Tuesday, March 31, 2015


During Lent, my discipline is to be attentive to both inward and outward circumstances of my life and then to write a poem daily. Here is one of my offerings.

The coolness of stone on bare feet,
   painful steps, slowly taken.
Holy ground is not always smooth.
Way forward is not always clear
   or easy.
Pilgrimage involves separation,
   leaving behind the known,
   the familiar, yet knowing
the way is God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Oscar Romero and Lives that Become the Gospel

How do we live lives that become the gospel? Today is the 35th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, martyred while celebrating Eucharist in a hospital chapel. Martyred because he spoke out against an oppressive and brutal government.

We don’t live lives that become the gospel by complaining that we are “oppressed” when, financially able to have health care, we seek to deny such coverage for those unable to afford it.

We don’t live lives that become the gospel by the name-calling of those with whom we disagree or by supporting media figures who engage in such behavior.

We don’t live lives that become the gospel by consuming more resources than we need and supporting with our purchasing power the oppression of others who are trapped in unsafe, exploitative jobs.

During Lent, I’ve been part of a study of the book Inhabiting the Cruciform God, by Michael Gorman. The book asserts that Paul’s theology is shaped by the pattern of Jesus’ death on the cross, and that such a pattern not only tells us about Jesus, but also God. Philippians 2:5-11 offers us a picture of Jesus’ faithfulness and a picture of God’s sacrificial love for us.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. (MSG)

What would happen if we thought of ourselves in this self-emptying, self-sacrificial way? How would we treat others, even those who inflict violence on us? If we follow the pattern of Jesus, we would not repay violence with violence. Instead we would absorb the violence of others. As Gorman asserts, the power of God in Christ is power in weakness. It is a nonretaliatory, nonviolent power. It is not the way of name-calling, overconsumption or self-preservation.

We have to be careful in our culture of individualism to not be blinded by cultural values that do not follow the pattern given us in the crucifixion and death of Jesus. We have to exercise caution that we do not rationalize our affluence by saying we can do good for others, while surrounding ourselves with things we don’t need and throwing our crumbs to those who have real needs.

The gospel is good news for all. For that to happen we have to empty ourselves for the sake of others. We are called to pour ourselves out, not cautiously cling to our privilege. Archbishop Romero realized that his outspokenness might result in his death. He spoke out anyway. May his faith and courage inspire us to do likewise, and truly live lives that become the gospel.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


During Lent, my discipline has included writing a poem daily about something I am attentive to either outwardly or inwardly. Almost halfway through the season, I am finding it a practice that is helping me to be more aware of myself, others and the world. It has also caused me to be more reflective about experiences, even those I don’t capture in a poem.

Simone Weil said that absolute attention is prayer. I do believe that this attentiveness I am attempting to practice is connecting me more closely to God, to others and to my own way of being and responding.

I hope it is making me more open-hearted, a term I read in a book of Lent and Easter devotions. In a piece about Thomas, the disciple who wouldn’t believe unless he could put his hands in the wounds of the risen Jesus, Romano Guardini says: And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of all self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, inclination to “know better.” Who are quick to hear, humble, free-spirited. Who are able to find God’s message in the gospel for the day, or even from the sermons of preachers with no message in particular, or in phrases from the Law they have heard a thousand times, phrases with no quality of charismatic power about them, or in the happenings of everyday life which always end up the same way: work and rest, anxiety—and then again some kind of success, some joy, an encounter, and a sorrow.

When I look over the poems I’ve written so far, there is nothing particularly momentous recorded. Nothing terribly inspirational on its face. They record the feel of bare feet on stones, the fuzzy bud of a Japanese magnolia, the way new information touches me, tears shared among friends, how bird song cheers me, and recognition of my own pain and the pain of others. As Guardini says, the happenings of everyday life. It is all prayer. It is all God. May I be able to recognize it even after Lent is over.