Category Archives: Reflections

Reflection – May 2018

When I was a young man, I had a conversion. I can remember the day, I can remember where, and I remember that I was stunned. Up to that point I thought I was supposed to be a good boy and I wasn’t a good boy. But what I heard and understood with my heart that day was that God loved me… right now… not some day when I was perfect which I was incapable of being anyway. Right at that moment, in my sinfulness, God loved me. That changed me. It changed me quite a bit and what I understood from that moment and have grown to understand is that having faith and being a follower of Christ has little to do with being a good. It is not about morality. It is not about following law. It is the stunning revelation that God loves me now and that changes how I act.

Forward to 1988. I was trained, I had prepared and I went to South America to save those Peruvians. I discovered when I got there that God had been there ahead of me. He was there when I got there and the Peruvians didn’t need me to save them. In fact, the opposite sometimes occurred. They ministered to me and I discovered that being a missionary means being a witness that everywhere and in all places, God’s grace and mercy are available. That, too, changed me.

Several years ago, I knelt at the bedside of my brother as he passed away. I was grieving and I was angry. Why would God take such a good man? He didn’t deserve this. I did not understand at the time, but I got a glimmer of something. In that time of doubt and darkness and grief and pain, God was already there. I wasn’t there as the priest in the family to bring God to the bedside of my dying brother. He was already there.

This is what the wonderful phrase from the Book of Acts that we hear from the mouth of Paul is about. “In Him, we live and move and have our being.” Everything is encompassed by God. He is already there, He is already here, always and everywhere. Sometimes I forget and sometimes I suffer under the delusion that my job is necessary. That somehow we’re supposed to create a holy place and come gather in that holy place, say holy words and then, God will love us or we’ll all be good boys and girls or somehow, our holy words and prayers will convince God to show up. All of that is not so….God is always and everywhere present.

The thing that is confusing is that sometimes when you and I recognize God’s presence, we are filled with joy or we are filled with peace or we find comfort and we think that a feeling of peace, or joy, or comfort indicates the presence of God. The presence of God is not just a good feeling. Sometimes the presence of God is hard. Sometimes, it’s a cry in the dark. Sometimes, it’s tears. Sometimes, it’s darkness and doubt. That, too, is the presence of God, if we were to have eyes to see and ears to hear.

This is good news. God doesn’t need our acknowledgement. He doesn’t need our words. God acts first. God always acts and does His will. We don’t change God or convince Him to act. We are here to change OUR hearts. All of our prayers, all of our actions, all of this, is about changing our hearts. We’re not her to convince God of anything. He is already convinced, He has already acted. He is here and He is there at the AA meeting and with those who come to the Soup Kitchen and He is there in the prison. He is already there and faith is to grow in understanding and recognize Him more and more and give thanks.

This lets us off the hook. There is a Latin phrase that I cling to about the sanctity of the priest and the actions at the altar. It’s ex opere operato, a Latin phrase that means regardless of the character of the priest, what happens here is true and good. In Him, we live and move and have our being. He doesn’t wait until we are perfect, He doesn’t wait until our understanding is complete, He doesn’t wait until we are completely capable. God uses US to do His will…broken, weak, confused, doubting,.. Baptist, Congregationalist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, …all of us are agents of God. In Him, we live and move and have our being. His grace and His mercy and His power encompass all of us. The surprising and wonderful thing is that all of us are agents of His will, if we just let it be so. It’s a wonderful thing. I’ve seen it happen; you’ve seen it happen. Even on my bad days, when I’m just a stinker, God still uses me at times. Sometimes I resist, sometimes I want to ignore what’s going on, but God does what God does. If I just have eyes to see and ears to hear, I will recognize this and give thanks.

We worship Christ who died and is risen. This tells us something… that it’s not just the good feelings of comfort and grace and mercy and joy that we believe in. We also believe that in death and in suffering and in weakness and in doubt and in violence and in confusion and in powerlessness, all things everywhere are encompassed by God. We are not here to convince God to do our will. We are here to give thanks that we participate in God’s will. We give thanks to God, we praise Him and we bless Him, because in Him we live and move and have our being.

Rev. Ray Bonin

Reflection – April 2018

The earliest versions of the resurrection story are called “empty tomb” stories. The witnesses, all women, don’t encounter the Risen Jesus at all, but only an angel, who tells them that Jesus is not here. They are not clear what that means, but, for the most part, they run to tell the other disciples and this is the beginning of Resurrection faith. In other stories, Mary Magdalene encounters the resurrected Jesus and thinks He’s the gardener. Other disciples aren’t anywhere near the tomb, but traveling on the road and at one point become aware that the Risen Jesus is among them. More pointedly, Paul, who wrote his account of the experience of the Risen Christ before any of the Gospels were written, sees a light, and hears a voice. He is not even a believer in Jesus, but his encounter with the Risen Christ changes the direction of his life. This is what ties the resurrection stories together. Not what the Risen Christ looked like or his miraculous acts, but in each case the witness is changed by the encounter. This is one of the meanings of the Resurrection. In a way, we are resurrected; that is we begin a new life through our encounter in faith with Jesus who is Risen.

This is the Good News that Paul brings to the communities he founds. We are all witnesses of the resurrection and now we live a new life, a resurrected Life because of it. He goes so far as to say, You are the Body ( read Person ) of Christ, each of you is a member of it. He is speak- ing to those who had not heard Jesus speak, or seen the signs He per- formed, but Paul is adamant that this is not critical. If we will believe and let the Spirit in, we are all witness and participants of the Resurrection.

So it is with every genera on, and it is true in our own me as well. You, dear reader, are witnesses to the Resurrection as much as Mary Magdelene or those travelers on the road to Emmaus. You are invited to life; a new life of grace, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. Despite what the world tells us we are, or when it tries to convince us of its power ; REJOICE, He has overcome the World, and WE are witnesses to it. ALLELUIA!

Rev. Ray Bonin

Reflection – February 2018

Years ago I gave a retreat for a group of Catholic women on “Women in the Church”. I started out by telling them that I was exactly the wrong person to be giving that retreat. I was male, and worse I was a member of that other privileged class in the Church, I was a priest. I gave the retreat any way. I find myself in a similar situation today.
I was at the demonstration at the State House in Concord last week and I felt an electricity in the air, a fierce joy and determina- tion; something momentous is happening, and I am exactly the wrong person to be telling you about it. I am still male, and still cler- gy, still privileged in the church and in society.
At the demonstration were women, and men, of all ages and description. There was little anger and a great deal of joy. I had a sense that these were people who had broken through, who would no longer simply accept the status quo. People who had found their voice and had a plan: register to vote, vote and run for office.
Looking past the politics of the event, I felt the Spirit moving in that place. Something is happening. Our sisters are rising up and allowing themselves to be agents of change. They are encouraged by the presence of all these newfound sisters all around them, and their hearts are burning within them .More women are running for office this year than ever before. Something is happening.

Rev. Ray Bonin

Reflection – January 2018

Some of the poinsettias I got for the altar have withered. I had hoped  they would last longer. But the Christmas services are ended, the presents have been opened, family visitors have come and gone. I guess Christmas is over. Liturgically, we will celebrate this feast through the end of February, but emotionally its over. It needn’t be.
What we have waited for and hoped for; to witness the birth of Jesus, of Emmanuel, of “God-with-us” has come. This is not a one day a year thing. We can extend it as long as we wish. The hope, the generosity, the Joy of this season is still available to us. The family who came to visit are still out there, we could call them or visit them for no reason other than we want to. The generosity of the season is still available to us. The needy in the community are still needy. We could remember them in January as well as in December. The hope and the joy that filled our hearts has not withered; in faith it flourishes still. God is with us in January too, God is near to us. Let’s pitch our tent in Bethlehem and stay a while longer.

Rev. Ray Bonin

Reflection – April 2017

“…what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands…” 1 John 1

We are pilgrims, and I have a certificate to prove it! 15
of us from both the synagogue and the church spent 8 days in
the Holy Land. We stood on the Mt of Olives, we prayed in the
Garden of Gethsemane and the Western Wall. We went down
to the depths of the Holy Sepulcher and the Holocaust Museum.
We sat together in the synagogue at Capernaum and
heard the echo of Jesus unrolling the scroll and reading, “ The
spirit of the Lord is upon me….” All this we heard, and saw
and touched. It was a profoundly spiritual experience for me.
To walk in the places that the person of Jesus walked in is
very powerful..

Yet, the trip to Israel was not necessary in order for me
to become a pilgrim. There are not thousands of miles between
us and the Holy Land; we are all pilgrims because true
pilgrimage is an interior journey. We are still in Lent, walking
through that interior landscape, traveling from the heights of
the Mount of Olives to the darkness of the Holy Sepulcher. It’s
a difficult pilgrimage because we don’t always like what we
find there. The darkness of our sinfulness limits our vision,
but we also discover oases of God’s mercy and the hope of
God’s lovingkindness there. They refresh us and give us the
courage to continue to Golgotha and at last to arrive at the
empty tomb. These interior places are our Holy Land where we
hear and see and touch the Christ; it’s where He lives most

Thank God for my companions of the trip to Israel, whose weariness
I felt, and whose joy I shared. Thank God for you, my
Lenten companions, I cannot make this journey alone. Soon
we will gather in the Upper Room and be amazed at his presence
among us.

Rev. Ray Bonin