Pray for Peace among Sunni and Shiite and read Thomas Friedman NYTIMES today!

Read Thomas Friedman NY Times today: Only way to fight ISIS is to help reconcile moderate majority Sunni and Shiite in Iraq and Syria to abandon tribal hatreds. If not, fighting ISIS Sunni’s directly will align US with Shiite only and create more sympathy for ISIS among Sunni’s worldwide. Good sense!

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/opinion/sunday/thomas-l-friedman-obamas-strategy-for-fighting-isis-isnt-all-about-us.html?ribbon-ad-idx=8&rref=opinion&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=article

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Movie Reviews with Spiritual Concepts # 1: THE SKELETON TWINS

Movie Reviews with Spiritual Concepts Volume 1

September 13, 2014:  THE SKELETON TWINS

Franciscan priest and popular spiritual guide Richard Rohr often uses a phrase “Unless we transcend our pain, we will continue to transmit it.”  To “transcend our pain” is to allow God’s unconditional love to compensate for the conditional love we experience from ourselves and others.  If we don’t, the “transmission of pain” can be apportioned to others and to ourselves equally.  The masochistic dimensions of this truth are displayed in all of their grandeur in SKELETON TWINS, the story of adult fraternal twins Milo and Maggie perpetuating childhood fears and unhealthy choices instilled in them through seriously warped parenting and other forms of abuse.  Existential pain runs amuck in this film which begins with each twin’s respective suicide attempt and continues with the shadow of despair evident in the characters’ behaviors and in the dark gray lighting in much of the film.  Yet, this sad story offers sustained appeal and intrigue through the excellent artistry and chemistry shared by the two leads Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as Milo and Maggie whose acting skills are comparable to their comedic talents evident in their years goofing it up on Saturday Night Live.  Furthermore, the script itself provides periodic and most welcomed comic relief without which we would sink into something akin to Ingmar Bergman induced despair.

There is truth in the concept that as adults we continue to work out our childhood traumas, doomed to recreate the patterns of the past until we address them head-on.  Indeed, childhood responses to life, love and their challenges continue in perpetuity until the day we decide to re-orient ourselves to the realities of the present and realize that before us is a panorama of alternate ways to interpret our life situations and the choices available to us.  And although life’s situations will often continue to evoke those same old childhood feelings, we liberate ourselves with the knowledge that with the help of God and others, we can work through them. THE SKELETON TWINS explores how the deep bonds of sibling love (in this case fraternal twins) offers the possibility for psycho-spiritual health, but this brother and sister suspend pursuit of these possibilities long into their adulthood and throughout the course of the film.

The film’s director, Craig Johnson, evidences his artistry by cultivating sympathy for Milo and Maggie with moments of recognition that affirm the ways childhood hurts and longings echo through our adulthoods.  As Milo and Maggie respectively search for pain relief, viewers can identify readily with this ongoing challenge.  True to today’s sensibilities, the wounded characters seek sexual fulfillment but not without attempts for genuine connection with others on deeper levels.  For her part, Maggie’s marriage is a study in opposing dynamics, the cohabitation of cynicism and hope, the latter incarnated at times to comical extremes by her husband, Lance, played convincingly by Luke Wilson.  The contrast culminates in heartbreaking scenes up to and including the film’s climax.  What makes love fulfilling or so sadly unfulfilling for this couple?  Is it their respective pasts (although Lance’s is never explored) or their basic frailties?  Or is it their lack of virtue or genuine inability to cultivate virtue in one another? Milo’s quest is even more pain-wracked.  He longs to regain a lost love that from the onset was fraught with dishonesty and manipulation. While the script makes us fully aware of the pain that motivates his search it could have served us better by exploring the multi-facet dimensions of such an unhealthy bond.

THE SKELETON TWIN is an artful film, consistent in its plot, character development and imagery.  The autumn setting coupled with the anticipation and experience of Halloween support the overriding affect of the twins’ macabre childhood and their respective adult dances-with-death.  “Faith” is never one of the character’s conscious pursuits, nor is it ever named as one of their options, but the ark of the film still resonates with echoes of Saint Augustine’s oft-quoted statement ““Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee”

Are Milo and Maggie capable of naming their truths without continually fleeing in fear or wallowing in life’s absurdities?  Will they find peace (if not a conscious contact with God) through one another?  Although it does in part, the film won’t answer these questions for you fully or even, for many, in a satisfactory way.  Still, if you enjoy watching and/or are intrigued by characters searching for meaning and meaningful relationship in a story more serious than comic, more dark than light, with excellent acting, this film is for you.

Other reviews of THE SKELETON TWINS:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/12/movies/kristen-wiig-and-bill-hader-star-in-the-skeleton-twins.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A8%22%7D

http://variety.com/2014/film/reviews/sundance-film-review-the-skeleton-twins-1201064119/

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_skeleton_twins/

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20483133_20843565,00.html

Articles about THE SKELETON TWINS:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/movies/fall-arts-preview-kristen-wiig-and-bill-hader-star-in-the-skeleton-twins.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A8%22%7D&_r=0

HOPE–How Christianity Can Play its Part on the World Stage Part 1

Inspired by watching Religion and Ethics on PBS this morning, I would like to begin a series of reflections on what part Christianity can play on the world stage today.  At its core, Christianity offers HOPE, a hope centered in– but not limited to– the promise of Resurrection and eternal life. In truth, what Christians call “the Easter mystery” must echo in daily life, giving evidence of its reality in all human dimensions.  When taken in the full scope of its Judaic foundation, the Resurrection’s import is not only future-directed but extends to the past, present and future equally.  Only when hope is afforded its complete multi-directional realities can its ultimate gift—the celebration of the “eternal now,” (some prefer the phrase “the perfect present”)—be realized.

Living in “the eternal now” imbues the present with transformative power.  The reality of Resurrection offers Christians the capacity to heal the fears, the hurts, regrets and resentments of the past and move forward in humility and truth.   Indeed, Christian hope grounds itself in humility, insisting that Christians cultivate knowledge of history with a spirit of truth, never denying its individual and collective wrongdoing but neither ignoring nor discounting its positive contributions.  This Hope-infused-truth allows present choices to be informed by the past so that with prayerful care, the past does not perpetuate its harm into the future.  Christianity can achieve its greatest human potential when Christians invite people grounded in other religions, philosophies and cultures to identify either the same or parallel expressions of hope with humility and truth, identifying and building upon a cultivated “Common Ground” in the present moving toward a more humane and compassionate future.

In the coming weeks I will explore exactly how the Christian story, its history and daily experience of Christians today supports this HOPE.  I invite Christian readers to share their insights so that together we may embrace Resurrection Hope most fully.  I also invite people of other faiths and backgrounds to share HOPE perspectives in their beliefs, concepts and/or faith experiences.  Together we just might be able to identify and apply common ground principles, evidencing hope through mutual respect and celebration of the best of our humanity.

The Gospel view of “Foreigners” — My Homily from Aug. 17, 2014

Homily for 20th Sunday in OT 2014

Gospel: MT 15:21-28
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

HOMILY by Father James DiLuzio CSP

A man had two sons. When the older son become of age, his father directed him to help his mother with the household chores. The younger son, some three years younger, would sit on his father’s lap and listen to his father talk about his ancestors and about the value of hard work. As the years went by, the father took the younger son to work with him in the yard, mowing and landscaping. “Not you,” he would say to his older son, “your mother needs help moving the furniture and washing the floors.” At large family gatherings at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July, the father and his brothers and their sons would gather after the meals to talk about work, sports, politics. But not the older son. He would help his mother, his aunts and cousins in the kitchen. This went on for many years until, one day, when the oldest son reached the age of 17, while he was clearing the dishwasher for his mother, and his dad and his brother were out mowing the lawn, a solicitor rang the front door bell. The 17 year old answered and opened the door. The solicitor said, “I need to speak to the man of the house.” And from the very depth of his being, the young man took a strong deep breath and called out in a loud voice, “I am the man of the house. You are speaking to him.” From that moment on, the older son shared in the mowing and the weeding and the landscaping. He insisted that his father and brother takes turns with his mother and sisters doing the laundry and washing the floors. On holidays, along with uncles and cousins, he saw to it that everyone cleaned the dining room and the kitchen after the meals. Now everyone joins in and all are better for it.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we must insist on being included, when we must claim recognition for aspects of ourselves that others may deny, even when we can never fully understand or explain their reasons for denying us. Jesus allows the Canaanite woman one-upmanship to reveal to the disciples and to us that “everyone belongs,” beyond any arbitrary definitions or personal preferences of “who is in and who is out.”

Lord knows what criteria the father in our story was using but there is always a better criteria, a better source for judgment and that is the kingdom of God. And when one makes a choice for the kingdom, when any man, woman or child claims it for himself or herself, everyone benefits.
The Canaanite woman knew God was for her as much as anyone, and Jesus affirms that faith in an all encompassing way. His words to her at the onset seem harsh, but scholars tell us that while Jesus invokes the derogatory image of dogs used by all of his apostles and disciples to label foreigners and people of pagan faith, he only does so in order to reveal their hardness of heart. Furthermore, in the course of the conversation Jesus transitions the word from “dog” to “puppies,” a nuance not conveyed in most English translations to add an irony of endearment. That change brings comfort to the woman and emboldens her to claim her human dignity and her daughter’s need for healing before God.

All human beings belong to God, and God alone has the only just and compassionate criteria for inclusion: simply being human is enough to be good for God. Love and compassion, forgiveness and healing must be offered to everyone who seeks God with a sincere and opened heart. And for those who don’t, God has designated countless people to witness to God’s love without prejudice or judgement or condemnation so his invitation for relationship is observable, tangible and concrete. Aren’t we all here today because we want to be counted as among those designated as God’s concrete examples? Aren’t we all, in an endearing way, simply God’s puppies? As any dog lover will attest, even when the shoes get chewed, the garden uprooted, the newspaper lost, there is nothing so wonderful as a puppy. And so we humans must remember God’s love for us is greater then any mess we make, big or small. We are called to extend this all inclusive acceptance to everyone.

The biblical truth “everyone belongs to God” must be part of our discussions and discernment regarding not only ourselves and our families but our world view. It must season how we see the events in Fergusen, Missouri, the plight of the immigrant and refugee children, of Christians in the Middle East, of the tribal hatreds among Sunni, Shiites and Kurds, Israelis and Palestinians and the solutions and remedies we promote. The kingdom of all are welcome compels us to honest evaluation of our personal preferences and comfort levels in making judgements, and to admit our prejudices, too. What’s our foundational approach for evaluation anyway—economic, political, legal, racial, religious? Is there not a higher power and perspective greater than all of these? I believe there is and I trust that you believe it, too. As we approach Eucharist this weekend, may The Lord grant us the humility to accept every crisis as an opportunity for fair and just relations among all people, no exceptions. The Canaanite woman reveals to us that when anyone acknowledges all are God’s children—then, and only then, can miraculous healing occur.


Today’s readings are about “inclusion,” accepting the God honest truth that “everyone belongs.” From the beginning of the human race, people have grouped themselves into families and tribes, initially by blood relation but later because of common beliefs and rituals with strict rules for those who belong and those who do not. Human fallibility being what it is, some of these rules became quite arbitrary. When David became King, the twelve tribes of Israel were still not quite sure they wished to be united as one tribe under God. They each had their differences, particular ways of doing things and interpreting their traditions. They even had their different Gods, although they had the One God – the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses in common acknowledgement as the greatest of all. But David unites them, in spite of themselves, yet it was a fragile unity, that fell apart at the end of David’s son Solomon’s reign and the resultant civil war created two countries: Israel to the north comprising 10 tribes and Judah to the south comprising only 2.

Today we need to claim more fully that the story of the bible, taken as a whole, whether the Old Testament by itself, the New Testament alone, or more emphatically, both together, is is the story of God calling humanity out of a tribal way of living (i.e., living in a world of “us against them,” a world of constant judgements and condemnations of “who is in and who is out,” “whose sins are forgivable and whose are not”) into a world of universal brotherhood and sisterhood where all are welcomed through love and forgiveness, all are invited to make amends and restitution for wrong doing and so reclaim their human dignity, all are given every opportunity to speak and identify themselves as children of God.
We need to keep this truth n conversation in all aspects of our life, applying it in our homes and our businesses and politics.

Who knows what criteria the father in our story used to include one son in his world and not the other, but in the kingdom of God all are included. Imagine if we indulged our attitudes and judgements and preferences regarding this Eucharist today, we who are joined by our faith in Jesus but come from different ethnic groups and cultures, speak different languages, hold on to different political and economic perspectives and ways of living. H0w can we in our fallibility decide who can encounter Jesus or who needs him more than another? Still, at times we may dare to embrace a comfortable level of arrogance or prejudice to make our reception of Jesus so personal and private that we secretly think “Jesus is for me but not for you!”

ALL Scripture Readings for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Lectionary: 118
Reading 1
IS 56:1, 6-7
Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

R/ (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!

Reading 2
ROM 11:13-15, 29-32
Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

Gospel
MT 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Read this book and set yourself FREE!

Having listen to the soundtrack from BEGIN AGAIN quite a bit (even in my dreams) I decided to return to the Original Broadway Cast of ONCE. The haunting song “Falling Slowly” now repeats and echoes in my imagination, especially the line “You have suffered enough, at war with yourself, it’s time that you won.” If that resonates with you, read HEALING YOUR ALONE-NESS: Finding Love and Wholeness through Your Inner Child by Margaret Paul. If you want to appropriate The Gospel in healthy ways–and for my friends in the Jewish and other faith communities: to appropriate God’s love for you in a most healthy way, READ THIS BOOK. I return to it frequently. Here’s a link:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/healing-your-aloneness-erika-chopich/1111737208?ean=9780062501493

Why / How Catholics and Orthodox Christians Appreciate Mary’s Discipleship

Homily for Assumption of Mary , August 15, 2014

Mary is the symbol of the Church because she witnesses to all that the church can be and what the Church is Promised. Today we witness and celebrate that Mary was and is the first and foremost model disciple of Jesus, her son.
And, as model disciple, she has followed Jesus on to the path of eternal life.

What makes Mary the model disciple? We begin with her faith. As a woman of faith, Mary immersed her days in prayer and contemplation, pondering her religious traditions and the hope of Judaism for a redeemer. Because of her humble willingness to believe all that the prophets had foretold– lived out in each and every moment loving and service her family and community—Mary was able to accept the “Glorious Impossible,” the miraculous pregnancy that brought the humanity of Jesus to fulfillment. Living in hope, hope for a kinder world, a world free of oppression and suffering, free of greed and selfishness. Do we live with that hope daily or do we succumb to disillusionment, indifference or worse? It gives us pause to think had Mary not been a woman of faith and practice, how could she have possibly acknowledged the presence of the angel Gabriel and his marvelous invitation on God’s behalf? Without faith, she easily could have dismissed that mystical experience as a result of lack of sleep or indigestion or a wild imagination. Without faith that she, too, along with all believers, had to make the scripture story her own, open to God’s initiatives in each and every choice she would make, she would never have said, “Yes,” let it be done to me according to your word.” Mary believed that the salvific story of the Scriptures would continue through her — just as you and I must believe that we, too, continue to participate in the ongoing salvation of the world as God’s instruments here on earth.
Today, we claim that what was done by God’s graciousness to Mary will be done to us. And we look to Mary’s life and example to keep us also on the path to eternity, choosing to participate in all that is good , true and beautiful to the very best of our abilities. Recognizing the biblical story continues in us, recognizing if we don’t chose the path of peace on our homes, integrity and honesty in our businesses, reconciling the hurt, the wounded, the angry to God and to the love and hope that comes to us in Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit will be diminished in our time and place. Without living in hope as Mary did, our souls weaken to the possibilities that come from grace. That, dear friends, is something neither we nor this weary world can afford.
Today’s feast is about HOPE IN THE HERE AND NOW and also about hope in the FUTURE. SO now we ask, “What happened to Mary when her earthly life gave way to immortality?” Why nothing less than a realization of our hope in resurrection of the dead!
Today’s feast attests that Mary’s earthly body was transformed akin to Jesus’ resurrected body – a new and brilliant physical reality without the limitations of physics and biology, and taken into heaven. Remember the Gospels clearly state that the Resurrected Jesus touches and is touched by the disciples, eats with them and at the same time emerges through locked doors, appears and disappears at will. So, too, was Mary’s body transformed and like Jesus, taken into the heavenly reality, beyond the limitations of time and space to ultimate intimacy with the God in a communion of saints.
Mary was and is a model of the Church, a witness to the values and benefits of discipleship in Christ. Today, we ask ourselves, isn’t that the kind of disciple we want to be, too?

Forthcoming biography of playwright Tennessee Williams

American playwright Tennessee Williams whose great plays THE GLASS MENAGERIE, STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA highlighted the tragedy of human vulnerability to the point of despair, was a man of sorrow who either found little comfort in and/or was unable to surrender to the ways faith can transform sensitivity from tragedy to grace. That said, I have to note that CAT and IGUANA probably came as close as possible to grace-filled resolutions. Agree?

I am writing about Williams today as the NYTIMES features an excellent article about John Lahr’s upcoming bio on Williams that looks like it will be well worth the purchase for those of us who love the theatre and it’s potential to explore our meaning and purpose. John Lahr (son of the actor Burt Lahr, know for The Wizard of Oz on film and WAITING FOR GODOT on stage plus LAYS Potato Chips commercials in the 1960s) is one excellent and insightful writer and drama critic. Here’s the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/books/john-lahrs-biography-of-tennessee-williams.html?hpw&rref=arts&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpHedThumbWell&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well