Posted by: geolocke | 2018/02/17

Taking our place

In the Catholic Church the typical pattern of readings on Sunday mornings follows a familiar template: The first reading is from one of the books of the Old Testament followed by the singing of a passage from one of the Psalms, then the second reading is from one of the New Testament epistles, and we finish with a reading form one of the four Gospels. The subject of the first reading almost always relates to the subject of the Gospel reading.

Weekday Masses follow the same pattern except the Psalm is typically read, not sung, and the reading form one of the epistles is usually omitted.  This pattern is carried out week after week, year after year. The Church further structures the readings on a higher level by focusing on one of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) each year, with John’s Gospel used every year during the High Holy seasons of Easter and Christmas.

In this manner, over the course of three years of daily readings, we cover the entire Bible. We then start all over and do it again. It’s a bit more structured than what I’ve described here, but you get the idea.

The reason I am beginning this post with a description of the liturgical cycle of readings is because sometimes we get comfortable with hearing the readings. That’s because we’ve heard them before from the same lectors, Deacons, and Priests. Having heard these proclamations of the Word from the same voices so many times, we settle into our ideas and understanding of what the readings mean to us.

Being so comfortable with hearing the Word in such a manner, we sometimes find that we’re just waiting to get through the readings to get to the Homily, because after Homily is Eucharist, and after Eucharist is brunch with the family, or golf, or football, or any one of many other ways that we spend our Sundays after Church.

And yet sometimes, out of the blue, we find ourselves actually listening to the readings and dwelling upon the Word of God. We ‘awake’ from our comfortable state and in those brief moments we hear something we’ve heard many times before, but in our mind’s eye we see it in a new light, and understand it in a new way. Last Sunday was one of those days for me.

Last Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, the first reading was from Leviticus (13:1-2, 44-46) dealing with the rules concerning lepers, how they should dress, behave, cry out “unclean!” and dwell apart from the camp. The Gospel was from Mark (1:40-45) relating how a leper came to Christ begging to be made clean, with Christ actually touching the leper and healing him.

I always have a quiet chuckle to myself when I see that the first reading is from Leviticus. Not because Leviticus is humorous, but because of a description given to me by a former candidate in RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation of Adults) who stated: “Reading Leviticus is like reading the EULA for a piece of software. You just want to look for the ‘I accept’ button so you can click it and move on with the ‘software install’.”

They had a point. Leviticus is just chock-full of rules for living and being part of the community of believers and followers of God. It can be quite dry reading, but it is necessary to have at least a cursory understanding of Leviticus in order to understand the mannerisms and customs that were in place at the time when Jesus walked and preached among his people, and just how far He would go to bring healing and open hearts.

The reading from Leviticus gives great detail about how a leper is to act and behave and how “He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” The reading from Mark talks about a leper who comes to Jesus seeking healing and who receives healing through the compassion of Jesus.

Most homilies I’ve heard preached on this passage focus on the compassion of Jesus, or the Leper’s faith when he says to Jesus “If you wish, you can make me clean.” But last Sunday, my focus was on the end of that Gospel passage:

“The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.”

Upon hearing that passage, the realization that came to me was not only did Jesus heal the leper, restoring his identity as a member of the community, but then Christ took the place of the former leper by dwelling apart from the ‘camp’ in deserted places. Christ’s healing with not just of the physical effects of the leprosy, but also of the stigma and hardships endured by the man because of the leprosy.

This thought has been with me all week and has triggered internal questions: When I give alms to the poor, am I working to restore their place within the community? What am I doing to help restore the dignity and identity of the poor within the community? How willing am I, or am I even willing to take on the stigma and hardships endured by others who live “outside the camp” of ‘normal’ society in order to help restore their place within it?

I do not yet have an answer to any of these questions and that thought makes me uncomfortable. I ask for your prayers that I may find at least some answer to these and other questions that I travel with this Lent.

May Peace be with your Spirit as you travel your own Lenten Journey this year. -geo

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Posted by: geolocke | 2018/02/15

Lent 2018

Seems to me that this Lent will be filled with much reflection and review of many things I have experienced over the past year.

Good choices and bad, failures and triumphs, wonders I have beheld and sufferings I have endured.

Although the ashes will be washed from my face this morning, they will remain in my heart as I walk my Lenten path toward Easter.

All y’all be Blessed and be kind to one another. -Peace be with your Spirits. -geo

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/12/30

Sound Memories

Of all that has happened during this past year, the one sparkling event that stands out above all others is the trip that we took with our friends Ken and Susan to visit Washington State. We took a little more than two weeks and drove around and over the entire state, visiting family and friends, and witnessing its many stunning vistas and its many temperate zones.

And even though as I sit here at year’s end, reflecting upon the many sights I beheld for the first time, reviewing them with my mind’s eye much like I have reviewed the many hundreds of photographs that I took, the memories that strike me the most are the memories of the sounds of water, wind, and earth.

It must be said that our trip occurred during a time of forest fires in neighboring British Columbia and Montana, and the prevailing winds covered much of the state in a smoky haze such that the visual wonders were muted a bit if not outright hidden at times. So, while I saw and photographed many beautiful things and places, perhaps my habit of listening to the landscape around me was better focused than normal.

The sound of water is most prevalent in my memories. I can still hear the rushing and crashing of the Little Pend Oreille River as it descended over Crystal Falls tucked deep amid the tall pines along the Colville-Tiger Highway (Wa-20), the river’s flow coming down fresh and strong from its headwaters higher in the Selkirk Mountains. We passed by these falls early in our trip and they were just a prelude to the many experiences that lay ahead of us.

In stark contrast to that, but perhaps more memorable to me, was the unnamed rivulet we discovered when we pulled off the side of Wa-155 running along the south side of Banks Lake, about two-thirds the way from Grand Coulee Dam heading towards Coulee City and Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park. The road had been slowly climbing up a basalt cliff face for several miles heading toward a pass running through a gap where a large portion of the rock face had separated from the main cliff.

We were one of a very few vehicles on that road and we pulled off the highway just before we reached the pass so we could take in the stark desolation of the area with its towering basalt cliffs falling down to the blue waters of Banks Lake. The road stretched for miles behind us, a black ribbon amid the gray and brown rock and dry scrub brush of a desert-like scene.

The sounds of gravel crunching under our feet and wind blowing in our ears seemed to be the only sounds until Susan noticed some green color on the side of the road and went to investigate. She discovered a small waterfall, coming from an unknown source high above and splashing down a small crevasse tucked into the face of the basalt cliff. Because of its recessed location in the cliff, the waterfall was not readily visible from the road. The unnamed stream went under the road in a pipe and continued its journey down the cliff to join with the waters of Banks Lake.

Although the flow could not have been more than the volume of a few garden hoses, the sound of the water splashing and pulsing down the cliff was the only sound of life we could hear in that spot. And as if to punctuate the message, the spray from the falls encouraged the growth of grasses and mosses along the cliff face and at its base. It was the only greenery visible amid all the dusty gray and brown colors of rock and dry shrub grasses along that stretch of road.

The sound of flowing water is also recorded in my memories. One evening we sat by the waters of the Chewuch River at its confluence with the Methow River in the Town of Winthrop. The light of the setting sun as it pierced through the smoky haze painted the western sky with incredible reds and yellows. At one point a small cloud passed in front of the sun, its outer edge shining in brilliant argent as the light was further filtered through the tall pines.

The light was changing constantly, and I was taking photos every thirty seconds or so to keep up with the rapidly changing conditions. The backdrop to all this action was the sound of the rivers in their stony stream bed. The constant yet always changing gurgling, splashing, murmuring, and lapping of the waters of the rivers seemed to be playing as the soundtrack to the changing events playing out before my eyes in the sky above. And even though the light soon faded as the sun went below the horizon, still the rivers next to me sang their unending song as I put my camera away and greeted the evening twilight.

The following day the soft singing of the confluence of the Chewuch and Methow Rivers was replaced by the wistful sighing of the pines at the Washington Pass overlook.

We left Winthrop that morning driving across the northern Cascades on our way to Bellingham on the Puget Sound. As we approached Washington Pass, we finally climbed above the smoke and haze and were rewarded with clear blue skies and the sight of Early Winter Spires, also known sometimes as Liberty Bell Peak. We turned off the Northern Cascades Highway (Wa-20) into the Washington Pass Overlook area and then hiked from the parking lot up to the overlook to get a better view of the spires and the valley below.

The trail led us through an old growth of pine and spruce trees. Our steps crunched on the gravel path as the wind sighed through the branches, gently stirring the mosses that grew and hung from the trunks. As we approached the overlook however the trees began to show signs of having braved fierce storms.

Many of the trees near the overlook were twisted and bent by years of having faced unrelenting winds, while others had been blasted clear of their bark, remaining mute memorials of past howling and screaming furious storms. In the sight of those twisted, bent, and blasted trees, the sound of the whispering and sighing wind was to me like an echo of storms past, and a warning of storms yet to come. Even though I have experienced several hurricanes and a tornado, I felt sure that I would never want to hear and be witness to any such storms as those that come upon that place.

I was not reminded of storms when we later stayed at Kalaloch Lodge on the Pacific coast of the Olympic Peninsula. Rather, I was reminded of the calm after the storm. The Lodge is set on a cliff above the shore. The sound of the pounding surf on the stony beach below the cliff was ever-present in our ears. That night, listening to the constant sound of the surf, I had the most peaceful sleep that I can recall. The following morning I walked the fog enshrouded shoreline at low tide. Gulls sitting on the shore wailed mournfully while waiting for the fog to lift. I felt entirely at peace as I walked that beach alone in the early morning light.

Later that same morning we drove up to the coast a little bit and then turned inland until we entered the quiet stillness of the Hoh Rain Forest. Amid those ancient moss-draped trees, some many feet in diameter at their base and climbing from the forest floor up to heights unseen, what I remember is not the sounds as much as the silence. The very presence of these ancient giants demands a hushed stillness of awe and respect. Although birds made their songs among the branches of those ancient trees, I felt like their songs and their presence, and our presence too, would soon be forgotten and replaced by the silence of their age-long growth.

In that place where time seemed to stand still, I imagined that the only sounds that would be remembered by those trees would be the slow and steady grinding of rock into soil by their roots amid the background sound of falling rain. To those trees, the sounds of mankind must seem like no more than the sound of a buzzing insect is to us, a momentary bother that is soon forgotten.

There are many other sound memories that I brought home from our trip. The comforting sounds of conversation and laughter along the road. The times and meals spent together with each other, with Ken’s friends, and with members of both our families. The sounds of traffic, vehicular, rail, and maritime, and the roaring river of humanity that is Pike’s Market in Seattle. The quiet stillness of the devastation surrounding the Mt. Saint Helen’s blast area, and the quiet moments spent with Lottie in the evenings discussing the events of the day.

All these sounds come back to me as I sit here reflecting upon all the wonders of our journey together. They wrap me in a blanket of warm memoirs and sing softly to me the life-long melody of shared friendships and love.

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/12/15

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

I wrote the following back in 2012, the morning after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We do not seem to have made any progress since then, but with Faith, Hope, and Love we still look forward to one day having Peace in this world.

*****

“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.” Jeremiah (31:15) (see also Matthew (2:15))

My Advent candles hold a different meaning for me this morning. They shine as light of mourning and memorial, and yet they are still shining as lights of hope in this present darkness.

To try and put meaningful words to what happened yesterday seems pointless. There are some things in this world which defy any explanation. Though many will try in the coming days to explain what led to yesterday’s ‘massacre of the innocents,’ no amount of news coverage and analysis can fully explain what happened, nor help those who now grieve. No amount of legislation, heightened security or advanced situation preparedness can ever fully eliminate the risk of an individual who, for unknown reasons, goes on such a rampage. And so, this morning, we as a nation, as a world are left to weep over the loss of all our children: the loss of life, the loss of friends, the loss of family, the loss of innocence.

As a Christian, this is a time of year for me to prepare my heart for the coming of the Light of the world. To cleanse my life of all that keeps me from being the person God wants me to be, and that hinders my journey toward the union of that person and God. It is the promise of the Advent of a new age for this tired, sad, darkened old world. An age of Peace and Harmony and Good Will toward all my sisters and brothers.

The world seems to be a much darker place this morning. But in that darkness there still shines a light. It is the light of families, friends, neighbors and strangers pulling together to help those who mourn uncontrollably this morning, though they themselves weep. It is the light of a nation of believers and non-believers offering prayers and gentle thoughts for those who grieve. It is the light of hope in the darkness of this moment that Love will ultimately triumph over hate.

And so I light my Advent candles and conduct my morning prayer and I pray for those who lost their lives and for those who survived and for those who are left to mourn for the dead. I pray in Hope for a better world to come, although I may never see such a place. And I pray that in this time of darkness, the Light of this world will come and illuminate the hearts and minds of all of us, believers, doubters and non-believers so that there may truly be “Peace on Earth and Good Will toward All.”

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/12/08

Your Holy Altar

The humble young maiden
Gives birth in a stable
Amid animal filth and smells
Lowing and braying
And beholding her son
Cleans and wraps him in cloth
Then lays him to rest
In a straw filled manger
Her heart swells with wonder
And Angels rejoice

That lowly feed trough,
In a stranger’s stable
Your Holy Altar
Where Heaven above
Touches earth below

The maiden now grown
Having seen her son die
Whipped mocked and spat upon
Nailed to a cross
Once more holds her son
While others wrap him in cloth
Then lay him to rest
In a cold stone tomb
Her heart pierced she mourns
And Angels are hushed

That terrible cross
On the hill of terror
Your Holy Altar
Where Heaven above
Touches earth below

The sorrowful maiden
Though darkness surrounds
Waits for His will to be done
Hears the news of His rising
The tomb now lies empty
Sees him clothed in His Glory
In the warmth of true life
Her heart healed she rests
His heart now her cradle
And Angels revere

Her Trust in the promise
Her Faith through the darkness
Your Holy Altar
Where Heaven above
Touches earth below

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/11/27

Thoughts on a 3rd century quote from Origen

This is from a journal entry made on this day back in 2009.

*****

One of my reading assignments for the Deaconate class was a book by Scott Hahn called “Letter and Spirit: From Written Text To Living Word in The Liturgy”. At the end of chapter 5 Hahn quotes from Origen, who was originally from Egypt, but later moved to Palestine and died there in the mid to late 3rd century after Christ. (see article http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11306b.htm ) Anyway, the quote runs as such:

“You who are accustomed to attending the divine mysteries know how, when you receive the body of the Lord, you guard it with all care and reverence lest any small part should fall from it, lest any piece of the consecrated gift be lost. For you believe yourself guilty, and rightly so, if anything falls from there through your negligence. But if you are so careful to preserve his body, and rightly so, why do you think there is any less guilt to have neglected God’s word, then to have neglected his body?”

There are a lot of good passages in Hahn’s book, but this is the one that sticks in my mind. I think it is a pity that in the centuries that have passed since they were written, we (apparently) are no less negligent than those to whom Origen addressed with those words. I myself am painfully aware of my own negligence. Still, I strive to live the life that the Lord wants for me. I stumble, fall, and with the Lord’s help, I pick myself up again and again. I consider it a small victory when I find that I am not stumbling over the same things repeatedly, but it is only a small victory, and not the battle won. That remains for the final victory.

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/11/13

Special Needs

I have several friends whose children have developmental or physical challenges. They are called Special Needs children these days, although there have been many less flattering names in the past. These children are “different” than the “norm” expected by society.  Their parents did not choose this in their wildest dreams, and yet here they are, and they are loved no less by their parents, or by God.

We all begin life the same, the joining of genetic material from woman and man, coming together with God’s spark of life. Most times this joining is accomplished through acts of love, but sometimes through lust, or in acts of hate and violence, or sometimes even in the sterile confines of a medical facility. But regardless of the circumstances under which it occurs, we are created at that instant, a new life beloved of God.

From that very instant, we begin to grow as our cells divide and multiply in number as we begin to take form. Rough shaped at first, little more than a blob, we soon show features recognizable as human traits, our head, our hands, fingers, toes, eyes and nose. Three weeks, six weeks, three months, six months, nine months spent within our mother’s womb, and then we emerge into the light of the world.

Sometimes these young fragile lives are ended before they can grow, develop and be born; Some through disease, some through accident or injury, some on purpose. It is a sad fact of our human condition that has occurred as long as we’ve been around. Yet God knows and loves these unborn children as much as God loves we who are born.

But being born is not a guarantee of continued life. We still need nurturing and care once we emerge from the womb. We are not born like some animals with a built in instinct for life and survival, like sea-turtles emerging from their shells on a sandy beach who head straight to the ocean. Indeed, the first several years of our lives are spent in near total dependence on the charity of others.

Slowly, as compared to the development of other creatures of God, we children learn to care for ourselves, but still with the help of others near us. But some children do not develop along the same pathways, the same timeline as most children. This can be due to illness or some unknown cause deep within them.

These children need more intensive forms of care and nurturing, and a greater spirit of Love from their caregivers. For some this extra level of care is needed for their entire lives because they are physically or mentally incapable of surviving without this extra outside help.

But if we really look at our own situation, can we honestly claim any fundamental difference in our own special needs?

Which of us have never found ourselves in need of some extra assistance at some point in our “grown up” lives? Which of us has not had to rely upon the help or guidance of family or a friend, a stranger, a neighbor, a mechanic, a teacher, a first responder, a doctor, or a pastor? Which of us have never found ourselves being asked to help someone else who was in need?

Which of us can honestly say that we have never, at some point in our life, whether we believe in God or not, turned our thoughts to the heavens above us and pleaded; “Lord I am lost, show me the way, save me!” and received an answer in the presence of someone who then comes into our life?

* * * * *

If we truly believe the words of Genesis, that we are all created in the image of God; female and male; with many shades and hues of skin and hair; with different heights, and shapes and deformities of body; the aged, those in mid-life, the young and those nursing and the unborn; with clear mental acuity or dull wit; every one of us needing to be loved by and attended upon by God and one another; we who are all children of God; can any of us be thought of as anything other than a special needs child?

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/10/27

Our Inner Room

The course of our life has lately taken a curious, but not wholly unexpected twist as we moved my parents into our house to live with us. We have been looking after them for years while they lived in their own home, but we were finding that, more and more, we were living in two homes, which can tend to lead to burning the candle at both ends, as well as the middle.

The move came about as the result of a chance comment I made earlier this year. While discussing the latest “episode” with my wife, I made the stray comment: “I know it could never happen, but I wish it were possible for my parents to come live with us since that would simplify so many things.”

Little did I know at the time that my comment was actually a prayer. And little did I trust in the power of God, working through my beloved spouse, to make what seemed to me to be impossible, possible.

It has been a cleansing experience, going through our home and discarding many years of useless stuff that we held onto for no real good reason in order to make room for one of the most precious treasures one could hope to have, family. We are still not complete with getting things sorted out, but we are settling into a nice new reality with our combined lives.

We had to give up our home “chapel”, converting it back into a bedroom, but even that has been a blessing since I have found that I can pray in many places and many circumstances that I previously did not give consideration. I have packed up my physical “Inner Room” and now I carry it within me by learning more and more to quieten my thoughts and to focus on God wherever I happen to be and when the occasion for prayer presents itself.

I will not say that this move has been without some stress, but the benefits far outweigh any troubles we experienced or imagined, and I find myself sleeping better at night.

Now, if I could only find where that “inner writing desk” is located within my portable “inner room” …

Be Blessed today and everyday, and Know that God is with you always.

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/08/30

Many Tongues but One Voice

Last month I sang with the choir as we dedicated our new Cathedral. There was a special dedication Hymn written just for the occasion, “I will Praise Your Name Forever” based on Psalm # 145.

In the hymn, verses were written in the eight major languages spoken in our Diocese; English, Congolese French, Spanish, Vietnamese, Igbo, Korean, Tagalog, Swahili, and Latin (of course!)

Learning to pronounce and sing verses in these languages and in proper rhythm was “interesting” and painful to put it mildly.  Learning to sing in a different language by itself in not terribly difficult, given the proper teacher and a plenteous amount of patience, But learning eight languages for one song was a lesson in humility.

Once we performed it, some of us felt like we could have done better with the pronunciation and the rhythm, I know I certainly felt that way. But later the emails began to arrive, each stating in one form or another how wonderful it was for each member of the congregation to hear part of the hymn in their own language.

At first I was tempted to think of it as a “speaking in tongues” moment as described in the Acts of the Apostles. But since then I’ve come to view it in a deeper fashion. It seems to me that perhaps the listeners were ready to receive the words in their own tongues because their minds and their hearts were anticipating hearing it so their minds and hearts filled in what was lacking in our conveyance of the words.

Perhaps this is what St. Paul meant when he wrote “Greet one another anticipating respect.”  That is, if our minds and hearts are anticipating respect from those who we meet, then we will tend to overlook the flaws, and to fill in what is missing from the greeting that we receive.  But if our minds and hearts are anticipating injury and abuse from those who we meet, then we will look for and magnify any perceived injury or slight  in what might be missing from the greeting we receive, much to our detriment.

And so it is in our lives. We can greet each new encounter anticipating joy, happiness, fulfilment and respect, or we can greet each moment with pain, gloom, sorrow, and conflict. In either case we will receive what it is that we seek.

I wish all of you a pleasant evening and a very good night.  Peace!

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/04/16

The New Day

The sun shone brightly through my windows this morning, piercing a small gap in my blinds and curtains and, settling on my eyes, awakening me from my sleep. Rising, I opened the curtains and blinds, letting the brilliant light into my dark room. Instantly everything within was illuminated in the brilliant sunlight that was streaming in. It shone much like I imagine it shone into the empty tomb on that first Easter Morning so many years ago.

The women who had come to that tomb peered in but found the tomb empty. They ran and told the Disciples, who themselves ran to the tomb and also saw that it was empty.  The Man they had known and lived with; remembering the wondrous joys of his teachings, miracles, and healings, and still in shock from watching the horrors of his crucifixion and death; that man was gone.

Their Teacher, their Master, their Friend was not there. All that lay in the tomb were his burial cloths, illuminated by the brilliant rays of that sunrise so many years ago.

But they discovered him when they put aside their thoughts of the man they had known and opened their eyes to who He truly was, mistaking him for a Gardener, or a fellow pilgrim on the road, only to have the light of His revelation shine into the darkness of their thoughts.

So may it be with me today on this Easter Morning and everyday that follows. May I not focus so much on the Christ that I know from scripture that I miss the Christ who walks by my side today. May I see Christ in the faces of the poor, the hungry, and the homeless who live in the forgotten places of our cities. May I see Christ in the faces of refugees fleeing wars, poverty, and oppression. May I be Christ to those who hate and mock me for my faith.

May the light of Christ burst into the darkness of my heart, filling it with the brilliant rays of His Love. May He illuminate my mind with His Revelation of who He was, who He IS and who He will forever be, Loving all eternally, God without beginning or end. And may I  share that Love with those around me, be they stranger, friend or foe.

Amen.

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