Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Writing in the Morning ...

Yesterday afternoon one of the members of our Campus Ministry team participated in a webinar entitled: The New Face of Adult Faith Formation: Engaging Today’s Spiritual Seeker. He raved about it. One part of the presentation included more effective ways that religious leaders might reach out to young adults. One of those suggestions included that the pastor write a weekly blog to his congregation. Although, I am not a pastor of sorts, I do happen to be a Jesuit priest who is the Director of Campus Ministry. I also like to write. Yet, I cannot imagine writing one column every week. I would do much better if I had suggested topics. One Jesuit suggested that I ask our campus ministry team what I might write about or I might ask the students who come into our office. I know I have a number of followers on my Facebook as well as a few on this blog site. Would you have topics I might consider writing about? I have started getting up earlier in the morning to take my morning coffee, read the various blogs I subscribe too, sit and take in the beauty outside my window. I could also write a morning reflection … So, I ask all of you, what might be a series of topics I can write on?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

5th Sunday of Easter 2010

Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection transformed his disciples. Following those first few days that his disciples sat cowering in fear in an upper room in Jerusalem, the succeeding months had Jesus’ disciples growing in grace, confidence and courage.

On fire with their faith, the disciples hit the road again proclaiming Christ’s salavific story and more often through their loving deeds – eating with sinners, restoring sight to the blind, freeing those possessed by evil spirits. And all this in the face of detractors, who often rallied opposition, imprisoned them, ran them out of their towns, and even – at times – tried to kill them. And yet they continued … often returning to those very same towns where they met opposition … refusing to withdraw their message of God's love even though it led him to their cross. Try Lystra – a rather daring stop on Paul's part since the last time he was there he was stoned by a mob and left for dead!

Impelled, on fire with the gift of their faith, they drew many more members together, appointing leaders, and a new, young church awakened.

What drew them together? A dynamic vision for a coming Kingdom.

“I, John, saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, and I heard a loud voice, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race … and there will be no more death for the old order has passed away.”

And, this new city that John speaks of in the Book of Revelation is not some far away Kingdom that only appears at the end of time. Every time you and I, individually and together as the People of God – in faith – remember who Jesus is, the one who hung out with those pushed aside, the one who at the table took the role of a slave bending down to wash his disciples feet; Every time we remember that Jesus gave up his very life on the cross for the sin of humankind; Every time we open our hearts in love to another, through our acts of justice, compassion, healing, forgiveness, encouragement, peace-making; then we take part in something very real; With every act of love, we help to forward this strategic vision of a new city, the new Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God, wherein all tears are wiped away and all pain is alleviated.

I experienced this firsthand last summer in Burundi.

Visiting Maggie Barenkitze in her hometown, Ruyigi – she first took us to a place called the Garage of Angels. Getting out of the car, she led us to the back of the garage, where about 20 young men - gathered around a table – learned how to put a car engine together. Here in this training center war orphans and ex-child soldiers, who once clashed with one another, now stood side by side learning practical life skills while peacefully sharing the same space in friendship and mutual respect, regardless of whether they were Hutu or Tutsi.

Our second stop took us out to the edge of town, to a recently finished housing development. Driving down a side road, we parked in front of a small masonry-style home with a corrugated metal roof. Walking around to the front of the house, we met two Hutu women, both blind and one suffering from leprosy. Both sat on their front porch, weaving baskets for the next day’s market. Across the way from their home sat another woman, a Tutsi, with her two-year-old daughter. Because she was able to see, she sat sorting the rice for the evening’s dinner for the first two women.

As we left, I thought to myself “In many ways what Maggie is building is paradise, a place where hope can dwell and where Hutu and Tutsi can work and live together side by side in peace and reconciliation.”

Maggie’s example is only one of many … any of one of us can call to mind inspiring stories of modern day saints who with their lives through their very hands have created this holy city, wherein God dwells! The martyrs of El Salvador, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa or Pope John Paul II, perhaps even our grandparents … and any one of our peers. Their faith rouses our faith … moves our hearts to make a difference … to love as Jesus commanded … to help build up God’s Kingdom with our two hands.

It is with our very lives. With these, our two hands, and God’s grace that we are empowered leaders for a just and humane world forwarding the strategic vision of God, of co-creating and co-laboring with God so that together we can transform the world!

One caveat, though! How is this love – that Jesus commands us to – modeled in our community? Sometimes it far easier to minister to those outside of our own community than our very own.

Look around! Are there any divisions that exist? Where are we not truthful? Where have we ignored others, pushed aside their concerns? Who are we unkind towards? Who have we not listened to? Who are we in conflict with? Holding our ground, unwilling to forgive? Where have we not taken responsibility for our wrongs?

Even in the earliest Christian communities divisions existed within its very own rank. In his letter to the Christian community at Philippi, Paul urges two of the community members to come to mutual understanding … to forgive one another. To that community Paul reminds them, “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Whatever our reasons, we have a lot of work to do as we try to heal divisions, forgive hurts, care for the poorest and welcome the newcomers into our midst. Perhaps our prayer can be the one we prayed at beginning of this mass:

"O loving Christ, make us a community that mirrors your love so that we can be a sign of your resurrected presence in our world."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

3rd Sunday of Easter - Fr. Kevin Grove, CSC at the Chapel of Saint Ignatius, Seattle, WA

As a child, I knew when I was in trouble. Rather than calling me Kevin or any diminutive form of my name, my parents would use my full name, my given name: “‘Kevin Gregory Grove’ stop that,” or “come over here!” And if the tone was not convincing enough, there was something about using my full name that made it so. Perhaps your parents did this, too, I don’t know. But there is something about using someone’s entire, given name—first, middle, and last—especially when they are in trouble. Courts of law do the same thing. The very tactic reminds us of the entirety of who we are, and when we have been bad that we haven’t been all that we are called to be but only a portion of that.

If we think about the power of our own given names, then the deep meaning of the exchanges between Jesus and Peter open up before our eyes. Today Jesus in the Gospel appears to the disciples along the Sea of Tiberias. And we get a glimpse into this privileged conversation between Jesus and Peter, a great reconciliation and a three-fold statement of “Yes, Lord, I love you” when just days before Peter had denied the same Lord three different times.

But this exchange between Peter and Jesus is meant to give each of us a flashback to the moment when Jesus first called Peter. Andrew, Peter’s brother, realizes that he has found the messiah, hurries to get his brother, and brings him right up to Jesus. And something happens in that moment that happens to none of the other disciples. Jesus looks into the young man’s eyes and says, “You are Simon, the son of John; you will be called [Peter]” (2:42). Jesus does something remarkable, and Peter wasn’t even in trouble at this point. Jesus uses his full name: You are Simon, the son of John. Jesus summed up everything in that moment that the disciple had been, was, and would be: Simon, the son of John. And Jesus made him even more. You will be called Peter. He didn’t cease to be the Son of John, but Jesus Christ made him someone more, someone more himself. And so from early on in John’s Gospel we see that this man named Peter is very specially named. Wrapped up in that very name, Peter, is his God given mission. And every time we hear the word “Peter” used in the Gospel, we are reminded that Christ made him that.

And it is inevitably compromised. In the other Gospels, the writers actually interface the two names for Peter. Sometimes he is Simon and at other times he is Peter. It’s not that he has a split personality, but that he has a very difficult time living into this vocation that the Lord has placed him. And for the most part, the Gospel of John uses a compromise, calling this disciple “Simon Peter.” It’s true; he was both. But then he denies the Lord three times. And then he meets the Lord on the shore of the sea of Tiberias, and a special exchange begins. Jesus does not address the disciple as Peter, or Simon-Peter. Jesus questions him, “Simon son of John” –his full, given name that Jesus had first called him before asking more of him as Peter. “Simon, son of John do you love me more than these?” “Simon, son of John do you love me?” “Simon, son of John, do you love me.”

There is a way in which this must have been devastating to Peter. In one sense he had failed his new name. And from the roots of that broken disciple’s very self, Christ draws out again Peter from Simon the Son of John. And this is the great subtlety and beauty of our savior. Jesus doesn’t say again, you messed up but you are once more Peter. Because he doesn’t have to. By the end of the third, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”, the Gospel writer starts calling him “Peter.” Not Simon Son of John, not Simon Peter, just Peter. It was a transformation that Simon son of John couldn’t affect or live up to on his own. He tried; and three times he denied his Lord. And in three times saying “yes” he loved his Lord, Peter realized that we do not make ourselves God’s chosen, because we will fail every single time. But God holds up the best of our human love and perfects it and makes us who we really are over and over and over again. In asking “Simon Son of John do you love me?”, Jesus communicated that I love you repeatedly and complete you in such a way that no matter your fall I am the one who makes you Peter. It is the same for you and for me, too. Our parents went back to our full names when we were in trouble, but for the purpose of calling something more out of us than we had become. Like Simon the son of John, Christ renames in us, the fullness of life. And when we are called, like Simon Peter we repeatedly fall, and we repeatedly must be recalled by Christ himself. And just as in that process, Simon the Son of John finally grew into his God-given name of Peter, so too is God ready to name each of us in full and then demand something more.

There is a blessed ending to this story. After Jesus had gone and Peter began his ministry, he wrote his own letters. And in the first of these, he begins it in this way: “I, Peter, and apostle of Jesus Christ.” At last he used the fullness of the name. The resurrected Christ names you and me again this day, names us into that same fullness.

Fr. Kevin Grove, CSC
Chapel of Saint Ignatius
April 18, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday: Entering into Holy Week and a New Dawn of Possibility!

First I could hear the beat of the drum!
As we rounded the corner
toward the entrance of the church
my eyes met a huge mass of people processing in.
The colors and texture of their dress – splendid:
reds, yellows, oranges, blues, whites, greens.

Entering into the mix of the peoples,
the voices now deafening …
joyful … energetic … hopeful!

“Hosanna to the King.
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!

Palms raised, bodies swaying,
a surety in their step,
despite their questions, their struggles,
their unfreedom, their fear.

Processing in together
and leaning into a new dawn of fresh possibility!
Simply a cathartic experience
and one that I have not experienced since.

In this African dawn on Palm Sunday 2006,
it became utterly clear that the church,
this community of faith had arrived at a climatic moment.
With Jesus and his disciples,
each one of them,
you and I,
the Church enter …
in faith …
into Holy Week.

My friends,
as we each enter into the drama of this week … today,
who would ever imagine that this Jesus,
5 days later would be crucified
by the very same people who cry out:
Hosanna to our King! Blessed be the Lord!

For those of us who profess this faith,
we know it does not end with this tragic twist …
but it does end with a twist.

Looking to Jesus dying on the cross
one could think that this is the end …
and yet it isn’t …
It is the beginning of something new …
yet again …
Our attentiveness and our faith
to the nuances of this gripping story
helps us to believe …
once more …
that the tragic end we witness …
death …
is certainly not the end.

We know this story all to well …
and for all of us gathered here,
this year has tested our faith,
in ways we could not even had imagined ….
having encountered and witnessed to hardships …
afflictions in any number of ways …

receiving a phone call re: the unexpected death of a close friend;

or finding out someone in our family as incurable cancer;

or what about the continued ethnic and religious cleansing;

or the 300,000 men, women and children –
at last count-
having died in the January Haiti earthquake;

or the unjust wars that still plague our world community;

or through the letting go of our very own aspirations.

And in all of these instances and many more,
we each are called in faith
to believe these losses are not necessarily the end …

Remember Jesus’ ever-familiar words …
I am the way, the truth, and life –
whoever follows me will have eternal life …

And what is this way toward eternal life?
Right through the heart of Jerusalem,
to a meal in the upper room,
to a garden in the middle of the night,
to an unjust trial with Pilate,
to the betrayal of Judas and Peter,
along the byways of Jerusalem,
to a place outside the city gates called the Skull …

Here Jesus’ cross is planted …
The cross … is the intersection …
that reorients us toward a new way …
the Way … Jesus’ way
through which we see differently …
experience new found freedom …
fresh possibility.

Our Lenten season
has afforded us several opportunities
to witness to stories that appear desperate … hopeless
and yet …
surprising …
openings to an unexpected miracle …
new opportunity …
new life:

a blind man, Bartimaeus regains his sight;

a Samaritan woman thirsty shows up at the well
and leaves with her thirst quenched
and a new found freedom;

a dead man, Lazarus,
three days in the tomb,
finds a new life;

The faithful remembering Archbishop Oscar Romero –
who on this 30th anniversary of his martyrdom –
continues to deeply live in the hearts and faith
of the El Salvadoran people;

11 young men and women – your peers - going deeper,
listening to their yearnings,
that will lead each of them to that pool
to be washed clean and sent into a new way of living.

And what about any one of us in this Lenten season?
In our own letting go …
of dying to our unfree, selfish, desires, and having faith,
what have we received?

What new dawn of possibility will we enter into?

Let us go then – courageously – with Jesus
into the heart of Jerusalem …
into this Holy Week,
attentive to our hearts
and new the dawn of possibility.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Third Sunday of Lent 2010

“If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

In our Gospel, a woman's life is dramatically changed, and it all starts with what appears as a chance encounter. Reflecting on our lives, I suspect each one of us have experienced something similar that started by accident, a chance encounter, a coincidence. An older Jesuit once told me that a chance encounter, a coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

Certainly in the beginning of this story the grace of God appears anonymously – at first. We witness, what on the face of it is, an unremarkable, chance encounter between two very unlikely characters in the wilderness, at a well, thirsty from a day’s journey during the noon hour heat. Arriving with bucket in hand, one woman’s midday sojourn speaks volumes it reveals her outcast state, as a fallen Samaritan woman.

There she encounters a stranger, a Jewish man, who is at first unknown to her, though later she has a suspicion that he might be a prophet, and still later on wonders if indeed he is the Messiah, the One who will tell everything. It his request for a drink that unnerves her, breaking all the social, cultural conventions of the day: first as a man, talking to a woman; second, as a Jew to a Samaritan; third, as a holy man to a public sinner; fourth his willingness to drink from their well using her cup. And this encounter begins the woman’s remarkable journey toward her salvation …

Isn’t it simply amazing how the wonder of God comes in such ordinary ways, chance encounters? God working anonymously in our lives, very close and everyday, offering us opportunities for new life, new meaning and direction.

I am consoled and encouraged by your peers we have heard the last couple of weeks – Mathew, Victoria, and tonight, Alex, all who have witnessed to the happenstance ways – at times – about the many graces that have surprised them, invited them to a new way of living – of making this life choice to becoming Catholic.

With so many things going on around us at this university, how attentive are we to those chance moments of encounter when Christ sidles up close to us, inviting each one of us to a deeper, more meaningful life? To drink of his water … a living water that springs up within us satiates our every desire and longing? How attentive are we?

Certainly the Samaritan woman was attentive, and even a tad curious, though – at first – she did not fully comprehend who this stranger was. She comes with the intention to draw water at the well of Jacob and instead finds herself being drawn in, her entire self, all that she has done … drawn into a new well … a well that promises so much more … to quench all of her thirst and longing!

Speaking to the woman, Jesus proceeds to open up her heart and gradually enters into it. And having entered into her heart, Jesus reveals her to herself: “He told me everything I have done.” Jesus reveals the truth to her in love.

Romano Guardini describes how God’s loving gaze works in us. “To be seen by God does not mean to be exposed to the merciless gaze, but to be enfolded in the deepest care. Human seeing often destroys the mystery of the other. God’s seeing creates it.” This is what the Samaritan woman experienced, the creating gaze of Jesus who knew her and loved her into freedom!

I am often reminded of this story when I was younger Jesuit: Jesus drawing, inviting me into deeper union with him. The year before I was ordained a priest I made an 8-day retreat in Los Altos, CA. For the whole of 8 days, Jesus sang a love song to me.

The lyrics go like this: The wilderness will lead you; To the place where I will speak; Integrity and justice; With tenderness; You shall know. Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.

One evening as I looked down into the San Jose Valley, I felt Jesus sidling up to me and say, “I want to be with you Michael!” “Lord, if you knew who I was, you would not want to be with me.” “Michael, I know you and I want to be with you. With you and I together anything is possible.”

That’s one of many stories that each one of us in this community could share with one another – of being drawn into the life giving water that Jesus wants to share with us. I now invite forward Alex Hopkins to share his story …

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Should I Include in This Blog?

Well, I have given some thought that I should update this blog on a more regular basis. Any thoughts on what I should use this blog for would be greatly appreciated. I do enjoy writing and often receive many positive accolades for the homilies I publish on Facebook. I have often thought it might be worthwhile to write about the daily joys and tribulations of a Director of Campus Ministry. I can certainly include these the homilies as well as the reflections as Director of Campus Ministry ... any other thoughts from folks on what else I could use this blog for? Would be interested in any thoughts!

Memorial Mass for Haitians - Homily

The last 48 hours we have seen the pictures,
read the words, offered prayers and intentions,
and perhaps even questioned ourselves
in the face of the largest natural disaster
in each of our lifetimes.

What can we say
in the face of such a terrible tragedy
in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere?

Or another question raises itself:
How can God – who stands with the poor –
allow for such a tragedy to happen?
Where was God?

I find these questions difficult to answer …
impossible really …
and these questions are not really any different
than what the Israelites in our first reading experience,
when in the face of the terrible tragedy
of the battle with the Philistines, they ask,

“Why has the LORD permitted us
to be defeated today by the Philistines?”

All of these questions and really no answers.
What are we to do
in the face of such huge questions,
it seems only natural
to gather together like we do tonight …
in faith …
in faith in a God
who is the God of Hope.

My friends,
I do not think God is responsible
for any evil in the world.

God does not cause evil.
God does not cause earthquakes or tsunamis or famines
to get back at people for something they may have done.

Evil does not discriminate …
evil just happens
whether by the hands of others
or by the terrible natural disasters
we have all witnessed to over the last many years …

So, where is God then in all of this?

I am reminded of an image
that started my day
when reading this morning’s New York Times.

A collapsed cathedral in Port a Prince …
the remains of a once beautiful cathedral
reduced now to only rubble
with only some of its outer walls still standing.

Yet in that starkness – from the air -
the form of a cross is all that is left to the eye.

Imagine for a moment
in the midst of the chaos and distress of Port au Prince
that a cross stands in the middle of this city.

Where is Christ in all of this?
The crucified Christ –
naked on the cross and his blood pouring out –
laments with the Haitian people.

The crucified One
weeps with his arms
wrapped around women in search of their children,
husbands looking for their wives,
lost and stunned children looking for their parents.

Yet, the cross is not just a sign of death,
is not just a sign of endings.

The cross also signifies hope,
hope for a future,
even though in the pictures, videos,
and words of the days
it just seems so utterly impossible
to think or believe that hope is even possible.

Yet that is our faith.

I am consoled by what Saint Ignatius writes
in his Meditation on the Incarnation
when he describes the Godhead
looking down on all of creation
in its distress, corruption, brokenness,
confusion, dire straits, and tragedies.

There God,
in only what God can do because God is love
gives his very self to the world through his son, Jesus!

Jesus the Christ in his deep love and compassion for creation,
for his all peoples, for the Haitian people,
has chosen to make his home in Haiti …
in Port au Prince.
He has chosen to stand in solidarity with them,
weeping with them,
and offering his hands
and heart for a better tomorrow.

That is what we witness in today’s Gospel reading.
The leper begs Jesus to make him clean.
Jesus in his great compassion reaches out to the leper
and heals and makes him whole again.

And we have witnessed
Christ, the healer, the compassionate One,
who has made himself known
through the hearts and hands
of so many around our global neighborhood.

Even within this SU neighborhood,
all of us have gathered together
in deep care and compassion,
in a variety places across our campus today,
and have asked, What can we do?
How can we be with our Haitian sisters and brothers?

And we do this because of our shared humanity …
and because we have Christ within us
who only knows how to love with compassion.

Mike Bayard, SJ
Ecumenical Chapel
January 14, 2010