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Meeting Joseph at the Home Depot

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Homily preached at the Church of the Good Shepherd on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 19, 2010

Who is Joseph? When we look at the Holy Family, we see Jesus, about whom we know so much. We see Mary, who holds a place of honor in our hearts. But what about Joseph?

We know so little about him. But maybe we know more than we think.

We learn a little about Joseph in today’s gospel reading. Here we see a truly heroic figure whose courage is somewhat forgotten. (more…)

It is Finished

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

On the sixth of the Seven Last Words of Jesus (John 19:30)

Jesus cried out: “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he died.

But was it? Was it really finished?

Our Christian tradition teaches us that the sufferings of Christ continue in the lives of everyday people today.

Consider the sufferings imposed on those who are tortured, innocent people held in prisons and “detention facilities,” those who are starving to death, those without homes and who have lost limbs who continue to desperately rummage for food in the ruins of Port Au Prince.

And what of those who are enslaved, those who are persecuted, those who hunger and thirst for justice who are assassinated? What of the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement who were murdered in the South, innocent people blown apart in the subways of Moscow, the million people hacked to death in the Rwandan genocide, or the gay people of Uganda and Iran who face death today?

And today we cannot be blind to what we read about the escalating crisis of abuse in our Church, the tens of thousands of walking wounded of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil and who knows how many other places who were traumatized by priests, only to have their pain covered up by bishops and ignored by the Vatican? It was the great spiritual writer Romano Guardini who said that the Church is the cross on which Christ is crucified today. (more…)

New Book Trailer for Ascend

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Enjoy our new book trailer for Ascend! Pass it around, and let us know what you think!

“Go and do likewise”: Thoughts on Health Insurance Reform

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

“Sen Kennedy died Tues after lengthy brain cancer bout. Died sooner if he had had the #NHS #healthcare he advocated?”

That was a post that appeared on my Facebook page this morning. This was from someone whose annoying, Twitter-speak, bumper-sticker slogans against health insurance reform I had tolerated for months. That was the final straw. I defriended him for the cheap shot of seeing someone’s death as an opportunity to score a political point. And by the way, the disingenuous little question mark at the end of the accusation does not mask his vile intent. It was childish, irresponsible and loathsome.

Health insurance reform is a serious issue. It deserves to be fully debated. Alas, what we have is not serious debate, but sloganeering, lies, deception and a shocking lack of respect or compassion from those who will defend the status quo at any cost. And these rage-filled screams all consist of gratuitous attacks that can fit on a posterboard or be summarized in 140 characters. Socialized medicine! Communist! Death Panels! Hitler! And, of course, the ever-present “Birth Certificate!”

Jesus had nothing to say about specifics of health care policy. But he did tell a story about “respectable” people who would walk by and let someone die on the side of the road.

In the 10th chapter of Luke, it’s recorded that when Jesus spoke of loving our neighbor as ourselves, a lawyer asked him, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply, Jesus told a story. It was a story about a man who was beaten by robbers and left for dead on a roadside. Two “respectable” religious leaders came upon him and passed on the other side of the road, lest they contaminate themselves by becoming ritually impure. A third man, an outcast and heretic, came upon the wounded man. “He was moved with pity,” Jesus says. He bandaged the victim’s wounds and took him to an inn, where he paid for the man’s treatment out of his own pocket.

During the course of the healthcare debate, we have been subjected to hysterical accusations and screaming, rage-filled mobs who wish us to continue with our present model of health care dominated by greedy insurance companies. There was one clip on YouTube where an enraged crowd confronted Senator John McCain in a church. There, beneath the cross of Jesus Christ, they angrily complained about health care being provided to the poor. And they loudly booed the senator when he defended the president against accusations that he did not respect the Constitution. This in a church, where people should be dedicated to helping the poor! And not only that, but this was a crowd that was largely on Medicare, decrying the evils of “socialized medicine.”

This week a certain wingnut congressperson from Minnesota, whose name I cannot write because it would simply drain my soul to do so, encouraged a group of “Christians” to fast and pray that God would preserve the current position of the insurance companies. And everyone has heard about the “good Christian” former governor of one state, the patron saint of the proudly ignorant, who bore false witness, claiming falsely that health insurance reform would result in “death panels” that would condemn the elderly and disabled. Of course, her allegations have no basis in fact. And by the way, we already have death panels. Except they’re run by insurance companies, so somehow that makes it OK. You’ll never hear her or her posse complain about that, for apparently that would be un-American.

Now I have no beef against those who responsibly weigh the proposals and find them lacking, or too expensive. OK, let’s talk about that. What do you propose? “Just say No” is not a valid answer.

Not all those who stridently oppose health care reform are fundamentalist Protestants. Regrettably, many of them are also Catholics. The kind of Catholics, I might point out, who love to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church against all kinds of people they dislike. Here’s one passage from the Catechism they’ll never quote:

“Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment and social assistance.” (no. 2288)

By the way, that’s in the section about the Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill.”

Don’t sign me up for unqualified allegiance anything the Democrats may propose in health care reform. No doubt there are many details to be ironed out, and it may be that I will disagree with the end product—perhaps even strongly.

But the demonization must stop. The screaming, the parading about with proven lies. Opponents of health insurance reform must come up with valid, proven objections to what is being proposed and debate them civilly. You cannot just wave pictures of Obama with a Hitler mustache and tell lies about Stephen Hawking and defame our British allies and make up crap about “death panels” and twitter one-liners and then scream when you are not taken seriously. You have waived your right to be taken seriously when you espoused conspiracy theories and wild, foaming-mouth accusations. And if you want to claim that the present system is just fine, then just say so. But you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

To allow the current system of health care in the United States to continue would be a grave affront to the Gospel. No system that consigns nearly 20 percent of its population to live without adequate health care is just. Period. Do you disagree with the current proposal? Fine, then come up with another solution that takes into account the needs of the poor. Don’t just wail about how the devil is taking over America because we’re trying to find a way to keep people from dying in the streets. Or even worse, whine that you might have to pay for that man Jesus talked about lying near-dead on the side of the road. Are you the “respectable” person who walks by him, or the outcast who pays for his care?

Ted Kennedy was no saint, I’ll grant you that. But he did a lot of good, especially after he turned his profligate life around. And one thing he said is being quoted a lot today: “Let us resolve that the state of a family’s health shall never depend on the size of a family’s wealth.”

Jesus didn’t give a scholarly or philosophical answer to the question of “Who is my neighbor?” He was too smart for that. He knew we’d just dissect it and deconstruct it until it allowed us to do just about anything. Instead he told a story.

And at the end of that story, he turned to the lawyer who asked the question and posed a question to him:

“Which of these three men, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

The lawyer replied: “The one who showed him mercy.”

And Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”