At Home With the Word: Glass Half-Full

by Vicky Otto, Companion Director

If you ask people who know me, I hope they would describe me as a “glass half full” kind of person. I try to see the brighter side of life, be grateful for all that I have been given and focus more on the positive perspective of things. It is hard these days to be the “glass half full” person. We are living during a global pandemic. There is violence on our streets. Wildfires are burning throughout California and other parts of the world; many people have lost their homes due to flooding from recent hurricanes. Thousands of people have lost their jobs and even their homes due to the economic downturn. Many farmers have lost their crops because of the derecho storms, and yes, there have even been reports of locust storms in India. Amid all of this, we are in the midst of a political election that at best could be described as contentious, drawing in even religious leaders to make accusations that unless you vote one way, you are not a good Catholic.  If you feel like it is all too much, you are not alone.

A few weeks ago, one of the readings at Mass reminded me of how to stay true to who I am during these turbulent times. In the Book of Kings, we heard of how Elijah found the Lord, not amongst the chaos of the various storms that he experienced, but a tiny whispering sound. Have you heard the whispering sounds?  I have when I heard the story about the three-year-old girl who, with just a little help from adults, backed 1000 cookies for the essential workers in her city. Or the couple whose wedding reception was canceled due to the pandemic who not only took the catered food to a homeless shelter but served their new guests in their wedding attire. I also heard the whispering in the story of a nine-year-old boy who was recently adopted, who is on a mission to care for every elderly or sick dog that has little hope for being adopted. He said, “I know how it feels not to be loved or cared for, and I don’t want any animal of mine to feel that way.” I  heard it loud and clear in a national movement called “Freedges.” Food pantries, restaurants, and cafes around the country are putting out refrigerators outside the doors of their establishments and filling them with healthy vegetables, fruits, and other food that is free for anyone who needs it. The organizers said that they wanted to provide a way for people who are struggling to get what they need without fear of shame.

I’m sure there are thousands of stories just like these today in our country and in our world. They remind me that even among what many would consider the worst of time, there is still inherent good in the world. We have a choice today, to continue to bring forth the kingdom of God by acting upon those “whispers” that bring forth good in the world or becoming paralyzed in fear.  Fr. Jeff reminds us in a recent letter that Gaspar didn’t wait for peace to fulfill his calling to found our Congregation. As sons and daughters of Gaspar, we too must lead by faith, not fear. It is in that respect that we all must become “glass half full” children of God.

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Tapping the Wine Cellar-September 3, 2020

Please join Fr. Keith, Vicky, and Tim for this recording of September 3rd’s Tapping the Wine Cellar! We hope you can take some time to explore the coming Sunday’s readings using this video as a jumping-off point.

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At Home With the Word: Friends, Enemies, Teachers

“You have no friends. You have no enemies. You have only teachers.”
– Buddhist Proverb

We seem to be mired in a society that has divided itself into friends and enemies, good and bad, right and wrong, stupid and smart, enlightened and ignorant. Many find it impossible to have civil conversations when there are differing opinions. This has torn apart families, paralyzed congress, and sown distrust and fear throughout our country, and the world. It is a plague that may very well be more destructive than COVID-19. In fact, this dynamic has been greatly to blame for society’s inability to effectively deal with the pandemic.

To fix problems, we humans tend to try to eliminate what’s wrong. We often conclude that other people are “what’s wrong.” To fix the problem we attempt to eliminate those people, either by trying to change them, bully them, silence them, imprison them, marginalize them, excommunicate them, or kill them. The result of such efforts is always polarization, pain, and death.

To free ourselves from the grip of this plague, we need to redefine the relationship between ourselves and others. Instead of separating people into friends and enemies (or us vs. them), we could consider each person as a teacher. This could be more constructive and life-giving for all involved.

What do our “enemies” have to teach us? Every mental health worker knows that what we dislike most about another person is usually what we dislike about ourselves. We could consider our dealings with such a person as an opportunity to learn about ourselves. This might help us discover how to mitigate our tendencies to inflict pain, and how to increase our abilities to bring life. Seeing a difficult person as a teacher would mean we would spend less time demonizing them and trying to get rid of them. Our growth in our ability to bring life as a result of their “teaching” would in turn invite them to join in the same work.

Our “friends” could teach us that we are valuable and precious. They help us know the value of loyalty and support. But even when they let us down or abandon us, they can teach us that no one is perfect, including ourselves. When we learn to accept that about ourselves, we will be more able to accept that about others and see them as like us.

Reconciliation is a charism we hold dear as Precious Blood people. Reconciliation as bringing together those who are separated or at odds, healing the divisions that exist, is work that our world sorely needs today. But we can’t give what we don’t have. That is why our foundational work must be within ourselves, to change the way we perceive others. We must resist the tendency to pigeonhole people into convenient categories (friends/enemies, good/bad), and somehow come to a different way of seeing— a different understanding. Considering every person as a teacher is one practice that could help us in this regard.

There is only one real category everyone falls into—the people of God. The more our perceptions of others match that fact, the more reconciliation becomes who we are, not just what we do.

 

 

 

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Tapping the Wine Cellar-August 27, 2020

Please join Fr. Keith, Vicky, and Tim for this recording of August 27th’s Tapping the Wine Cellar! We hope you can take some time to explore the coming Sunday’s readings using this video as a jumping-off point.

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