Discussion with John Kyler on The Stations of the Cross in Atonement for Abuse and the Healing of All

On Sunday May 23, 2021, over 130 people gathered at Cottonwood Center for the Arts for a discussion with John Kyler, editor of The Stations of the Cross in Atonement for Abuse and the Healing of All. John and I discussed the story of this project from Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. Rev. Paul Turner authored the text. These are John Goddard photos. The art exhibit ends this week on May 29.

Pentecost 2021: Bulletin Column, Art

Sunday May 23, 2021

Pentecost

Dear Followers of Jesus,

COVID-19 took away the breath of hundreds of thousands of people in this past year. The ventilator has become an image of hope during this virus. We struggle to catch our breath while wearing a mask. We stop our breath and hold our mouth as we hear of the next person who has died or who has lost a job or their life in racial conflict. “I can’t breathe”, is a very familiar sentence we cannot forget from our last year.  Breathing freely is our hope for those stricken with disease, conflict and racial tensions. Breathing. Jesus invites us into such a mystery.

In today’s gospel, John 20: 19-23, Pentecost is revealed behind locked doors, only hours after the resurrection. “Peace” is the first word uttered from Christ’s resurrected breath. Peace becomes balm for fear. His breath becomes our new life in the Holy Spirit. His breath remains with us beyond the closed room. His breath renews our lives and offers consolation for the world for all eternity. His breath uttering peace is the desire of our souls.

Pentecost refreshes our understanding of what life is about. Pentecost is the Church taking a deep breath and realizing that our breath is what we have in common with those whom we think are completely different from ourselves. Our breath holds the Holy Spirit within us. Our breath is a reminder we are born again in Jesus’ dying and rising. The Holy Spirit does not fade away or given partially or in increments. There is no golden age of the Spirit. We receive the same breath of hope, the same miracle of joy, as did the disciples.

Many people will glaze over such a feast. We may think Pentecost is only something the Church celebrates dressed in red that remains contained in the sanctuary. Yet, Pentecost becomes the container where we ask ourselves some important questions. For in our hearts, God dwells. Pentecost is the birth day and the birthday of the Church.

 We have an opportunity to ask such questions as: What if we breathed in genuine hope for the first time? What if this hope could change our perspective toward people on the margins of society and Church? Could this breath sustain our young so hopelessness and meaninglessness would not penetrate them? Could this breath teach us how to care for the earth, feed the hungry, and provide adequate pay to the people who teach our children, and who care for our elderly parents?

What if breathing deeply into the life of the Holy Spirit could change how we view our own lives? Could Pentecost teach us not to hate so to offer the world non-violence? Could we settle our differences by taking in the breath of God rather than holding our breath in rage, indifference and violence? These questions become our spiritual work and reflection.

Our way out of the pandemic is God’s initiative in you and me. The Holy Spirit is trying to teach us something as we live in our bodies. We cannot remain stuck in our heads. Change is a dirty word for many people. Pentecost is the source of change. Pentecost is an opportunity for people to understand the suffering of the human race. This feast pushes us out of the nest of Easter and into the world to live the consolation and peace of Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit compels us to get to work and to quit moaning about our lives. This breath of life drives us into union and communion with our brothers and sisters.

Pentecost is more than adhering to regulations in the Church, hoping they will give us eternal life. Pentecost is a breath of fresh air that reveals meaning, depth and purpose here on earth. We all carry a responsibility within our human bodies to breath in the gift of faith, hope and love.

The Holy Spirit pushes on our chests so we may breath deeply in love and forgiveness. The Holy Spirit then pushes us out into the world so we may become people of integrity. We are to love and not cave in to despair. We are to act in kindness and not resort to holding our breath in cynicism or apathy.

Pentecost opens new possibilities about who we are and what God wants us to become. We know Pentecost is real when we receive the stranger in midst and listen to their story before Mass. Pentecost opens doors and softens hearts. The Holy Spirit helps us hold the hand of the dying or the newborn child in joy. Pentecost promises life forever in God.

The Holy Spirit guides us to stop worrying about our futures and helps us pursue the task of serving other people even when a pandemic threatens to take our breath away.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron

The Ascension of the Lord 2021: Cover Art and Column

May 16, 2021

The Ascension of the Lord

Dear Followers of the Messiah,

I cannot imagine what the disciples felt when they peered up into the unknown sky as Jesus ascended before them. After all they had been through, being called by him to follow, leaving everything, and even being with him when he died. And if all of that was not enough, he rose from the dead.

The disciples explored new areas of grief at every turn following the Master. I see them scratching their heads as their necks leaned back to see Jesus rise into the unspecified territory of the sky. Their hearts must have broken within their bodies as they witnessed Jesus ascend in his body, taking within him the love and the care he felt for them. The disciples were simply grounded and their feet must have felt like clay. Their hearts must have stopped as Jesus one more time took their breath away in sheer amazement and wonder.

Jesus had to depart human existence so that he could be known throughout the world through the glorious gift of the Holy Spirit in Pentecost.  Jesus’ body had to disappear so that his Spirit could live within all of us. The Ascension only means something when we also ponder the meaning of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. That is the celebration for next weekend.

In Mark 16:15-20, the disciples continue to have one foot in faith and the other in doubt. They still are not quite sure what to do as Jesus leaves them yet one more time, and of course, this time for good. Imagine how their ears must have buzzed hearing the next words of Jesus, “Go. Do not stop. Baptize. Love. Work. Leave everything. Do not look back. Take nothing with you. Hold serpents. Hold me in your heart. I will speak to you. I will show you the wonders of my presence. Preach everywhere.”

I am stuck in this year as we celebrate the Ascension, that we have been experiencing our faith as somewhat disembodied. We are not all physically together as we once were in our churches. Yet, we know our deep connection in love. The disciples watched as Jesus left them. His body disappeared. So with us now, our bodies are not together. We rely on the gift of our faith to become the people he asked us to become.

Much of what Jesus asked is to take care of people’s bodies. We are to comfort the sick. We are to visit the prisoner. We are to console the grieving. We are to wipe the tears of those who have been abused. We anoint the sick. We mark our bodies with the Sign of Cross before prayer. We are to take to heart the human lives of people who really need God. This happens within our own bodies, where the Spirit of God motivates us and consoles us.

The Holy Spirit brings soul and body together. We can never lose such a gift. No matter where we pray, we belong together. No matter our isolation, we are united in Him. No matter how we are frustrated in life, we are consoled mind, body and soul, in His sacred presence.

We may feel in this time that Jesus has left us. We wait to feel the breeze of the Holy Spirit gathering us in song, where human bodies are present, where our hearts turn once again in this Easter season to know we are one in Christ at the Table of God.

“But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron

Cottonwood Center for the Arts: Art opening last evening May 7, 2021

I thank Cottonwood Center for the Arts for hosting my art show last evening. I am deeply grateful to those who attended the event. Over three hundred people viewed the original paintings. The issues of sexual abuse were seen last evening in the public square in light of faith. I look forward to May 23 when Cottonwood will host a parish reception from 2-4pm. I could have not imagined more last evening. Your comments and reflections around my art and “The Stations of the Cross in Atonement for Abuse and the Healing of All”…overwhelmed my heart.

Sixth Sunday of Easter 2021: Bulletin Column, Cover Art

May 9, 2021

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Dear Followers of Jesus,

I wonder how love will get us beyond COVID-19? We believe as Christians we will find a way. Love must patch up our weariness of being isolated. Love must become balm for those who have already lost jobs and healthcare and insurance. Love must open eyes to those who face treachery and misfortune. Love must present itself to us so that we can find a new way out of loss, illness and even death. We are well on our way.

Love is not an otherworldly potion. It is not a quick fix or illusive sanitizer. Love from this Easter season cracks open new ideas and heals the old wounds of racism, xenophobia and unkind judgments. Love is not going to get us to look backward as we were. Love is going to open new doors and allow us to put new plans into practice. Love is not emotion; love is a decision.

On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus prepares the disciples in John 15:9-17 for the gift of the Holy Spirit. On May 23, the Church celebrates Pentecost. The week leading up to that feast, the Church celebrates The Ascension of the Lord on May 16. Both of these liturgical feasts are not just sugar candy. They are the real meat and earthly delight to show us how to live in our world. Jesus prepares us for such grace by offering a word today about love.

Keeping the commandments is not about living all the rules without thought or insight. We do not slavishly live the Christian message without forethought or reflection. I think in particular this Easter season, we can’t just go back to all the ways we were living Christianity from the past. If we set up all the old structures, all the old programs, and all the old learning situations, there will be no LOVE in them. We have to learn how to put into practice in our day and time the real message of Easter. Love spurs us forth. Love provides hope for us here on earth.

I notice that many people who have survived COVID-19 need physical therapy in order to get back into the swing of things. Well, I think our institutions should plan for that as well. Our outreach programs will never be the same. We need to think differently. Our educational programs next autumn will not be status quo. Even our common prayer, our worship and our interior lives may all be different as we learn how to survive this virus.

Observing the laws of love that are imbedded in this gospel passage reveal to us that life is difficult and that our response to people must be made in love. I am not sure how love will change us, but if we keep our hearts in Him, Jesus will show us the way. All things are possible. All things have their day and their beauty. We cannot get stuck in old ways of doing things because we have always done them that way. I think this virus teaches us that we cannot control life to such a degree. Some people will not see that change has value, no matter how much we are confronted with this virus. Some people will dig in their heals and demand that life goes backwards. I just don’t think this is wise. It will get us nowhere; it will get us all the old answers.

So as we prepare the liturgies, the buildings, and the sanctuaries, and clean the restrooms and wear our masks, there will be things that are different from how we have experienced the church in the past. No matter how much life is different, we rely on the grace of the Holy Spirit in these days in which we will celebrate the end of the Easter season, the Ascension of Christ and the gift of Pentecost. This is where love is. This is where our faith meets life; this is where the rubber meets the road. Love is real in these Easter days.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command: love one another.

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron

Fifth Sunday of Easter 2021: Bulletin Art and Column

May 2, 2021

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Dear Followers of Jesus,

I often hear people say they feel they do not belong. They feel isolated from family because of family disputes or conflicts or not feeling affirmed. They feel they are not part of the Church because of their past decisions. They feel the weight of other people’s disappointments and the fears others carry about family life. Feeling apart from loved ones is a very common experience. Feeling separated from God is healed in these Easter days of celebration, if we allow the grace of the gospels to take root in our fear.

John 15:1-8 reveals to us the words of Jesus, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”  Jesus says to us that he is the vine, and we are the branches. In other words, we belong in him and through him and because of him. The Easter season is a renewal of our baptism. The real meaning of Lent is to open our hearts so that Jesus’ love can continue to show us that we belong. In the waters of baptism, we take our place. This gospel shows us that we are united to Christ Jesus in his passion, death and resurrection.

Sometimes we may think that our sin cuts the branches of our belonging to Christ. We may think that our actions separate us from God, since we are left so alone. Jesus invites us to remain in him, so that we can bear much fruit. This fruit flows from Christ into our world. We are to imitate the foundation of our lives, that is, we are to live in compassion, forgiveness, and unity in our world. Christ’s life is manifest totally within every believer. We do not live with scarcity in Christ, but in absolute abundance of mercy, and hope for all people.

Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want, and it will be done for you.” This is an incredible invitation. For all we know we don’t always get what we are looking for in the world. However, if we remain centered and in love with Christ Jesus, we can find our true desires, our fundamental longings in him. There will be no room for our feelings of not belonging if we remain centered in Christ. He alone will show us how to love and how to live in our world.

The Easter season invites us into communion with Christ. Our hunger for life is ultimately a longing for faith, hope, and charity in Christ Jesus.  I pray that the Easter season brings you joy and not despair, hope and not discouragement, love and not isolation. I also invite you to sit with all the reasons you may feel you do not belong, either to your family or in the community of faith. I pray that you may be healed of such division, because you are loved by God no matter where you have been in life or the consequences of your life decisions. God is always here to welcome, to forgive and to offer us peace.

The joy of Easter is not about candy and pastel bunnies. The joy of Easter is rooted in the cross of Christ Jesus that gives us life over death, hope over despair, peace well beyond the violence we claim in our hearts. Easter is the root system of faith, offering us a place of belonging and peace.

“Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron

Fourth Sunday of Easter 2021: Reflection, Art

We all desire to be chased by God. We desire love beyond the scope of our experience, and the joy of heaven even in our sorrowful ways. We desire him even when we want to flee from his presence, even when we think he does not satisfy us. We desire the Shepherd we call Good.

Jesus Christ has been converted toward us, even in our stubbornness. He is already keen to our wayward ways and obstinate hearts. He longs for us. He desires me. He tends us whom he already holds in his arms. Imagine such a gift.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Shepherd comes alive within our hearts. He is no longer a distant metaphor or an ancient image. He is the God who has come into the world to heal us, to forgive us, and to collect us into this loving circle. Grace is where I am, in his reach this day. Jesus Christ is the Shepherd we call Good.

Cottonwood Center for the Arts: Art Show Opening May 7, 5-8pm.

Art Show Invitation: Fr. Ron would like to continue the conversation and healing of abuse by featuring his artwork from “The Stations of the Cross in Atonement for Abuse and the Healing of All” by Liturgical Press as an exhibit at Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 E. Colorado Ave., May 7 — May 29. The opening will be Friday, May 7 from 5-8 pm. There will be a Special Reception in honor of Sacred Heart Parishioners on Sunday, May 23 from 2- 4 pm featuring John Kyler, the editor of the new Liturgical Press Stations of the Cross. Mr. Kyler will join Fr. Ron who will lead a discussion on the book and the creation of the art. The exhibit is free. All are welcome