Saturday, June 14, 2014

Passing the Baton

Being a youth volunteer has expanded my horizons to include new experiences such as test prep tutor, chauffeur, and attending track meets.

Track meets consist of numerous events but the ones that caught my eye were the relay races. I noticed that certain teams passed the baton flawlessly. I also noticed that other teams fumbled the hand-off. Finally I noted times where the baton was dropped and any chance of a respectable placing was lost.

It occurred to me that the human story is also a relay race. Each generation passes the baton to the next. Individually to our children and collectively as a society.

Approaching 60, I have become acutely aware of my age. I can hear the clock ticking. I can see  the waning days of my career. I have also begun to think in terms of how I will spend my remaining "good" (healthy) years.   I also think about how I can make this world a better place before I leave it.
I am also aware that I live in a youth-obsessed culture. 30 is the new 60.  I have observed,  rightly or wrongly, that many in the second and third decade of life are just extending their adolescence.  Experiences are all that matter.  Our individual behaviors are magnified in the aggregate. Somehow our society carries on, but it is sensitive only to immediate needs and pleasures. We are oblivious to what will happen to the next generation.
"Without the hope of posterity, for our race if not for ourselves, without the assurance that we being dead yet live, all pleasures of the mind and senses sometimes seem to me no more than pathetic and crumbling defences shored up against our ruin. " - P. D. James (Children of Men)
The investments in life that should be made now are not being made. Few seem to care that as they age they will reap a barren harvest. The investments that our society should be making are being neglected as well. What will we all harvest from the generation to come?

So that is the reason I am a youth volunteer. I am obliged to those who went before me.
"A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving."  -Albert Einstein
I am obliged to those who will come after me.

I am also a youth volunteer because of my faith. My faith tells me that God cared enough for this world to enter it. My faith also tells me that any kindness done to another is a kindness done to God himself.

Find your motivation whatever it is. Find a way to invest in the next generation. Not only will your eyes be opened, but your heart will be as well.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Gospel of Which I am not Ashamed

Periodically, I am challenged to "like", "honk" or otherwise acknowledge that I "am not ashamed of the Gospel" (St. Paul's quote). As I thought about it, I realized I might just be ashamed of the Gospel. So what exactly is the "Good News" I should not be ashamed of? Was it the Evangelical "Roman Road"? Getting people to "accept Jesus"? Or were these classical definitions in fact not the good news at all? Perhaps these definitions represented religious ideology.  Was faith was reduced to a past sacrament or agreeing to a list of assertions? The definition of the "Gospel" was critically important to answering this question. Whether or not it was "good news" depends upon how it would be received by its' hearers.

Is it good news only to those with wealth, status, or those of a certain ethnicity? Is it more about being right rather than compassionate?  Is it about hate rather than love? Is it concerned about being "left behind", but not about those being left behind by inequality and injustice? Is is about the Kingdom of God in the here and now and not just in heaven?

In Evangelli Gaudium, Pope Francis described a Gospel which is indeed "good news." It is a message that can be claimed by all Christians. Moreover, it is accessible to everyone. It expresses the full scope of the Gospel to meet all human needs, emotional, physical,  and spiritual. It is the Gospel that I have been looking for and longing to hear expressed so clearly.

Evangelli Gaudium is a scathing criticism of the current economic order where the preeminence of finance, profit, and trade are assumed. Destructive side effects are accepted without question. It is a system of economic Darwinism that knows only the survival of the fittest and destruction of the weak as the cost of doing business. A human person is only a consumer or producer, an object to be discarded when they are of no further value. It is a system that American believers bought in too easily; it was a system that I had accepted too readily.

The Gospel, the "Good News" that Jesus' disciples were instructed to share was the nearness of the Kingdom! The proclamation to the people was that the "Kingdom of God is Near". It was embodied. First by Jesus himself. Then by his disciples. The message was not a definition of the Kingdom; it was the presence of the Kingdom! Embodied first in Jesus, then by His disciples, and ultimately those of us who have chosen to be His followers.

A Gospel of which I am not ashamed, thereby one I can be "proud" of, is one that is embodied. It is made near by my presence as I follow Christ. It must be radically inclusive, radically accepting, and radically gracious. Since I cannot be perfect, it must be radically honest, quick to accept the blame for failure, and even quicker to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Since others cannot be perfect, it must readily accept that imperfection, whether accompanied by an apology or not. It must forgive because people do not realize what they are doing. It must manifest love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. It must be radically generous. That is the Gospel of which I am not ashamed.