Sunday, July 08, 2018

Ho-humming Jesus (Sunday homily)

So, this is a pretty striking reaction to Jesus.
He is healing people, casting out demons, 
and teaching people about God, offering forgiveness and offering hope.

“And they took offense at him.”

We know this kid, they said; he grew up here. 
We know his family. Who does he think he is? 

Ho-hum, they said.

Their hardness of heart “prevented” Jesus from performing miracles; 
not because he was literally incapable of doing so – 
he is God, he can do what he likes – 
but rather, because there was no point.
The point of his healings and his teaching are the same: 
to open people up to the supernatural life God offers them.
But they were closed off; his miracles would do them no good.

It is shocking to think of people reacting this way.
But let me ask you: if you could have just 5 or ten minutes with Jesus, 
in which he would do for you what he offered those people,
Would you rearrange your schedule to meet with him?

I think a lot of us are saying, of course I would!
So then I ask you: what do you think happens in the confessional?

I know: a lot of people get discouraged because they go to confession, and they don’t get better.

But maybe the sacrament is keeping you from getting worse – 
did you ever consider that?

Saint Therese the Little Flower made a point on this somewhere:
That the reason we don’t quickly overcome our sins 
is because that would lead us to massive spiritual pride, 
which can send us to hell just as easily.
So it is God’s mercy that we spend our lives wrestling with sin, 
rather than one confession and done.

It really is this simple: what do you think happens in confession?
Do you believe Jesus is there, with all his power and his mercy?
Do you believe that? 

For that matter, do you believe the Holy Mass is a miracle?
Because that is what it is.

Actually, two miracles; two miracles happen in every Mass; 
and we all witness them.

The first miracle is that God brings us to Calvary, 
to the Sacrifice that Jesus offered on the Cross.
The Mass is the Cross; the Mass brings us to the Cross.
When you and I are at Mass, we are right there with Jesus.

The second miracle is the change of bread and wine 
into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – 
the true, real Presence of Jesus our Lord.

And, now that I think about it, there are three miracles.
The third one is that you and I, 
in receiving the Eucharist in a state of grace – 
meaning, we are not conscious of a mortal sin 
that we have not yet brought to confession…
I say again, when we receive the Eucharist in a state of grace,
we are united with Jesus. We have union with God.

When I say it aloud, it is astounding; it’s shattering.
I can’t help wondering, 
how in the world do we ho-hum these wonders? 
How does it happen? And yet, we do.

I don’t mean you; I mean me.
I stand at this altar, day by day. 
I give out God’s mercy in the confessional, and I’m glad to do it; 
but I confess to you, I am not overwhelmed enough. 
Not nearly enough.

It wasn’t just the hometown neighbors of Jesus who ho-hummed him; 
And by their “yeah, so what?” attitude, closed the door to miracles.
No; it wasn’t just them.

I don’t want to be those people. Do you? Do you?

“Jesus, I dare to ask: break down the barriers, break my heart open!
Please keep me, please keep these your flock, 
from being numbered among those 
about whom you are ‘amazed at their lack of faith.’
Please, Lord, in your mercy, may these words not be said of us. Amen.”

Sunday, July 01, 2018

A homily about pornography (without using that word; Sunday homily)

This past week I was in northern Kentucky, 
at a conference with other priests. 
Maybe you saw in the bulletin what it was about.
If you didn’t, let’s put it this way: 
it was about the dark side of the Internet. 
This is a very big problem. 
For many people, for a lot of people, it is an addiction.

This was not a vacation. We were looking at some heavy science 
and talking about some tough things, and how a priest can help.

And then, during the week, I look at the readings for this Mass.
They are about God giving life, and healing; 
raising someone from death to life.

It seemed to me to be providential.

So let me go back to the word I just used: addiction.
This is something a lot of people simply don’t understand; 
Even about themselves: “I don’t know why I do this.”

If this isn’t you, it is really hard to understand.
How can someone wreck his or her life over alcohol 
or gambling or over dark stuff on the Internet?

I don’t know that I’m going to explain this adequately, 
But what you must understand is that this isn’t about will power.
It isn’t about not praying enough, or some easy trick.
It goes a lot deeper.

Here’s what I learned this week about indecent materials – 
and, you do know I’m talking about something specific, 
but I’m being delicate?
So here’s part of what I learned.

This is about connecting with people.
If we don’t have the right kind of human connections, 
we will seek out the wrong kind. False kinds. Empty connections.

And to turn it around: if we are hooked on the wrong kind,
The answer, the thing we need, is the right kind of human connection.

When a lot of us were children, 
we had one phone the whole house shared.
And we had one TV, with 3, 4 or 5 channels.
When you watched TV, it was together.

Today, everyone has his or her own telephone;
And you can watch TV on it. We’re all disconnected.

So why be surprised that instead of human connection, 
we connect with apps, with games, 
and with other things we don’t want others to see.

So let’s talk about what happened in the Gospel.
A man comes to Jesus; his daughter is very ill.
What does Jesus say? I will come to her. 

But then something odd happens along the way.
A woman in the crowd reaches out and touches Jesus.
And then Jesus, knowing she had been healed, decides to call her out.

Why not just let her go on her way: she was healed after all.
If you were her, would you want the spotlight put on you?
Everyone’s eyes staring at you? 
It’s kind of harsh. Why would he do that?

There was something more that woman needed 
than just to have her bleeding problem stopped.
She had a problem that must have been embarrassing;
It separated her from others.

Perhaps this woman felt shame, ugly, unwanted and unloved.
She was disconnected from others, and she had been for 12 years.
She didn’t just need the blood problem fixed; 
She needed her connection with others restored.
To be loved, and know it. That’s the healing the woman needed.
Jesus wasn’t embarrassing her; he was pulling her from the shadows.

Then she told Jesus the whole truth.
One of the most healing things you and I can do 
when we have something we feel shame about, some dark habit, 
is to tell someone.
Being all alone with that gives it power.
Remember: what we need is to connect the right way.

Jesus wanted that woman to know she wasn’t just a stranger; 
she was family. He called her “daughter.” 

That’s the connection. You are a beloved child of God. And so am I.
I don’t know all the answers, but I have some good ideas.
But if you want to talk, and get it out,
I’m really good at listening and not repeating things. 
That is what priests do.
And I think I can help you find help.

And I’m going to remind you that no matter what separates you, 
what you think makes you totally outside, totally off, unworthy,
is just not big enough that God won’t say to you, 
you are beloved son, you are my beloved daughter.

God created this world to be a place of life.
He made you and me to be “imperishable.”
And he came into the world – he became one of us –
To raise us back to life.

You are the one to whom Christ is speaking in the Gospel.
You are the child, he says, “is not dead but asleep.”
And to you, his most loved child, he says, “Arise!”

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Who's your guy: John the Baptist or Hugh Hefner? (Sunday homily)

Last week was Father’s day. 
But it occurs to me that today’s feast is a really good day 
to talk to and about fathers, to and about men.

Does it seem unusual to have a saint’s day on a Sunday? 
That’s because it is.  

Why John the Baptist? 
Jesus himself tells us elsewhere in Scripture:
“I tell you, among those born of women, 
no one is greater than John; 
yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

What made John so great? Two things.
First, because he was the final link in the long chain of hope.
That chain began immediately 
after Adam and Eve were corrupted, when God promised a Savior.

The links were sustained through wandering and darkness, 
through slavery and deliverance, through exaltation and exile, 
all the way down to John. But John, unlike all the rest, 
not only promised a Savior, someday; 
he was uniquely able to say: 
Here! Now! Behold the Lamb of God!

And second, John was utterly faithful to his mission.
He understood it wasn’t about him.
“I must decrease,” he said: “Jesus must increase.”
Every word, every breath of John’s life was about Jesus: “There he is!” 
Go follow him, John told his own followers.
Men, you and I live in a strange time. 
The proper role and responsibilities of men 
have never been more needed; and yet never more denigrated.

We hear about so-called “toxic masculinity.”
In schools, if boys act like boys, they are punished.
In too many homes and neighborhoods, men are mostly absent.

And, yes, there is such a thing as “toxic masculinity,”
although it’s not what some radical voices claim.
Here’s what I think is a toxic masculinity:
The idea that men should just have what they want.

There was a man named Hugh Hefner, 
who had a philosophy which boiled down to, 
the thing that matters most is you, and your fulfillment.
Sacrifice and self-denial are for suckers.

He published a magazine and promoted a lifestyle for decades.
He played a huge role in promoting easy divorce 
and contraception and living together without marriage; 
and he loved that first bookstores, and then the Internet, 
became filled with obscene materials.
He thought redefining marriage and family was awesome.

Why am I talking about Hugh Hefner? 
Many of you have never heard of him. 
But this one man played a huge role 
in shaping the world you and I now live in.

And though they don’t know it, 
millions of men and boys are following in the path he charted. 
Because it is really appealing to be able to live that way.

Meanwhile, there is all the wreckage.
There is a reckoning happening, and we see it every day:
People are being brought to account – in politics, 
in entertainment, in the Church, because they lived for themselves,
and they left a lot of casualties behind.

From Monday to Thursday morning of this week, 
I will be in northern Kentucky with other priests, 
learning from experts about the plague of pornography.
A man in our parish said it best only last week:
This stuff comes straight from the pit of hell;
And if it was sold in cans, it would outsell Coca-Cola. 

Being all about self and all about right now is so easy. 
On the other hand, doing what John the Baptist did – 
and for that matter, what his father Zachariah 
and mother Elizabeth did – that is really hard.
Remember, they were elderly when God’s invitation came.
Zachariah was very reluctant. Not me! I’m too old, it’s too late.

A lot of grandparents are picking up the slack these days, 
because a lot of mothers are carrying a double load alone.

So men, we’re in a mess.
Almost 80 years ago, our world was in a pretty bad place. 
And the Greatest Generation stepped up.
So many of our fathers and grandfathers answered the call.
Most of them were never recognized, 
and probably played a role that, at the time, seemed so small.

My father served in the Air Corps, working on B-17s.
He never bragged about any of it, 
I’m guessing because he knew pilots and crews 
that never came back; and he knew how lucky he was.
No one person won that war; but we needed every single one.

And men – boys – we need you now.
A spiritual Pearl Harbor, a moral 9-11 is happening right now.
The battlefield isn’t far away: it’s our homes and each of our hearts.
And if you wonder what your mission, what your purpose is, 
It is like Zachariah who said, “His name is John” –
Meaning that father gave his son to the Lord’s service.

It is like John who said, this is all about Jesus, that’s why I’m here.
And John never had an easy day in his life 
and he ultimately paid with blood. 
But his was the path of glory! 

Men, boys: choose that path!
It most likely isn’t going to be some great moment; 
it’s a long chain of little moments, 
most of which only you will know about. 

A choice of Christ and others over self.
That path may mean being a priest. I love being a priest.
But if not, be a husband and father. Give life; change lives.
And if you’re inspired to do great things, 
Then be willing to do small acts of faithfulness 
while you wait till your moment comes. 

This coming Friday we’ll have our 3rd annual Men’s Prayer Walk.
All men, all ages are welcome. We’ll meet in the parking lot 
between my house and the school at 5:30, we’ll have transportation, 
we’ll go out to Russia-Houston Road and Route 48, 
and walk out toward and past Houston for about an hour. 
Then we’ll come back and have fellowship.

What will that accomplish?
We will be praying for this parish and this community.
Our walking around the parish boundaries 
signifies our role as protectors and providers.
If it’s only us, probably it means very little.

But it will be us and the Holy Spirit, 
bearing witness to the Lamb of God.
And when we do that, anything can happen.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Separating families at the border

This is what appears in Saint Remy Bulletin this Sunday.

What is all this talk about immigration and families? In recent weeks, there’s been a furious back-and-forth in the media and in Washington about what the government is doing at the borders, and how this affects families with minor children. I’ve seen a lot of yelling, not a lot of clarity. So last week, I tried to dig into this to understand better, particularly as our U.S. bishops have weighed in. This won’t be an expert explanation. But here’s what I think is going on.

Millions of people come to our country every year, both legally and illegally. Most who enter illegally are seeking nothing more than a better life, but some are engaged in crime or even terrorism. The task of our government in sorting out the honest and dishonest isn’t easy; and virtually everyone admits that we as a nation need a better handle on these issues. Politicians of both parties have been promising to address the problems of illegal immigration for decades, but without consensus.

When people attempt to enter this country illegally, several things can happen. If they are met right at the border, they are turned back. But if they are found already inside the country, then that is a violation of the law. In addition, they may be found to have broken other laws as well. At this point, they are either arrested and prosecuted, as anyone else would be, or else they are sent out of the country again. In all this, some will need food and medical attention, and I’m very confident they get it. Some of these folks will ask for asylum in the U.S., which our laws will grant under various conditions. When such a request is made, there is a legal process for determining whether that person qualifies for asylum.

Here’s the first hitch: the border control agents who deal with these issues have their hands full, as do the judges who have to decide these requests; so there are waiting periods until these things can be decided. So what happens to the illegal aliens requesting asylum? Really only two things can happen: they can either be held in custody, or else they can be released on their honor, and told to report on such-and-such a date for their court hearing. It should be obvious what the problems with either approach are. If you go back 30 years or so, you’ll find both approaches tried by both Democrats and Republicans. At the moment, President Trump has opted not to release such asylum-seekers, but rather to hold them in custody.

Here’s the second hitch: sometimes – many times? – these individuals come with underage children. Maybe they are their own children, or maybe they aren’t. Again, this presents the border control agents with many issues. They have to know whether the children are actually with their own relatives, and whether there is anything improper going on. But assuming they’ve answered these questions, then the issue is, do they take the children into custody as well? Or do they only take into custody the adults? Or do they just let the folks go free? This is what the current dispute is about. (Update: as this bulletin went to press, the President signed an order aiming to prevent family separations; but this isn’t over.)

If the government only takes the adults into custody, then the children have to go elsewhere; perhaps into foster care, or perhaps with relatives. But obviously, this means separation from their parents, and we can all imagine how frightening this is.

Here’s what our bishops have said. Let me quote a June 13 statement from Houston Archbishop Daniel DiNardo, who is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General's recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence. Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors. We urge courts and policy makers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.

Additionally, I join Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB's Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the Administration's zero tolerance policy. Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral."

Of course, the bishops know there are many responses to their concerns. Every year, many thousands of adults who have minor children are arrested, convicted and incarcerated for various crimes; and this, too, results in “family separation.” My guess is that Archbishop DiNardo would say that he wants to minimize that as well. And then, most people would distinguish between someone who is incarcerated for a theft or a violent crime, versus people who are fleeing desperate situations, even if they do enter this country illegally in the process.

Others are saying, but shouldn’t the bishops simply be happy that this administration is doing many positive things on pro-life and religious freedom? My guess is that the bishops are, indeed, happy; but that doesn’t mean they remind silent when they have concerns. Nor should any of us.

Archbishop DiNardo and Bishop Vasquez, among others, are trying to give voice to varied points of view among their fellow bishops, and among many Catholics. I think the bishops are trying to be a voice for the right balance between border security and compassion for people who are seeking a better life.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

About the Cardinal McCarrick situation: I am angry

Over the past two days, I’ve been digesting the news about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington. What is that news? Well, it’s in two parts:

- The first part was that he has been “credibly” accused of abusing a minor about 50 years ago.
- The second part is that this has occasioned stories about many more allegations of sexual activity on his part with priests and seminarians; meaning that it involved preying on subordinates.

Now, I don’t know if any of this is true. I hope none of it happened; but reading about this has made me sick in my stomach, and angry. Angry at the crimes themselves, if they happened; but even angrier at what seems to have been an “open secret” for many people for so many years.

Given what I’ve been reading, some of which was published at least eight years ago, it seems clear to me that this really was a pretty open “secret.” Which means that all the bishops – in Newark, in New York, in Metuchen, New Jersey and in Washington, D.C. – who are now issuing statements of “sadness” and “shock” – surely knew that McCarrick had been accused of misconduct before. We learned yesterday that at least two allegations, involving adults, had resulted in settlements. What else is there?

Someone might say, but this whole scandal business is old news. Where have you been, Father Fox? 

Where I’ve been is living with it. I remember where I was in 2002, when so much of this fecal matter hit the fan in the U.S. I was in the seminary, preparing for my final year. I was interviewed by the local paper for my reaction to the awful things we were all hearing about. And I remember what I said: that all I could do was strive to be a good, holy priest. Of course, there was and is more I can do; but that was my answer as a seminarian.

So why is this making me so angry, 16 years later? Because it is 16 years later, and we’re still dealing with cover-ups!

Every day – every single day – as a priest, I live with the consequences of the abominable crimes committed by a small number of priests and bishops, but which were facilitated by many bishops, either by active connivance, or by neglect, or by covering it up. This gets called a “priest” scandal, but that omits the obvious fact that there was a failure of oversight. Without excusing any priest’s crimes, I think the failure of oversight was more culpable, since it so often meant one perverted priest causing such a wide path of destruction.

Let me pause my rant here and say something about silence. If anyone wonders, I have not been silent. As a priest, I am required by law, and by Archdiocesan policy, to report any information I receive (outside the seal of confession) to proper authorities. In my 15 years as a priest, I have been given such information many times; and every single time I have reported it both to local law enforcement, and to the Archdiocese. There are ways this whole process is awkward, and I can go into that if desired. Many times the information was very sketchy, so I doubt what I passed along was much help; but I reported it.

At no time have I been aware of any priest or seminarian engaging in any misconduct – other than, of course, something I learned in the news media. Sometimes people voice suspicions, but I can’t take that seriously when there is a total absence of facts.

I mention all this simply because someone might be thinking, well, what about you, Father Fox? Have you been part of this culture of silence? This is my answer.

So back to the main theme of my rant. I’m angry about what looks like a continuing culture of silence. Look: I respect confidentiality. People need and expect a priest to be able to keep his mouth shut. People confess their sins to God, in the presence of a priest, only because they are assured we remain silent, and that is right. People come to us, outside the confessional, with troubles and embarrassing problems, and they only feel safe doing that because they count on our discretion. And they should be able to do that. I am very good at keeping secrets.

But that’s not what this is! This is something else. If I were a bishop, and this sort of information reached my ears, I would look into it. I wouldn’t wait for someone to find me; I’d find those who could give me first-hand information. It would be my job to make it easy for them to share their stories. What’s more, I would do what I could to get someone in Rome to take an interest as well.

Maybe the bishops who knew about these McCarrick stories did all these things. But very honestly, I doubt it. And if I were advising the bishops in the dioceses directly affected by all this, I would tell them: “Do you want people to believe you? You need to address whether you knew about all these stories, and how you responded to them. People are going to be very dubious that you could be utterly unaware of all these allegations.”

The whole Church suffers from these crimes and the wounds they cause. One of the wounds is that people lose trust and become cynical. Maybe I am naïve; maybe it’s just that I’ve been focusing on my parish and my ministry, and I usually don’t want to dabble in gossip and innuendo. But today, this really has me upset, and I believe our bishops, and those in Rome who are concerned with these things, absolutely must answer the concerns of the faithful about how much of this covering-up is still going on. Get all the poison out. The pope knows there are perverts in high places; he himself referred to a “gay lobby” in the Vatican. (And just to be clear, while a lot of this is homosexual corruption, not all of it is. There is heterosexual corruption too.) So it’s time to answer the question:

What are we doing about it?

There are so many other thoughts, but it will exhaust me to write them all down, and it would exhaust you to read them. It breaks my heart to think of people wondering if their priest is some sort of pervert, preying on kids. I recall the time an individual came to me, and revealed he had been abused by a priest, many years before, in that same parish. It broke my heart, and I begged him for forgiveness. Last night the seminarian staying here this summer and I took our “MC”s – that is, the older altar boys who lead the others – out for wings as a thank you for all they do. Does anyone think there was anything improper? It makes me ill to think of it.

How much of a problem are we talking about? Priests are men, prone to all temptations. Greed is surely a temptation, as is unholy ambition. So is the desire for approval. I am tempted to laziness, to seeking too many comforts, to gluttony, to pride and wrath and arrogance, and to lust. The story goes around of a man in confession asking the priest, “Father, do you ever get old enough that you don’t experience lustful thoughts?” “Yes,” the priest assured him – “about 30 seconds before you die!”

Maybe I am naïve, but I do believe most priests try to be faithful. But I am sure some are living in situations that are gravely immoral, either with wealth gotten through theft or deception, or with a girl- or boyfriend on the side, or with other perversions. I can imagine the rationalizations. And I have no doubt that some number of clergy have looked the other way regarding others’ misdeeds, either because of fear, which is somewhat understandable, or because of cynicism or laziness, which is far less so. Many more priests are wrestling with sin, just as you are, and trying their best with prayer and spiritual direction and the sacraments to overcome them.

Inevitably, someone will say, “This is why I left the Catholic Church!” or, “This is why you should!” That makes no sense to me. I was raised Catholic, I left at 19 and came back at 29. I came back not because I thought the Church had especially holy bishops and priests; no, not even because I thought the ordinary person in the pew was especially holy. No, I chose to re-embrace my Catholic Faith for one very simple reason: I became convinced that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church, and I wanted to be in the Church that is his mystical Body.

It is not “okay” that the Church has so many wounds; but it is not a new problem. Rather, it is a very ancient problem. Jesus himself dealt with it from the very beginning. Throughout the history of the Faith, we always have individuals who cry out against the sins of Christians, clergy, religious and laity. It is almost a constant. And yes, many movements that broke away from Rome did so precisely because of immorality and corruption. Tell me: has any that made its own way conquered these problems? Show me.

While I was writing this, I heard the church bells ring three o’clock, telling me I needed to get over to lead the Divine Mercy chaplet and then hear confessions. To my surprise, there was a long line waiting for me. In between penitents, I found myself wondering why there was so many, unusual for a summer afternoon. Then a thought occurred to me: is God telling me something? I want to marinate in my anger, but perhaps caring for others is a better route.

So I come back to what I told that reporter in 2002: my best response to all this is to strive all the more for my own holiness. I am a sinful man, but I am trying to be faithful. Other priests too, many heroically. Pray for us and let us help each other in holiness. It may not seem fair, but while corruption taints other parts of the Body, the one thing no one can stop you and me from doing is to contribute that much more our own prayer and penance.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Kingdom comes, we know not how (Sunday homily)

There was a particular line in the Gospel that you could easily miss: 
A man scatters “seed on the land” and sleeps and rises,
“and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.”

Did you hear that? “He knows not how.”

Perhaps you say, but we do know; we know how to prepare the ground; 
we know what kind of seed to plant, how to fertilize it and when; 
and we know when to harvest.

The point Jesus is really making 
is that the process of growth happens in its own way and own time. 
No matter what we think or want, we aren’t in control.

We plant the seed, and then we wait. 

This is one of the hardest lessons to learn in life, 
and the most necessary: 
recognizing what we can do, and what we cannot.

The farmer isn’t in control, but he is not passive. 
We have a role to play – focus on that.

There are about 200 people in this church right now, 
And if I were to ask for a show of hands, 
I think I’d see most of them go up on this question:

Have you ever thought of ways that the world – or this country – 
or our Church – or your place of work – 
would be better? If only they did what you suggested?

Of course you have. It’s what we do.
“If only the Reds would do this and this…”
“If only the Pope…” If only, if only.

How’s that working out? They never call me!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we shouldn’t give input.
You’ve heard me ask many times for your feedback and suggestions.
I value it. And even if Congress and the President don’t want it, 
they need it, and it’s our duty as citizens to give it.

Rather, my point is that like the farmer, we can vote, we can speak up, 
we can give what we give, 
but in the end, the outcome will be beyond our control.

And the point Jesus is making is that the working out of his Kingdom – 
the salvation of souls and the transformation of society – 
Will surely and certainly come, but not as we wish or can even imagine:
We know not how.

That requires patience.
That requires humility.
And that is the challenge of hope, 
because hope isn’t about what we see, 
but on the contrary, hope is when we can’t see.

So if there’s something that has you worried:
The pope, the President, the direction of the country;
Your company, your family…

Jesus says: prepare the ground; plant the seed.
Pray; work. Sleep and rise. 
It will sprout and grow of its own accord; you know not how.

Then sometimes you and I are the seed.
God plants us. We don’t know what’s going on.

“What am I doing here? It’s dark! Wait, now it’s wet!
Oh, I don’t like that; I don’t want to be wet; I’m wet all over!

“Wait – what’s that? What is that? Oh, that smells really bad!
What is God doing to me?

“Oh now I’m moving; I’m going somewhere. 
And I was just getting used to that place; 
but now, I’m getting pushed up somewhere. 
Oh, it’s bright, bright, too bright, oohhhh! Ow!”

And so it goes. 

There is a plan. You and I have a part to play; 
and the difference you and I can make,
both in being the seed God plants,
and in the seeds we plant,
can be tremendous once we accept the fact 
that God’s work will happen, though we know not how.