Frankly Speaking …
An Awareness of God
by Fr. Francis (Frank) Quintana
Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one you sent, Jesus Christ. John 17:3
These joyful words tell us much about the meaning of our life. Our eternal life will be a dynamic loving relationship with God that will never be taken away from us. And the good news is that this relationship starts now. In this very moment, we can know that we are precious to God, and right now we can give thanks to God who permeates and penetrates every part of our lives. If God is aware of Sister Sparrow, “I know he watches me.” God knows the very number of the hairs on my head, Jesus says. This is an essential point of the gospel message for me, that God is so intricately involved in my life, that he knows me better than I know myself. Still, God loves me!
I can miss God’s presence, though, if I don’t take time to be aware of it. A relationship with God takes mindfulness. It’s a conscious contact. As Brother Lawrence teaches us, it takes practice The awareness grows in silent prayer and in the realization of God’s guidance in my daily life. I believe this is a basic experience open to all of us. It is God’s gift. All we have to do is take time for it. God will do the rest.
Caring For the Child in Us All
by Fr. Francis (Frank) Quintana
A couple of weeks ago I felt completely overwhelmed by life. There was a trigger, but it was a relatively small one. I was at my desk answering a critical e-mail. In that e-mail there were several questions addressing issues that I thought directly referenced me or my actions. I had a reaction so completely different to the usual, that it took my breath away. Normally I would fight – inwardly if not outwardly – but my gut reaction was intense grief, followed by a docile resignation to the circumstances, followed by a physical desire to go take a long nap. Like maybe a year-long nap! It was so strong that I “told myself off” – a grown man does not, after all, go hide under the covers. I am bigger than that, stronger. And I know God.
Later the same day something much bigger happened, something that needed my attention right away. It was scary “but I’m a grown-up, aren’t I,” and I dealt with it.
And then I went home, cooked dinner, then did some posting for the church on Facebook. I went to the bedroom, shut the door, and lay down on the bed. There was some crying, and then silence.
After the crying stopped, I let the fearful voice speak to me. I let him in. I let him speak, I asked him some questions – why are you afraid?
He answered. I tried to soothe him. I tried to be like a caring father – strong, gentle, calm. Loving. (Actually, the soothing, loving voice was probably God the Father speaking through my “adult” voice.) That child-voice, not always fearful, is part of me and he doesn’t know all the answers. But he has a voice, and I need to learn to hear him, to find this part of me and “bring him home.” He’s not always there but sometimes he is – I picture him walking alongside me. He notices things as we go, things that I used to notice. He likes stopping to stroke the friendly dogs along the Riverwalk. He enjoys writing stories and he sometimes likes to go look in shops – just looking.
I am aware that this probably sounds juvenile, or maybe all kinds of crazy. I thought it was, until I really heard that passage from Jesus that says “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” And in another passage, when he says, “Truly I tell you, unless you are converted and become like little children…” because before they are given a reason not to, children trust sooo easily. If Jesus is right, this child part of me, that at one time was left behind, can teach me how to trust Jesus, and to trust God, instead of just surviving between crises.
I would dearly like that.
Are You A Follower of Jesus or Just an Admirer?
by Fr. Francis (Frank) Quintana
“Follow me.” Jesus is really trying to get through to me, “Are you a follower of Jesus or just an admirer?” It’s OK to be admirers, but we can’t be disciples unless we follow Jesus, unless we live the life he calls us to. It’s not enough to pray about it, to think about it, to intend to do it. We have to do it if we are to be disciples.
I can say to Jesus ; I’ve been a “good” person by and large. But Jesus wants more from me. He wants me to follow him, to be his companion, to work alongside him, to love and heal people even the most unlovable and broken people. He wants me to give up what is most important to me, what I am most attached to, if it prevents me from loving and healing. He wants me to live in the kingdom now. Jesus becoming one of us has made it very clear that by changing my heart, I begin to change our society. They are not separate tasks, but are interconnected. It is not enough that I am compassionate, I have to act on that by working for justice.
You know I’m from Denver. As a young priest I walked Denver’s streets, I passed quite a number of homeless men, some sitting with pleading signs in front of them, others approaching and asking for help. It was usual for me to be engrossed in my own thoughts and pass them by with barely a notice. Other times I passed by them deliberately without responding and then was struck by a dagger of guilt. My first thought was usually defensive. We give to agencies that support the poor. They should seek help from similar helping organizations. My second thought was often suspicion that begging was their full-time job instead of finding “gainful” employment. I spent a good deal of my walking time thinking about what my response should be. Finally, I began to escort these men to the closest restaurant and pay for a meal that they might enjoy, one time one of the men rebuked me and said, “I didn’t ask for a meal, I asked for whatever change you could spare, I gotta baby at home who needs formula.” The point being, I was meeting my need to assuage my guilt, and to feel like a good guy, and not being sensitive to the needs of the man before me.
If I want to be a disciple, what am I called to do? I keep asking myself this question. One solution I came up with is to always have some $1 bills in my pocket that I can fish out and hand to whomever. I mostly carry plastic in my wallet. That seems to be a paltry response, a half response. Henri Nouwen’s words came to mind, “The agony of all people: our desperate cry for a human response from our brothers and sisters.” What adequate human response can I offer that might diminish another’s agony? What does my ignoring of a beggar sitting on the sidewalk cause him to feel? I think Nouwen gave me the answer, “If there is any posture that disturbs a suffering man or woman, it is aloofness.”
So, how can I be present to them, to acknowledge their plight, their pain, instead of just appeasing my own conscience? First, I need to look a homeless person in the eye when reaching out to them, to let them know that I regard and respect them as another human being. To hold myself aloof is to compound his agony and to deny him compassion. It’s not just a failing on my part, I think it’s a sin. Second, I can listen to his need and give him a dollar, if that’s what he needs, a meal, etc. It’s not much, but neither is five or ten or twenty dollars in terms of alleviating the hardship of poverty. The important thing is to give an answer to his request, his plea for help. He has humbled himself to ask; I can at least humble myself to encounter him and acknowledge the value of his life. But what can I say to him? How can I offer hope for tomorrow, for a better life? That’s what I’ve been struggling with. What did Jesus offer the poor? He fed them; he healed them. He also gave them something to hope for. If they loved one another, life would get better. They would experience the kingdom of God on earth, a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven.
What can I say that won’t sound presumptuous or empty? I honestly don’t know. I think that means that I’ll just have to pray, rely on the Holy Spirit, and try to identify with the human person I’m encountering and imagine what I’d like to hear. At present all I have to do is allow God to use me; I don’t have to come up with all the answers by myself. I want to do more than be an admirer of Jesus. I want to be a disciple. Like our fellow parishioner who took the shoes off his own feet to give to someone in need of shoes, I’ll take a step and see where Jesus leads me next.