who worship Jesus and are very devout in that worship. They justify their support of military intervention with the just war theory of St. Augustine and even the Vatican itself says that war is justified under certain circumstances. I’ve found that troubling and though I’m not a Quaker or a Buddhist I’m drawn to try to their practice because it seems more in line with following Jesus. During our conversation Kevin made a good point and that is, “did Jesus ask us to follow him or to worship him.” I think there is an interesting distinction here and one that will keep me thinking for a while. God blesses the warriors and the peacemakers too. Peace.

Radical Mercy and Forgiveness

Today a friend called to tell that another friend had died and suddenly at that. The fellow who died was a very good friend and I’ll miss him a lot. He was a good friend. We’d spent quite a bit of time together this winter. We’re both fathers and Navy veterans and both drove PT Cruisers. I hadn’t seen Pat in about a month and only the other day I thought of sending him a text message.  Earlier this winter while we were having a lengthy discussion I told him that I loved him and I did. I’m glad I was able to say that because I’ve often found it difficult to come right out and say that to another who is not in my own family.  Today, though I was filled with sadness over Pat’s passing I was glad that those words had passed between us. Life is short, shorter than we imagine sometimes.

All of this got me to thinking about the Gospel of Jesus. I read a couple of different places that Christian churches are in decline and that we’re in a post-Christian era. I’m not always sure what these writers mean when they write words like that, but for me there is a huge difference for what passes as Christianity most places and what was written in the Gospels.  Many Christian churches have become so wrapped up in politics that they are no longer prophetic, but pathetic instead.  I believe the Gospels were mainly about radical mercy and forgiveness.  I don’t even think Jesus came to found a church, he came in fulfillment of the scriptures. To me all of that is secondary to the message and that message is about forgiveness that knows no bounds and mercy beyond compare.  I came across an article written by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM that summarizes much of what I think.

You don’t know mercy until you’ve really needed it.  As Thomas Merton once said—and I’ve quoted it often—“Mercy within mercy, within mercy.”  It’s as if we collapse into deeper nets of acceptance, deeper nets of being enclosed and finally find we’re in a net we can’t fall out of.  We are captured by grace.  Only after much mistrust and testing do we accept that we are accepted.

–Richard Rohr, OFM