All Saints: All of Us 

 

All Saints: All of Us – Br. Michael, ofm

 

Ever since I have been a child, I have enjoyed Halloween. I have enjoyed the creativity of it and the sense of adventure. There is something about the glow of light coming from a carved pumpkin on a dark night that speaks to the core of who I am and who we all are. Early on in my life I learned that All Saints Day was November 1 and Halloween makes sense then when they are aligned; for the Saints know all about the light within.

 

In the First Letter of John (3.1-3) we read… “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” This speaks to the creativity and sense of adventure that our lives hold not just at Halloween, rather in our daily living for we are created good, holy and worthy. Being God’s children awakens us to the creativity to build the kingdom with our abilities, skills and talents. Being God’s children means that the adventure we call life is not even a glimpse of the adventure which is our heavenly reward. Being God’s children asks us to shine forth the light which has been entrusted to us and to let it shine for we have “this hope in God”.

 

All Saints Day gives voice to the countless men, women and children who as Psalm 24 states, is “the company of those who seek God’s face.” All Saints Day is not about halos, white robes and wings, it is about how we the children of God seek God’s face by living out the beatitudes. The beatitudes as an extension of the golden rule provide us with the reality check of being called blessed. We are indeed blessed, as is all of humanity and creation, the reality is how we embrace and live out of this blessedness. We the children of God, saints among the saints are called to the freedom, to not living beyond our means, to the strength of offering comfort, and respect for all of creation. We are called to be a voice of justice and dignity, peacemakers and to keep our eyes on heaven. We know this is not easy in a world which puts self in demand and makes us instant stars daily, even if only of our own worlds. Being children of God is a life time journey, being saints is a journey in the making each day for as the letter of John states, “when God is revealed, we will be like God, for we will see God as God is.” This is not an instant thing at all, this is about transformation. This is about opening our heart to the truth of Love, this is about in the midst of the muck, hatred and even persecution that the light at our core (like that of a jack-o-lantern) is always shining, for we are called to “rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5.12a).

 

We stand shoulder to shoulder with the great saints of history who sought the face of God, we also stand shoulder to shoulder with the great saints of our time and our day (and there are many during this pandemic) who seek the face of God. Let us continue to raise our voices in gratitude, be blessings for each other, be aware of our blessings and join our voices singing with all the saints in glory for we are children of God. As we stand shoulder to shoulder, saints among the saints we will see the creativity which makes us children of God, we will be encouraged for the adventure of living out the beatitudes and we will shine with the light that God has incorporated into our very DNA! As Josephine Furlong once said, “Today (All Saints Day), as we honour the saints, the holy people of God, let us keep in mind that each one of us shares in the communion of saints. We are called to holiness. We are called to sainthood. We are called to God’s service. No one is missing. No one is left out… we are one family of God. Let us thank God for all the holy men, women and children who have prepared the way to Jesus for us. They show us that God is in our midst!”

 

Indeed, let us rejoice and be glad

knowing that the light at our core is shining bright

(even if a jack-o-lantern needs to remind us)!

 

Happy Halloween! Happy All Saints!

Love God – Love Neighbour – Love Self 

 

Love God – Love Neighbour – Love Self  – Br. Michael, ofm

 

“Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind… love your neighbour as yourself,” Jesus says in gospel of Matthew (chapter 22).

These greatest of commandments echo in my head and heart not only this weekend because they will be proclaimed and preached about, but because they guide my daily living. As they guide my daily living, they challenge me to how I embrace life.

To love my neighbours as I love myself means that I am taking care of myself. Not only physically and socially but also spiritually and my soul too. It is not easy to love one’s self. We measure ourselves against others, we view our lives in comparison of what they have and we don’t, we allow our mind to fill not with God and God’s love but with jealousy, worry and hurts. How do I love my neighbour if I can’t love myself? How do I love my neighbour when my jealousy makes me build walls and fences around my stuff and my heart? When my worries and fears turn to judgement, prejudices, and false images of my neighbours? When my hurts from my journey are projected upon my neighbours and they become not good enough, or don’t do things the right way or meet my expectation? It is tough to love my neighbour as myself because this means I need to evaluate my living.

Do I love myself by making time for prayer and simply being before my God?
Do I love myself by having a heart of gratitude?
Do I love myself by constantly acknowledging what I have and trusting it is enough (both materially and skills/talents?)?
Do I love myself by forgiving myself for my shortcomings and when I hurt another?
Do I love myself by seeking the greater good for all, for the human family that I myself am a part of?

When we stop and reflect on how we love ourselves and how we interact with the human family, our patterns become obvious; maybe a bit too painfully obvious. I know it causes me to pause and say, “Oh that needs a redo or I need to let go or I have not listened to the still small voice in my heart.” I know that when I pause and reflect on my actions, I see that my heart needs a tune up and needs to align again with the Love of all loves, our God.

Psalm 18 declares “I love you, O Lord, my strength.” Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are incorporated into the heart of our God. God indeed is our strength. Yet time and again we deny ourselves this beautiful gift because we don’t think we are worthy; we can’t see the love that makes up our very selves. We instead turn loving the Lord our God into loving the Lord the God of our choice – whether that be money, possessions, work, reputation, travel, food and drink, etc. – anything to cloud over the truth of God’s DNA being in our DNA and the truth to which to which this calls us. It is easier to love those things than it is to love the fulness of Love – our God.

Do I love our God – the source of all love or do I love the stuff I love?
Do I love my neighbour knowing God is present in them in ways I may not see easily?
Do I love our God not simply by whispers of a prayer but by listening for God’s voice as well?
Do I love my neighbours because they can show me new paths to God?

St. Francis of Assisi was a young man full of the illusion that he was his own God. His loving of self was an illusion that consisted of parties, being a knight and having a place of distinction among his friends and community. When he finally saw past this illusion or rather when this illusion was stripped of him and he was left with nothing but himself in a prisoner’s cell and then in front of a crucifix, he came to understand loving God and neighbour in a new way. When Francis of Assisi was able to embrace the freedom of the gift of poverty he was raptured with love of God and love neighbour. “My God and My All,” he would declare time and again knowing that God was indeed with him and within him. He would see the presence of God in his neighbour the leper, his neighbour the brother and his neighbour of creation. He was able to do this because he was no longer saying, “I am God and I am All” he was able to love them as himself because he knew they too were carrying the love of God in them. God was indeed that close time and again, how could he not love God and neighbour? It’s the same question we must ask ourselves. Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio states “Francis of Assisi was aware that to live a God-filled life he would have to undergo conversion of heart… we do not change the world, we change ourselves and the way we see the world. A changed life changes the world.” This is reality of loving our God, loving our neighbour and loving ourselves. It is the reality that St. Francis let captured his heart and life, we must do the same.

We are living in trying times, where our societal structures are being challenged, where new realities are creating awareness which have been kept suppressed and where truths about humanity are surfacing. It is easy to live holding on to the false illusions of what was instead of looking into the now and listening for the heart of God emerging. The heart of our God is emerging (and always has been) in the cries for justice, in the call for human dignity, in the respect of the human person, in the aching of our sister mother Earth, in the church truly becoming the body of Christ. It is not easy to love one’s self, and these trying times are awakening our hearts to this truth. Yet in the silence as well as the voices raised the voice of God is heard. The voice of Love is present to us, is in us and is heard. Our God, Love of all love is present and is our rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, source of our salvation, stronghold and full of steadfast love (Psalm 18) because the heart which loves God and loves neighbour beats that close… can we hear it?

Be still. Listen…

Dwelling in the Heart of Love  

 

Dwelling in the Heart of Love                        – Br. Michael, ofm

“One thing I asked of the Lord,

   that will I seek after:

to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life”
– Psalm 27

 

“One thing have I asked of Love,

that I shall ever seek:

That I might dwell in the Heart of Love

all the days of my life.” – Psalm 27,

Nan C. Merrill translation

 

To dwell in house of the Lord, which is to dwell in the Heart of Love, the very epicenter of love who is God. This psalm has been part of my prayer this past week. It is reminding me of how close our God is and how much God desires for us to dwell in place established by God – a place of love no matter the day or the season.

 

Continuing to navigate through this pandemic, dealing with new “new normals” and struggling with what is safe, what is needed and wondering if there will be enough is exhausting. I am learning time and again that I must choose hope for it is found in the Heart of Love. I encourage us to lean into this hope and the beauty of dwelling in the Heart of Love.

 

Dwelling in the Heart of Love

in days of rejoicing,

in days of right steps,

in days which are long,

in days which are lonely.

 

Dwelling in the Heart of Love

when I am at peace,

when I am free,

when I am worrying,

when I am tired.

 

Dwelling in the Heart of Love

in the moments of quiet,

in the moments of demands,

in the moments of prayer,

in the moments of service.

 

Dwelling in the Heart of Love

when I am celebrating,

when I am in sorrow,

when I am feeling it is too much,

when I am aware of God’s love.

 

 

Yes, it is good to dwell always

in the house of the Lord –

which is found anywhere

and everyday

in a heart, in my heart

where faith, hope and love dwell.

In Thanksgiving

In Thanksgiving

by Br. Micheal, ofm

Each day is a new beginning,

an opportunity for us to encounter God’s amazing and steadfast love.

Each breath we breathe,

a reminder that our God is that close to us again and again.

Each step we take,

an opportunity for us to show forth love, kindness, respect

and the common good for all humanity.

Each task or job we do,

a reminder that we have unique abilities, skills and talents to share.

Each meal we share,

a moment of thanksgiving for our daily bread and the Bread of Life.

Each night,

a moment to be aware of the fullness of life, the demands and blessings

of the journey and to offer a hymn of grateful praise.

 

With grateful hearts let us remember we are a people of hope

today, tomorrow and forever. Amen.

 

Letter to St. Francis

October 4, 2020

My Dear Brother Francis,

Here we are at the great festival marking your place in the company of saints. This day full of joy and celebration is also a day of looking inwardly mindful of your words: “I have done what is mine to do, may Christ teach you what is yours to do.” You indeed did do what was yours to do and eight centuries later we are still contemplating your actions, words and you simply being.  What you did still impacts us: the friars, the church, and people of good will the world over.

You remind me of relationship. As I ponder your life I learn again and again the importance of our relationships with each other and with creation. The idea of being sibling with one another continues to challenge me to present to the other and be a good brother. It has also challenged me to be aware of my relationship with creation and my possessions. How do I enter into a caring relationship not only with fellow humans but with creation? How do I view and use the possessions that have been entrusted to me for this journey? You remind me that all relationship is about an encounter with Christ. Christ my brother is that close and yet I seem to forget. Continue to awaken me to relationship.

You remind me of simplicity. Our world continually tries to rob me and everyone of this gift. It lures us into things, into busyness, into distractions so that we become complicated and busy. You know the power of letting it all go and encountering Christ in the stillness, peace and solitude. As I reflect on your life I am again to simplify and be present. When I do so I know I encounter Christ our brother; humble and simple. Continue to awaken me to simplicity.

You remind me of poverty. On so many levels you remind me of poverty. I must be aware of those who live in poverty and are seen as outcasts in our world again. How am I in relationship with them? How do I embrace them as sibling? As Christ? Like you did the leper. I must be aware of my poverty and how this calls me to surrender into Christ again and again. I must be aware of the poverty of Christ. In his poverty he emptied himself into the great love of God and knew great freedom. This is how you came to know your freedom again and again and I am called to do the same. Continue to awaken me to the vow poverty.

You remind me of peace and goodness. These fruits of the Spirit are gifts to fill my heart for the journey for they are not only for a few, rather they are gifts for all of each of us. Peace which can transform me and my heart. Goodness which gives me a taste of God’s abundance. Oh, how I try in complicate their message and lose them in the demands I think life is showing me. Yet I know as you do that peace and goodness which reside in my heart were made known to me and all people by Christ in the crib, the cross and gifting of the Holy Spirit. Pure gifts. Peace and goodness do dwell within, I must allow them to consume me so I can be the best brother doing what Christ calls me to do. Continue to awaken me to peace and goodness.

The other day I read that “your life was totally permeated by love; a life filled with love.” This really struck me. This truly was you. Not only your dream and desire, but your journey and way were all permeated by love. Your very life transformed was indeed permeated by love. Your life filled with love is the expression of Christ in your life, God at work in you and the Holy Spirit filling you. It is beautiful because it is depth and it is freedom. It is what attracts so many people to you still today. In truth it is what attracted me to you and this Franciscan way of life. When I began to discover the depth of you, I discovered this love also permeated my life. This love – Christ himself has been at work in me and makes me ponder and discern my living, dreams, desires and journey.

In you I have found a companion, whose ordinary life speaks to my own. Whose encounter with Christ has made me pay more attention to Christ in my life. Whose poverty has challenged me to live simply and be more aware. Whose preaching and living have caused me to consider my words and actions and if they radiate Christ. Whose life of penance has continually guided my rediscovery of reconciliation and peace which has orientated my heart to the fullness of life. The fact is dear brother that you stirred all that up in me years ago and you still do today.

If you as you laid dying and suffering could give praise to God, trust in peace, pray and be aware of the fraternal relationships (that are sometimes ragged), and see the beauty in the “siblingness” of relationship and creation, I too must fix my gaze on the heart of Christ. This love which fills my life. For through the grace and mercy of God my life is also permeated by love. I ask myself: “Am I open to receive the fullness of this gift?” Can I learn from you and surrender my all into love? I place my trust in our awesome God, as I pray:

God, you who are love, you are ever present to, for, with and in me.

            Your love permeates my life, as it did St. Francis. May I in turn radiate

this love out to the world by doing what is mine to do in the name of

Christ your son. Amen.

St. Francis – pray for me, pray for us.

Your brother,

Michael