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?

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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.

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/03/31

Sacred Clay

This past Sunday’s Gospel (John 9: 1-41) was about the man born blind who Jesus healed on the Sabbath. It is one of the longer readings in the Church’s Liturgical Cycle with most of the focus being upon the “blindness” of the Scribes and Pharisees when they question the man born blind after Jesus heals him.

It’s been my experience that their blindness is the focus of most homilies based upon this Gospel, but I find something more intriguing to center my prayer upon in the details of this man and his healing.

The method by which Jesus heals him is to spit on the ground, and with his saliva, make clay and then smears it upon the blind man’s eyes, telling him to go wash it off in the pool called “Siloam” (sent). The man goes and washes and he is healed and can see.

To me, this harkens back to the second creation story in Genesis where God forms man out of the Clay of the earth and breathes His Spirit into him to give him life.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus states that the man’s blindness is not due to Sin, but is so “the works of God can be made visible through him.”

For me, the message I pray upon is the thought that the healing of this man is in a sense a kind of “final act” of his creation, like an artist putting the final touches of paint on a painting.  I also pray about how the man born blind does not have a name, although it is clear from the Gospel that everyone knew who he was. Yet even his parents when they were questioned refused to use his name.

This illustrates to me that he was not only made whole and complete by his healing, but also was made anew and was awaiting his new name. This harkens to Jesus’ later statement “Behold, I make all things new.”

Those thoughts comfort me and give me hope as I pick up the dirt and clay of this earth in my daily life. That God can use the dirt in my life to repair or replace what is missing in my life, molding me into that which he intends me to become, and that once completed, washing clean all that is no longer needed and I will emerge a new person.

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/03/06

Love one another …

It’s nice how the Lenten season eases into the normal pattern of our lives. We have Ash Wednesday which forces us to take a look at ourselves and then a couple of days to think about it and then we have a near repeat on the following Sunday but this time with a bit more focus (and without the ashes, externally at least.)

I always feel a little excited when Lent comes. I really haven’t placed my finger on it yet, but I think the reason has something to do with the extreme focus we place upon our lives and how we live them. This tends to make some folks a bit uncomfortable, but I like the challenge. I see it as an exercise in spiritual growth.

I’ve written before on the topic of “being Third” (Love God, Love Neighbor, Love Self), but the readings from yesterday and this morning have opened a new ray of insight for me.

When we are created, each and every one of us are created in God’s image. Regardless of who we are, or where we come from, or what we believe in, each and every one of us is created in the Image of God.  And God has placed God’s Love within each and every one of us because God *is* Love.

What we do with that Love is up to us because God also gave us free will. If we choose to keep God’s Love to ourselves, then it will grow cold and lie dormant within our hearts.  Dormant hearts are like empty real estate just waiting for any stray emotions of thoughts to come and occupy them and to rule over them.

But if we choose to share God’s Love with one another, then God’s Love will grow in strength and community until it might even awaken the Love that lies sleeping in the dormant hearts that walk among us. Once awakened, those once dormant hearts can gather strength and support from the community of Love until they have room for nothing but Love.

I know this sounds silly, or childish, and perhaps I should have realized this years before now, but it is better to have realized this late in my journey, then never to have realize it at all.

Love one another, just as we ourselves have been Loved.

Have a happy Lenten Journey.

Posted by: geolocke | 2017/01/16

The Ultimate Act of Loving Kindness

One of my hobbies is genealogy, the act of tracing one’s family history. Actually, it is more than a hobby for me, but something less than an obsession.  I’ve been conducting genealogical research for more than 20 years now and, although I’m not what I would call a professional genealogist, I do know my way around the typical records used in the research.

Late last year I was asked by a friend to help  try to solve a mystery in their family.   Their father had been deposited in an orphanage shortly after his birth in 1914 in New York City. The story they had heard was that their father’s mother had died giving birth to her only child and the child’s father had disappeared after that.  My friend’s father was eventually placed with an aunt and uncle and grew up with their family, but he never heard more than rumors about his own parents.

My journey through the records led me to discover that the parents were Hebrew immigrants from Hungary living in Harlem  down near the Harlem River. The child was born in Harlem Hospital, almost a mile and a half from the parent’s home, and the mother had died given birth, and that the father disappeared from the records. This all seemed to match what I had expected to find, as it usually turns out that the germ of truth lives on in the stories that are passed down through the family members. But what I discovered next was unexpected.

I verified that the boy was placed in the Hebrew Orphan’s asylum and lived there for over a year. But I also found out that the mother’s body remained in the Harlem morgue for over a month until a group called the Hebrew Free Burial Association  came and took her body and buried her in Mount Richmond Cemetery on Staten Island.  What’s more, this organization and cemetery is still existing and active today, still performing this sacred duty.

The description of the service they have been providing since the 1880’s, according to their website (HebrewFreeBurial.org) is “performing chesed shel emet (the ultimate act of lovingkindness- for the deceased who are unable to repay the kindness)”

Now, I do not claim any knowledge of Jewish burial rites or customs, but I do recognize this as a sacred act of charity. I am also reminded of the actions of Tobit as described in the book of the same name in the Christian Old Testament. This one act of charity performed over 100 years ago still pay dividends today, as my friend now has a place to go and visit and pray for the repose of their grandmother’s soul, which is itself an act of Charity.

Even though we are people of many different faiths and denominations, we can all find common ground through the acts of burying and praying for the dead. And in that common ground we can begin to see that we are all truly sisters and brothers, each and every one of us children of one glorious and loving Creator who made us and cares for us all in the ultimate act of Loving Kindness.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/12/12

Their Hope Is Full Of Immortality

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.

But they are in peace.

For if to others, indeed, they seem punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.   (Wisdom 3:1-5)

This month has been a busy one so far and we’re not even half through with it. Here in the darkest month of the year, I’ve been attending to the souls of the departed and their families, two this past week and one this coming week.

The first funeral I was called in at the last moment to be the Cantor for the funeral Mass.  Although I did not know the man personally, I learned that he was active and had passed away suddenly. I prepared myself to sing by praying for the well-being of his spirit, and for his family, and I prayed that the Lord would use me as his instrument to sing words of comfort to those who are left behind to mourn.

That evening we learned that my wife’s Aunt had passed away that same morning. Just two weeks shy of her 104th birthday, she was active right up until the last week of her life. A remarkable woman who was widowed when her children were still young.  With no financial resources, she raised her family in public housing, taught her children right from wrong and made them sit in the front pew every Sunday morning for Mass.

Those children, my wife’s cousins are now adults with children and grandchildren of their own. Each has faced many challenges in their own lives, and yet they fondly remember their humbly upbringing and the strength, hope, and joy with which their mother always faced every challenge placed before her. My wife and I were asked to be the Lectors for her Funeral Mass, so we both prepared ourselves to proclaim the readings with clear, unhesitating voices. After the funeral Mass, we proceeded to the cemetery for the burial rite and then stayed with the families for a while before returning to our home.

The next morning I learned that my uncle, my mother’s brother had died the previous evening. My mother is not able to make the journey so I am preparing to fly out to represent her and our family at his funeral Mass. My cousins tell me that even though he was ill and in hospital, my uncle was still alert with a sharp wit and making plans to play harmonica with the little band he had joined at the assisted living facility. That’s just the kind of person he was.

My father has a favorite saying: “They say that the good Lord don’t put more on you than you can handle, but sometimes I just wish the Lord didn’t have such a high opinion of me.”  This is always said with tongue in cheek and a chuckle at himself just before moving on to handle the next obstacle in his path.

And so it is that even with the weight upon my spirit from all of these deaths around me, I know that I can rely upon the Lord to carry me through.  This was made clear to me yesterday morning after Mass when we received another phone call, this time from our son.  His father-in-law had just died from Cancer.

As I felt yet another weight fall upon my spirit and I began to think gloomy thoughts, my attention was captured by the laugh and giggle of a small child that was nearby. I remembered in that instant that all these people who had recently died had lived their life with the hope and joy of the promise of the life that is yet to come to us.

In this darkest time of the year for the northern hemisphere, with cold winds that blow and send a chill to my very bones, there is still the promise of new life that is just waiting to be born, waiting to spring up from the frozen ground beneath my feet.

And as I look about and see the children who are joyfully anticipating the coming of Christmas, I stop and remember that these newly departed souls, like so many others around the world, are all eagerly awaiting for the new birth that is to come, just as surely as we are awaiting the birth of the Christ Child within each of us, and that is a very cheery thought with which to chase away the darkness.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/10/26

Simple Words – Deep Meanings

I like to read and I like to write, both of which are handy traits to have, especially seeing as how I also dabble in occasionally posting to this Blog.

One of the joys I receive in all this is when I discover an old word or phrase that has fallen out of general usage. When I find one of these disused words or phrases, I like to take them apart and dwell upon their meaning, slowly speaking them out loud and listen to the sound of the syllables as they roll off my tongue. Sometimes I even wait and see if I can use them in a sentence or in a conversation.

Yes, I am a word nerd, but not to the point where I could win a spelling bee or participate on some game show.  For me, the experience is just a private pleasure.

I use some of the same processes during my daily scriptural readings, reflections meditations and prayers.  I suppose I could say that the process is similar to the prayer form called Lectio Divina, but I am not intentional in my approach or process, it just happens to be the way I am wired.

And this process is also true with my prayers. Having grown up Catholic in the south, I learned two forms of Prayer; the Catholic Standard prayers I learned by rote, The Our Father, The Hail Mary, The Glory Be, and the Sign Of The Cross, as well as the Protestant tradition of what I call Free Prayer, spoken from the heart at the moment. I see value in both forms of prayer, but I must confess that I have been agitated on several occasions when a blessing before sitting down to supper went into its third minute … or longer.

I tend to reserve free form prayer for my personal reflections and meditations, and the Catholic standards for my daily scriptural readings and prayers. But sometimes I also find the standards are worthy of reflection and meditation in their own right.

When I slowly sign myself and to reflect upon the words: “What I do here today, I do in the Name of The Father, and of The Son, and of The Holy Spirit. Amen!” Do I really, truly believe and profess  what I am saying, and fully realize the implications of what these words mean?

Or when I slow down and pray, “All glory be to The Father, and to The Son, and to The Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever will be, world without end. Amen!” Do I really give all Glory and honor to God, or am I reserving just a little bit for my ego?

Or when I take time and really plead, “Hail Mary, fully of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus! Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen!” Do I really offer due honor to her who freely accepted to be the living ark of God’s Eternal Covenant? Do I avail myself of her unending prayers of aid and assistance for my salvation?

Or when I really feel the Cross as it lies upon my back, barely able to breathe because of its weight, barely able to pray;

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen!

And when my heart is so wounded by troubles in this life that it can barely find the strength to recite the entire prayer and settles upon its bare essence:

Thy Will Be Done.

When I pray these simple words, truly letting go of self, letting go of ego, letting go of all possessions physical, mental, and spiritual, and I fall into that deep well of acceptance, it is then that I feel closest to God, and I know Peace.

Posted by: geolocke | 2016/09/25

Sirach 3

 

“My son, be steadfast in honoring your father;
do not grieve him as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him;
do not revile him because you are in your prime.” (Sirach 3:12-13)

How poignant it is to me the way these words still ring true even though they were written thousands of years ago.

The changing seasons of the generations shifts the burden of care from the parents to the children.

It is a time of prayer for patience, fortitude, wisdom, strength, acceptance and perseverance for both parents and children.  Even when he was dying on the Cross, our Savior gave care of his mother over to his disciple, and he gave his disciple, and indeed all of us, over to the care of mother.

Blessed Mother, I ask you to pray for all families who are going through this changing season of life. I ask that you join your prayers to ours and lift them up to your son, our Savior Jesus Christ; prayers covering all our sufferings, all our worries, and our fervent hope that our parents may be well taken care of in these their twilight years.

Lord Jesus, you who suffered so that you might release us from our bondage to Sin, Look upon these our prayers, our parent’s prayers, and your Blessed Mother’s prayers, and grant to us the same gentle care which you bestowed upon your own earthly family, and in your mercy, grant us your peace and consolation.

Amen

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