“I would approach them with love.”

This morning, I went to Mass at St. Alphonsus. It is the second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. Today’s Gospel (John 1:35- 42) struck me deeply, and instead of making some phone calls on my walk after Mass, I decided to reflect on the Word as I walked through Ballard. I was led to have an encounter that I wanted to record and share.

First, the Gospel (John 1:35-42):

“35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples,

36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”*

37 The two disciples* heard what he said and followed Jesus.

38Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

39He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.*

40Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

41He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah”* (which is translated Anointed).z

42Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John;* you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).a

All through Fr. Richard’s homily and the rest of the Mass, I kept hearing Jesus’s question: “What are you looking for?” At first, I responded that I was looking for Him, but then I said “I’m looking for love.” It’s so hard to summarize in a coherent way on paper one’s thoughts during Mass, but this is what I reflected upon as I received the Eucharist and then afterwards, as I went on my walk afterwards. I had to go get some things at Fred Meyer, and the only way to do that was to walk through the light industrial area of Ballard that has become a place where many homeless people are now living. Usually, I would use this walk as an opportunity to make some phone calls, but I wanted to continue to hold on and contemplate the Gospel.

While there have always been homeless people living in Ballard, and in this area in general, there has been a huge increase, particularly in the past year. Many of these people are no longer living along the streets but have now moved around and into the parks. This morning, I walked through Gilman Park, where there are several encampments, including one near the playground. The last time I was at the park, I had an animated conversation with a young man who lived near the park about the situation.

This morning, I was walking past a young man trying to fix his red and gray tent set up on a grassy knoll near the tennis courts. The young man kept looking at me, so I made eye contact, raised my coffee cup to say hello and kept walking through the park.

“Excuse me,” the young man said. I stopped and looked back at him. He went from where he was working on his tent and came over to speak with me. As he got closer, I was able to see that he was a white man, probably in his twenties, wearing black and gray clothes with matted dreadlocks and tattoos on his face and hands. His hands were so dirty they were gray themselves.

“Someone slashed my tent,” he began.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“What would you do,” he continued, “if there was someone who was obsessed with you- her name is ___- and every time that you tried to push them away, they started doing things like slashing your tent?”

“Does this person live in the park?” I asked.

“No, but they keep on doing this, and I’m asking people trying to figure out what to do.”

I paused and stopped thinking and tried to be a conduit. “I would approach them with love. I don’t know who this person is, but you might want to approach them with love.”

He paused and looked at me. If I had to guess, I thought that as we were talking, he was sober and lucid. “You know, I’ve asked a bunch of people about this, and you’re the first person to say to approach them with love. I think I’ll try that. Thank you.” With that, he turned and walked back to the ruins of his tent.

“Still, not my will, but yours be done.”

This past Sunday at St. Alphonsus Church in Seattle, Fr. Richard Klepac, in his homily for the Second Week of Advent, talked about the graces of the Holy Spirit and praying to God to give yourself over to His will. Not what we want to be doing, but what God wants us to do. Praying for this is very dangerous, Fr. Richard warned us, and I am thankful that he is right.

This past March, I began to write once again for Northwest Catholic, the magazine of the Archdiocese of Seattle. I had written for them in 2014-15, but my writing for them trailed off after I got another job. The last article I wrote for them became a cover story and ended up winning a 2016 Catholic Press Award. I framed it, and, while not quite forgetting about it, the award became just another thing on the wall in my office.

My 2016 CPA award. A tad bit of the frilly award edging is cut off, but you get the idea.

I continued to write, mainly on a novel that I later shelved and nothing for public consumption. During this time, I began to have experiences that drew me closer to Jesus and deeper into my Catholic faith. I often thought that it would be great to finally start writing again about Catholic stuff, but a little voice kept reminding me that I don’t have any theological training.

Eventually, I left that job, and my faith was a rock before, during, and after the transition. Once things had calmed down a bit, I started to think about writing for Northwest Catholic once again. Luckily, the editor that I worked with before was still there, and she was happy to have me back, so I began to write again.

They say you’re onto something career-wise when you don’t consider what you are doing to be work. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to travel around the Archdiocese to interview lots of great people about the great things they were doing and to write about it. Is this type of writing- dare I say it?- my charism?

This brings us back to the homily. As I sat there in the pew, I realized that I have done just about everything except give myself over to the path that God has been pointing me towards.

Yet, the little voice continued, and continues as I write this: Surely He can’t be calling me to write for Him? Well, why else would he have given me this gift? Maybe He didn’t want me to write the type of science fiction that I had been writing with little success (hint, hint), or anything else, except about Him.

So I prayed that dangerous prayer and ended up creating a Twitter and Facebook account for this site. I don’t know where all of this will take me, except to say that I hope it is in the direction where Jesus wants me to go. I will start providing more substantive content starting next week, and I hope you will find it interesting.

The power of prayer manifested

A few weeks ago, Fr. Richard Klepac gave a homily at St. Alphonsus Parish in Seattle that touched on the power of prayer and its efficaciousness. One thing that he mentioned in particular that stuck with me for the rest of the day was to develop a habit of saying a prayer every time you hear sirens to pray for the person in need as well as for the first responders.

Later that evening, I heard a siren and started to pray a Hail Mary. As I prayed, the sirens got closer until finally I could hear them outside. I opened the front door and to my left I could see a column of flame shooting up into the night sky. There is a construction project going on across the street from our house and there was a fire right next to it. The firefighters were able to put it out, but if they had not arrived when they did, the new building would have probably caught on fire.

I asked the firefighters what had caused the fire and all they could tell at that point was that it had started in a plastic container. The next day, my daughter and I checked it out and found the remains of a port-a-potty and what looked like some clothes.

Abstract art, or the remains of a portable toilet that could have caused a huge fire?

I wanted to share this story because it is such a simple and profound example of the power of prayer.

God is listening. God answers our prayers. Most of the time, they will be answered on His own time, but sometimes He gives us clear, immediate responses that make you feel His presence in that moment.

Viva Christo Rey!