abundant life

most of the funerals that i have gone to choose the classic favorite psalm 23: “the lord is my shepherd, there is nothing i shall want”. especially when this verse is sung, it touches our hearts for consolation and comfort. it helps us remember the profound love of God in the image of a shepherd caring for his sheep.

 “…the sheep hear Jesus’ voice… the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out….he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice… Jesus said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” John 10

to me, this is the heart of faith: living life abundantly

the providential care of God, recognizing his voice and following him help us towards this abundant life– it is happening now

i know that i get in trouble when the competing voices of selfishness, pride etc get the better of me. how about you?

pain-filled beauty

this past year, i have done one thing that i have wanted to do for awhile now: “leave” facebook. i want to keep my account open so that i can stay in touch with a number of people that i have met these past years. but i want to spend as little time as possible on FB.

also, this past year i have done two things that i thought i would never do: subscribe to NBA league pass and get netflix. in the past when in full time ministry, i’d always think to myself, “if i get league pass, i would never get anything done!” so before the coronavirus changes, i was watching more nba hoops than ever before in my life because of access to all the games through league pass. i was in nba heaven!! well, that is over for now

i never thought i’d get netflix because i prefer seeing movies on the silver screen. i have always been distracted with video/dvd movies at home. well, that has changed too. in this first week, i have enjoyed the movies that i have seen on netflix.

i have especially gotten into korean dramas

there is an aspect of korean culture called “han”. there are various aspects to han but a translation i like is “the beauty of sorrow”

for various reasons, han really comes through in their movie storytelling. suffering, pain, heartbreak, shame, hurt etc are all felt differently in the korean experience than in other cultures.

in films, this sentiment of sorrow and hurt is a captivating and powerful dimension of how our stories are told.

in faith, it seems to me that it shines light on the power of the cross. as we acknowledge and embrace pain and suffering as part of life these crosses can be transformed because of love. death, sorrow and suffering do not have the last word because of grace-filled love.

thomas merton wrote: “the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.”

who does not fear being hurt? who does not suffer because of insignificant things (that we are usually blinded to)?

this crisis of coronavirus/covid19 can bring out suffering and sorrow in many different ways; the cross is coming out in a very unique way in this unique time for us all. insignificant things can torture us at times.

we pray for the healing grace of the Spirit of all in need. we pray for the peace of Christ over those who are carrying heavy crosses right now

weeds? nawww!!

this year, i am making my first attempt at a vegetable garden. i planted blue berry bushes, broccoli, spinach, and tomatoes. i have also been replanting dandelions and their seeds.

yup– dandelions!

i have made three batches of dandelion tea and have eaten the leaves too. delish! the tea actually tastes like celery. so i have reserved two sections of the yard for dandelions only.

there is a house on south 61st and ryan st whose whole front lawn is loaded with dandelions. all of those yellow flowers together look beautiful. i am actually jealous and also considering replanting the dandy seeds in our lawn. it’ll be less mowing too!

there’s the old saying, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” so, my riff on it is, “if your yard gives you dandelions, replant them so you can make more salads and tea!” (as well as have more flowers in your garden!)

fr. edmundo andres c.m.f. and fr. nnamdi ebem c.m.f.

two of our claretian brothers–fr edmundo andres and fr nnamdi ebem– have gone to their eternal reward with our Lord.

edmundo andres cmf
fnnamdi ebem cmf

i lived with fr edmundo in perth amboy, nj at our lady of fatima parish. he was a quiet and unassuming man– a good man at heart. he entered seminary in spain and grew up and was formed as a claretian. it was his whole life until the end. as an avid reader and scientist, he had a very analytic mind. although i pride myself with a pretty decent chess street game, he would beat me more often than i would like.

my favorite memory with edmundo revolved around a quincenera party at the parish one saturday evening. since there was no alcohol allowed in the hall, people used to try to sneak it in. one group of young adults was not so discreet and tried to bring it in through the front door. fr ed confronted them and they were not too happy being the object of his challenge. but he stood up to them firmly and did not mince any words. i had accompanied him and watch the exchange thinking, “are we (a 70 year old ed and i) going to have to throw down against these young guys?” but thankfully, they ultimately listened and left with their beer. edmundo had some moxie in him too!

nnamdi and i served at holy cross-immaculate heart of mary parish in chicago. he was a calm and steady presence. he always had a positive outlook on life and those he encountered. he found the comical in many situations that life threw at us.

my favorite community memories of nnamdi were during soccer’s world cup. he was such a passionate fan and would teach tom joyce and me the finer points of the game during that tournament. the game gave him great joy even if nigeria did not win it all. one lasting memory was whenever nnamdi was cooking his favorite stews from nigeria, i would bask in the curious and mysterious smells that would waft through the kitchen and then throughout the house.

rest in peace my brothers! you will never be forgotten

global pandemic compassion

this coronavirus and covid-19 crisis has hit us in the usa in very personal ways. we know people and families who have it. maybe we know people who have died and the grief that their families have experienced. we all know how it has affected people’s work and the stress of the loss of income because of furloughs and job loss.

these personal experience’s hopefully help us be more compassionate people to others who have and will suffer.

i just read that: “A recent analysis by the WHO found there are less than 5,000 beds in intensive care units available for COVID-19 patients across 43 African nations, which is about five beds per one million people in the reported countries compared to 4,000 beds per one million people in Europe. There are also fewer than 2,000 functional ventilators in public health services across 41 African nations that reported to WHO.” https://abcnews.go.com/International/africa-faces-uphill-battle-coronavirus-pandemic-fragile-health/story?id=70285430

FIVE icu beds per million people!! how many of our brothers and sisters will die from covid-19 as a result of the lack of resources?

as this pandemic continues to grow in africa (as well as asia and latin america), how will we respond? it is natural that as we in the usa are struggling with what is in our own households and neighborhoods that it is difficult to look across huge oceans to people that we have never met. but will our own suffering change us individually and as a society on how we see the developing world is struggles with the same virus? especially those of us in faith who strive to live our jesus’ mandate of love…

will we see more clearly how easy it is to prioritize our economic health over real human lives? will we love our money more than human lives?

will we care?

i pray the Spirit continue to heal us on EVERY level: ALL of us– in the developed world as well as people in developing countries. and in our healing, that our hearts grow in compassion for our brothers and sisters who are connected to us through a pandemic crisis.

let’s buy more and more stuff!!

have you heard of the 80-20 rule? 80% of the time, we use 20% of our stuff

i bought my bike brand seahawks shorts (pictured above) in 1984! although i have had to stitch it up, they are still good– and part of my 20%. it has been my favorite for MANY years.

but most things do not last. built in obsolescence does not settle well with me. i understand it, but i don’t like it. it says to us that quality isn’t important when something is made. in fact, it works against our capitalistic system. things are made with less quality so that we have to buy something new to replace it: more money can be made! the economy of consumers-producers can continue…

so spend the relief money well. let’s buy more and more and more!!

don’t even get me started on multinationals, the money they make and the influence they have that destroys communities.

and don’t get me started on the place of coveting as a built-in part of “marketing/advertising” in our economic system. is it still one of the ten commandments? who really confesses this as a sin?

forgive me for the rant and have a graced day!

the renewed journey of life and faith

one of my favorite stories of resurrection is “the road to emaus” (luke 24: 13-35). there are wonderful themes of our humanity and faith: christ among us; journey/narrative; table/food sharing– eucharist; conversion; renewal of spirit/heart; NEW journey (see the end of this post for the biblical text)

over the years, i have preached on these and other themes from the emaus story. but it is always fresh and a renewal of spirit every time i read it.

since i only celebrate one mass on sundays these days, i have come to appreciate, in a different way, the powerful words in the eucharistic prayer and the four actions at the last supper: to take, to bless, to break, to share. this is not just about the host that i hold, but it is really about our very lives: we are the body of christ

because of this communion, there are times that i can get choked up a bit when i pray this part of mass.

how is your journey of life and faith right now? how are we blinded to christ walking with us? how are we being invited to renew our spirits?

may the following story help us more clearly see our faith in this time of real suffering and blindness. may the Spirit of God open our eyes and hearts to jesus’ loving presence here and now.

LK 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

the clippers’ curse (is my curse)

i became a los angeles clippers fan in 1985 and remain a follower to this day.

I had just moved to orange county to begin work. it was difficult to get LA laker tickets because of their popularity. I really liked the showtime lakers led by kareem and magic.

so I started going to clippers games in the sports arena. cheap seats were $8 but you could really sit anywhere since there were only 3-4,000 people in attendance. but those who came were blue collar fans, a raucous crowd; I felt at home immediately.

but the clippers were a terrible team. as soon as one of their players did well, he would sign with another team or want a trade. from 1985-2005, the clips made the playoffs three times and lost in the first round each time. the clips were the best farm system for the nba. but they were often blue collar, tough teams– which I really like. and it was nba hoops!

when we lost the seattle sonics, clipper (and knicks) hoops became primary for me

fast forward to the blake griffin and chris paul years. the clips were finally legit. making the playoffs was assumed and there was an excitement to their style of play. the coach, doc rivers, held respect through it all since he won the championship with the Celtics in 2008.

this season, the clippers were a top team with the additions of kahwi leonard and paul george. with an already solid base of patrick beverly, montrezl harrell, lou williams, zubac et al. midseason, we added marcus morris and reggie williams. by march, they were the hottest nba team winning nine of their last ten games. they had beaten the top team in the west, the lakers, three games out of four. although the Milwaukee buck were playing great basketball, the clips had a legit chance to win it all this year. I WAS ECSTATIC!!!

then coronavirus hit and the games stopped… and will not return in the foreseeable future

maybe it’s all part of the clipper curse? maybe it’s just part of my personal nba suffering? sports crosses are lighter than other crosses, but crosses nonetheless — for me at least.

I am not a proponent that a team is a loser just because it does not win the championship. only one team out of 30 wins it all. but among the sonics, knicks and clippers the last nba championship was the sonics in 1979. please throw this dog a bone sometime soon…


resurrection blessing and grace

we are constantly relearning lessons of faith. today’s gospel helps renew us through the power of the resurrection; the Spirit touches our hearts on “divine mercy sunday”.

the sequence of the story gives us the effects of resurrection: jesus coming to us despite “locked doors”; healing our fear; the gift of peace. being sent to be people of forgiveness; a conversion of our doubt into wonder and awe; a new relationship with God which leads to living well. this is the abundance life that jesus gives us as gift in john 10: 10.

jesus says “blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”. i have always liked the interpretation of belief as “giving one’s heart to”. to believe is more a function of the heart than the intellect (although they both are interconnected).

we live in this crisis of the coronavirus, covid19 and huge changes in our lives that will help insure our safety and the good of others. through it all, jesus breaks through our locked doors. our hearts are filled with the peace that only jesus can give. we are sent to share this healing grace through forgiveness at all levels. a conversion of doubt into faith; our resolve to love is stronger because of these gifts; we experience life in abundance.

even in this crisis and cross, we experience resurrection!

perhaps a re-reading of john 20: 19-31 can give us extra graces:

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

kubota garden

walking distance from my house is the most beautiful japanese park in the seattle area– kubota garden. it really is a gift to the public to see this beauty– in rainier beach!! i especially like going to the top of the hill where the waterfall starts.

i remember sneaking in when i was a kid when it was still the kubota’s family property. their house was on the northern edge on renton avenue (i think). it was always a little mysterious and mischievous to walk through the gardens when we really were not supposed to be there.

most people from area have never been to kubota garden; many have perhaps never even heard of it. that’s ok with me. when i walked there the other day, i saw a total of six people. social distancing is not difficult in this park!

God gifts us with beauty; nature is an important part of creation. kubota garden is truly a gift from God! if you live in the seattle area and have never been there, GO! you will thank yourself for making the effort as your heart will be filled with God’s goodness.

check out: https://www.kubotagarden.org/