Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
The beginning of the Ministry Year at Saint Mary gives all of us a chance to draw near, roll up our sleeves and get to know our God who is immediate to us, and our neighbor whose needs are also immediate.
The word immediate could have two senses: right at this moment, as in immediately, or right in the same place. Most people live their lives with God at least at arms’ length (it is easier that way) but God isn’t limited by location. It is a human concept which we need to grasp being. To us, to be requires a place to be, but with God, he is always here, just as he is always now. For the person who is considering God, he is never “there.” He is always here.
The founding fathers of our republic were largely Deists. Some had become absolute advocates of the Enlightenment religion of nature and reason, a belief that there is some kind of God who made the machine and pushed the start button, then just sits back and watches it succeed or fail. Some were Christians, but most were a combination of the two, who believed in little or none of the miracles or supernaturalism found in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but retained Christian loyalties of faith. On the conservative side was Washington and Adams; the liberal, Franklin and Monroe.
This impersonality of God, however, has permeated our atmosphere of religious freedom
with a spirit of “freedom from religion,” even for believers. It would seem quite possible to believe and not live belief. So there is this lingering doubt in the mind of people since the Enlightenment, that perhaps all we really can know is empirical knowledge, that which is seen and heard, touched and tasted.
But is it possible to see and hear, touch and taste things that are beyond physical reality? Just because one person doubts the possibility or has never delved enough into the mysteries of God and has had no experience—well, that doesn’t mean these things don’t exist. Our tradition, on the contrary, is filled with accounts of saints and entire communities of people who have known the supernatural event of God in their lives in a quite tangible, documentable way. We do it, for example, every time we enter into God at Mass and result in Communion together. It isn’t a contest of wills or subjugation, it is a free and humble submission that God is greater and can move in our lives in ways that are immediate. Here and now.
Mass on TV can’t take the place of being in church on Sunday, any more than having feelings of compassion for the poor and homeless can substitute working together to provide solutions to end hunger and isolation. Or standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those who are considered the stranger by some, discovering common dreams and spiritual hopes. We have to be together for it to happen.
Friendship doesn’t happen between computer monitors. There is no substitute for face-to face. Lately there have been more and more people asking for counseling in the confessional… I try to explain that it is not possible to have a real first conversation about anything with a person who stays on the other side of a screen. What kind of arrogance would I have if I were to pretend that I had answers for someone whom I have never met? You might as well read a blog. We have to be real and immediate to one another, here and now.
By the way, so does God. It takes a Son to be a Father, a Father to have a Son, a relationship for there to be a love that lives and moves and brings others—all others—into its life of community. A we that invites a you to join, and become one in the image and likeness of God. We discover who we are when we are immediate and involved with God and with each other.
I do believe that there is a special charism of unity and I would like to call it forth from all those of you who have it, to help our parish come together to life this Ministry Year. These gifts—all our gifts—are given in love so that we might respond in love, and they will only be fulfilled in our action.
May God bless you,