Monday, January 25, 2016

Love...Easier Said Than Done...Music for January 31st

Hello St. Francis,

This week, we will hear one of the most often quoted New Testament scriptures.  St. Paul's definition of love.  In his beautiful and inspiring text, he lays out all of the things that love is and isn't.  It's a pretty long list.  Often, when we hear this text (at just about every wedding in history) as well as on many Sundays, we can get caught up in all of the intricacies, the details and end up losing the real message.  I mean, look at all the kinds of love.  I love God, my family, my friends, my wife, my children, my students, my parish, my neighbor...whatever that means.  I love pizza, playing golf, the beach, sleeping in, music to name just a few.  Love sure does have a lot of meanings.  Oh yeah, we also use the word itself in more ways than I could possibly imagine.  So, with so many layers and intricacies how do we wrap our heart let alone our mind around the concept.

You know, there are whole classes taught on just this topic and we can get help from multiple "Love Doctors" that will give us advice about how to love better.  So I guess my task this week is to give you my take in 500 words or less.  Well, here it goes.

When I think about love, the first thing that goes through my head is the statement "God Is Love".  To me, that means that everything that God is, God's entire substance, is made out of love.  There is a theological term for God's love.  It is called Agape or Agapic love.  Simply, Agapic love is defined as a commitment totally centered on "The Other".  One that can best be seen as a giving of ones self as a gift to another.  This love is unconditional and is always willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the other.

So, here is how it works.  I can feel love for someone or something, but a "feeling" sells love short.
People often say they are "falling in love".  What that means is that they are rising to a place closer to God through love.  Love is not just kindness.  Kindness is the desire to relieve a suffering while love is the intentional willing of another's good.  Agapic love is never about a "concept", it is always about another.  In agapic love, you find your true self in giving yourself away.  Your love is overflowing, restorative and forgiving.

Sound good?  OK.  How?  Great question.
Here is my free and friendly advice.  In your life, in your relationships and in your actions, if you make selflessness the ultimate desire of your intentions, than you will find that the loving choice is easier to find.  You see, I can say that I love you but as we all know, love has very little to do with words.  Instead, it is when we fix our lives on achieving the ideal of Agapic love, we find direction, meaning and satisfaction in our lives and relationships.
Finally, to nail this down, let me just say this.  Choose any situation in our world, community, politics, religion, relationship.  How different would the situation be if all of the decisions that were made came from the concept of Agape?  Does this sound WAY TOO IDEALISTIC?  Maybe, but isn't what it could be worth loving each other enough to find out?

Peace and Love to You.
Music for January 31st
Processional - Standing on the Promises -
Offertory - Oh, What He's Done For Me -
Communion - Prayer of St Francis -
Meditation - Instrument of Peace - 
Recessional - Great Is Thy Faithfulness -

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Making a Statement...Music for January 23-24

Hello St. Francis.

I must admit that there are not very many things that really "fire me up".  with most things that annoy me, I can pretty easily dismiss them.  I try to take most of the little aggravations that life throws my way with a grain of salt.  This, I have learned, can be frustrating to people who do not deal with these situations in the same way I do.  I get it and I'm sorry, but, it works for me.  As I look at those things that I have a more difficult time "going with the flow" with, I recognize that most of them are centered in hypocrisy.  Now that REALLY frustrates me.  I should clarify here.  People often say one thing and do another.  Though it does aggravate me a little, over the course of my life, I have come to understand that all of us try to deceive ourselves about some things and that as we grow in wisdom (if that is our choice) that many of these things become apparent and we work towards fixing them.  What really gets me is the more systemic, social or societal hypocrisy that is so easily sold to us by so many with an agenda, or who in their futile attempt to be "politically correct" spew statements and advocate for behaviors that are just not good or right.

I must say that I purposely attempt in most cases in my life and in my writing on this blog to not make sweeping generalizations and of course, even if this sounds like one, I am well aware that this is not a 100% always type of thing.  Nonetheless, it still "gets my goat".

In the Gospel this coming Sunday, Jesus makes one of his first real statements.  He looks around a silenced congregation and basically tells them that the promise of Messiah foretold in the Book of Isaiah has been fulfilled in their presence....BANG!!!  The people must have been stunned.  The leaders must have been scared or angry or jealous.  Immediately, the campaign to reshape this statement into one that could be beneficial to them was already being spun.  Jesus, in my opinion, became the enemy of the religious and political leaders of his time mostly because He never shied away from making a statement that made those who were filled with hypocrisy really uncomfortable.

 As a result of the hypocrisy being slammed into our society, and especially into our young people, they have come to believe that this is the way it should be.  Now, that is what gets me fired up.  The fact of the matter is that even today, people are uncomfortable with the truth.  People sometimes don't want to be told that there can be and is a different, a better way.  Why?  It messes with the social structure that has been created to sell our young people on a self-centered, egotistical, consumerism that lines pockets and encourages us to live only for ourselves.

Jesus never had an issue making the difficult statement, the one that rocked the foundation of any self indulged person or organization.  We too need to find the courage to make a statement.  You see, it is ok to say that you believe in, follow and live your life by faith, (whatever that faith may be).  It is ok to stand up and say that Jesus' message of love, mercy and compassion is a better way.  It is ok to say that living selfish lives that tear a person down and make them feel less beautiful or less worthy is not the way our culture should be.  It is ok to witness to the difficult teachings of Christ and live our lives centered in the joy of the good news.

We are often told that we are called to a "radical" faith.  I am convinced of two things about radical faith.  First, a radical faith never discriminates or closes doors on anyone, regardless of their beliefs. Second, we are called to make a statement.  Our statement should be based on conviction of faith and the joyful love of the Gospel.  We need to dismiss the notion that evangelization is not politically correct because it forces people to challenge themselves to be more than our society calls or wants them to be.  When we live as Jesus would have us live, our statement does rock the foundation of our hypocritical society and offers an opportunity for all to see life as a gift as opposed to life being about the gifts you receive.  So, be radical in your faith, proclaim it and live it out fully, unabashedly, knowing that your statement may be the one that opens the eyes of a person who seeks truth.

Music for January 23-24

Processional - Open the Eyes of My Heart -

Psalm -

Offertory - The Lord Is My Light -

Communion - Holy/How Great Is Our God -

Recessional - Our God is Here -

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Living the Dream...Celebrating the Mission of Dr. King - Music for January 17th and 18th

Hello St. Francis,

So, our country is preparing to celebrate the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.  I must selfishly admit that I love this holiday because it means a long weekend. (and I need a long weekend) But, for some reason, this year I have found myself really thinking about what Dr. King lived and died to proclaim to the people in our country.  Our world is certainly in a place where we are hypersensitive to say the least about people of different races, faiths, lifestyles, etc.  Over the next few days we will again get to listen to Dr. King's words and hopefully be inspired by his belief in his dream.  What an amazing dream it is too.  A dream that envisions all people regardless of their differences walking hand in hand unified in their humanity.

Now, it would be naive to think that our country, let alone our world is even close to fully living that vision, although, from time to time we do catch a glimpse of what it "could be".  If you are a member of the St. Francis De Sales community, I think it is hard not to see or feel a particular peace or welcome.  We often say that we are an open and welcoming community and we are, but, what does that really mean?

If I may, one of the qualities that I truly admire in Jesus is the fact that even though his contemporaries and even the biblical authors would consistently define others by their race (Israelite and Samaritan) or by their occupation (poor fisherman, tax collector, Chief Priest, Prostitute) or because of the particular culture of that time when women were seen as less than their male counterparts, I don't ever remember Jesus judging a person by any of those characteristics, but rather, by their hearts, their love, their kindness and dare I say their potential.  I often think we miss the mark in understanding the labels placed on those in Jesus' time.  You see, it is great that Jesus would have dinner with the tax collector and save the prostitute from stoning but the question I pose is this.  Did he have dinner with the man only because he was a tax collector or would he have entered the house of anyone seeking the truth?  It is great that Jesus saved the prostitute but did he only save her because she was a prostitute?

I think Jesus' and Dr. King's message is being sold short.  Today, we announce with pride at the top of our voices that we should celebrate our differences.  We ask people to categorize us and accept our differences.  Instead, I think the message is that when I look at you, I don't see our differences, I don't need to treat you differently, or with extra care because you are of a certain culture, religion or lifestyle.  Instead, we should look at each others as what we are, brothers and sisters.  You see, when I hold the hand and walk in solidarity with you, it's not about a cause, it's not about two people saying, "Look how different we are but we can still walk together", The dream, I believe is when our "differences" are meaningless.  When we hear Jesus' words that he spoke over and over again that He came to live in the hearts of all, I think he meant it.

So, this week, as we continue to try to live the dream, instead of accepting or even celebrating our differences and therefore categorizing others, maybe we should just walk together in solidarity as human beings, created by the same God (no matter what name you happen to give Him or Her) We are not different, we are unique.  We are not a statistic in a category, we are part of the human race, all created in God's image and all doing the best we can to "Live The Dream".


Music for the weekend of January 17 and 18
This week we will be singing a few of Dr. King's favorite songs.  What beautiful messages they proclaim.

Processional - Bless That Wonderful Name -

Psalm - Sing A New Song -

Offertory - Precious Lord, Take My Hand -

Communion - Day of Peace -
                       We Shall Overcome -

Meditation - If I Can Help Somebody -

Recessional - Halleluya! We Sing Your Praises -

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Adding our imagination to the scriptures...Music for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Hello St. Francis.
This week, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus...Boy how time flies, it seems like just last week He was just a baby and now he is all grown up.  For many Theologians, this event marks the moment when Jesus realizes exactly who he is and what he is destined for.  The Gospel of Mark basically begins with this event.  Regardless of when exactly Jesus knew what his mission would be, this moment is one that can be lost in "Divinity".  By that, I mean it is easy to look at this moment when the skies open, the dove descends and the voice of God is heard and think..."WOW!!!"  but, if I may interject an opinion here, I think that looking at this event as a GOD THING kind of separates us from a very HUMAN thing that, at least for me, brings a greater understanding of Jesus the man and even more importantly, Jesus the member of a family.

Now, as I often tell students who study scripture, sometimes we need to sweep away the "GodSpeak" and use our imagination, intellect and own personal experience to color scripture with the human qualities.  So, to this end I offer you a scenario.

John the Baptist was Jesus' cousin.  many believe (like most cousins who live close to each other) that they were childhood friends...maybe even best friends.  Think about the relationship, the trust, the love that we all have for that special friend in our life.  We know that John's parents were older when he was born and we also know that Joseph was not around at least when Jesus was 30 so, could I infer that during the most difficult times of losing their parents, they probably were there to support each other, to lift each other up, to be loyal friends.  I can even imagine these two young men sharing their most intimate thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams with each other.

So, John is given a mission to proclaim that one "mightier than he" is coming.  Do you think he knew it was his cousin?  John was selfless, trusting in God's plan, passionate and driven to complete the work he was meant to do.  Jesus, who may have known that John was speaking of him, comes to him to be baptized.  John says to him: "You should be baptizing me"  and Jesus replies "Let it be done this way".   DANGER - GodSpeak.  So, how would you imagine that conversation going?  I think it was more like this.
JOHN: I know that you are God's son.  Why are you coming to me?
JESUS:  John, you are my best friend.  You have been there for me through every good and bad time.  Something miraculous is going to begin now and there is no one on this earth that I would rather share this moment with than you.

There had to be emotion.  There had to be love. And then, "The Voice of God".  Question.  Did Jesus really need to hear the voice of God tell him who he already knew he was...or...was that voice really meant for John?  In our humanity it is impossible not to have any doubt.  Was that voice to reassure John that his faith, his love and his ministry have been placed in the right place.  Could it be that the voice of God was just Jesus' way of saying thank you?

The story will be read again at every church this weekend.  Maybe, if we allow the person Jesus to enter the story, his family, his love, his past and his future, we will recognize this moment as more than an event in Salvation History, but, an intimate moment between two cousins, two best friends who love each other and wouldn't want to be anywhere else but together.


Music for the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 9-10...Sing Away!!!

Processional - Rain Down -

Psalm - 29 -

Offertory - The Lord Is My Light -

Communion - God With Us -

Recessional - River of Glory -