Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Church is Not Principally About Exclusion & Judgment: Good News from Mexico

Bishop Raul Vera Lopez, of the diocese of Saltillo in Mexico, preached a homily on March 27 in which he told gays and lesbians (as well as the rest of the world), "The church is your home....[because] Jesus founded the church to bring in those on the outside, for those suffering exclusion and that they find the love of God."

Right there, the good bishop pinpointed the church's core mission, a mission that often gets lost when canon lawyers and those in the hierarchy campaign (in effect) for a spot in the Roman Curia:  the church's chief job is to celebrate and embrace the love that God has for every human being, and to open the door for individuals to come into relationship more and more deeply with God's love.  That's what Christianity is supposed to be about.  Too often, sadly, that's not what happens.

Bishop Lopez (who also supports the legalization of civil unions for same-sex couples in Mexico) provides hope not just for people who are GLBTQ, but also for all Catholic Christians who are waiting for signs of progress in the church.  I'm convinced that--no matter the short-term conservatism of Benedict XVI and the men he appoints--Bishop Lopez respresents the direction we'll see the church moving in over the next fifty years or so.  There is cause for hope.  

[Hat tip to Deacon Greg Kandra for linking to the article from U.S. Catholic.]

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust -- and That's Just Fine

Due to my work schedule today, I wasn't able to make it to an Ash Wednesday service.  That's fine, though, for I was able to find a couple pockets of time today for some good reflection and prayer, and I feel like my Lent is off to a good start.  (Most years, I end up not really getting started on Lent -- ashes on the forehead on Wednesday or not -- until a week or so has gone by, and by half way through Lent, I've usually written it off as another failed part of my so-called Christian walk.  Just have to be honest about that.)

This year, however, I made a brief detour so as to drive through a cemetery near where I work.  It was, roughly speaking, the equivalent of having ashes imposed and hearing someone tell me, "From ashes you have come and to ashes you shall return; repent of your sins and live the Gospel."  (If it had not been so cold and damp, I might have climbed out and walked amongst the graves for five or ten minutes.  I may be a strange fellow, but I've always found cemeteries to be exceedingly peaceful places.  Nothing like the common human fate to lend one perspective on the foibles of daily life.)

I remember reading once that Jim Carrey, early in his career, at a time when he wasn't successful at all and could barely pay his bills, wrote a check to himself (undated) for a million dollars.  He believed in his future success; he promised himself he would be able to cash that check some day.  It's good to believe in yourself that way, I suppose; it's healthy to give yourself goals.  Yet my occasional trip through a cemetery has a somewhat analogous purpose in my life -- and I do not mean this in any morose way, not at all.  But the truth of the matter is, I am sure I will die some day, and I will be completely dependent at that moment (and for all of eternity, yes indeed!) on the grace and great mercy and love of God.  So when I trip through the graveyard, that is sort of my own simple way of saying, "I'm one of you; here too lies my fate; and yet there's a resurrection awaiting me some day as well, even if these stones seem incredibly solemn."  I'll be worm food or ashes in a blink of an eye.  And yet God's love ever surrounds me; I am, through Christ's loving substitution of himself for me, God's darling one.  (Yeah, honest, me.  And you too!)  Proud indeed to be in this club, this group of souls who are not forever confined to this world, even though it's a great place to be for right now.  In a bit (a few decades? a few years?) I'm out of here and on to more of God's love.  Amen.

Happy Ash Wednesday and a good Lent to all.