Thursday, July 24, 2014

Five Lost Souls

Three Hispanic teens are out late searching for someone to be the target of their pain. Two homeless Navajo men are sitting in an abandoned field strewn with rocks and glass, drinking away their pain, dulling whatever path that has led them to this place. Two broken roads meet last Saturday night, and we are left wondering if can ever call ourselves a civilized or caring community. For no other reason than rage and hate, the three teens spend the next hour bashing the men in the field with hands, feet, cinder blocks and poles. Through splattered blood and cries of pain, the teens shout " eat mud bitch. "

The next morning the homeless Navajo men are found under a mattress. The faces of these beautiful children of God are mutilated beyond recognition. They are caked in blood, brain matter and mud. Unrecognizable in death as they were invisible in life. No one seemed to know who they were, only that they were the nameless homeless. The three teens walk home with blood on their hands and clothes. Who is at home to notice their appearance? One of the teens looks into the mirror and tells the arresting police that he saw the “devil” in his reflection.

This story transcends heartbreak. It prompts outrage, questioning, disbelief. Nevertheless, it goes far deeper. One cannot begin to describe the depth of incomprehension. Three teens are shackled for their appearance in court. We learn they dropped out of school.  One cannot find a parent. Another was at one time homeless. What were the origins of this torment and hatred that were unleashed upon the world in that abandoned field? I suspect we will find a myriad of abuse, poverty, isolation and neglect. During those hours, they walked the streets of our city - did we see them? When they were booked into jail - did we intervene? When they were ignored by society did we bring them in? I am at a loss for these children of God.

Two lost Navajo men far away from their sacred home. They are sitting in the dark, in an empty field next to a busy street. Their last hours are simply horrific. Forsaken by society, they are not identified for three days. No one knows who they were, or that they were in a morgue. Who cared for them? We become immune to the pain felt by the Navajo homeless. We simply forget the homeless - ethnicity is of no factor. I suspect we will find a myriad of poverty, neglect, cultural oppression and abuse of some kind. All those hours walking the streets of our city - did we see them? When they were booked into jail - did we intervene? When they were ignored by society - did we bring them in? I cry for these children of God.

Five lost people on the streets of Albuquerque. Many are calling for justice and vengeance while politicians now talk of protecting the homeless. There will be media headlines and sad vigils; what has changed? The reality is that we did not care about them before this horrific night, and I suspect that over time, this story will become a dusty old story. Will we even remember their names in six months? Who will be the next lost soul? Thousands of dropouts will continue to walk the streets; gangs will grow. Homelessness will continue, and lonely souls will drink in abandoned corners.   Children of God will continue to die violent or lonely deaths on our streets.

It is difficult to find the Kingdom of a God in this story. However, maybe there is hope. I pray that abandoned field will be a step toward creating that Kingdom. Maybe our community will understand that one lost soul, five lost souls, or 1000 lost souls are unacceptable. Through the pain, bewilderment, and sadness, we may have the courage and compassion to care. Someone has to care; something has to change. Please don’t let this be the end of the story. " The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me.”

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Sacred Now

An old acquaintance who tends to be a bit rigid came up to me and asked, we no, stated "When are you going to learn?  All you talk about is the poor.  They are killing themselves.   If we don't change the culture, the world will collapse.  Jesus is not coming back a happy man."  I smiled and asked how his knee replacement surgery had affected his running.  He looked at me surprised and quickly changed the subject.  I wondered what it was like to know the mind of Jesus and his particular mood upon arrival.  Interesting.

I wished him well, turned around and just then a raindrop landed on my forehead.  At that one instant, I found so much joy in the sacred present.  The mystery of water, the mystery of the now. The previous conversation was an ancient relic.  The potential argument or irritation began to collect dust.  

When the raindrop touched my forehead, nothing else mattered.  I stopped in mid-stride.  So natural.  I did not intentionally stop; my body became still as if to say "wait.  This matters, the present, is now, and you are being blessed.  Stop.  It was a sacred moment."  Maybe that one drop created for me at the moment found me.   Maybe Jesus was reflecting his particular mood.  Either way, I was blessed by the sacred present and rain, my body made me stop.  The Holy present touched with joy and gratitude.

I want to live like that always. 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Our eyes meet

I was at a stoplight today. A homeless woman was holding a sign. 4 lanes of traffic, I could not give her money. 

She was maybe 45. She looked lost. Lost in her pain, lost in society, everyone ignored her. Dirty clothes, dirty sign. Please help. I bet she was a cute child whose eyes, at one time, held hope and smiled brightly. What happened that led her to this corner?  

No one looked at her. They looked ahead. It is easy not to make eye contact. She put her sign to windows. help.  I noticed a man squirming. I can imagine people silently urging, wishing the light will turn green. 

I watched her and our eyes met. Do I continue to make eye contact? How could I even ask this question? 

I tried to smile but I felt useless.  I could not give her money, she was too far away. A smile? I felt silly. They say money won't help, but I cannot ignore this child. Yet somehow I do. My red truck is a world away from her concrete corner. The light turned green and I moved forward.

All I could do was wish her peace. 

As I drove off, I wondered how many diverted their eyes when Jesus was on the cross. Those eyes that held love, and now no one is looking back, looking into this eyes.  He is in pain, searching. Look away.  

The only eyes that look back are the eyes of his mother. Did she try to comfort him with a smile. Did it help Jesus just knowing that someone was looking back. 

On this corner, a woman on her cross. 

Maybe when a person is on the cross, on their own painful, dirty cross, I will try and look into their eyes. I may learn something about them. I may learn the mystery of love, I may learn something about myself. 

Lord give me the heart, the eyes, the love to look into their eyes. 

Amen. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Priest



4 June 1962

Navy Chaplain Luis Padillo was giving last rites to dying soldiers as sniper fire surrounded him.  A wounded soldier pulled himself up by clinging to the priest's cassock, as bullets chewed up the concrete around them  Hector Rondon Lovera, who had to lie flat to avoid getting shot, later said that he was unsure how he managed to take this picture.  Normal Rockwell eerily used this photograph as a template for his Southern justice painting:

 “Murder in Mississippi“.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

After Bethlehem

Have you wondered what happened after the Wise Men left Bethlehem?  It was such a long, tiring journey to find the child.  Tired, happy, sore, relieved.

They walk in, with a knowing and their lives are changed.  If so, how?  After the akward greetings, the gifts, did they hold Jesus in their arms?  Did they give him a soft kiss?  Did they want to stay?

Back on the journey to life, somehow changed?  Will they forgive, will they give, did they change the world in small ways that we feel today.  Did they set someone free because they were now free.  did they seek him once again?  Maybe a new journey, certainly a new life.

Back home after holding Christ, somehow, I am different.