Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Answering God's Call

God speaks to everyone.  Everyone.  God waits for our response.  It is anticipated, unique, and given (or not) through the grace of free will.  As Getty Lee from Rush sings in Freewill, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

God knows that answering His call is not always the easy path, but He does not wish hardship on any of us, though that is almost certainly guaranteed.  The reason is simple.  God calls everyone.  Everyone.  Some ignore, pretend not to hear, or reject the call.  Some give a lukewarm and half-hearted response.  Few give fully of themselves, even to the point of death.  Those who do find themselves on the outside of society.

The 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, just passed, presented two readings, a psalm and the Gospel all addressing how differently we respond to God's call.  In the first reading Jeremiah complains of being mocked, and yet he presses on; he can't help himself.  I suspect most of us can be silenced on the mere threat of being laughed at.  The Psalmist longs, on the other hand, to see and be with God.  St. Paul, in the epistle, reminds us to be a holy and living sacrifice, yes a living sacrifice to God.  The word is not chosen lightly.

And finally, in the Gospel, Jesus tells of the persecution and death that awaits him.  Peter tries to talk him out of his journey to Jerusalem, and is harshly reminded that he is thinking only of human things, and not with God at heart.  "Get behind me Satan!" says Jesus to his right hand man.  Ouch.

The readings run the gamut of response we can expect from others when we do God's will - from laughter, to longing, maybe even death.  It takes humility and courage to submit.

Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm 63
Romans 12:1-2 (pithy and poignant)
Matthew 16:21-27

Monday, 29 August 2011

Designer Funerals

After this weekend's State Funeral for Jack Layton I fear we will see an increase in "pep rally" funerals, specifically designed following very little traditional format, if any.  We already see this in weddings, so why not funerals?  Jack Layton's funeral was a political rally, a tribute to an outgoing leader as though it was a retirement party, and a melded cultural presentation, presented like the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, or a Canada Day performance.  Was there anyone, any favourite cause NOT represented?

I met Jack, and I liked him.  I grieved, like all of Canada, when he died.  I have watched his political career since he was a city councilor in the early eighties in Toronto.  I liked his preferential option for the poor, and told him so.  I profoundly disagreed with some of his other positions.  May his soul, and the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.  My prayers are with his family and friends, and especially those in the NDP caucus.  Literally, and every day after we learned of his death.

I watched his funeral, as much as I could.  God was at best a dignitary who, because of His position, had to be invited.  Like the other VIPs present but not members of Jack's party, God was barely acknowledged.   A couple of unattributed Bible readings and a prayer recited as mystical poetry by a flamboyant activist turned minister was about as close as He came to getting His foot in that door.  Note - simply putting the word "hallelujah" in a song, even if you're Leonard Cohen and even less so if you're a former Barenaked Lady, does not make a hymn of praise.

Funeral rites and ritual exist to assist and comfort in times of sadness.  The elders of our religious traditions chose the prayers and the form carefully for solid theological reason.  For those who claim a religious association we serve our beloved deceased and their families with respect and kindness when we leave the secular pop rock where it belongs, and surrender to God's love in its entirety, with grace and humble courage.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Road Test - the 2011 Chevy Cruze

I've been wanting to drive one of these since those catchy TV commercials hit the air.  The 2011 Chevy Cruze is a good-looking small car, and I wondered if it really could live up to the implied promise that this was the future of the new GM.

It did.  I enjoyed my day with the car, and while I confess I didn't drive it under very demanding circumstances, renting a car for 24 hours gives you a much better test drive than the 30 minutes I'd expect from the dealership.  For the money, I'd recommend it.  Here's what I thought:

GREAT:  The car is zippy, if not a bit buzzy.  It has plenty of go, and none of that air conditioning lag that used to plague smaller engined cars.  It's tight, fast, handles well and feels great at any speed.

GOOD:  It's well laid out, with lots of thoughtful touches like the handle inside the suprisingly very large trunk, 60/40 split folding rear seats, easy to read radio and console control centre, and a comfortable firm seating.

ROOM for GROWTH:  Heated seats, baby.  That should be standard on any car sold in Canada.  Heated seats are as much about safety as they are about comfort, in fact the two go together.

WOULD I BUY ONE?  Sure, if we were a young couple with a few little kids starting out, this would be a great car because of the roominess of the interior and the trunk.  It's a great commuter car, great on gas and not bad looking.  Maybe as an old retired geezer with a penchant for golfing, this car would do as well.    As a highway vehicle, I'm sure it's fine but I'd really want to pimp it up with leather seats and a sunroof - taking it into a price range I'd prefer not to pay for a compact North American made vehicle.

Here's my 60 second video review:

Friday, 26 August 2011

WYD 2011: As I sang the Gospel in front of the Pope and half a million youth I saw that the Church is alive |

Just under a month ago I was having supper with a friend when a text message arrived from Fr Stephen Langridge. “James,” it said, “I’ve arranged for you to read the Gospel at the welcoming ceremony for the Pope at WYD. Let me know if that’s a problem.” Deacon James Bradley

Read more:

WYD 2011: As I sang the Gospel in front of the Pope and half a million youth I saw that the Church is alive |

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Loaves and the Fishes of Our Times

When people struggle for parity, with the ordinary things of life seemingly always, and maddeningly, just out of reach, who could blame them for losing hope?

We sometimes look at a bad situation and wonder if God has forgotten the people affected.  The relatively poor, unable to even afford the things that set them apart from the rest of society (such as field trips for their kids, or organized sports, nutritious food) might rightly wonder if society has forgotten them; if God cares.

St. Paul's letter to the Romans assures us that NOTHING separates any of us from the love of Christ.  Addressing their concerns of the day, Paul tells the Romans that no height nor depth, not death nor life, no circumstance or situation or station in life can separate us from Christ's love.  He specifically mentions famine.  Not even finding ourselves victims of famine means that we are unloved by God.
Kevin Carter  1993 Sudan Famine
Mr. Carter took his own life
3 months after he captured this photo

In the Loaves and Fishes Gospel, the only miracle to be related in all four Gospels, we learn that there is enough food for everyone, quite literally in the miracle of the moment, and quite literally in our world today.  There is enough food to feed everyone, including the 4 million people starving in Africa today.  Today.

All that stands in the way is a societal will to overcome every obstacle to making it happen. And in the meantime, those who can must give what they can, and then some.

Monday, 1 August 2011

You Can't Get There from Here

There was an article I read probably 13 years ago that ended with that sentence.  "You can't get there from here."  It stuck with me.  The article was about relative poverty, the working poor, those who long for better or more, but can't reach it from where they're at.

Reporting on conditions in the inner city of a second tier Canadian city, it could have been Windsor, the article was about hunger.  It was born of the frustration of seeing the poor in the writer's neighbourhood sending the children off to school without a proper lunch, of seeing children eat packages of Mr. Noodles (a dry ramen noodle with a package of sodium meant to imitate a chicken stock) as a breakfast substitute as they shuffled to school; of seeing a child stop by a convenience store, buy a large bag of Doritos, put it in the hood of her winter coat (for lack of a proper backpack).  This was her lunch.

It is difficult to find nutritious food within a reasonable walking distance of most neighbourhoods of our inner city.  Big Box supermarkets (and hardware stores, and pools and rinks, and libraries) may work well for people with wheels, but those without spend precious dollars on taxis to bring their groceries home.  It is faster and more convenient, but not better or cheaper, to spend precious dollars on belly-filling junk foods in the local 7-11 or a Tim Hortons.

Sickness and poor health as a result of poor nutrition keep people in poverty.  Children lack the energy to concentrate at school, adults struggle to get through the work day in listless surrender.  Decrying the lack of reasonable local alternatives to convenience store food shopping, to quote the article, "You want fresh vegetables?  You can't get there from here."

The relatively poor in a country of plenty live a quiet desperation.  Not only do they live day to day with a hunger for a decent meal, they live in a land of plenty, just out of reach.

The poor of Windsor live with empty stomachs in a poverty of hope.  You want better for yourself and for your children?  You can't get there from here.  Not the way it is now.