Monday, December 31, 2012

New days ahead...

As the frivolity and (often) insanity of this evening looms I am pressed to consider what is different about my life from New Year's Eve one year ago. Although I am a sinful person, often flawed in horrific ways, I can see a few positive lights from 2012:
  • I seem to be more keenly aware of my own sin. I do get to "confession" more often.
  • I am more reflective and habitually "examen" (for St Ignatius fans) my day.
  • Even though I get myself involved in many more "social justice" causes I am keenly aware of my inability to solve these problems.
  • My study of the 2nd Vatican Council has opened my eyes and my mind to the great hope and possibilities that lie ahead if we only read and follow the Documents.
  • I am much better at living life one day at a time instead of by weeks, months or seasons.
As I look to the days ahead I would like to:
  • Be better at keeping a journal - I have started and stopped this process so many times it's embarrassing. 
  • Always be reading at least one book for recreation and enjoyment. 
  • Become more "quiet". I love the silence of early mornings, of empty chapels, and of deserted parks - "in the silence, God speaks".
  • To respect the way God created me (diabetic) and to live my life in obedience to that nature.
  • To listen.
What about you? What's different about you from a year ago? What will be different in the days ahead?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Les Mis

If you haven't seen the new musical movie "Les Miserables" do yourself a favor and get there. The story, which has been told in many movies and plays, is timeless. Although set in France in the early 19th Century, the themes are relevant to our day today.
For me, the most moving part of the story is when Jean Valjean is released from prison (19 years for stealing a loaf of bread) and, after experiencing much rejection and mistreatment, spends the night in the rectory of the Monsignor (Bishop, in some adaptations). After Jean steals the silver tableware from the rectory and is caught the Monsignor has mercy on him. The police are ready to send him right back to jail but because Jean has told them that the items were a gift, they take him back to the rectory. The Monsignor tells the police that the items were indeed a gift and he is so glad they brought Jean back because he had forgotten the matching candlesticks. This one act of mercy becomes a profound experience of conversion for Jean Valjean. He tears up his parole papers and begins his life anew.
It brings tears to my eyes every time I see that scene. The healing effect of mercy versus the harsh and unrelenting consequences of the law - a great lesson for me in my ministry to the inmates in the jails and prisons right here in South Dakota.
Click here to watch the trailer.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas presence

My mother told me that Christmas was not a big day for presents in her family. They lived in the rural area around Sisseton, SD where their father attempted to make a living as a farmer. He was a bad alcoholic and never had much success. Their mother did as well as she could for them at Christmastime but, with little money or other resources, the kids usually received just some hard candy and an apple.
One Christmas, when my mother was about ten, she received a real present - the first doll she had ever owned. She told me she adored that little doll and took it with her where ever she went. She combed its hair and dressed it up and played with it everyday. A few days before Christmas the next year her mother came to her and told her she had to give the doll back. It was her sister's turn to have a toy. Amid tears, she reluctantly surrendered the dolly to her mother. She was so heart broken that she was sure this would be the worst Christmas ever. And then she saw how much excitement and happiness her sister experienced upon getting that present.
Even though she only 11 years old she learned an important lesson. Christmas is not about what you get, it is about what you give. When they went to Mass on Christmas morning she said that, for the first time in her life, she understood the sacrifice that God made in sending Jesus to us on that first Christmas Day. She finally realized that true Christmas joy came not from presents, but from the true presence of Jesus Christ at Christmastime and every day.
This story has taught me much about what is important in life. I give thanks to my mom for always making Christmas, regardless of the presents, a time of realizing the true presence of Jesus Christ in my life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We wait, we need

We Need In the Niel Diamond soundtrack of Jonathan Livingston Seagull there is a song called "Dear Father" that I find inspiring. As I was out for my walk today I listened to it and thought about how appropriate one of the verses is for Advent. The verse goes something like this:

Who are we to need?, We need, we need,
While we wait...

As I pondered the answer to that question I wondered; "what is it that I need?" I could think of many material things that I think I need but that would only complicate my life, like more money, nicer vehicles or fancier clothes. I sometimes think I need more time, more intelligence, more capacity to think and discern and pray. But all of those things presume that God somehow made a mistake when creating me - a theological impossibility.

What I need (and maybe what you need) is union - union with God. God has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in God (to quote St Augustine). And what better time to wait for that need to become better fulfilled than Advent? We wait in hope. We wait in expectation. We wait in anticipation. For what? The coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Watch, wait, hope, and realize your need. And who are we to need? Sons and daughters of the Dear Father.