There’s a popular Thanksgiving exercise where you sort of mentally list all the things you’re thankful for. Some people have made this a public exercise on Facebook. Some people do it as a sort of countdown, focusing on one thing each day leading up to Thanksgiving. We even have a saying about “counting your blessings.” It’s a good thing to be grateful, not just in a vague overall way, but specifically, counting, listing things that are blessings in our lives. And of course no one’s ever finished the list. None of us, once we started, could ever finish listing every blessing in our lives. We can say “count your blessings,” and it’s a good project, but it’s also one that can’t be done. It would be easier, literally, to count the hairs on your head.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
The Church’s liturgical year ends this week, and a new one begins with the First Sunday of Advent. This last Sunday of the liturgical year is the Feast of Christ the King.
This is also a notable week in the secular order. Two hugely influential men died on November 22nd, 1963, and Friday we observed the 50th anniversaries of those deaths. The more noted was President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but considerable attention was also paid to C.S. Lewis.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
The Prophet Malachi stands as the last in his line: the last of the Prophets to write before the coming of the promised Messiah. In fact our first reading was almost the final words of the Old Testament, down to the last few verses. The Old Testament finishes like the New Testament does: with a reminder of judgment and finality, an apocalyptic message because what we see and know will someday end. You don’t have to live in the ‘end times’ for this to be relevant to you, because we will each experience our own end.
These writings are not meant to terrify or panic, unless your life has gone so far off the path that you need terrifying. For most of us they are meant to refocus us on the eternal things, the things that last. Jesus introduces this apocalyptic subject kind of out of the blue as people are looking up at the magnificent Temple. Maybe they’re tourists, or pilgrims, gawking like tourists and pilgrims do. They’re admiring the Temple when Jesus says out of the blue, “All of it will be totally destroyed; there will come a time when not one stone will be left upon another.”
Sunday, November 10, 2013
You can have too much of a good thing. Everybody knows that. Ice cream is good, but if you eat a pint every day you make the good thing bad. That’s extreme. Likewise, concern for safety is good, but if you let it cripple you and never leave your house, you’ve made it bad by taking it to the extreme. Basic principle, right? Extremism is bad.
Well, we can also talk about religious extremism, and religion as one of those things that are good in proportion but bad when taken overboard. We can talk about how for billions of people in history and today, religion has brought many good things into the world and inspired many noble movements. But when we see people of different religions persecuting each other and spilling rivers of blood over religion, then we can start to talk about too much of a good thing. A good thing taken to an unhealthy extreme. So, religion good; religious extremism bad.
We could talk that way. In fact you can hear this view being said by someone on any given day. But it’s dead wrong.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
I have a problem this time of year. There is a war in my soul.
Fall is probably my favorite season. I don’t have to explain why. That first day I can put on a hoodie and sip a hot drink, or wear a flannel shirt at a campfire, or go out of my way to step on crunchy leaves. Those October skies and sunsets. The Indian Summer that isn’t a guarantee in the Shawnee, but is so glorious when it happens. There’s just nothing better.