Tag Archives: hope

Reading and the Encouragement Of a Friend When Needed

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This is going to a weird post. It is mixed with various emotions, feelings of failure, abandonment, physical disability, frustration with a system, and yet another loss of a friend. It is also a reflection on my love of history and wisdom from the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the midst of a crisis that threatened the fate of the entire country and its citizens. In his first inaugural address he noted: “Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

It has been a hard few days, and for that matter the last decade or so and I am exhausted. I didn’t post anything for two days because I was too tired, so I finished reading Doris Kearns Godwin’s book Leadership In Turbulent Times. I am glad that I did because I have become quite discouraged about all the things wrong with my knees, hips, ankles and other medical problems; weight gain from being unable to do what I like doing (walking and running); and frustration with the delays in care I experience with Navy Medicine. I am physically broken as well as spiritually and emotionally depleted. I feel crippled.

The book deals with the lives, points of crisis, and leadership of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. It is worth the read, for all experienced failure and when in office had to deal with issues that threatened the Nation itself.

I am struggling at the end of my military career of almost 38 years. I was beginning to have quite the pity party. Not to say that I am not struggling, I have been feeling like a failure of late, crippled and useless; but Goodwin’s depiction of Franklin Roosevelt’s continual battle with Polio and the way that he kept a positive outlook and encouraged others, in such a manner that what would have kept others from any kind of success. The key to his success was investing in others and making a connection with people no-matter where he served.

Late last night I got a personal message form one of my sailors, at the time a young enlisted man expressing his care for me and Judy. It ended up in a conversation and it made me think about what Roosevelt did with others. I expressed my real gratitude to him, he has a good heart, and cares for for people, probably better than I do, and I told him that. His care for me made caused me to reflect, I have felt like a cast off from the Chaplain Corps for years, yet here was a young man remembering me from service together that began in 2001, and he took the time to encourage me when I was down. That’s the way Franklin Roosevelt dealt with people.

I began to think about my my knees and having to use a cane to keep me stable on my feet. I figure if Roosevelt could find ways to succeed and not let himself slip into self-pity, then maybe I can too, no matter what goes on with my knees. My young friend reminded me of that. He also reminded me that care for people was why I am here.

Likewise, yesterday I was down about the death of my friend Father Jim Parke. Father Jim was the kind of man who never knew a stranger and for the last 16 years of our lives he has been there for us in times of difficulty and joy.

To my friend Marc, thank you. You made my day last night, and Father Jim, my friend thank you for years of friendship, and Rest In Peace.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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God’s Will?

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The late Father Andrew Greeley wrote, “We are born with two incurable diseases, life, from which we die, and hope, which says maybe death isn’t the end.”

With Judy recovering from her surgery and things looking much more positive than a few weeks ago I have been doing some reflecting. One thing that really impressed me was how Judy handled this from beginning to end. She was concerned and worried much of the time, of course, when you get diagnosed with Cancer you should be worried, because you never know what course the disease will take, and what might even happen during surgery or subsequent treatments. I know people who thought that they were on the way to recovery who died unexpectedly due to an adverse reaction to chemotherapy.

That being said Judy never asked “why me?” nor did she attribute this to “God’s will” or try to rationalize it by saying that “God was testing her faith” or any of this other quasi-providential but really fatalistic bullshit. Her reaction to this mirrored much of what I believed when I returned from Iraq when there were times that I easily could have been injured, wounded or even killed in incidents that were all too similar to others who were injured, killed or wounded. Of course here I am referring to visible physical wounds, not the Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury that has so messed with my mind. Like Judy I never asked “why me?’ of attributed what happened to me to being “God’s will” or the “providence of God.”

I tend to agree with Confederate Colonel William Oates whose 15th Alabama fought so bravely and unsuccessfully against Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine at Little Round Top on July 2nd 1863 at Gettysburg. After the war, Oates, who was a Christian, reflected about God’s role in the battle and noted that he believed that God, “endowed men with the power of acting for themselves and with responsibility for their acts. When we went to war it was a matter of business, of difference of opinion among men about their temporal affairs. God had nothing to do with it. He never diverted a bullet from one man, or caused it to hit another, nor directed who should fall or who should escape, nor how the battle should terminate. If I believed in such intervention of Providence I would be a fatalist….”

I apply that to all of life, I do not believe that God intentionally afflicts people with disease, or directs events so they are killed. I don’t believe that it is God’s will for people to suffer from terrible diseases or directs bullets, speeding cars or other things which kill young men and women, children or other innocents.

I know that from the beginning of time that people have attributed things that they cannot endure to God, the Devil, or in some cultures gods and devils, or even to attribute such things as God’s punishment for the “sins” of individuals and even their descendants. I know that helps some people, sometimes I think even some of the writers of scripture to frame suffering; as a whole people need to credit or blame someone for terrible things that happen.

I cringe when I hear people say that they are suffering because it is God’s will, or that God is testing them, or I see something that a terrible natural disaster that kills thousands of people is an “act of God.” To be truthful I cannot believe that God is so cruel and capricious to be in that kind of business, and if indeed God is really that way I would rather be an atheist than go to seek a heaven ruled by such a being. And yes, I know that as a Christian that this puts me in a minority. I simply believe that as Jesus so wisely noted that “the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike,” in other words that it is called life, or the human condition, and all of us have to deal with it. To be somewhat crude I believe that shit happens and we have to deal with it.

I cannot imagine a God who wills, plans, and condones genocide, slavery,Infanticide, wars of aggression waged in his name, and every imaginable form of suffering known to humanity. I cannot image a God who so so earnestly believe inflicts such grievous suffering on his children. If we were to apply the standards of justice that we apply to human fathers who abuse or kill their children to God we would do ourselves good and we would probably lock him away for consecutive life terms, but our human need for explaining this prevents us from asking hard questions to the God that we claim to believe. Mark Twain wrote: “The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it, protect it from hurt, shield it from disease, clothe it, feed it, bear with its waywardness, lay no hand upon it save in kindness and for its own good, and never in any case inflict upon it a wanton cruelty. God’s treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of all that, yet those best minds warmly justify these crimes, condone them, excuse them, and indignantly refuse to regard them as crimes at all, when he commits them. Your country and mine is an interesting one, but there is nothing there that is half so interesting as the human mind.”

That being said I do live in hope, which is a part of my faith, a faith which is in things that I cannot understand nor can I prove. In this I do believe that God somehow gives people, even people that religious people call “non-believers” a grace to deal with tragedy, illness, suffering and death. I have to believe that because I have often seen non-Christians endure suffering and tragedy with a grace that many Christians, intent on finding a biblical or theological reason for such events do not display. When I think of this I am reminded of Jesus’s remarks about the Centurion who asked him to heal his servant and when Jesus offers to come tells Jesus that he is not worthy for Jesus to come under his roof, but to only speak the word and his servant should be healed (Matthew 8:5-13). The interesting thing about the passage is that the word used for servant is a Greek word for servant which only occurs once in the New Testament, the word Pais. In ancient Greek literature the term denotes a homosexual relationship, that of a man with his houseboy. In other words, Jesus healed a Roman, gentile, pagan Centurion’s homosexual lover, and had the nerve to say that he had “not seen such faith in Israel.” Since the writer of Matthew used the word Pais instead of the word doulos for servant it had to be deliberate and he had to know what he was doing, but I digress…

While I do not believe that God directs or permits death and suffering, I do believe that God is not absent in suffering that people endure, that God “Emmanuel” is with us, all of us; that God suffers with us, for that is the message of Jesus, the crucified one. I also believe that God who is with us, weeps with us as well as rejoices with us. That may not be a good answer for some who want to prove that God is behind everything, nor for those who do not believe in God at all.

I’m sure that some will consider what I wrote today as blasphemy, but then I have to agree with Mark Twain who wrote, “Blasphemy? No, it is not blasphemy. If God is as vast as that, he is above blasphemy; if He is as little as that, He is beneath it.”

Have a great night,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Another Year: Politics as Usual but Hope Still Abounds

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“We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!” Governor William J. LePetomane (Mel Brooks) in Blazing Saddles

Over the cliff we went last night and like clockwork our politicians finally got a partial deal on the Fiscal Cliff done. At least they did in the Senate. The House is another matter.

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The deal didn’t make anyone happy, and maybe that is a good thing. If the House passes it this afternoon the one thing it does promise is that these same politicians will be taking us off another cliff at the end of February since this deal simply pushes the hard decisions of budgetary cuts. Of course cuts have to be made as well and some will be painful. However, truth be told the vast majority of these politicians and their backers don’t really care about the deficit so long as their interests remain funded and their special interests satiated.

Unfortunately the bitter and divisive political climate will probably ensure that we will go through at least two months of partisan posturing and struggle, mostly funded by outside special interest groups, political action committees and supported by the lobbying of think tanks.

But in the end I think that far from displaying any moral courage that our elected officials will simply act like Governor LePetomane and o what they can to protect their jobs.

Another year of the same old stuff probably accentuated by diplomatic, military, economic crisis’ as well as natural or man-made disasters. Oh well, we have gotten through times like this before, sometimes not very well but we have muddled through. So I guess that we will again. Thankfully baseball spring training is now but a month and a half away. Until then I have plenty of Star Trek the Next Generation, Boston Legal, Seinfeld and Ken Burns: Baseball to watch. I also have plenty of books to keep me busy. I am currently reading T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom and I have a backlog of other books to get through.

I guess that I will also keep abreast of our political mess and world events. But I won’t let them overwhelm me or cause me to despair as I have too much in my life that is good and see too much in this world that is good and fair. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in Lord of the Rings:

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.” 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The 2012 Election: I Hope…

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Vaclav Havel

I hope that no matter who wins the Presidential election that somehow we as a people will be able to lay aside the hatred of the past four years and work together for the common good of all of us…

I hope that people who were friends and family before this campaign began, but have cut ties with each other will be reconciled to one another…

I hope that whoever wins will win in a manner that is clean and undisputed and that there are no controversies that tie up the courts, the electoral system and emotional energy of the country…

I hope that whoever loses no matter what the electoral race or political party will be gracious in defeat…

I hope that whoever wins, no matter what the electoral race or political party will be magnanimous in victory…

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the hatred, arrogance and pettiness exhibited by so many people of every political party, but even more those that call themselves “Christian” and I hope that Christians will finally demonstrate actual love and grace in dealing with people that they disagree…

I hope… I guess that means that I haven’t given up…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Advent and Incarnation: Merry Christmas!

“It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush…” Andrew Greeley

I really do love the seasons of Advent and Christmas.  This year it has been so busy that Advent has gone by way too fast. Advent which begins four Sundays before Christmas is the season of preparation, it is the season for the Christian of the promise of Christ, his coming in the flesh or “Incarnation” being born of Mary and also his coming at the consummation when as the Creed says “He shall come again….”

Advent is a time which has pretty much been stomped all over by the religion of commercialism and its high holy day of Black Friday which falls the Friday before Advent begins.  However it is really important if one wants to comprehend the full religious significance of Christmas.  It helps the Christian place Christmas in its appropriate context, not as “Jesus’ Birthday party” where we wear a little button that says “Happy Birthday Jesus” but that day where God became human as Paul wrote so eloquently:

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Gal. 4:4-7) 

In the fullness of time…Advent helps point us to that time when God humbled himself to become a human being.  It is the time where in an ideal world we would slow down just a bit and begin to prepare ourselves for his coming. However our culture often with the blessing of Christians and the Church has eliminated that time of reflection.  It is a time where God not only makes us his children but his brothers and sisters and I think even more importantly friends.

Advent as a season is a period of patient expectation, a season of hope in the midst of despair. It is the message that God still cares and that what we wait for is not far off, the nativity of Emmanuel, God with us which is expressed so well in my favorite hymn of the season O Come O Come Emmanuel 

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

The Irish singer Enya has a wonderful version of this song which I have placed the link here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPHh3nMMu-I&feature=share

German pastor, theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison in 1943

that “A prison cell like this is a good analogy for Advent: one waits, hopes, does this or that—ultimately negligible things—the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside.”

This year has been like brutal prison for many people and nations in the world. Wars, natural disasters, economic problems and political instability have caused much suffering.  Man’s inhumanity to man has been demonstrated time and time again by terrorists, criminals and repressive governments.  Our lack of control over nature as was shown in Fukishima Japan when a massive Earthquake and Tsunami destroyed cities and a nuclear power plant killing thousands.  At the same time we have seen the best people rising to meet disaster and persecution, poverty and unrest with courage, faith and mercy motivated by love in the face of death.  In spite of all, love still triumphs.

The Advent season which is now drawing to an end leads us to the hope of the God who chooses to be with us.  Tomorrow evening we celebrate when “the Word was made flesh and we beheld his glory.” It is a time when the world is reminded even in the most secular ways that God choses to be with us in the babe born in a dingy stable in a town that few cared about.  In that humble beginning God draws near to us and his creation.

It is a time to rejoice for Jesus the Christ is born.

Merry Christmas,

Padre Steve+

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Putting the World back in Order: Baseball Movies Tonight

“Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” Sharon Olds

“Don’t tell me about the world. Not today. It’s springtime and they’re knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball” Pete Hamill

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” Walt Whitman

At long last I have my DVD player hooked up and the news is not on in my island hermitage. The past few weeks we have seen the world going crazy. Earthquakes, tsunami, nuclear crises, wars and revolutions, political and economic instability are driving me fricking crazy.  I’m sorry but I don’t know about you but this constant torrent of bad news is really getting old fast and it probably isn’t going to get any better any time soon. That my friends is reality and reality can suck like a Hoover, or what the hell a Dyson or Kirby for all I care, it sucks.

But guess what friends we have seen times and events like this before, hell the 1920s, 30s and 40s were as bad or worse. That my friends is reality and it sucked then too. And you know something somehow we as a people got through it. We dealt with the collapse of Empires, revolutions, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, the Great Depression, World fricking Wars, natural disasters, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Tojo and then to top it all off the beginning of the nuclear era and the Cold War with the ever present threat of Mutually Assured Destruction between the United States and the Soviet Union. But somehow the world survived, don’t ask me how but it did, not without a hell of a lot of pain, suffering and distress mostly brought on by people but occasionally nature but it still survived despite our best attempts to blow it all up.

Somehow as insanely sucky as things are right now with all the hate, turmoil and catastrophe unless the Cubs win the World Series in 2012 the apocalyptic asses prophesying doom and the end of the world in 2012 be it secular, religious or some convoluted theory about why the world will end because the Mayans ran out of rock for their calendar I don’t buy it. Now if the Cubbies win the 2012 World Series all bets are off and you better look to the east because there is a good chance that Jesus is coming. Now was that a hell of a run on sentence or what. That was almost as good as a German theologian.

So we are bombarded with bad news at a cyclic rate and yes it needs to be reported and it is probably good that we stay informed. However all that we do is tune in to the news 24 hours a day or giving three hours a day every day to some radio talk show host or for that matter never turn our radio dials away from them we will not have peace. If all we do is listen, read and watch what all of them stir up every day anxiety then it is no wonder that we are so anxiety ridden and hate each other so much.

I know what constant exposure to this can do for a person, because before Iraq I was consumed by this insanity. However, I came back from Iraq and reprioritized when I found that I could no longer do three hours a day every day or for that matter three minutes with any of these monsters of the airwaves.

Let’s face it Americans have come to loathe each other because all we focus on is how bad everything is and how it is someone else’s fault be they a liberal, a conservative, a Socialist, a Tea Party Patriot, a Christian, Moslem, Jew, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or God forbid a Dodgers’ fan. We’ve divided ourselves in ways that haven’t been seen since the days before the Civil War, only now those visceral emotions are transmitted instantly through the television, radio and internet. Something has to draw us back to who we are as a people.

Unfortunately many can’t even find our peace in their faith because nutty extremists with all sorts of agendas from across the political spectrum have hijacked them so that preachers often have messages little different than pundits or politicians. As such we have become cynical, bitter and have lost faith in our political, social, economic and religious institutions and given them all into the hands of those whose chief desire is power.

So all that being said I am enjoying the hell out of two baseball movies tonight. The first was Mr. Baseball starring Tom Selleck as a New York Yankee slugger who is cut from the team and gets picked up by a Japanese team.  It’s a great flick and really shows some of the differences in the way Americans and Japanese approach this beloved game and how despite the different approaches how deeply it is ingrained in both cultures. Japan has suffered great calamity and we seem to teeter on the edge of our own calamities consumed in angst and for some anger.

The other movie that I am watching even as I write this little article is Field of Dreams a fantasy and allegory of baseball and life. It is a story that always gets me a story of redemption, second chances and hope, a hope that says “if you build it he will come.” We need to start building again; we have been tearing each other down for so long that we have left a tangled mess for our children.

I know for me that baseball is one constant that even when I experienced a loss of faith that left me a practical agnostic for two years after I returned from Iraq that brought peace to my troubled soul. The Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish was one of the only places that I could regain a sense of balance and life.

Yes there is a lot of tragedy and crisis in the world but in nine days it is opening day and the “Boys of Summer” will again step onto the lush green diamonds as the regular season begins. It is not a moment too soon. As Terrance Mann, played by James Earl Jones said so eloquently to Ray Kinsella played by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams:

“Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

Things can be good again, we just need to pull together and persevere and believe again. I think that baseball, this wonderful game that has bridged the gap between East and West, this game that is timeless in an age of real and imagined deadlines, this game that still inspires millions around the world, this game that allows us to gain dip in the magic waters of hope and life can be as Walt Whitman said:

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

We need to “hear the voice” again see what can be, we need to find our Field of Dreams and make it real.

Well the movie is ending and I have tears in my eyes, tears of joy as I watch Ray Kinsella “have a catch” with his father John on that magical diamond and long for the day I can do so with my father who is somewhere in that cornfield waiting to come out and play ball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Lenten Joy

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”  Karl Barth

“Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Lord deliver us from gloomy saints” Teresa of Avila


Today is the last Friday in Lent and one to reflect on something often forgotten as we get lost in the “necessity” to give up things or do more in our spiritual life.  As one who never enjoyed the Lenten season because I got lost in the legalism of it.  I would become more focused on setting up things to do or to abstain from that were unreasonable and bound to fail no matter how hard I worked to make them work.  Often these were practices that I gleaned from medieval spirituality which focused on the penitential and ascetic aspects of the Christian life which in retrospect only made me more miserable during Lent.  Since I already know that I am a screw up and not very good at many spiritual practices the added “disciplines” were a continual reminder of how screwed up I really am.  This got worse after Iraq dealing with PTSD and all kinds of other issues to the point that last year I did an “un-Lent Lent” avoiding those things but not being very successful in doing better spiritually.

This Lent has been about recovering Joy.  Yes Lent is a penitential season and yes I do examine my conscious and seek to ensure that I go to confession or penitential service.  In fact the acuity of my awareness has gotten better making this less painful than it used to be.  Knowing that I have been able, even when knocked on my ass by a nasty Kidney stone for almost a month have been able to gain something from my Lenten journey, something very spiritual which drew me closer to God and others without a lot of additional religious activity.  For the first time in my life I can say that I have enjoyed Lent.

Part of recovering joy in life is regaining the ability to laugh again and not just with cynical and sarcastic wit.  Instead I have been able to laugh about life, the good and the bad.  As Karl Barth said “laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.”

Laughter and joy have again become central in my life and I wonder how I lived during the darkest parts of the last two years when I despaired of life itself and wondered if God even existed.  Even with all the turmoil in the country and world, which I do take seriously if you are a regular reader, I have been able to live life, do theology, provide pastoral care and write and study history while living in the moment appreciating the grace and forgiveness of God and looking to the future with hope.  I know for some this may sound a bit daft, but I know that things are not great but I also know that somehow God and humanity continue to move forward in relationship to each other.

When I survey some to the pastors, teachers, and “theologians” in print and on the internet I wonder if they have forgotten the essence of life with God.  As the first question in the Westminster Catechism asks “what is the chief end of man?” The proper answer to this question is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Even the disciples of John “I don’t know how to have fun” Calvin got this one right.

Karl Barth hits the nail on the head in dealing with joyless theologians and pastors.  When I was in seminary and since I have ordained I am amazed at the number of joyless people in ministry.  I know that some people get treated like crap by their churches but to remain in ministry while hating it and loathing people strikes me as just sort of self destructive.   Likewise the “theologian” who loathes the work that he has been called to do and the people that he is called to serve.  Barth notes:

“The theologian who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this science. May God deliver us from what the Catholic Church reckons one of the seven sins of the monk—taedium [loathing]—in respect of the great spiritual truths with which theology has to do. But we must know, of course, that it is only God who can keep us from it.” Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II/1, p. 656.

To have joy in life and rediscover it in a season where even some of the most devout Christians what become immersed in tasks that are meant to bring them closer to God in fact serve to drive them away or become legalistic and unhappy seemingly incapable of knowing joy.  In “giving things up” they also give away the joy and peace of the Lord and the fellowship of his people. Joy should actually serve to remind us of, call us to and awaken us to desire.  C.S. Lewis talked a lot about joy and even wrote a book about it.  He noted in a letter that “All joy…emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.”

Lent should not be a season where we take the fact that there are no “alleluias” and that many of the symbols of faith in our churches are covered as being a season of sorrow.  If we allow it to become that we miss the point entirely.  The joy that should we experience in life with God and the people that he loves, even in the most mundane and supposedly “unspiritual” undertakings of life is something to be savored.  Joy is part and parcel part of the Christian hope, and merely the hope of the Christian but the hope of humanity in the midst of a world dominated by politicians, pundits, preachers and a media machine that do nothing to inspire but rather play on people’s fears and seek to drive wedges between people who depend upon one another. The Christian faith is about a future grounded in hope and lived in fullness bathed in joy because of what God has done in Christ, instead of dwelling on death it is fixated on life.   As Jürgen Moltmann said “the origin of hope is birth, not death. The birth of a new life is an occasion for hope. The rebirth of lived life is an occasion for even greater hope. And when the dead are raised, they enter into the fulfilled hope of life. The setting for learning hope in life, therefore, is the possibility of starting anew and a new beginning, the true freedom.”


I have entered into a period where I am again experiencing joy in the simplicity and complexity of life lived with people that I have come to love and with whom I hope to share a great future.  With real joy a part of my life I can look to a great future as I turn 50.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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