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Little darlin’ (as the late, great George Harrison might say), it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Even if you don’t believe in global warming or climate change (you should; it’s as provable as gravity), you must admit that it’s been a wild wintery ride — so much rain in California, there’s no longer a drought (in fact, some towns have turned into islands), bitter cold and snow throughout the Midwest, tornados down South. Dark days, folks.

It’s a lot like Lent. As we walk with Jesus through these forty days, we walk a path of self-awareness. What is keeping you from being a fulfilled, self-realized child of God? Do you lack something in your life or do you suffer from a surfeit — too much of a certain bad behavior or unhealthy way of thinking? Whatever is out of balance, Lent is the time to take strides toward fixing it.

I’m not going to lie and say it will be easy…in fact, it shouldn’t be. You should expect to struggle. True change doesn’t come easily. But at the end of this winter-of-the-soul, there will be Easter. Spring. Renewal, regrowth, new life. In other words, here comes the sun.

Instead of wishing away winter, let’s hold on to its lessons. Being flesh is hard, scary and lonesome. But as anyone who’s ever snuggled with a warm puppy (or kitten) knows, being flesh is also lovely. Embrace your dark days, but look toward the light. It’s coming, as sure as Springtime.

Pope Francis spoke out this week in support of Dreamers and in opposition to climate change deniers. (And before you say, “Who asked him, anyway?” let me tell you — journalists.) I am proud of my Church’s Papa, proud that he puts love and justice and mercy above other considerations. He is walking with Christ on these issues, welcoming the stranger and being a caretaker of God’s bountiful gifts to us.

In other news, Steve Bannon railed at the Catholic Church for its support of illegal immigrants, saying the Church needs them to “fill the pews.”

Oh really?

Immigrants to this country bring with them their faith. My own great-grandfather helped build the first Catholic church in South Dakota, knowing full well there weren’t any priests in the area, but believing nonetheless that one would come. Mr. Bannon’s ancestors, who arrived with the tide of Irish fleeing the potato famine (and who, by the way, never had official papers of any sort, who were reviled by so-called “natives” and blamed for lack of employment, among other things) brought theirs. Somewhere along the way, Bannon lost the thread of the narrative, which has always been love. A Christian who is without love is no Christian at all. The fact that his own predecessors were the Latin Americans of their day seems to evade him entirely. If you are glad that this great country embraced your own ancestors, how can you deny that embrace to someone — anyone — else? Who are you to say “too many”?

But back to Dreamers. And walls. Specifically, walls that the Mexican government will never, ever pay for, not now, not ever, never. The recipients of DACA are not criminals. They never have been. And they contribute significantly to our GNP. If we lose them, we lose money — lots of it. Surely, that’s an argument even the most hard-hearted can understand? How does America become “great again” by cutting off its nose to spite its face? And then building a wall around it to point out its stupidity in the most glaring of ways?

Love, mercy, justice. Anyone who claims ownership to faith in Christ must claim ownership to these qualities in their everyday, working lives. Day in, day out. Even politicians. And, yes, even “street fighters.”

Pope Francis is in America! Alleluia!

Of course, what he has to say doesn’t sit well with everyone. Someone over at Fox has already decried him as a “false prophet,” because Francis chooses to talk about stewardship of the earth and refuses to withhold forgiveness to those whom a certain segment of inflexible Pharisees think ought to be punished for life. (Hint: The “guilty” are all women. And I put that word in quotes because who am I to judge?) Others, on the most liberal end, complain that Francis doesn’t say enough — about women in the Church, about abuse of children by priests. Poor Francis. The guy can’t win.

And yet he has won, by choosing his topics and sticking to them tenaciously. He cannot be everything to everyone, and he knows this. So he looks to Christ and chooses two places where we humans consistently fall down: In care of the poor and in care of our planet. In both cases, we allow greed to supersede the greater good. And, as anyone who listened to the Pope’s speech to Congress knows, Pope Francis stands for the greater good.

He also stands for the Golden Rule. “This Rule points us in a clear direction,” said Francis in his Congressional speech. “Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.”

What does all this mean? It’s simple. If the United States were in terrible turmoil, was a place in which you could not make a living, a place where you were in daily danger of being killed by the government, how would you want the people of other countries to receive you?

If you were chosen as guardian of something that needed to endure for countless generations to come, how would you treat that thing? Would you exploit it for a quick buck now, or treat it with gentleness and care?

If you were a sinner — and we all are — would you want forgiveness? Is there anything that God cannot forgive?

What Francis speaks is Christ-centered, Gospel-centered common sense. Let us rejoice that we have a Pope who speaks for the poor, who challenges those in power, who will not be shut up by nay-sayers who call him a false prophet.

Because that’s just what they said about Jesus.

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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