Sunday, May 17, 2015


I love smorgasbords, and today I invite you to one of those smorgasbords.  Unfortunately, it’s in my head, but I really suggest you take a bite of everything.  Com’on, be old fashioned and just be obedient. Trust me.  I’m an old guy with some wisdom for you.  Take a taste of everything.

The first dish are my thoughts about war.  If I remember my history correctly, we won the Revolutionary War partly because we were humble and smart enough not to arrogantly attempt to thwart off the British by lining up in a straight row and thinking that our brute force could outmatch their brute force.

In the conflicts following the Revolutionary War, it would have been so amazing if our leaders could have continued to think with their brains rather than with their weapons and perhaps by now, we would have an entire arsenal of “weapons” that did not wreak havoc and violence and destruction, but actually brought both a peaceful resolve to conflicts as well as prosperity to both us and our enemies.

This second dish are my reflections on the events in Boston this past week.  I’ve heard a lot of discussion about justice finally being served.  (Fits the smorgasbord metaphor!).  I’m not sure I get it at all.  What justice?  Two brothers thought they were carrying out some wild-ass bombing raid that would somehow change the world or have them go down in history or would somehow get back at America for what?  Who knows?  Perhaps their entire goal was simply to humble us, to make us feel very very vulnerable, and indeed, they accomplished that.  I think it is good that we know we are vulnerable.  We can always learn something from vulnerability, for example, hopefully the next time, terrorist decide to take another 9-11 shot, the folks at the airline gates or the border or the subway station or wherever will be slightly more intuned.  I mean I still can’t fathom how all those folks managed to board those planes. Even before 9-11, you and I would never have been able to board a plane with as much suspicion as they carried with them.

After the jury’s decision, I heard one intelligent man say that  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had won an early ticket to hell. Well, that’s kind of interesting because apparently a lot of these folks think they’re going STRAIGHT TO HEAVEN and once there, are going to hang out with a bunch of virgins. So who’s right or does it even matter?  The thing I’ve never figured out is why folks like suicide bombers and other “martyrs” haven’t put it together yet.  Those virgins are virgins.  What makes them think they’re going to give that up once they arrive!  

Do we ever stop to realize that there are people all over the world who think that justice is served every time an American soldier is killed?  Do we ever stop to think how many people around the world hate us because we killed their families, their children, destroyed their homes, their neighborhoods, their city, their country as a result of so-called collateral damage?

The bomber was tried and the jury decided his fate according to federal law.  That’s not Justice.  That’s cowboy justice.  The Hatfields and the Mccoys.  And each time someone is brought to so-called justice and murdered, the cycle is propelled farther down the road of hatred, violence, and more killing.

The dessert portion of the smorgasbord is about the upcoming 2016 election.

I’m looking for a politician to come along who will outline for the American people how little we have learned from every military engagement starting from the Revolutionary War, including the pitiful Civil War, including World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Viet Nam War, down to our pointless invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are too arrogant to acknowledge we made HUGE mistakes on so many levels.  That we chose oil and power over our own sons and daughters whom we sacrificed to the gods of war.  Unfortunately it’s our American mentality that believes we are either the greatest or we are going to show and convince everyone that we are the greatest by sheer brute force.  This archaic mentality drives the populous support of corporate driven military strategy with little consideration for the consequences to human life and world peace.  

So I’m looking for a politician who will have the courage to stand up to our brute force prowess mentality and show us how we can become much more effective around the world if we support other people being the best they can be within their own culture, their own religion, their own economy, their own borders.  We did it for Japan post world war II, and we can do it again for other countries, and we can do it without going to war with them. Interestingly enough, war with Japan started over oil.  Yes, read your history.  Pearl Harbor was an attempt to prevent our Navy from blockading Japan's ports.  World War II was not about Pearl Harbor.  It was about economics, the same way our own Revolutionary War was about economics.

I’m also looking for a politician who does not want to be popular, and who will outline a way for us to take care of our own citizens and to stop making it about socialism and capitalism.  Taking care of our own people doesn’t have to be a philosophical debate on economics.  I’m waiting for a republican politician to stand up and tell his wealthy corporate jock straps that outsourcing is, plain and simple, UNAMERICAN.  I think creating jobs in other countries is absolutely awesome, but don’t do it at the cost of jobs at home.  I have to admit, I am not an economist, but I run my own business and I do it well, and I know that I am not the only business on the block or in the city or in the state or in the country that can be successful.  And if I wanted to open up shop in another country, I wouldn’t have to fire all my employees here to do that.  Oh, I forgot.  It’s about taxes. For crying out loud, get a grip.  Taxes are taxes.  Figure it out.  I mean, you always do, so don’t use that excuse.  The reason you outsource is the price of labor.  You want to use people for your gain.  It is that simple.  I know, you’ve gotten over it and you want me to get over it too, and I have.  It’s just a fact, but I’m going to keep the truth on the table, and I’m looking for a politician to come along and put that truth on the table for all of us to see.

Now we come to the beverage portion of the smorgasbord, the fine wines and spirits of myth and reality.

The truth is that you can be as wealthy as you want to be in this country, and you NEVER have to achieve your wealth by using or walking on or over other people.  It is certainly one way to do it, and many folks have done it that way.  But you don’t have to.  I’m not much of a believer in the distribution of wealth because I think there is plenty of wealth to go around for everyone.  And you gotta be willing to go after whatever amount of wealth you want, using your own creative resources instead of talking people into working for you for as little as you can pay them; convincing them that you are doing them a big favor when, in reality, they are doing you the big favor.

Instead, learn to attract folks to work WITH you, along side of you, and give them the opportunity to go after whatever amount of wealth they want to have.  Attract people to work with you because perhaps you have the skills to teach them how to create and enjoy wealth.  It’s not about socialism or capitalism.  It’s simply about hard work and dreams.

And give up our arrogant "thing" about earning.  If you're rich and wealthy, don't fool yourself into thinking you earned it. Either it fell in your lap OR you saw the possibilities and went after them.  Sometimes, you took out any and everyone who was in your way, including your mother.  What you didn't realize is that you didn't have to do that.  It's part of the power mentality that makes you think you earned and therefore deserve every and anything you want.  None of us ever deserve anything and none of us ever earn anything.   The creative forces of the universe are not based upon such arrogant concepts. 

And if we change the notion that the poor will always be with us and stop using Jesus’ words to jock strap our maintaining a hierarchical order in economics, then we’d all have to learn to enjoy work, enjoy paying taxes for the country we have, and enjoy our wealth instead of hoarding it.

Well, I hope you took a bite of everything and please let me know what was tasty and what you thought was abominable.  It's the only way we can MOVE forward.

I shared my thoughts on the Boston Marathon Bombing at the time it occurred.  You can check it out on this You Tube Link . 

Monday, May 4, 2015


Today is the first Sunday in May.  Sixty two years ago, May 3, 1953, I received my First Communion.  I was seven years old and in second grade.

I remember well, the day before, going for a haircut.  It seemed uneventful to me, just another haircut, but my Mom and Dad were quite upset with the haircut.  Dad joked that he had no sooner sat down to read a magazine and the barber was finished.

What I remember about the haircut is it was very very short on the sides and back.  It didn’t look particularly bad to me as I looked in the mirror, but Mom and Dad were so upset about it that I was left with the impression that anyone who wasn’t blind would either be shocked or would burst out laughing.  In my best recollection of what the “hairdo” looked like and my current ability or inability to make sense of what happened back then, perhaps once the barber had consciously or unconsciously taken off everything on the sides, he didn’t know what to do with the top!  Or maybe Dad gave him some instructions that he heard differently from Dad’s intent.  Who knows?  But again, it was one of those childhood experiences that I didn’t know how to make sense of only that I looked shockingly weird.  It was not exactly a good framework for such a blessed occasion.  Of course, that's your cue.  Play the violin!

I also remember being very very nervous.  Scared I might swallow some toothpaste and break my fast.  Yes, remember that insanity? It was a warm morning, and the church was crowded and stuffy.  I had butterflies in my stomach, and by Communion time, I was feeling a tad faint.  I remember having a hard time swallowing the host which stuck to the roof of my mouth, and that made me even more nervous.  I was glad when Mass was over, and we went home to celebrate with danishes from Nurmie’s bakery.  But I did relish that now I could approach the communion rail with everyone else and receive Communion.

Since that Sunday, sixty two years ago, I have grown in my understanding of and love and appreciation for the Eucharistic CELEBRATION and for the miracle of the Eucharist.  And that understanding, love, and appreciation has not waned.

For many years, I took Jesus to the sick, and that was always a highlight of my day even with Joe who was so lonely that he practically tied me to the chair and did everything he could to keep me from leaving.  I started falling asleep on Joe, I guess as a way to escape, but it didn’t bother him in the least.  Taking Jesus to Joe was always an hour to an hour and a half “ordeal.”  But that ordeal did not detract from the overall joy I experienced bringing Jesus, in the form of healing bread, to folks who were bed-ridden or house-bound for one reason or another.

On one occasion, I stood on Bob’s oxygen hose during the entire time I was saying the prayers and giving Bob the Eucharist.  I sometimes exaggerate the story and say that I couldn’t figure out why Bob was turning blue.  “I was bringing Bob the Bread of Life and killing him at the same time!”     

I actually met very interesting people with very interesting and touching stories during my ministry, and some of them even famous which was so cool because I realized that we are all in the same boat here together, no matter who we are, no matter our so-called status in this world.  We are all pilgrims, and we will all become dependent some day the same way we arrived, and we will all leave some day and move on to a heaven we know little about.  

My understanding, love, and appreciation of the Eucharist has not waned, but I have almost no desire to attend “Mass.”  And with the building of bigger and bigger churches as a way to avoid changing the canonical law on celibacy, Mass is just that, a mass of people looking straight ahead and having no idea what this ritual is all about, and neither does the organizational church, unfortunately.  I say that because Benedict, God Bless him, took us back in the Eucharistic prayers to a pre Vatican II English version of the original Latin Mass instead of the vernacular version prescribed by Vatican II.  Many important prayers and responses have lost the significant meaning embedded in the vernacular translation of Vatican II.

Here is the most profound example for me.  After Vatican II, when the priest holds up the host and the cup of consecrated wine to the congregation just prior to everyone receiving communion, the priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God.....Happy are those who are called to His supper.”   The congregation responds with “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

For some reason, these meaningful changes must have been threatening to Pope Benedict, and when he finally got his chance, he took the Church backwards to the pre Vatican II Latin response which reads, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Note, pre-Vatican II, this response was never spoken in English. And the Vatican tries to persuade us that this version of the prayer is more closely aligned with Scripture. 

Well, that is really weird, because the Scriptures were not originally written in Latin, but in Greek.  And in the Scripture, this verse is based upon the story of the Centurion who requests Jesus to heal his servant.  When Jesus said that he would come to the Centurion’s house, the Centurion replied, “Lord I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.”  The Centurion said nothing about his own soul nor his servant’s soul. He wanted his servant to be healed, his servant’s whole being to be healed.

Image taken from Laleocafe

The Vatican II vernacular response gives testimony to our belief that in the Eucharist, we receive the body of Jesus, and in our reception, Jesus heals our whole person, all of us, not just our soul.

So these new revisions have successfully taken us back to a dualism between body and soul which ultimately allows the organizational church to disregard our physical humanity, to delegate our body to a split off lesser “place” in the scheme of creation.  This conceptualization of being split into different parts, one being more important than the other, goes totally contrary to our current understanding of who we are as God’s creatures and the belief that our BODIES are temples.  

Not to mention that Jesus did not speak in Latin and the Gospels were most likely written originally in Aramaic or Greek and only later translated into Latin.  And in translating the Scriptures into Latin, there is a richness of the Greek text that is often lost.  Take the phrase in John’s Gospel, “The word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.” The Greek actually says “....He pitched his tent amongst us.”  For me, that is a profound juiciness that gets lost in the Latin translation.

This reverting back to translating Latin into a literal English version rather than a vernacular translation reinforces the word ROMAN.   The fact that the organizational church continues to hang on to the identification of Roman is a clear message that the organizational church, in other words, Rome or the Vatican, is not here to inspire us, but only to CONTROL us.  The Vatican DOES NOT look like Jesus in any way whatsoever, and if anyone can show me one way that the Vatican looks and acts like Jesus, I will welcome your comments. 

Yes, we have a new Pope who is much like John the twenty third, but like John, he is often held captive by an organizational structure that has its own existence as the priority and not the message of the Gospel.  Francis is obviously humble and connected to us common every day people, and let’s pray that he will someday dissolve the organizational structure and create a new “structure” that is representative of the way Jesus lived his life and representative of the many invitations Jesus offers us in the living word to live our lives.

I do not think that most Catholics who attend Mass and who receive Communion have even the slightest understanding that the point of the Eucharist is for us to offer, as sacrifice, our body and blood and our lives as a pleasing offering to God.  The word sacrifice, by the way, means to make sacred or holy.  It does not mean to destroy or give up.  The meaning of “do this in remembrance of me,” has been totally lost in a notion of worship. God does not want worship. God invites us to love and to transform our lives.

Part of what we hope to gain from our attendance at the Eucharistic Celebration is some inspiration in the homily as the priest or deacon gives us some insight into the Scripture readings.  In “my” Church in Yucaipa, the priest reads his homily and it appears he reads it from a book.  What?  Why is he afraid to take the risk to be himself and trust that we will love him no matter how good a speaker he is and to share with us what is in his heart?  I know that is a huge judgment, but the reason I say this is because there is NOTHING personal in the homily.  There is no shepherd speaking to us.  There is NO ONE for us to follow.  The words are theological diatribe that are meaningless when it comes to facing our own day-to-day struggles and the day-to-day struggles of our family, our neighborhood, our city, our State, our country.  Those words teach us nothing about getting out of the parking lot after the celebration is over or even before the celebration is over.

Yes, I am going visit him and gently and humbly offer my support in working with him to give a homily from his heart and his own experience of living the Gospel, both his success and his failure, as a model for us to continue to grow and continue to hope in a world that is often hopeless.

I don’t know how common it is that priests do not address the Scripture readings with an application to both their own personal lives and to our lives, but when that is lacking, the Liturgy of the word and the Eucharistic celebration simply becomes an exercise to fulfill our obligation which is also meaningless in the big scheme of things.

If we were really taking in the meaning of the Eucharist, we would be willing to make eye contact with each person standing at the end of each off ramp and actually show them with our eyes and facial expression that we love them and are willing to do SOMETHING to support them in making their lives better.  SOMETHING! Perhaps ANYTHING short of judging them and avoiding them and pretending that they are not standing there.  Maybe we could take the risk of giving them whatever we can afford to give them at that moment in time, whether that be food, water, our time, money, ANYTHING.  Maybe, we could even give them a job!

From Kwaree Blog

There is a wonderful line in the movie, Lars And The Real Girl, where the pastor says, “We have to ask ourselves here, what would Jesus do?”  If we really take in the meaning of the Eucharist, we open ourselves up to looking at everything that is going on in our world today, especially the events we cannot understand or make sense out of and ask the simple question, “What would Jesus think, what would Jesus say, what would Jesus do?”  This is what we could be helped with in a homily.

I could go on and on, as many of you know.  But I do not want to profess my beliefs.  I do want to live my values which means my behavior, on a day-to-day basis, reflects what I say I believe in. “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me” is a haunting belief of mine, and one that I cannot rationalize away no matter what my brother is doing or saying.  I wish this verse were equally haunting to the organizational church.

So my daily endeavor is to find ways to bring Love to the world in every situation that I encounter.  For me, killing people, war, punishing people because they deserve to be punished, excommunicating people from my circle, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, are not options.  Yes, it becomes challenging then to come up with options, but the foundation for any option for me is Love, bread, and healing.

So, today, I celebrate, my First Communion, realizing that my First Communion was really the “day” God said, “Let there be Vern.” And God said that for each one of us, and so it is not for me to decide whether or not you deserve my love, my care, my respect, my attention, all the goodness that God has given me to offer to you.  And ironically, this kind of transformation I am writing about begins with Vern deciding to love Vern the way God loved me into existence.

Thank You for reading.