Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Where Do You Hear The Voice! of God?

I have for years contended that there are many secular songs that can be perceived as songs of love from God to us if you listen with the Ignatian view that you can find God in all things.  In fact in certain cases I would contend that the songwriter's intention was to leave it open to that broad interpretation when he/she wrote the song.  Many of the band U2's songs have that impact of double meaning, on one level a love song and on a deeper level a song of searching for a deeper relationship that goes way beyond human love.

I have always had a very special affinity for "You Got Lucky" by Tom Petty.  From the first time I heard it, many years ago I have thought that it could be heard as a love song from God.  Perhaps my feelings were colored by the fact that at the time I was a lonely college kid who didn't have a date in sight and was looking for love from someone, and found consolation in the thought that God would always love me and I was truly lucky that God had "found me".

The other night when I was watching my new favorite competition show on television:  The Voice! on NBC,  I had another AHA moment about a song I have probably heard hundreds of times sung by Keith Urban, but on this particular night it was sung by an 18 year old woman.  The song is Stupid Boy,   and it turned into an entirely different song, about losing faith instead of just losing a girl.   It gave me chills.

I don't know why this surprises me so much.  I have always felt that You'll think of Me,  by Keith Urban is a song about turning  away from God.  We can move away, but we can never get so far away that we don't have that thought of God in the back of our minds no matter whoever else "arms" we find ourselves in.

So there are many songs that bring me to thoughts of God,  okay so no matter how masterfully it is sung,  I will freely admit that "Baby Got Back" doesn't have anything to redeem it,  but then maybe someone else can find the God-ness of that particular song.

What secular song makes you think of God in a way that takes your breath away?


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Opportunity Comes from Circumstance

This morning the priest who was supposed to fill in for Fr. Tim for daily Mass didn't show up.  This was the Middle School Mass, so the Principal of  our school frantically tried to find the priest, but when he realized that there wasn't going to be one available, he went to "plan B" and prepared for a Communion Service.

Sadly this isn't the first time we have had to do this since our sudden pastoral change, but in today's case it turned out that the lesson that the kid's got in lieu of a homily was really great, so while it might not have been a best case scenario,  our principal did make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

The Gospel for today was John 6:35-40

Jesus said to the crowds,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
But I told you that although you have seen me,
you do not believe.
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”

He got eleven of the kids from the school to come to the front of the church. One young man he blindfolded, and the other ten he asked to stand randomly between the young man and the other side of the church.

Then he told the blindfolded young man that the other young men and women represented land mines. Would he rather try to get to the other side of the church on his own or with the Principal's guidance. Of course the young man chose to be guided by the Principal.

The Principal then guided the young man through the "land mines" to the other side. He then spoke for a while about how the students, especially the Eighth graders would soon be moving out into the world where they would find many "land mines" that would be dangerous for them, but Jesus promised them that if they believed in Him and were willing to Follow Him, He would not leave them and although it might be hard, they would be able to get through anything if they would put their trust in Jesus.

He then asked the blindfolded young man to trust him, and without touching him, only by following the sound of his voice, the Principal lead him back through the "land mines". Each step was taken very carefully, and with each step the Principal gently said "follow me" so that the blindfolded young man could follow in the direction of his voice. He came close to a few "land mines" but never bumped directly into one.

What an awesome visual message. It isn't always easy to follow Jesus, but if we listen carefully He will lead us in the direction that we are to go.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This is the Reality

I read recently that Michael J. Fox's foundation is pouring millions of dollars into embryonic stem cell research to combat the Parkinson's disease that he has been living with since his early thirties.  He is hoping to find a treatment that will extend his life by twenty or thirty years, and possibly even a cure.  My problem with this is,  at what expense?

The reality is, people die; and some people die young. My father died at the age of 48 of brain cancer. If there were a treatment available for my father that involved the destruction of human embryos, I know for a fact that he would have refused it. There is no way that he would destroy other lives to stay alive one more day.

We are not guaranteed that we will live to old age. We don't have the right to stay alive at any cost. Selfishly we all want ourselves and our families and friends to live long lives. The reality also is that the world is full of incurable diseases, and there are just some things we should not do to try to cure them, such as use the bodies of unborn children as research material. We can only prolong the inevitable for so long anyway.

 My mother suffered for nearly twelve years from alzheimer's disease. What was once a vibrant, intelligent woman became a helpless shell who could no longer do the simplest tasks for herself. Yet, I would no sooner wish that Alzhiemer's reseachers used embryonic stem cells in their search for a cure for this horrible disease than I would wish that my mother had been hooked up to Dr Jack Kevorkian's little machine with the "get me out of here" button so that her life could have been ended sooner than later. While to some her life may have seemed meaningless, to me it had dignity and purpose until such time as she died not by some artificial means but when she died because it was her time, as she did last August.

In point of fact the only real success that has been achieved with stem cells in treating disease has been with adult stem cells.  Embryonic stem cells are too erratic (or so says Dr. Oz, of Oprah fame) and unpredictable in how they grow and change.

One of my close friends who was struggling with Multiple Myeloma was being treated with adult stem cells.  He had tried two types of adult stem cell transplants (one his own cells and one from a donor- his sister)  in his efforts to beat back this disease. After four years,  he lost his courageous fight with this disease at the age of 57.  I am sure that if they offered him a chance to try an embryonic stem cell treatment he too would have refused.  

Life isn't fair, we aren't promised a certain quantity of years.  but we can control the quality of the years we have.


Friday, May 06, 2011

Love and Death And Winning at Tickle Tiger

 When we were growing up we would play this game called Tickle Tiger with my father.  We would all crawl around our rather large living room.  Dad would roar and chase us and if he caught us he would tickle us until we were giggling little slugs rolled into tiny balls on the floor.

For my sisters and brothers and me, it was the best game in the world.  Dad was a really big guy, over six feet tall and had played football in high school and college.  He had an amazing laugh that could make us laugh even before he got close enough to us to tickle us.   Dad would play until he had rendered us all senseless.

Sometimes mom would join the game.  When that happened dad would chase mom behind the couch, and it would become very quiet.  Eventually we would climb up onto the couch to look and we would find them; mom wrapped in dad's arms and they would be kissing.

Once when my younger brother Matt was three and we found them behind the couch he said " Dad you don't 'posed to kiss her you 'posed to tickle her, silly."  But I was six and much wiser and I knew that our game of Tickle Tiger was over, and mom had won.

My parents had an amazingly loving relationship.  They produced nine children, and were never embarrassed to show affection in front of us.  They often sat at the table in the morning over one last cup of coffee before dad had to leave for work holding hands and chatting about nothing in particular.

When I was 12, my dad got sick and a very tense year later died of a brain tumor.  My mother suddenly had to become totally chaste, not by her own choosing, but because of a circumstance beyond her control.    I had always hoped that she would find love again, but she always maintained that there was only one love for her in this world.    For the next 38 years she lived waiting for the day when she and my dad would be united once again.

When my mom died early last fall  (just days after her and dad's wedding anniversary) she was reunited with my dad.  They are buried together in a military cemetery, which means they share the same burial plot and headstone with dad's information on the front and mom's on the back.  When she was buried I could imagine dad's arms outstretched waiting to wrap them around mom in a loving and eternal embrace.  They are together forever.

I miss mom every day, but when I think about how they are buried, in that loving embrace, I realize that she is exactly where she has wanted to be for a really, really long time.   I know she is happy there.  The game is over,  mom has won again.

Happy Mother's Day mom.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Dear God,

When Alex Renton an atheist came home to find his daughter had written this letter:
rather than shrug it off he handled it this way:  
This is the text of the letter from a most surprising source:

Dear Lulu,
Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –
‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.
Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.
But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’
And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.
I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lots of love from me too.
+Archbishop Rowan  (Archbishop of Canterbury)