The Roman Catholic Church in The Bahamas is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope. The diocese was elevated to a full diocese, as the diocese of Nassau in June 1960. On June 22nd, 1999, the diocese was again elevated as the new Archdiocese of Nassau.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lenten Mission 2012 Day 2

Theme: Near occasions of grace.

Topic: To Be Creatively And Intelligently Foolish (be a sign of contradiction); Not to Be Afraid

When we allow ourselves to be caught in a rut or a trap, or to be carried by the current of apathy or boredom, we need to break free. Lent moves us towards attraction where there was distraction, re-appointment where there was disappointment. Do not be like the pastor who wouldn’t wake up one Sunday morning. Are you programmed? We find ourselves exposed to that one free gift that will make the whole difference; the gift of GRACE. We are easily distracted, we’re easily disappointed, and so we need to move beyond that programming, we need to wake up.

We’re created in the image and likeness of God, therefore we cannot be all bad, and yet we forget that. We come from God! If we take it upon ourselves by virtue of our Baptism to preach the good news, act the good news, be the good news, we will change the tide, but we have to believe that. We have to know deep down into our heart that the good news is stronger than the bad news.

Bad news sells, but you can make a difference by changing the headlines. Proclaim the good news, with your words, but more importantly with your deeds and your behavior. On Easter Sunday we’re going to celebrate the greatest news of all; the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We need to engage the simple pleasures of life. If you want to be part of the movement of the good news find the pleasures that we are allowed, and there are many, and delight in them, indulge in them, engage them. Why would you give me a gift if I cannot enjoy it?

On our second night of Mission we move to another permitted pleasure, the pleasure of being creatively foolish. Scripture speaks of being fools for Christ, to be creatively foolish. Have you ever been called foolish? Begin by taking the gospel serious, then someone will call you nuts, crazy, foolish. Why, because GRACE is a totally different language than the language of the world. For example, if the world tells you something is up, GRACE comes along and tells you that it’s down. If the language of the world tell you success is going up, the language of GRACE (the language of the gospels) tells you success is going down, until you fall on your knees looking for feet to wash. They will call you foolish because the language of the world does not understand that gesture (to wash someone’s feet; are you serious?). We are to be fools for Christ sake, as St. Paul says. Again, if the language of the world tells you that success is to have more, the language of the gospels that tells you to let go and drop what you have and follow me, don’t cling to anything. Embrace it, but don’t cling too much. Embrace it with a relaxed grasp, if it goes it’s not the end of the world. They call that foolish language for the world.

The Gospel reading today talks about the washing of the feet. To link the permitted pleasure of being creatively foolish, from yesterday's session with today's permitted pleasure, St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits use to tell us to engage our imagination, allow it to go wild. As the prodigal son from yesterday's Gospel returned home can't you see the father kneeling to his returning son and washing his feet, removing the dust off the journey. I am your servant, let me wash your feet. The father cared only that his son was back home. The language of the world calls that a foolish act. Try washing the feet of your visitors as they enter your home. Can you do it? It would not be easy to keep your head down I'm sure. You would want to look up to see who's feet go with which face. It would be tempting to skip a few, and  that’s why we need GRACE. When we allow GRACE to come to our assistance we stop looking up. We call it loving your enemy. It’s the most difficult exercise and practice for us, "people of the good news."

An expression of being wonderfully foolish:

I use to love to stand in the rain
Today I was caught in the rain
My head tilted back, my mouth wide open
Smiling in delight as your tears filled my mouth
And flooded my soul
But now I’m too old, I’m too busy
I’m too important, it’s too cold
I have an important call to make
Your water might ruin my shirt
The mud might stain my shoes
Please keep waiting for me oh God
Cloud shaper, keep waiting for me
Until I become a child again.
So we can play once again in the rain.
For children, let the rain fall.

To be wonderfully foolish is like a child playing in the mud. It's a beautiful thing to see, a game for the child, but a disaster for the mother. The child doesn’t care, the child is being creatively foolish. “Please keep waiting for me oh God", to become a child again so we can play in the rain once more, laughing and splashing in the pure delight which is you. Amen.” It’s amazing what a little child does. Allow the children (the three and four year old's) to be your teachers. They have no worries because they’re doing beautifully, foolish acts (foolish being used in a positive sense), something the world does not understand. Jesus uses a child often in the Gospels to explain that “unless you  become like a little child (playful, silly, from time to time), you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We need to be reminded when we are trapped in our head.

The language of the world does not understand the Kingdom of Heaven, which is about relationships. As a child we always colored outside the lines and was praised for such a wonderful piece of art by our parents. They are even plastered on the refrigerator. As we start growing older, we have to start making sure it’s all within the lines and if it’s not, you throw it away. You don’t even show it to anyone. It stops being your work of art. That’s when we start believing that our sin is bigger than GRACE. The time has to come when we have to be free enough to color outside the lines once again without guilt and without shame. We call that “becoming free sons and daughters of God."

In the Gospel of Mark 3:21 the family of Jesus said that He has gone out of His mind. Going out of ones mind can also be termed, being foolish, being silly, being crazy (but using it positively), or there is an English word “bunkers” or nuts. They thought Jesus was going out of His mind because He was doing things that was against the grain. Those of His time were saying “this is it” while Jesus was saying “no, this is it”. They crucified Him because His language was too much.

We are called to speak a different voice. And if you speak that different voice the world is going to call you crazy, fool, nuts. We are called to speak the prophetic voice; in virtue of your baptism you are a prophet. And we are called to speak the mystical voice. By virtue of your baptism you are called to be a mystic. They have reduced being a mystic and being a prophet to the few special people somewhere. The mystical vocation is for all of us to find a way how to say “yes” to life in all its forms. And the call of the prophet is, and that’s the call for all of us, whenever that life and love is threatened the prophetic voice will say “NO.” So the mystic voice will say “YES” whenever life shows us and the prophet (each one of us) has to learn to say “NO” whenever that voice is threatened. Do not be afraid to say "I DO NOT CARE", because I believe there is life in what I am saying. I’m not saying what I am saying because I want to be liked, but rather because that’s the truth, that’s what gives life.

“Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans; it’s lovely to be silly at the right moment” (Quote by Horace; ancient wise man of old)To know when to speak the foolish language that won’t surprise people, but also to know when to move to the other side. An example from the life of Jesus: Remember when Jesus teaches that very strange foolish act “if someone hits you on the right check, turn the other cheek.” So Jesus was presenting us with something that if we did practice it the rest will call of foolish. But listen carefully, fast forward a little bit, during Passion week; what happened to Jesus, what did the High Priest do to Jesus? He slapped him on the right cheek, but guess what? Jesus did not turn the other cheek. In other words, there are times when you have to stand up and speak to a deeper truth. If I did something wrong, tell me where. That’s the prophetic voice speaking; but if I did nothing wrong why do you hit me? So yes, you speak the voice that’s going to make us all crazy, but then at the same time Jesus is not expecting us to be door mats. No, you are a person of dignity, you are to be respected. That passage has been abused.

Here are ways to embrace and live day by day with this beautiful gift of GRACE we’re calling “being creatively foolish.” To make space for GRACE to penetrate.
 Enter life every morning knowing that  your small hands are resting on a bigger palm. As scripture says: “I have carved you on the palm of my hand.” (A little girl went with daddy to the grocery store, and when they were done shopping the cashier man at the counter looked at the little girl and told her to take a handful of candy from a candy jar that was on the counter, but she didn’t. Then he told her again, but she still did not take any. Then finally the man put his hand in and pulled out a handful of candy and gave it to her. The little girl and her daddy left with a big smile on her face and daddy said, he told you twice to take a handful of candy. Why didn’t you? She told her father, his hands are bigger than mine. We often hear that beautiful song: He’s got the whole world, in his hands. We could learn a lesson from that little girl, she knew what she was doing, she knew she rested on a larger palm. We should approach life like that. I come in with my smaller hand, but I know there is a larger hand that will shower me with GRACE. 

 Pray for the gift of faith, pray for the gift of trust. Charles Blondin, born in the 1800’s was one of the most renowned tight rope walkers. He crossed the Niagara Falls on a tight rope on more than one occasion. The story is told like this: Blondin’s greatest fame came in June 1859 when he attempted to become the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over a quarter of a mile across the Niagara Falls. He walked across 160 feet above the falls several times, each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet! On one occasion though, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. A large crowd gathered as he pushed a wheelbarrow from one side to the other blindfolded. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls! He stopped and asked the audience if they believed he could carry a person across in the wheelbarrow? The crowd enthusiastically shouted, “YES," of course you can. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. You can do anything!” Okay, said Blondin, “Anybody?” The story is told that no one did! It is said that one person finally approached and got in the wheelbarrow; it was his manager. Are we the crowd or are we the one person that jumped into the wheelbarrow? Faith, Trust are not verbs that the world uses, and if we say that we are people of faith, that we are people that trust in someone who is larger many people are mocked. People laugh at us, because we are the fools for Christ. That’s why people are afraid to speak faith in certain circles. That’s why people are afraid to speak God in the office, or to do the sign of the cross. What a beautiful symbol, but do you know that doing the sign of the cross has become a sign of foolishness for many, it has become something that many don’t do because they are afraid, whether it’s in the restaurant. Are we ready to jump into that wheelbarrow? 

To fall in love. What a strange way to speak about love. It’s a FALL. Have you ever heard anyone say “TO RISE IN LOVE.” In the eyes of many today, falling in love is what? Foolish! Falling in love like Jesus falls in love with each one of us is not an easy practice in the world we live in. And sometimes falling in love asks of each one of us, you know how best to love someone you love sometimes; is to step back, is to allow. If you love someone, say it, and say it often. I love you!. Say it often because people forget. A story is told of a couple married for 25 years. On Valentines Day the wife says honey you don’t say you love me any longer. He looked at her and said “I told you 25 years ago that I loved you, when I change my mind I will let you know. More than just saying it, we forget to show it. At wedding celebrations when it is said that the husband and wife leave mother, father and family so that they become one; I can never become her and she can never become me, so what does it mean? See if this is foolish: I love you so much, that I am going to give you all the space that you need, in which you can freely grow and become the best husband you can become. And the husband will tell his wife I’m going to give you all the space you need in which you can bloom and become the best spouse, the best wife you can become. That’s becoming ONE. Allowing the other to grow to his and her fullest potential. That’s what God does with each one of us. He allows us to fall and stumble even if we make mistakes, and get up again, keep trying, keep going, we will talk more about this tomorrow. 

 A poem about love:
You say you love flowers and you cut them
You say you love fish and you eat them
You say you love birds and you put them in cages
So when I say you say you love me, I’m afraid

We force our views and whatever we like on one another, yet we think we’re loving each other. So many fights happen in families because of trivial matters. If only we put in there how to step back, but the world does not acknowledge stepping back; that’s the foolish suggestion of the Gospel (STEP BACK, allow, be patient, don’t point fingers, don’t judge, retreat). If we do, we risk pulling them off their roots, we risk consuming them like we eat fish, encaging them like we do to birds. We must remembering that you are human and that they are human, and that there is GRACE. 

Another story about love:
A couple was enjoying one another’s company. The wife was knitting, while her husband was drinking a glass of wine. All of a sudden the husband says “I love you” and the wife says: is that you or the wine talking? and he says to her, "it’s me talking to the wine."

We've all heard that scripture verse 1 Corinthians 13 “Love is patient, love is kind…etc, etc. If you want to see where you stand in this beautiful opening for GRACE take the text in 1 Corinthians 13 and once a week check. This applies to everyone, even those vows “I will take you, I will embrace you in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health. They are not only for married people, but rather for everyone. If you want to embrace life you have to embrace it in good times, bad times, sickness and in health. We’re engaged to life.

Same thing with God. Theologically we call Him "the God of the Covenant." Again that’s a word that does not make sense to the world. The word “Covenant” simply means to let me your ears, the promise of presence. I promise to be with you until the end of times. Think of God telling each one of us “I’m with you in good times, in bad times, in sickness and in health. That’s the God of the Covenant. We call that GRACE,  a gift freely given; a gratuitous gift.

Referring back to the washing of the feet, Jesus was doing a gratuitous graceful act. In the middle of the meal Jesus got up, got the towel, knelt in front of them and started to wash their feet. Jesus was not doing anything useful or anything functional. You have dirty feet? Let me clean them. Jesus was doing something that was purely gratuitous. Jesus was not washing their feet because they were dirty, but rather because He wanted to wash them. In the eyes of the world that’s a foolish act of love. I don’t need a function to do it, all I need is a foot. A foot that is not shy, a foot that allows me to pick it up and embrace it and wash it. And just imagine, it took place in the middle of the meal.

Being generous is also a foolish act in the eyes of the world. In other words, approach life with a big heart. We are created in the image and likeness of God, so from time to time ask yourself: “is my heart generous enough.” Or I’m I still excluding him or her because I don’t like him or her. I’m I still keeping someone out from my circle of compassion (and please don’t feel bad if you are still keeping someone out), that’s why we are given a gift of a lifetime, GRACE. To be generous, not only financially even though that can be the easiest way to be generous, especially if you have the money, sometimes. You can give someone more of “the benefit of the doubt.” That’s why Jesus said, and we still don’t get it “DON’T JUDGE.” Keep your lips as close together as possible. Often it happens through gossip. If the world tells you to gossip, and gossip some more, the Gospel comes and says “NO” and that is why it is foolish. Do not bad mouth your neighbor, but rather love your neighbor, give him/her the benefit of the doubt. To the eyes of the world this is foolish. If you are tempted to say something about someone, ask three very simple questions: Is what I am going to say true? Is what I am going to say kind? Is what I am going to say necessary? If it passes those three tests then go right ahead and speak it, but if it fails any "one" of those tests then you should swallow what you're about to say and keep it to yourself.

Another short poem that comes too mind by Edwin Markham:

“He drew a circle and shut me out Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle that took him in”

Do not be afraid to be generous in life, to be foolish in the eyes of the world, knowing that GRACE is bigger than all the fears that may stump us from speaking a different language.

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