Reflections by Father Dennis Rausch of the Archdiocese of Miami, Florida
Reflections on faith and spiritual growth for today
Reflections on faith and spiritual growth for today
Blessings to all,
The video that you are watching was made at St. Bernard Catholic Church on Divine Mercy Sunday. May God’s mercy and unconditional love surround you always. Father Dennis
4th Sunday of Easter 4.25.2021 GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY
The other day I was asked, "What will the church be like as we come out of Covid-19? I have to admit I was a little perplexed but the question was relevant and needed some examining. Throughout covid I have often wondered if we will have learned anything as we move along this continuum from total shut down to gradual openings. We are already seeing what is happening and it shows that most people have lost their patience, their sense of kindness and any feelings of solidarity; we say we are all in this together, but are we really?
What I see happening on the streets and inside the church are not much different from each other. But then why should they be, the “church” is constituted by the people in the streets, society. Church is never separated from society; however, we should be in a way that we act as leaders of community building that is motivated from our belief in Jesus Christ and his message to build his Kingdom of JUSTICE, PEACE AND LOVE.. Jesus’ message is to love others as one self; or the old golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” We have moved passed the Hebrew Testament where the law said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” One of my professors once said, we would all be walking around blind and toothless if we choose to live with that philosophy.
We are still seeing rises and falls with covid and the variants that it has produced. Scientists are telling us that until we get this virus under 80% across our planet, it will keep coming back and then no one is safe. This means that we cannot throw caution to the win, and resume an attitude of everyone for themselves which appears to be the dominate “modus operandi” in our country. We can just throw all the precautions out the window and run free back into our selfish and self-centered behaviors that crippled us before Covid-19. With this sort of attitude it will be a long, long time to get to the other side of this pandemic.
Where were we as a country and a church before Covid-19 began it’s deadly march across our country, leaving illness, death, loss of saying a proper good-by to a loved one. We have all seen the pictures and heard the stories told nightly on the news. We have been a me first driven society that dates back to the Presidency of Roland Regan and his philosophy...”pull yourself up by your own boot straps.” That was easy for hm to say with all the advantages he grew up with and that were affording him as a white man, movie star and finally president. What about all those in our society and in our church who have been left behind, lost and forgotten because we just don’t “see” them anymore. We have become so callused with scales upon our eyes that we have become indifferent to the needs of those who are our poorest sisters and brothers. I will come back to this theme again.
I'm calling this reflection, HEARTLAND...HEART- -LAND. It’s a true to life story of a family in Canada who raise and train horses for equestrian jumping and all that that entails... it’s a lot. I love horses myself from when I spent time on the farm with my cousins, aunt and uncle in North Dakota. Living on the land reminds me or our common connection to the land, the animals, the elements like nothing in the city can. We are allinterconnected, with all living things as we have read in Pope Francis Encyclical, “Laudato Si, On Our Common Home, puts a new interpretation on who we are, why are we here, and how are we to live in harmony not only with each other as humans inclusive of all that has life on this planet. We share this planet with all living matter, God created it for us to sustain our life not to drain it life little by little until it will no longer be able to sustain life as we know it and certainly not human life.
Let us return to the Barrett Family living in Alberta, Canada in the Rocky Mountains that tower over the land that sustains the lives of the people and their livelihood for work, play, and thanksgiving and wonder! They are like most other families with their disagreements, sometimes leading to disappointments, trying to figure things out with high school teenagers and their fears, joys and the trepidation of entering into a relationship. Relationships are always tricky and call for a lot of give and take and growing in trust, with an open mindedness to learning new things and new ways of working together, cooperation and realizing I’m not the most important person in the room; we all have something important to contribute. This is demonstrated in the cooperation it takes to ride a horse as both rider and horse learn to trust one another, for without trust that horse will never be ridden.
They tend to run into a problem with Grandpa who is having a hard time letting go of the past and lives in memories of his beautiful, loving wife and daughter who was a horse trainer and jumper herself with many rewards to show her skills not only in jumping but even more so it helping people with the training of their horses, troubled horses to get in touch with their horse and become one with them. Horses are very sensitive animals and can read the riders every move, and attitude be it one of anger, confusion, trust or respect or lack thereof.
As we begin to emerge from our lock downs, isolation, and fears or each other, we have reached a cross roads or as some have said, an inflection point. What does this mean, I believe it means we must stop and take stock at where we are and what are we doing, how are we living and relating or not connecting to each other in ways that Christ has taught us, “love one another as I Iove you.”
There are two daughters who are also finding their way with running the ranch and being a horse trainer that soon gains much notoriety at what she can do with horses who have problems. We learn early on that it is more about the relationship between the rider and the horse, they need to be on the same wave length for it all to work smoothly. Patience and openness to work together, to go beyond where I want to go and try to force the horse to do what I want. It just doesn't work that way. The rider must get in sink with the horse or they will never become a team that can win.
Horses are sensitive animals and can read a rider long before the horse is mounted. I have had some experience with horseback riding when I worked on my uncles farm a few summers before going off to college-seminary. The part of this story that stands out the most for me is how this three generation family sticks together through all the rough times, good times and confusion that life can through at you.
In a few years some major changes come alone, the oldest daughter meets a nice oil man and they get married and move off to Dubie where she has to make a lot of changes and live in a new culture where society is totally unfamiliar to her. Within the family jealousies, mistrust enter in when any one new is brought into the mix, confusion and mistrust have a way of causing pain and sadness. These “normal” eruptions have to be delt with to return the family to a state of wellness, peace and love. It is apparent that this family is truly dedicated to each other and making whatever adjustments that are necessary to make life work in a loving caring way.
I see Heart- Land as a paradigm for what we as a church can choose to do or not do as we try to move forward into a “new” norm. The past is gone, we have been living in what Fr. Rohr calls, “a liminal period,” we are already but not yet, the past is gone and the future is yet to be created. Liminal periods throw us off our game, that which was once solid and dependable is not so, to many variables have entered into the mix.
Which causes us to become afraid and try as we might to hold on to the past, which is doomed to fail or we can reach out to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord who is our strength and guide, the good shepherd who loves us and will always look after us, especially when we find ourselves lost in the deepest darkest moments of life. What St. John of the Cross and others have called the “dark night of the soul.” We have been living in just such a world, we are frightened, tired, and wondering where do we go from here? People are screaming, “When can we go back to normal? However, what did that”normal” look like? I for on, do not see much reason of faith to return to the old broken ways in which society and church had failed the people.
Father Richard Rohr, spiritualist, teacher, speaker, visionary has likened this time to an APOCALYPSE. No this is not the end time or the rapture as it is so often misunderstood. Rather, it is an “unveiling” of a hidden truth. And that truth is that everything changes and that the only thing we can be certain of is CHANGE.
Change is the one thing that our ego-self is most afraid of, being put aside for a greater good, and deepening of my relationship with the God of Love whom I am an intrigue part of; Jesus says to us,” as the Father is in ME and I am in the Father, so too are you in Me.” We are invited to be ONE in the Lord. If we choose to stand on the outside, to refuse to participate in the life and Will of God, our life will be very sad and disappointing to say the least.
We have come to a crossroads, new choices have to be made if we are to continue to live the glorious life that God had planned and gave to us in His Resurrection. I believe the first change that has to be made is an opening of our hearts to change, opening ourself to the wider, bigger view of life and all that it has to offer us. We had fallen into patterns that were more self-destructive than life - giving. What do I mean by that? Our faith teaches us to love God and our neighbor as ourself. The problem with that is we honestly don’t love ourselves very much and even when we come to confession to ask God for forgiveness we tend so often to doubt that even God completely forgives.
Why is that; because our human interactions have taught us that forgiveness can not be trusted, that when we are young those who are given to us to teach by example and word trust and love. They fail us and we learn to doubt that love and forgiveness can be lasting and far to often have strings attached, i.e. if you do this then you will get this, trust and love are contingent upon buying off the person. It’s a reward system that we believe we have to work for if we are to receive eternal life. It doesn’t work that way, God’s unconditional love is a gratuitous gift of mercy, forgiveness and absolute LOVE.
Returning once again to our Canadian family there is one theme that keeps coming through the story, and that is how they are all attached to the land that has been in the family for six generations. When troubles come alone, and they certainly do, like the fire that burnt down the barn, children falling into an empty well and the jealousies that inevitably show up. These family crisis did not turn them against each other. Rather they develop a strong bond of love and trust with each other that continuously builds more and more trust. Their crises do not tear them apart but build even stronger bonds of caring and forgivenessBy working together they over come some great obstacles and grow stronger.
Teamwork, honoring each ones ability to contribute without judgement gets the family through many trials. It is this quality that we need to see more of in our church as we come out of Covid. We are like goffers in our protected environment. We have been hidden for over a year, so much has changed.
It is time to emerge, to gather together once again to share and learn who we have become and how this “dark night” has so profoundly changed us.
In Part 2 we will look at ways that can be implemented with a much stronger focus on community building - faith sharing, Bible sharing, encouraging families to pray together, share their evening meal as one family sitting down at one table, and in ding so to early listen to each other with a keen interest of what is happening in each of their lives. Family building must become the # 1 priority on our society and especially in our church.
Let us conclude with this prayer from John Dunne, C.S.C. That he himself had composed and prayed together on his death bed with close friends.
O Lord, go with me
And be my guide,
In my most need
Be by my side:
If you are guiding me
I shall not want,
If you are guarding me
I shall not fear;
Though I am walking
In the valley of the shadow
Of my dying,
You are waking with me,
And When I am not
You will have taken me.