Monthly Archives: September 2020

It’s Not Fair

Dear Folks,We have all been told that life is not fair. This phrase has been used in various ways. Some say it to say they don’t care that your rights and your dignity are getting violated. It can alsobe an acceptance of the complexity of life. There are many factors that affect our lives that we did not choose, and it seems that sometimes we get handed the dirty end of the stick. Other people seem to have it easier, and we see people giving them slack like they don’t seem to give us. Ever had that feeling?Our Gospel today (Matthew 20:1-16a) deals with the issue of envy, and people who seem to be handed a better deal. This is a common problem in life, and in the early Christian community there was the issue of pagans who became Christian. Some of the Jewish Christians were perhaps thinking, “We have been doing the hard work of trying to follow God’s commandments for generations while these people have been worshipping false gods and practicing drunken, perverted debauchery all this time, and now in the Church they are equal to us? What gives?” You know how we human beings get. St. Paul was dealing with that question in Romans, and he said, “But who indeed are you, ahuman being to talk back to God? Will what is made say to its maker, ‘Why have you created me so?’ Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the samelump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one (Romans 9:20-21)?” St. Paul is remembering the text “Yet, Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you ourpotter: we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:7).”
But how we perceive things doesn’t give the whole picture. I think life is like running an obstacle course with a backpack. We can feel how heavy our own backpack is, but we don’tknow how heavy everyone else’s is. We can perhaps make an educated guess by how they look, but we might be horribly wrong. At the end of the course we get to see how heavyeveryone’s backpack is, and there could be some surprises. We might find out that some people we thought weren’t trying very hard were actually carrying a much heavier load, andwere actually working harder than we were, even though they did not get as far as fast. Perhaps some people we envied for their situation were carrying a much heavier load thanwe thought. We might have thought that ours was one of the heaviest but find out that many had heavier. On the other hand, we might find that ours was heavier than a great manypeople’s, and we accomplished greater things than we thought.We know that sometimes it is a journey to accept that, and that can mean asking the very questions of God why He is doing what seems so wrong. Intellectually, we know He isright (always), but parts of our minds have not yet accepted that. We turn to the great school of prayer, the Psalms. We see “I will say to God, my rock: ‘Why do you forget me? Why must I go about mourning with the enemy oppressing me?’(Psalm 42:10).”Of course, the journey is to go from there to recognizing and rejoicing in God’s wisdom andprovidence. I suggest a meditation on Psalm 73 to follow that journey.The goal is to move more and more to embrace the situation we are given, and from here to do what we can to make things better, to be as faithful to God’s call as possible. The morewe are focused on that, the less and less we will worry about how our situation compares with others’ situations. That will save us time and energy. Growing in faith means realizing more and more that God knows what He is doing.Blessings,Fr. Jim

Ministry of Healing Relationship

That all May be One

Dear Folks,
In our Gospel today, Jesus talks about dealing with conflict in the Church. He doesn’t spend a lot of time talking directly about how to do Church, so I figure Jesus thinks this
issue is especially important. I have addressed conflict resolution before, and will do it again, because I think this is a huge ongoing issue for the Church, for the nation and for the
world. I think it is worth spending time on it. We see so much anger and hate in our society, and it seems to be getting worse. There is much talk about racial reconciliation. I think
part of the solution is to develop our own reconciliation skills.
The first thing Jesus talks about is going directly to the person with which you have the issue. It can be tempting to go to other people and tell our side of the story to garner
sympathy, hoping to collect people on our side. It is crucial to resist and come to the person directly.
I think just as important is how we approach. How would we want someone to approach us when we are wrong? We might be tempted to say that we would never do such a thing, but
we can easily overestimate how well we know ourselves, and underestimate our ability to mess up in ways that can hurt people. To deal with these issues requires humility and
charity. It requires truly loving those people with whom we disagree. Only if we approach a conflict with sincere love for the other can we be doing the work of Christ. To suggest to
people they are wrong can cause pain, but it can still be loving. If we are approaching in love, we want to cause the least pain possible, and have the best possible chance of doing good. It is necessary but not enough to tell the truth. We must be intentional about seeking to make the situation better. We need to be aware of our anger and pain, but not ruled by
them. One of the problems these days is people venting anger for the sake of venting anger, and not directing their efforts toward solutions.
There are some Scriptures worthy of meditation. James 1:19 teaches us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27).” “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only
such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has
forgiven you in Christ (Ephesians 4:29-32).”
“Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).” “But even if you
should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an
explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who
defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame (1 Peter 3:14-16).”
I have recommended Ann Garrido’s book Redeeming Conflict before. There are many books on how to deal with conflict, but I think if a lot of people have a common set of principles and a common vocabulary, that might make conversation easier.
Where in our lives can we begin?
Fr. Jim