Saturday, May 21, 2022

Labeling People

I drove past a church on my way to work and noticed the rainbow banner on their sign.  It said, "You are beloved.  You are welcome."

Nice message. That should be the message to everyone who enters a church, regardless of the denomination.  It is a sad day, however, that it had to be aimed at a specific (albeit not limited to) group of people (based on the rainbow banner).

A Catholic priest I know was once asked by his diocese how he was doing welcoming same-sex couples to his church.  I love his answer.  He said, "I don't know.  I don't check people at the door!"  And he didn't, because he treated everyone the same--loved and welcomed.

Of course, loving and welcoming people does not mean changing your church's tenants to meet everyone's desires.  It would be impossible to satisfy everyone even if you tried.  But you can still love and welcome people where they are, personally.

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone who graced the steps of your church felt loved and welcomed?  It might be idealistic, but wouldn't it be nice to be so uncomplicated? What would it take to create that experience for your visitors?

I don't think we should limit ourselves to a particular target group, though.  Again, maybe I am idealistic and too uncomplicated, but it drives me crazy that people are identified by their sexuality.  And typically, I mean self-identified. 

If we want to make an effort to get away from prejudices and discrimination, a good place to start would be to stop labeling ourselves and others.

On any given day, you could describe me as conservative or semi-liberal, a traditionalist or a progressive.  Depends on the issue and often on the observer's perspective.  Some people consider me funny and outgoing, but sometimes I am happy being the quiet, reflective and prayerful one.  Sometimes you might say I'm political; other days I could care less.

One day I was shocked when someone spoke of their surprise at my "wicked" sense of humor when I was in my sarcasm mode. Sometimes I am confident, other times not so much.

And that doesn't even begin to cover the various ways I have grown and changed over the years.  

Depending on the day, my greater sense of humility and generosity comes to the surface.  Other days, pride and selfishness are the headliners.  Most days, the "whole" of me cannot be limited by a label.  Naturally, the core of who I am is pretty much unchanging.  I'm not someone who sways with the wind.

But I would never think of announcing myself by any one of these features of who I am.

And honestly, if I can't even manage to settle on a label for myself, I am quite sure someone else's label for me cannot be very accurate.  Mostly, because it is usually hyper-focused on just one aspect of me.

Which brings me to my point.  People are more than a singular aspect of who they are, so maybe we need to just stop limiting our self-identity to one thing.  If we want people to see the fullness of who we are, perhaps we, ourselves need to realize we are more than one descriptor.

The exception to that, of course, would be acknowledging that we are people created in the image of God--the only one identifier that fits everyone--"Child of God."  The only one who can use that label on us is the one who assigned it to us--God. And, it is the only one that truly matters.

Go out today and be kind to someone.  Show them they are loved and welcomed, as they are.

Janet Cassidy

Thursday, May 19, 2022

A Beautiful Image

In Mother Teresa Come Be My Light, Saint Teresa is quoted as asking Cardinal Picachy to pray for her.  In June of 1976 she asked: "Pray for me--that I keep my hand in His hand and walk all the way with Him alone."

It's a beautiful image.  Picture yourself walking hand in hand with Jesus.  Do you ever, like a small child, try to pull away and run from him, or do you walk alongside him, trusting him to guide your steps? 

When one of our daughters was young, we were shopping and she left my side.  I knew where she was because I had my eye on her, even though she thought she was hiding from me under the clothing rack.

Can we ever hide from Jesus?  Do you imagine that as you try to live your life without him, that he doesn't know where you are?  He always has his eye on us.  He is always looking for us. Waiting patiently.

Let's say you are living your life with him.  That you walk along, by his side, hand in hand.  What does his hand feel like?  Are you holding the rough hand of a working carpenter, or the soft, gentle hand of God?  Do you feel safe in his presence?  Are you okay not knowing where you are being led?

Saint Teresa felt a lot of loneliness throughout her years, but she remained faithful to her call to love Jesus.  She saw him as a light, burning within her.  Every suffering she endured. 

"Her long experience of darkness, her sense of rejection, her loneliness, the terrible and unsatisfied longing for God . . . she readily offered to God, to keep the lamp--the life of Jesus within her--burning, radiating His love to others and so dispelling the darkness."

Notice that as she accepted the sacrifices that came with her Christianity, and as the light within her radiated the love of Jesus to others, the terrible darkness she experienced lifted, just a bit.

Give yourself a few minutes to reflect on the image of walking hand in hand with Jesus, alone.  Hold this image in your mind. Whenever you are anxious or afraid, uncertain or discouraged, go back to this image and hold on tight, for he will never let you go.

Janet Cassidy


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Words of Wisdom from Chesterton

 As posted on Hallow:

"To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it."

                                                                          G.K. Chesterton