Unnatural Family


God’s Unnatural Family

St. Joseph–Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

2 Samuel 4-5a, 12, 14a, 16, Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22,  Matthew 1:16-18:21

“This morning I meditated on God’s eagerness to forgive me, revealed in these words: “As far as the East is from the West, so far does God remove my sin” (Psalms 103:12). In the midst of all my distractions, I was touched by God’s desire to forgive me again and again. If I return to God with a repentant heart after I have sinned, God is always there to embrace me and let me start afresh. “The Lord is full of compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.”

It is hard for me to forgive someone who has really offended me, especially when it happens more than once. I begin to doubt the sincerity of the one who asks forgiveness for a second, third, or fourth time. But God does not keep count. God just waits for our return, without resentment or desire for revenge. God wants us home. “The love of the Lord is everlasting.””Henry Nouwen

 On this feast day we are reminded of family, and family is that group that stays with you through thick and thin.  I have a seventeen year old who calls me his family, he has a history of running away, using drugs, not sure what his sexuality is, and a diagnosis of depression. He calls me his family, snap chats me at all hours, calls me at all hours, and I listen–he is family;  I recently received a phone call from the hospital asking me to give permission for a procedure because I was listed as family for a nineteen year old; and so it goes for many others.

Professionals try to place me within  their labels of counselor, minister, and so on, and within the boundaries of not being available 24 hours a day; call me  co dependent, and so on; others criticize me for not “sharing the Gospel” with them, and so it goes. The truth is I am in that messy world of being family, and the Gospel is shared through that messiness. It is a world of being in the dirt of life.

My first year in San Francisco, a well known priest told someone who asked about me, “River lives in the messiness of life, to see who he is, you have to observe what his actions are , and how he lives his life. He is not afraid of getting his hands dirty, and taking chances.” He was right, I have lived in the messiness of life for many years without regret. When I have been assaulted, threatened, stabbed or shot at–=and take these guys  back I am told  their victim and it is not healthy for me to forgive, forget, and take them back-but I see them as family struggling, and not needing rejection.

If all of us would see each other as family, in all of it’s messiness and forgive over and over, take the pain, the hurt, that goes with being family–I wonder what life would be now, what our natural resources would be and what our streets would look like. We are so absorbed with our divisions, our self-centeredness that we are our own worst enemy. My time is coming to an end, and my prayer is that God will say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and again we shall see and I have found that having that unnatural family has given me much joy, even in the pain, so much joy!  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


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