January 17, 1988 Come Lord Jesus, I need your presence. Come Lord Jesus, help me overcome the turkey I try so hard to make of myself.
I don't really mind stepping into holes and falling flat on my face Lord. I just can't stand the hurt I bring to people I love so much when I am the one falling. You know I keep forgetting I am not an island. I mean everything I do affects not only me, but others. Usually the others around me are the ones I most love. Isn't that the truth for all of us. Do we surround ourselves with people we hate. No, most of us don't, most of us want to be in the presence of people we love and people that love us. So when we screw up who do we hurt? Yeah, right. Who else but the ones we love.
Now I do not think you or I would ever set out to hurt the people we most love. And after all we don't physically hurt them. I mean nobody ever gets hit. Oh sure we threaten and we yell and it's just words. Just words.
The problem with just words is that they never go away. Physical pain heals. I know words are supposed to be forgotten. Are they ever, really? How do you forget someone you love making you feel like you're shit? How do you forget making someone you love feel that way?
You see, Lord, that's what I mean when I fall as I often do, I seem to always try to hurt someone else. Sometimes things get so pent up inside I just need to explode and so I explode at the ones I most cherish and love in the whole world. Why Lord am I like this? Shucks, Lord Jesus, it doesn't matter why I am like this. Please change me. I cannot be that way any longer. I will not be that way any longer, I am a Christian! I will be a Christian! I will be!
I love them so much that in their love I will find strength to change. You gave me their love as a gift of strength from you to me. I accept. Between your love and theirs I will be better than I am. I will be what you created me to be.
I know there is a fair chance I will fail again. The longer I go between failures the stronger I am getting. Failures are becoming less frequent because I am trying so very hard not to fail and you are responding to my trying with additional gifts of loving strength. I will refuse to ever quit trying. I am a man. I am a loving creation of my God.
While my words of hurt will never be forgotten by myself or my loved ones, my actions are creating new and better and even more permanent memories. I can only hope my actions will shout my love so much louder than my words shouted my inner turmoil.
Lord Jesus, please help me be a good husband. Lord Jesus, please help me be a better father. Lord Jesus, please help me be a better man.
January 18, 1988 Have you ever noticed that some people manage to smile constantly? I mean even when they aren't physically smiling, you just know they are laughing inside. They never seem to be down. Now I know that these people must have bad days. Heck, I've had terminally bad years. Sometimes these people seem never to have had a bad moment.
I can't help but feel a little bit envious. I remember when I was a freshman at Georgia Southern College which was then a small college in far south Georgia. I remember arriving there with about $35 in my pocket and no paper work to support my claim that I had some kind of student loan waiting for me there. I thought it had all be taken care of. Well I got there and there was a room reserved in my name but I couldn't stay there because I was a week early. The Dean of Students could not believe I had actually come all the way from the air base in Michigan that my father was stationed at to attend college there. I told the Dean my father had stopped by about six months earlier to arrange for the loan. The Dean politely replied that he vaguely remembered someone with my last name stopping and talking briefly with him. He also informed me that as of that moment I had no prearranged loan. You see no papers had been filled out. Nothing had been followed up on. He said not to despair but to come see him on the first day of school.
Not to despair? Wow! I'm 18 years old and in a strange land with no place to stay and very little money in my pocket.
I walked over to the local Catholic church, being the good Catholic boy I was, and in an amazingly few minutes I am telling my problems to the pastor. He was a wonderful big jolly man. Father Loftus. Father as I later found out was a Glenmary priest. That meant he lived in the far south teaching about Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith. So what? Hey in 1963 Catholics in Georgia were sometimes as acceptable as black people never were, blacks were more acceptable in Georgia then because they at least knew their place. Upstart Catholics seemed to think they were human beings with rights. Father Loftus had built a small community and although it was a struggling community, I have never forgotten what that community shared with me.
Father Loftus was one of those happy people I spoke to you about earlier. He immediately got on my case. I was reminded not so gently that I had a place to sleep - at the mission there, I had plenty of food - at the mission, I still had my money-the $35, and most of all God loved me and would take care of me. Father Loftus said very clearly to me, John, stop worrying so much. You do your part. Let God take care of the rest. It has taken me all my life to understand what that beautiful happy man was saying. Then at age 18 I was scared to death. Even now at 43, I still haven't learned to accept the wisdom of what Father said that day to me.
I have to tell you very clearly that Father was right. On the first day of registration I went to the dean. Dean Holcomb, I think, said that I qualified for a national defense loan. I signed the papers and he sent them to Michigan to my parents for their signature. He advanced me the money until the paperwork was completed and I went to college.
The older I get the more difficult it seems for me to really believe God will take care of me. Yet when has God failed me? Now I'm not asking when have I failed God, you see, but, rather, when has God failed me. You and I, we fail God every time we reject God's love. We fail ourselves every time we don't give God the opportunity to love us. Every time we reject God's loving ability to care and take care of us, we are choosing to reject God's real presence in our life. God's presence in our life is real. God will take care of you and me. God will provide for our needs. You know the old saying, you gotta do your part. Well just what is your part? Boy have I given that some thought. What am I supposed to do? When have I completed my part?
When does God get to do his share. He sure has a lot more power than I do.
And that is the answer. God has more power than you and me, so what is our part? Well I think the most important part is to keep on trying. It's that simple and that hard. Simple because all we have to do is try to do the best we can all the time in every circumstance, and is that hard! Yeah and what's even worse, we never are finished doing our part. I have to tell. You we have to try from morning to night and night to morning of every day of our human life. The part is never finished. I guess we could substitute the word believing for trying because if we really believe, we really will try. God does his part no matter if we are believers or tryers. God does his part because God created us and dwells in each of us in the most personal of ways.
Sometimes we have to back off from trying so hard to allow God a chance to do. That is not to mean we quit trying and leave it all up to God. That is not what Father Loftus meant at all. What he was saying to me way back then was that I had done what I could. I had journeyed to Georgia in faith that somehow, someway money would be provided for my education. I had been provided with my immediate needs through the church. Now relax a moment and let God do something. I'm not sure I relaxed but God did do something and God had been doing things in my life ever since.
I met a Glenmary priest recently and he was one of those smilers. I mean this guy radiated happiness. You know, I'm sure glad there are people like that around.
January 19, 1988 Peace and justice have become important issues among a certain group of church workers. This particular group of people include protestant and Catholic ministers, Catholic sisters and some lay people who are active in various church ministries. Peace and justice have become almost their battle cry. Sometimes when an issue becomes a battle cry, it also becomes less clear, even sometimes distorted. Often the issue becomes more of a personal vendetta than the real and important issue it is.
I would like to offer some thoughts on peace and justice.
What does peace mean? Perhaps peace means living in a way that allows you to be yourself and still finds room for someone to live in a different manner as your neighbor. Perhaps peace means caring so much about yourself that you have no problem accepting others as they are. I think peace also means allowing others to be different from you even when you disagree with that difference. Peace is a way of living in harmony with one another. More than that true peace is a way of living in love with your fellow man.
You know accepting the way someone is does not mean that you must choose to live that way. Peace is not just someone else allowing you to be yourself. It is also not just you allowing them to be themselves. Peace is not an isolationist relationship. Peace is reaching out and helping yourself and your neighbor not only in times of need, but in ordinary situations.
You can clearly see that peace is not unlike love. True peace is real love. True peace is understanding and acknowledging God's law to love your neighbor as yourself.
It is always from peace that justice must come. Justice forced on someone is not justice. Justice that forces peace is not justice. True justice must always come from peace.
Justice is choosing to do, say, and be what is right. What is right is not that which sometimes pacifies the situation. What is right is that which takes into account the love of God for God's people.
My wife and I are in the position of applying for a job in the church. We were asked by a pastor to apply for a certain position. Before even talking about what the job entailed in detail, before we had time to consider if we were comfortable with applying for this position, the pastor rather nervously told us that the position paid $16,000 per year. I think this is a good place to try and explain justice. This position that we were being asked to apply for was in south central Florida in a high cost of living area. The church had at least 1,750 families and was growing steadily. The average weekly income as reported in the Sunday bulletin was around $5,300. Now our last position in the church had been a similar one only at a church in mid-state New York with 1,100 families. That church had a weekly income of around $3,500 and was located in a high unemployment area with a similar cost of living. Our salary there had been $101,000, should the salary in both places be the same?
Now they way we look at it is that the salary has nothing to do with our decision to accept the position. You see, the amount of money that is to be paid to us is the employer's problem, not ours. I can hear the protests coming. Hold on and check out what I'm saying. Now we are looking at a job in the church. I would like to think that the pastor is a just man. If he/she is, then quite clearly it is his/her responsibility to provide an adequate salary for us. The pastor knows what it cost to live in that area. The pastor knows what the income of the church is. The pastor knows what the expenses are, what the job entails, what the church can afford. Who better to trust than the pastor ? Our decision is clear. If this where God wants us to be? A secondary question might be, is this pastor a just man?
Now it is another thing entirely to deliberately accept a position that you know cannot afford to pay you a just wage. My wife and I once worked a whole year on $110/month salary each. That particular church as it turns out, not only could have afforded more, but did not appreciate the volunteers they did have. The point is, we accepted the offer to work there for a certain salary. We were reasonably aware of what we were doing. We expected to be loved once we got there and it hurt more than we could ever voice to be treated by the church members there as not only we were, but all of the volunteers there were, no volunteer in that parish was loved or treated with love. The way the volunteers were treated there certainly was anything but just. The wage was just. It was just because we knew what it was and still we chose to accept the position.
If there was a place that offered us the opportunity to minister and could afford only to provide us with room, board and maybe hospitalization; as long as we felt God wanted us to be there, we would go. If that was the case, the offer would certainly be just.
Now there is no question of the parish in Florida having a need. There is no question the Florida parish will be able to find someone for $16,000 to minister to their need. It may even be us. There is still a question of a just salary. Perhaps the salary in New York was unjustly high, we didn't think so at the time. It was right at the average wage for the average working person in that town.
Recently I heard of a man whose legs were cut off by a train as he lay on the tracks in front of the train. He was lying there to protest what the train represented and what the train was carrying. The train was carrying a nuclear weapon. He was aware that this terrible thing or worse might happen to him. Afterwards he returned to the scene to show I think that nothing, even the loss of his legs was going to deter his protest. I'm positive this good man had good intent. If a person believes that by sacrificing his/her body physically for a just cause, does that make the action right? Well I don't think does. It is an especially wrong decision when by sacrificing a part of your body, you are putting in jeopardy your God given gift and ability to earn a just living and provide for your family. I guess the real question is to what extent are you ready to go in order to pursue justice. When does the pursuit become as important as the reason for the pursuit? When the results of your actions would seem to have little or no effect on the outcome, no matter what you do, sacrifice, or no matter how well prepared you are, I think it is time to question the action. This man's sacrifice of his legs made some headlines. It did not stop the train. It did not stop the train from carrying nuclear weapons. It did not deter the weapons maker from making the weapon. Now, very sadly, less than a year from the time this took place, the public in general isn't really interested in what happened, in fact, viewed by many well meaning people as one of those peace and justice advocates.
If you really want peace and justice, then there are many things you can do that will show the true intent of your being. There are many actions that require only your love that would reveal your true intent. This is where you find real justice. This is where real peace is. Loving your neighbor as yourself. It's that simple and, as I have said before, it is just that hard.
True peace comes only when you are willing to reach out with your love and allow the love of your neighbor to come bursting forth. True peace comes from caring for the people that no one else cares about. Justice is opening your home to the homeless. Justice is finding ways to help people with AIDS. True peace comes from doing what you can effectively do even when it costs you money and "friends". Justice is providing for the needs of your family and the needs of your neighbor. Peace comes only when an individual is willing to risk taking meaningful action-that can result in justice. I don't think we should spend so much time worrying about the causes of injustice. I think we should be so busy doing things to correct unjust situations that we will not have the time or energy to worry about why it exists. I think it is in the correct and just and loving way we handle the so called little things, like providing food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, jobs for those willing to work, the things that are all around us and do not get headlines, caring for people with AIDS, and more; it is in the doing of these things that true peace and justice will come about.
Peace and justice do go together. It's just that peace only comes from love and, justice comes only from peace. Both come from loving God enough to love your neighbor as yourself" remember just as love is doing, peace is doing and justice is the result of peace!
January 20, 1988 Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, so goes the song. It takes only a very small thing to make me happy. I don't even know what that thing is. I only know whatever it is, it comes to me when I most need it. It comes upon me when I least expect it. Sometimes it happens when I want it to, but most of the time when it happens I am very surprised.
This morning I was depressed and tired. I have been that way so much lately, not without some real cause. This morning my wife was angry, depression makes anger easy. This morning as my wife and I worshiped our God at the celebration of the Eucharist, there was present a woman whose mind was so troubled so as to make her seem tormented. After mass, I returned home and I put on my daughter's headset and turned the radio on. I was not seeking God's happiness or anything other than distraction.
Quicker than I can imagine, incredible wonderful sounds began filling my head. Sounds of glorious music exploding in both my ears seeming to come from the middle of my being filled me. I could not help but listen to the words. I heard people singing of God's love for me. Before I was aware of doing anything, I had begun to sing. What I began to sing was glorious odd, glorious God. And I sang and I cried and I was happy. I had accidentally? turned on the radio at the exact spot of a Christian radio station. Considering the radio belonged to my ten year old rock and roll daughter, you can imagine my surprise at spot where the dial was set.
When I least expected it, God's love was there for me. It reached out and picked me up and lifted me to joy. God's love uplifted my very being so that for a short few moments I was alive and well and one with my God. I am grateful.
Sunshine on my shoulders, yes, this sunshine as all sunshines are, was God's love outpouring and filling me.
I don't know how to tell you to find what I was given. I don't even know if you can, at least not in the way I found it. I know beyond a doubt it is there for you even as it was and is for me. I know God's love will uplift and support and fulfill you. Perhaps you have to ask for and want it and be willing to receive it. Yet, it came to me as it almost always does, when I least was ready for it. It came when I least expected it to come.
There are those that will tell you it is there all the time for each of us. I'm sure God is there constantly always for each of us. I'm also positive that it is in these special moments like I shared with you, that we are most aware of the uplifting nature of God's present love in us.
It takes so little to make us feel happy, to feel special. These moments are unforgettable. Maybe we should find a way to open ourselves to moments like that more often.
Perhaps all it takes is for each of us in our own way, to ask God to come into our life...and really mean it!
January 21, 1988 Jesus Christ was a man, fully and in every way a man. Jesus Christ was the son of God, completely God become flesh and blood. Jesus did not have to prove anything to anyone. Jesus chose freely to come and live as man among men. Much has been written of his God being. I'd like to offer some observations from this man about that man.
People seemed almost compelled to be with him. Grown adult men changed their life on the spot, instantly for him. Often he did not even need to ask men to follow min and yet men and women came and followed Jesus. Consider Peter must certainly have had a family. He made his living by fishing. Peter dropped everything in his life to follow Jesus. Later on Matthew did the same.
Jesus associated with all kinds of people. He visited and ate with the very wealthy; yet, Jesus seemed most at home with the ordinary fellow, the guy who worked for a living. Jesus was very much at ease among the poorest of the poor. He numbered among his friends, prostitutes, fishermen, tax collectors, and just plain people.
Even though Jesus did not marry, he did seem to like the ladies. Mary Magdalene certainly seemed to be a special friend of our Lord the man. I think Jesus really liked Martha. I think Jesus was a man that liked having women around. On the other hand, I don't see Jesus as a women's libber simply because Jesus the man liked everyone and would never have considered discriminating against anyone.
It is said that Jesus loved John. I imagine he did. John was known to have had a special love and devotion to Jesus. Jesus loved everyone no matter if they loved him or not. I find no wrong in the fact that it was known that Jesus loved John. I mean I have a tendency to have a special love in my heart for people who openly love me. To look for something ugly in any relationship is abhorrent to me. Jesus the man could never have any kind of a relationship with anyone ever that did not fully exist in love.
You see Jesus the man was the perfect man, Jesus was God become flesh. Jesus was God. God is love. Jesus was true and perfect and limitless love become flesh.
Now let us not forget that Jesus the man had a temper. Remember his actions in the temple, the perfect temper under perfect control. You say Jesus wasn't in control of his temper in the temple? Oh no? Just think what an angry God might have done. Poof, no one is there anymore. Jesus the man had a temper, exercised it in control, and I think felt better for letting it out.
Jesus had a sense of humor. Now maybe he wasn't a stand up comic, but, I just know he had a hearty laugh. He was quick to smile, especially around children and older people. Oh how Jesus loved children. I think Jesus definitely chuckled one or two times after the resurrection when he was among everyone and no one recognized him.
As a man, there is no doubt that Jesus felt every inch of each nail as it was driven through his flesh. His pain was intensified because he, Jesus, was very much aware of what was going to happen to him. He was aware of the rejection, the humiliation, the betrayal, and yes even the physical pain of being crucified before, during, and after it happened. Jesus knew pain. Jesus did not like pain. Jesus the man did not want the pain, Jesus the man was committed to the pain.
Jesus had a flesh and blood mother and father. His mother carried him in her body for the same amount of time and in the same way that you and I were carried by our mothers. His father as with most of our fathers stayed in the background and let Jesus be who he was. I suspect that Jesus learned to be a carpenter because his earthly father was a carpenter. A carpenter was then as now, a working man.
Jesus the man was real. He did not tell dirty jokes or get drunk. He did not do drugs. As with any real man, it simply wasn't necessary. Jesus knew who he was and why he was here. He never lost sight of why he became man.
I love Jesus the man. I love Jesus the God. I cannot separate the two. I am so glad that he was a man. I am glad I am a man.
January 22, 1988 Money is a god. I hope it isn't my god anymore. I'm sorry to admit money was once my god. I used to get down on my knees and pray to my "real" God for money. Sometimes I still do. Not nearly as often, thank God. Money, just think how important it is to you. Would you have food without money? What would you have without money? Clothing? Car? Stereo? Sex? Just what exactly would you do without it?
Maybe like many other people, I do not have the answer. I do have some questions.
What church can do without money? Do you know anyone who lives just on the love of God? Doesn't everyone need money? Isn't money the most important thing in the world?
Look at the people that do have money. Who do you know that has money that is giving it away? What church can you tell me about that after it has paid its operating bills gives the rest of its "surplus" money away? I know, show me a church that has surplus money. You know, I bet I could.
If money isn't so important, why do we need it so? Why do churches not give away money to those who have none? If people are more important than money, then, why are there hungry, homeless, and deeply in debt people? If people were really that important, then other people would put them first. I mean people and people's needs would come before money. I don't think that happens often.
What about the so called charitable organizations? St. Vincent DePaul Society and other "Christian" organizations exist solely to help others. Don't they? Do they give everything away when they see a need? Of course not. That's stupid because then they wouldn't have enough saved to meet someone else's need. So the person they help is grateful because whatever they were given was more than they had. The fact that there basic need was not met and they ended up not much better seems to be of no consequence.
Well, I can see that you don't have the same understanding of money that I have. I mean you take care of your needs and do what you can for other people. You work hard for your money and you have a right to spend it any way you wish. It's not your problem there are hungry, homeless people. If you give all you have away then you'd be hungry and homeless too. What's more you resent what I have said. There are jobs for people who want them. If we hadn't created the welfare system we have now in this country, well, maybe the problem wouldn't be so bad. What can you do about it anyway? One person can't make a difference. Besides we've all heard this before.
Well my friends, the love of God is much more important than money. If I have to prove it to you, I can't. If you need it proved to you, maybe you need to consider what you are. What you are, my friend , is a creation of and by the love of God. Without that love you would not exist. Money cannot buy that love. Money cannot buy creation. Never, ever does any life begin unless the loving Lord God is present and wills that life into existence. Doesn't matter if that life is begun through the union of a man and a woman or in the test tubes of a scientist.
The question of money is absolutely vital. We do need money to exist. I wish it were otherwise, but, it is not. Money is like the fingers of a person's hand. What a person does with those fingers can be wonderful and have far reaching effect. It can also be vile and ugly and have far reaching effect. The fingers on our hand were part of our human creation. They are good and have usefulness. Can you say the same for the money you have?
Even when I had money I did not use it properly. Now properly doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to you as it now does to me. Some people would say, did you save your money? Some would ask, did you invest your money in a good home, a good car, a good education, a good stock? The better question would be did you share your money with those less fortunate than yourself? Not only did you share, but did you do so because you loved and cared for that human being? Was the little you shared given only because you felt an obligation to share something? Did you always look after yourself and your family first? Do you pride yourself on that fact? Do you think it would have done your family harm to one have done without so that another family might have had? Let me ask you again, did or do you use your money properly?
Jesus Christ said love your neighbor as yourself. I have searched and searched and nowhere can I find Jesus saying look after yourself first.
As strange as it seems to us "Christians", that is not just the law that Jesus brought to us. It was the law of God from the beginning of time. Nowhere does God say look after yourself first.
Sometimes I am torn apart trying to understand how God could expect me to love you when God doesn't seem to have provided me with the means to even take care of my own. Poppycock! God gave me you. God gave me to you, for you to take care of, when I am in need. Period! God gave you to me, to take care of, when you are in need! Period! That is the bottom line. I think that you and I have to take full responsibility for the hungry, needy, homeless of the world. If we do our part, there will not be hungry homeless people. They will be eating our food, sleeping in our home and if they do end up with more than you and I have – so what. It will be just their turn to love us.
Hey I hear you. You try living like I am suggesting and no lie, the world will fall on you and you will be buried so deep you might never find your way back. I know. I speak from first hand experience.
Money is not God. There is one God. God is love and you were created by and from God. God is part of you and you are a part of God. You do not owe God, and no, God doesn't owe you. You were created in love and from love and that love remains with you forever. It is in that love you can find the answer to money in your life. You need to start by accepting that love. You can do nothing about money or anything else until you accept God's loving presence in your being.
Well, I hope I have given you something to think about. Even if you don't want to, even if you don't like what I have said. What part does money play in your life? Do you worship money? Do you worship God?