musings on God-truth, contemplation and joy

in seminary, we had to have 18 credits in philosophy before we could begin graduate theological studies. (today’s seminarians need 30 credits). since i only had 10 credits, i struggled to get up to speed– the higher level philosophy classes were a real cross for me. each philosopher creates his own language and framework to understand the world. as i read them, i found it often very difficult to really follow.

but i liked st anselm! of course he was a bishop and primarily a “theologian” since his focus was God. but anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God is time tested through the centuries. its beauty is in its profound simplicity. here it is:

“Anselm began with the concept of God as that than which nothing greater can be conceived. To think of such a being as existing only in thought and not also in reality involves a contradiction, since a being that lacks real existence is not a being than which none greater can be conceived. A yet greater being would be one with the further attribute of existence. Thus the unsurpassably perfect being must exist; otherwise it would not be unsurpassably perfect.” ( https://www.britannica.com/topic/ontological-argument )

“that than which nothing greater can be conceived” is key. to me, it echoes many of the scriptures– like psalm 139 and the book of job– that speak of the ultimate mystery of God and human’s inability to know fully this mystery. if i believe that i totally understand God, then it is a God of MY making; i make God in MY image.

anselm wrote: “I do not try, Lord, to attain Your lofty heights, because my understanding is in no way equal to it. But I do desire to understand Your truth a little, that truth that my heart believes and loves. I do not seek to understand that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that unless I believe, I shall not understand.

one of anselm’s famous quotes is: “i believe so that i may understand.” on it’s surface, it can be seen as a classic “begging the question” fallacy. but for anselm, this is the natural consequence of God’s ontological existence: without belief, we cannot understand the depths of God. for me, it is more about the search for truth. we can only glimpse the truth when we are committed to it. we “find” God when we are committed to God. in faith terms: this is what we experience in the journey of relationship with God, ourselves and others.

by scriptural extension: if God is love, we can only “know” God in the framework of love relationships. in order to deepen our relationships, we must broaden what we know of “love”

i also like this related quote from anselm: “I have written the little work that follows . . . in the role of one who strives to raise his mind to the contemplation of God and one who seeks to understand what he believes.” contemplation of God is the goal. and we can only strive toward it– not achieve it. could contemplation, then, be the greatest form of our relationship with God? is contemplation the highest form of love?

lastly, in the following prayer, anselm twice states the primacy of joy in this relationship. so, let’s close my musings of today with anselm’s intercession for grace, love, truth, contemplation and joy through his prayer:

My God, I pray that I may so know you and love you that I may rejoice in you. And if I may not do so fully in this life let me go steadily on to the day when I come to that fullness . . . Let me receive That which you promised through your truth, that my joy may be full.

Spirit-wind

sr terry was the 5th grade teacher at sacred heart school in prescott, az when i was assigned there. one day, she mentioned that whenever it was windy out during recess, the kids come back to class totally wound up– bouncing off the walls.

uitwaaien” is a dutch word that literally translates to outblowing. it’s basically the activity of spending time in the wind, usually by going for a walk or a bike ride and something you do to clear your mind and feel refreshed

i see uitwaaien as an aspect of the Holy Spirit/breath. it is in the first verse of the bible–gen 1: 1-2: “in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters.”

it’s new life from the Spirit

also, in acts 2: 1-4

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit

it’s transformed life in the Spirit

wind is a gift. too much wind though can destroy; no little wind leaves us with stale air to breathe.

so, get out for a Spirit walk today, hug a tree and feel the breeze in your hair (if you still have hair, unlike myself!) be refreshed, renewed and transformed by the Spirit

let us pray:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord,
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

(from https://www.loyolapress.com/catholic-resources/prayer/traditional-catholic-prayers/prayers-every-catholic-should-know/prayer-to-the-holy-spirit/ )

cussing at mass!

a strange thing occurred after easter sunday 7:00pm mass on easter at christ our hope parish downtown seattle.

after mass, i was saying goodbye to people and “happy easter’ wishes. as congregants were exiting, i noticed a bit of a commotion at the doorway. then, i saw the exiting folks make two lines for a person in a wheelchair to come in. he was having a hard time opening one of the doors and wheeling inside the building.

someone finally helped him back up so that the door could open. everyone waited patiently for him to come in. as he slowly rolled in, he looked at people on both sides of the easter congregants’ lines. to each person he looked at, he loudly said, “F*** YOU!” he really meant it; he seemed to be drunk or high. he must exclaimed the expletive five or six times. obviously, this had upset many people who just finished joyfully celebrating jesus resurrection.

as he got to the end of the line, he looked up and saw me in my vestments. he immediately knew that i was the priest but had a quizzical look on his face. maybe he was wondering if he should pass on his unique easter greeting to me! as i noticed his pause, i said to him with a smile, “happy easter to you, sir.” he did not quite know how to respond, but looked me in the eye and said, “UNhappy easter to YOU.”

i smiled to myself knowing that i tried to defuse the situation. then he added in a stage whisper, “you molest children!” i responded, “sir, i have never molested any children.” he then backtracked and said, “well, your church has!”

i thought that this conversation would only further go downhill so just looked him in the eye and walked away in silence.

this man, spurred by a bit of alcohol, articulated what some people think about the catholic church and priests. perhaps many people? if people really believe that all priests molest children, why would they want anything to do with us?

anyone who is involved in the catholic faith realizes that while there has been abuse by some priests, that it does not define the whole of catholicism. the responses that all dioceses have implemented in the almost 20 years to protect children show that we have come a long way in our self understanding and the good changes to protect children at all levels. we still have a long ways to go in implementing consistently these protocols.

but most people do not follow the changes of protocol– catholics included. indeed our moral voice suffers because of ad hominem attacks. it is easier to generalize that “all priests are child molestors”

why do we throw out these harmful generalizations? all ____ do ____

real people suffer when we throw out these type of hurtful statements. every group can suffer from ugly generalizations: people of color, lgbtqia+, police, baptists, disabled people, rich people, poor people, whatever political party, whatever one’s country of origin, whatever movement we disagree with, etc

when we put people into boxes, it is an excuse to marginalize their unique stories. the people in front of us are sons and daughters of God first and foremost. various factors are the adjectives that help define us– but the adjectives are not us.

since that easter evening, i have wondered to myself how other priests might have reacted to the situation at hand. since we priests are all different, responses could have been all along the continuum.

what i do know is: the man in the wheelchair has deep hurts/pain in his life. and the hurt came out on us– even on a joyous occasion as easter good friday continues

perhaps the Spirit is inviting us to really love our enemies in seeing them as hurt people who may have intentionally or unintentionally hurt us. maybe the Spirit is asking a different response to be people of healing and not unfair judgment. maybe we need God’s grace to move away from the generalizations we harbor in our hearts and try to really listen and understand one another.

black lives matter because of love

i post this logo on my facebook cover from time to time:

Black Lives Matter BLM Vinyl Banner Flag Protest Sign ...

when i resurrected the logo again yesterday, various people have commented on it. maybe it’s because the george floyd trial has been in the news. maybe it’s because another unarmed black man was killed not far from where the trail is taking place. maybe because it pricks our conscience.

“black lives matter” certainly evokes strong emotions

from the website: BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.

who would be against eradicating racism and violence?

for several years now, blm has shown a spotlight on the racial inequities that exist in the usa and the consequences that follow. in the area of public safety, race plays a significant role in the way law enforcement responds. abuse of power can have deadly consequences– especially for people of color and in particular for black men. the abuse has produced gravemarkers with the names of real people: trayvon martin, eric garner, michael brown, tamir rice, walter scott, rayshard brooks, daniel prude. and their are countless others. each of them died unjustly.

these black lives matter. why? because each is a son of God and has inherent dignity. each of them– as we all are– are made in the image and likeness of God. each of them are deserving of our respect and love.

racism in our country is so pervasive that it is embedded in our various systems and institutions. yes– the catholic church included. blm is challenging the way that we see ourselves and the racism that can exist in all of us. at its best, blm is moving us toward racial justice and standing against violence/abuse against people on the margins. is blm perfect? of course not– no group/organization is.

but blm is bigger than one 501 c3 non profit organization. it is difficult to face the racism within us, our own families our own race.

blm becomes marginalized when we respond with, “all lives matter.” a reasonable person is not going to state that all lives do not matter. of course, all lives have inherent worth. but all lives wont matter until black lives matter. and it feels that some people want to marginalize the voices that cry out for reform, accountability and justice. is it the angry voices and shouting that people fear? is it my own lack of awareness? “all lives matter” does not advance the dialogue of understanding and compassionate response.

blm highlights the extreme and unique ways that our black brothers and sisters suffer still. blm invites us to care. what makes us turn a blind eye to these important stories– and even oppose the dignity of our black sisters and brothers?

this theme of racial bigotry becomes personal when one knows or has had a loved one suffer or die because of a negative or tragic experience. understandably, emotions run super high in the extreme pain of family members and friends. everything can be seen through this personal lens. one the other extreme, there are folks who do not know or have not really heard the stories of those who have suffered through violence spurred by racial bigotry. their hearts can remained unmoved and the theme can become a idea or concept that can be argued.

real people are not ideas though. and real people suffer still and will die

on my FB blm cover, posts by ricky tikki tavi come through the lens of a 21 year officer of the law. i knew ricky as a quiet college kid and one of our retreat leaders in the mid 90s! you have come a long way my friend. as a latino police officer, i bet you can write a great book of the things you have seen and heard in the field and from inside the precinct. time will tell if the jury in the floyd case is convinced of the manslaughter charge. for those of us who lived through the rodney king trail in 1992, we know that anything can happen in the jury system .

without a doubt you must feel frustrated at times because many people do lump all police officers as racist. it must be frustrating at times to want positive changes to public safety policy only to be met by the wall of systemic dimension of bigotry. good old boy networks can run deep in police departments. i get it. as a catholic priest, i know that some people think that we are all child molesters; catholic bigotry is alive and well in the usa also. entitlement in the priesthood is our good ol boy system. these systemic issues are very difficult to address because it takes personal transformation. this does not happen overnight– if at all. we really do bring our sinfulness to our work relationships and it can become normalized.

when i lived in the back-of-the-yards neighborhood in chicago, the police there assumed the vast majority of young people as gangbangers. it affected how they related and spoke to us. yes– us. because of my shaved head even i was assumed to be a gangbanger on more than one occasion. when the police cruised the streets in the squad cars, it really felt like they were sharks swimming looking for us seals for dinner. many police officers were fine with the latino gangs shooting each other up because it reduced their population. shootings and murders investigated? not in the back-of-the-yards. not in the black neighborhoods either. brown lives matter too.

it is a temptation to lump all cops as racist if that is all one experiences.

undeniably there are good cops. in part, it is for their benefit too that the deep seeded culture of racism within departments ought to be addressed. the good cops can play a key role in advancing this lofty goal. small town police departments differ greatly to the big city police forces. even there, seattle is very different from atlanta because of regional and cultural differences. each department will, or will not, respond to the challenge to change for the common good. my guess is taht they all will limp along since this is a new trail that we have not addressed.

in an fb comment, rosemary neill wrote: “It would be great to be able to have a conversation with Christ and see what he has to say about whose lives matter” thank you for this thought! right now, i imagine the jesus who would invite us all to table for dinner with great food and wine. and jesus would engage us in the nature of love– as jesus always does through the Spirit

perhaps the discussion at table could be spurred by jesus asking us to respond to various questions:

“do you not remember that i had focused my time and energy teaching you about love? do you not remember that the recipients of this love were those who were on the margins of society and our own group: those with leprosy, the samaritans, tax collectors and prostitutes, women and children?

“do you not remember how i taught you about the “good samaritan” who cared for his enemy as the prime example of love of neighbor? do you remember that i told you to do likewise? love of enemy is difficult yes but it is an essential part of love of neighbor, no?

“do you not remember how i taught you to address God as “Our Father?” do you not realize when you pray this powerful prayer, we all become brothers and sisters?

“do you not remember the last supper? do you not realize that when i gather you around this table, i continue to invite you to wash each others’ feet in selfless service?

“do you not remember how i stood firm against the bigotry and self righteousness of the leaders who conspired to put me through a suffering death? i remember how you ran away from being with me at my time of need. you did not yet know the power of the resurrection of the Spirit upon and within you. i forgive you and now you can love me by loving others: people who suffer hunger, thirst, being a stranger in your midst, in prisons and hospitals.”

i believe that jesus would ask, what makes you think that the lives of our suffering black brothers and sisters are not worthy of the love that i teach?

black lives matter because of love. God’s love for us all is the foundation and the call to love one another is our if we dare follow jesus in the Spirit.

how will you and i respond today?

the children are crying out to us

imagine: in the middle of the night, you hear a knock at your front door. you see that it is a child in distress. do you open the door? do you try to hear from her why she is alone? do you let her in out of the cold and try to help her? if she were your daughter, wouldn’t you want someone to help her?

it would take a cold hearted person to talk to her only through the intercom saying, “get off my property and go back to the street from which you came. your parents should have never lost sight of you.”

we are in this situation right now.

the children that are crossing the southern border of the usa are precious, vulnerable, scared and hurt human beings that need care. when we lose sight of that they are real children in need of human compassion and basic care, we lose our own humanity. also, we diminish our faith because jesus taught us, “when i was a stranger, you welcomed me.” (matthew 25: 38ff) this is how we are called to love those who come to us in need.

real people are more important than ideologies– not matter how honorable the ideological principles might be.

i believe in love and the awesome power that it holds. in these scenarios, i believe in love that is both intention and act. in its fullest sense, love is the intention to do the good and the act to actually do it. to me, this is the litmus test: what are our intention for these children? what is actually happening in our actions for these children? is “welcome” a foundation of our intentions and actions?

the former administration’s homeland security policy for the border was a disaster. the intent was to build a stronger wall to deter people from crossing. unaccompanied minors were not treated as children who needed care but cattle who needed to be corralled. there has been a crisis in mexico with all of these central american refugees and migrants waiting in squalid, inhumane conditions for these past years in the border towns. “unwelcome” was our foundation in both intention and actions.

with the change in presidency, there is now a new hope for those wanting to cross into the usa. they have heard through their conversations, that biden will welcome refugees.

more children than ever are showing up on our doorstep. almost 19,000 during march. everybody–border patrol, facilities, social workers, medical personnel– — is overwhelmed by this surge in people. the detention and social care infrastructures in place cannot handle the sudden jump in. they are scrambling to find temporary solutions to address the immediate needs of these children.

in a word, the current administration has the right intention for these children but the current situation has serious challenges because of the sheer number of children that are at our doorstep. we need to see rapid progress in our care for these children. they are already psychologically, emotionally damaged–will we alleviate their conditions or make it worse by the way we treat– or not treat them?

predictably, some politicians are using the situation for political gain. whenever this happens, people– and in this situation children– suffer. ideology can become more important than the real suffering of innocent children; real people, even children, become dehumanized.

we live in a great country with so many blessings. who else could better respond to this “crisis?” is not this an opportunity to show the world that the usa cares about children? or will the world continue to see a usa that rejects the most poor and vulnerable?

i cannot help but think that if these kids were blond haired with blue eyes and showed up at our door, our response would be very different. are we really destined to be only emotionally invested when the other person looks like me? are our black and brown brothers and sisters always going to be relegated to dehumanization because of racial ideologies that protect the white majority? does fear paralyze us even when a crying child is at my door?

i choose to think that we are better than that– not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

i believe that the Spirit will continue to lead and guide us our of our fears and selfishness into love. i believe that the Spirit will bring us healing at all levels and spur us to be instruments of well being for one another. i believe that the Spirit will help us recognize our common humanity and respond with goodness and compassion. the Spirit will help us to love.

but only if we open ourselves to the Spirit of Good, have grace change our hearts and then our intentions and actions.

i am not expecting this on any grand scale. greed, pride and selfishness are strong forces in our world that work against our intentions and acts toward the common good. unfortunately, even when children suffer at our door.

little boys and girls are tearfully knocking at our door. how will we respond?

let us pray

Lord help us to purify our intentions to do good in your world; help us to love authentically. we lift up the little children at the border to your sacred heart. may your Spirit lead and guide us to do your will and care for them. allow our hearts to know that you are present in these our young sisters and brothers and that by ministering to them, we are loving you as our God.

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“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” matthew 25: 31ff

cryptic homily notes for divine mercy sunday

today is not like my usual posts but just scattered thoughts from today’s scriptures… you can unpack them in your own way, no?

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first reading (acts 4) highlights: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind”; “There was no needy person among them”; “those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles”; “distributed to each according to need”

n.b.– selfishness takes away from what others need. generosity and sharing are acts of love. these were the same feet of the apostles that were washed by jesus at the last supper– is this what jesus meant for the followers of jesus to “wash one anothers’ feet”? the call to remove selfishness and attend to the needs of our sisters and brothers through sharing

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psalm 118 highlights

R.  Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting. “My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior….This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.” R.  Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.

do i really think that i manufacture my own strength and courage?

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second reading ( 1 john 5) highlights

For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensom
e

The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth

why do we think that God asks us to do what is burdensome? is God a burden? love is not a feeling but actions that do God’s will: love commandment

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images from the gospel (john 20):

locked doors– when fear overcomes us, we will lock doors to protect ourselves. what are we protecting? why do we fear? who gets locked outside the doors?

jesus passes through the doors we lock– to give us/world the gift of peace

jesus breathed new life onto the apostles… like God breathed life into humanity (adam) genesis 2

new life and mission because of the holy spirit being breathed upon them: forgiveness of sins

thomas could not just take the word of the others. he thought he needed proof. what thomas needed was the experience of the real presence of the risen christ. experience > proof

what i think i need could be a trap? jesus knows what i really need– peace; jesus presence? how do we experience jesus’ real presence? what inspires us exclaim, “my Lord and God”? is not this a heart connection to the eucharist?

what are jesus’ other unwritten signs in the presence of his disciples? are we not his disciples? might these signs that we experience today be part of this reference?

to believe = to give one’s heart (not an intellectual affirmation)

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post script: what will come out of my mouth at mass today?

rainier beach chess park?

whenever i see a chess game being played, i have to stop and watch– if only for a few minutes

there is a unique energy where chess is played. it is hard to describe. maybe it can be called “mental testosterone.” even to watch the games being played is to feel the energy. there is a camaraderie, helpfulness, banter, silence. a testing of a new guy that now one has seen before. one guy i played at westlake downtown here in seattle a couple of years ago lit up a joint while we played. i guess he wanted a more chill vibe while contemplating his moves

i love places where people gather to play chess. some of my favorite places have been: downtown san francisco, santa monica boardwalk, and the pilson library in chicago.

before the covid lockdown, i had stopped by the rainier beach community center one saturday to see folks play at detective cookie’s chess gathering. there were a few older guys to teach the game and play too. it is a good space for kids to learn the game. chess can be a good counter balance to the hyper quick action of video games. slowing down and considering options and possible consequences and benefits of a move can be challenging for those who are used to a different pace when playing. it is a prime place to learn and experience patience.

it seems like that they want to expand detective cookie’s dream.

there have been plans to develop a chess park in rainier beach! it warms my heart that there might be one a mile away from where i am right now. here are the plans…

i’ll keep an eye out to see how this chess project evolves. it is hopeful!

“new” life lessons

we priests of the catholic church in the archdiocese of seattle gathered for the first time in a year before holy week. it was at the chrism mass of 2021. renewing my priestly promises has always been inspiring to me.

and this year, my “yes” to being a priest is different from before. perhaps it is because i am primarily my mother’s son and spend the vast majority of time with her care as a priority. perhaps it is because i have been living outside of claretian community and only feel the support of my claretian brothers from a distance. perhaps it is because the covid pandemic has turned all of our realities upside down. perhaps it is because of the isolation as a result from the above factors that suck life out of my usual optimism.

who am i again?

for me, i write this blog to try to figure out what the Holy Spirit is doing in my life and in the world. at times, i am left with more questions than answers.

i recently came upon this quote about the ministerial priesthood:

To the full extent of my power, Because I am a priest, I wish from now on to be The first to become conscious Of all that the world loves, Pursues, and suffers; I want to be the first to seek, To sympathize and to suffer; The first to unfold And sacrifice myself To become more widely human And more nobly of the earth Than any of the world’s servants. – Teilhard de Chardin

could it be that i am learning anew what compassion and love are and how i respond to grace in my life?

an open letter to the gonzaga men’s basketball team

first of all: “you can hold your heads high. you had an amazing season. you just had an off game; you will be back next year”

now that these cliches are out of the way– and you will hear plenty of similar versions in the days to come as well as the rest of your lives– i offer you some of my random thoughts that may or may not bring you solace in your grief.

being from gonzaga, i am sure that the good jesuits there have taught about the power of the cross of jesus. we liturgically celebrated easter the day before your crushing loss. at least for now, it seems that existentially you will have to live an extended hoops version of good friday. i hope that you take advantage of being at a great catholic university and can more profoundly explore what this basketball experience means in your lives. hoops is just a glimpse on life and faith and it helps us see ourselves in a larger context. given that your hearts are probably hurting right now because of the way the season ended, faith can help you move toward a hoops’ resurrection sunday. God’s will is to heal our hurt.

when i checked the headlines of espn, i read that baylor coach scott drew said: “First and foremost, I want to thank God for blessing us with this opportunity tonight.” in the sports universe, it is easier to feel thankful immediately after the game when you win. losing can feel like a curse. upon first read, it can seem that drew is saying that God is blessing the bears with the win. if that is the case, it follows that God is then cursing you all with the loss. God gets some bad press if this is what people really believe. that is not my understanding of God.

God is not a super santa clause in the sky randomly blessing and cursing sports teams. (although as a mariners fan, i can question this theological understanding at times!) as is shown during these past days of holy week, God shows us constantly that through suffering, death and resurrection, God is creating, saving and helping us toward holiness. Hoops gives us a unique way to see this in our world. through your hardcourt talents and what happened last night, the Spirit is a moving.

i’m a huge nba fan. the only college basketball that i watched in several years, was the second half of your exciting win over ucla this past saturday. i have very little interest in the college game overall unless the washington huskies are in it. after that, i cheer for the underdogs and any pac8/10/12 teams still alive in the tourney. as an 11th seed, all the more was i cheering for the bruins. so, when suggs hit that lucky game winning three pointer at the buzzer, my heart immediately felt for the ucla kids. since then, i have been thinking about one question and its corollary:

is it better to lose in the tourney by a shot at the buzzer or totally get blown out? would you rather walk away from the game disappointed or feeling like your heart was ripped apart?

in sports, winning feels better than losing. perhaps it comes down to expectations and how one views winning/losing. perhaps it depends on how we see the game as microcosm of life

you all had huge expectations on your shoulders as the year progressed. until last night, no one had beaten you on the court. whenever we do not live up to expectations, we can feel like we let ourselves and others down. expectations at times can obscure our sight to what is actually in front of us. when we can see what is actually in front of us, we can appreciate it more. disappointment is part of all of our lives. getting blown out in a game is disappointing.

so, if your expectation was to win it all, then you will be hurting more than others because of baylor’s superior play last night. as in life, the higher the expectations, the more we can lose sight of what is actually happening and the good/grace/blessings that are accompanying what is real– even in disappointment.

in sports, as in life, unexpected events happen that we do not control. sometimes you make the lucky shot and move up and sometimes the lucky shot from your opponent knocks you out. there are some that argue that you make your own luck by hard work and proper preparation. those who are unlucky only have themselves to blame.

tell that to the ucla kids who might be thinking right now: we would not have lost to baylor by 16 points. maybe so. but baylor might have beaten ucla by 25 points. we can all play the “what if” game– in sports and life. this is the sports version of meritocracy: we deserve what we get because we earned it. when we think we deserve certain things because of our heard work, we can easily think that others do not deserve things because we perceive that they did not work hard enough. in our american society, meritocracy is a dangerous way of thinking, so beware.

but how do we recover after being victims to bad luck? yes, the ucla kids had their heart ripped out after that final shot. they could be thinking, “it could have been so different if that shot did not bank in!” something out of their control sealed their loss. i think that more compassion is needed after heart breaking losses.

having our hearts broken is more difficult than disappointment. it is very difficult when our “fate” is decided by factors outside of our control. “bad luck” tears at hearts. as in sports, so in life…

we see broken hearts in many places in our world: scared kids crossing a border, , losing jobs because of covid19, people drinking leaded water, people living on the streets and in cars, people sifting through their scattered belongings after a hurricane/flood/tornado, our elderly asian brothers and sisters being randomly attacked, our black brothers and sisters systematically treated with contempt, elderly folks forgotten in care facilities, people on ventilators dying from a virus, hungry people in long lines trying to get a box of food,

and many more.

do you see them? it is understandable if you missed them since you have probably been focused with your goal of winning basketball games these past months. many people actually turn away from really seeing the suffering of our sisters and brothers.

so, in the larger picture, the baylor coach was right: an opportunity to play a game in front of millions of people is a blessing– win or lose. what a rare experience you have had at such a young age. i hope that the disappointment from the loss does not crush you.

the game of basketball offers all of us many life lessons.

thank you for sharing with us all the talents that God has given you. the joy that comes through sports is truly a gift.

may God’s love be the ultimate source as your hearts heal. may all your disappointments shape you to be men of compassion and understanding. may saints aloysius and ignatius’s intercession help you become “men for others” in our broken world. in your service with others, may you bring Christ’s compassion and healing to whomever you encounter. may the grace of the gifts of the Spirit help and guide each step of your life’s journey.

what makes you sing alleluia?

when i received the first moderna covid vaccine, it felt like i hit the lottery. since i was on a substitute list in the event that someone did not show up for their appointment, i had to be at the auburn site within the hour after the phone call. in my heart, i sang alleluia. we all had been living under the cloud of covid for over a year now. having the vaccine feels like a cloak of amour in the fight. in turn, i have a lot less anxiety since now my 97 year old mother and i have had both vaccines. a double alleluia!!

alleluia in hebrew means “praise the Lord” and it is a response to the good that we experience. alleluia recognizes God as the source of the good we see. it can be quite spontaneous and surprising– just like grace. to sing alleluia is to strengthen the bond of love between us and our God. alleluia can be seen as an emotional response of thanksgiving.

we can also prepare our hearts for singing alleluia. the whole season of lent can function as such. liturgically, we refrain from singing alleluia during these penitential 40 days. during lent, we realize how the effects of suffering and death are working in our lives and the world– especially on good friday. the better our lenten reflections are, the more heartfelt our alleluia song can be on easter sunday. when we truly know how weak and sinful we are, alleluia is our response to God’s loving mercy and unconditional love for us. singing alleluia follows the grace we see in our lives.

easter resurrection is a pure gift of love and we sing special alleluias because jesus is truly risen. and lives among us!

there are many different styles of worship. depending on our temperament, we can gravitate or avoid certain ways of praying. some people are uncomfortable with extreme outwardly emotional styles of worship such as practiced by our pentecostal/charismatic sisters and brothers. some folks like silence and quiet like our contemplative friends. singing alleluia is more about the heart than the outward expression. the praise of God comes in all sorts of ways according to the Spirit.

but there is an undeniable burst of energy when we sing or shout the word “alleluia.” heart energy bursts forth and touches and affects those around us. expressions of thanksgiving are meant to be shared.

sometimes, singing alleluia can be subtle.

since my mother’s stroke, she is very limited in her ability to express herself in words. but i can recognize the sentiment in her facial expression. her “alleluias” come from when she sees beauty. notably, when the flocks of birds fly by her window before dusk, her eyes and face shine and her face. it is as if friends are dropping my to say hello.

it is the same when she sees a bouquet of flowers. her whole face lights up. and since she easily forgets, she can see the same bouquet a little later and have those alleluia eyes as if for the first time.

what makes you sing alleluia?

st augustine said it well:

amen, alleluia. a graced easter day and season to you all!