The Lord Will Be Passing By
Then the Lord said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” Like Elijah, we are staying in our “caves” seeking shelter. We seek shelter from all that causes dis-ease in our lives—hurricanes, fires, COVID-19 and other illness, loss of jobs, and losses of all kinds. We are all experiencing fear. Perhaps the Lord is inviting us too, to stand before the Lord wherever our mountain is, and seek the Lord who will be passing by.
So let’s show up, pay attention, and tell about it. Where are we encountering the Lord passing by so far today? Did you hear the voice of someone you love and miss? Did you see a beautiful sunrise or sunset? Was there an aroma that was new to you? Did your garden bear fresh vegetables? Did your child express curiosity about learning something new? Did a cloud shape remind you of something you need to pay attention to?
Like Peter in the boat during a storm, we can hear Jesus saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Can we get out of the boat, out of the cave, and trusting the Lord, letting go of our fears, live in God’s promise that we are loved and cared for. Will we find the Lord passing by? Will we hear a tiny whispering sound?
A poem written by Kitty O’Meara has circulated in various places. The links to video versions are here:
In the Time of Pandemic
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed. — Kitty O’Meara.
All Ate and Were Filled
Feeding 5,000 (not counting women and children) is a phenomenal act of mercy. Feeding implies that there was hunger. Hunger must be satisfied or the people (and all of creation) may perish. Where do we find the resources to feed people, to feed the hungers of the world, of the universe? The hungers of the world include an end to hunger, poverty, war, racism, diseases, and others.
Jesus says, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” When they ask him to give them time to go buy food, he asks them to gather what they have. And what they have, a few loaves and fishes, is ENOUGH! And there are leftovers!
How did that happen? Jesus took what they had to offer, blessed and broke their offerings, gave to them and they in turn gave to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied.
When we consider the hungers of the world today, what gifts do we have to offer? How will God bless and break them? How will we be fed? And how will we pass that “feeding” on to others? And the gathering of the leftovers—do we really believe that there will always be enough?
For me, “Feed them yourselves” means offering the gifts I have been given by God, my abilities to donate money to organizations that feed the hungry and perform the other corporal works of mercy. I vote for candidates who recognize the dignity of all persons, who support living wages for all workers, who will lead in getting all people to work together. I continue to reflect on the Word and to share my reflections with others. I both pray and work for justice for all. And I work and pray that all hungers will be fed and all will be satisfied. Yes, all of this is about building the kingdom of God on earth. May God take, bless, multiply, and distribute what we offer to feed others.
Hunting for Pearls
What is “the pearl of great price” that each of us is seeking? What is it that is priceless and sometimes hard to find or to recognize in our lives today? Our first response—a cure for COVID-19! After all, we could go back to “normal life” if only we could rid ourselves of this virus. Of course, we all want to alleviate the suffering and we want to find a cure. Even when we find the cure, we know that we are changed by this experience.
I think this Gospel gives us lots to ponder. I think we are also seeking and finding new understandings as well as unearthing lots of misunderstandings. We are discovering a lot about ourselves and what matters most during this pandemic. In some ways, we have all become more vulnerable, and perhaps more able to hear the cries of those who are suffering. We are all suffering.
Solomon prayed: “Give your servant, therefore an understanding heart.” What is it that we are seeking to understand? Understanding requires deep listening. Are we listening to the pressures we are experiencing—choices about how to “school” our children, unemployment, evictions from homes, protests of injustice and reactions to them, the immigration status of human beings whose dignity doesn’t seem to matter, the climate crisis?
In Romans we read that “all things work together for those who love God.” How are we working together? The divisions we see—economic, political, religious—are not in my mind examples of working together. They are not unlike what Jesus experienced during his life, his ministry. What did Jesus do? He went against the culture of his time and acted to heal the injustices. He recognized the dignity of every person!
Pope Francis says the pearl is the Gospel. The treasures that come from this “pearl” are these graces: truth, mercy, and joy. The Scripture readings for this weekend provide not a cure for a virus, but in the hunting, the seeking, lure us to deeper insights into what is truly priceless. Let us be BOLD in naming what is priceless in our lives. Let us seek the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. “Selling all we have” is about our sacrifice for the lives and dignity of all. May we be graced with truth, mercy, and joy.
Weeds AND Flowers?
In one of the parables that Jesus tells, he encourages the growth of weeds alongside the flowers. That doesn’t quite sound right, does it? Surely, we think, the weeds will overcome the flowers. That’s the way I used to think too. But this parable is stretching me to think that there might be something that happens to me, that changes me, when I grow amongst the weeds. You notice that I am identifying with the flowers! What if I am a weed? What if I am sowing weed seeds?
In this time of conflicting ideologies, messages, and choices being made, I wonder what would happen if we truly occupied the same space, grew in the same garden, and were literally forced to co-dwell, to co-exist? Do I trust and hope that my effort, together with God’s, will bring about the coming off God’s desire for us?
Pope Francis encourages us in our time of suffering and our time of creating goodness and peace:
God’s Kingdom requires our cooperation, but it is above all the initiative and gift of the Lord. Our weak effort, seemingly small before the complexity of the problems of the world, when integrated with God’s effort, fears no difficulty. The victory of the Lord is certain: his love will make every seed of goodness present on the ground sprout and grow. This opens us up to trust and hope, despite the tragedies, the injustices, the sufferings that we encounter. The seed of goodness and peace sprouts and develops, because the merciful love of God makes it ripen.
In the Gospel this weekend, we hear about soil and the sowing of seeds. There’s also an actor, a sower, no one specific. I know that in this COVID-19 time, many of you have been sowing seeds—planting gardens of flowers, succulents, fruits, and vegetables. Some of you, not all, have had great success—beauty, produce and self-satisfaction, and healthier eating.
The Gospel is also about not only hearing the Word of God, but also receiving it. What does receptivity look like? How do we create receptivity? What helps us to hear, understand, learn, and act differently?
We use the expression “planting seeds” to often indicate that we begin a process with an idea, a thought. We also begin a process of growth by examining our attitudes, our expectations, and our ability to wait. “Seed money” is set aside for growth. Some of the harvested potatoes are set aside for the purpose of seeding or sprouting the next crop.
My identity as a daughter of farmers helps me to relate to these agrarian, earthy images of seeding. My identity as a Sister, my vocation in life, has been about sowing seeds of learning. Having come of age in the mid 1960’s, I experienced the “seeds of discontent” about war, poverty, women’s rights. Today I call it “seeds of change” or “We can be better than this.”
For me, living in this pandemic is offering the opportunity to think about what “seeds” I am planting. As we adapt to social distancing, avoiding crowds, and the wearing of masks, we also plant the seeds of alternative ways of connecting, of showing our love and care for each other, of interdependence and of compassion. We are returning to seeds planted long ago in us—the seeds of our faith—and accepting the commission to spread the Word in our domestic churches. And we look forward to what will sprout and flourish. Through discomfort, we find hope. As the Mexican proverb in the image above states, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
Take My Yoke
We are all in this together—yoked with others, carrying each other’s burdens, or at least making them easier to bear. A yoke is a wooden beam normally used between a pair of animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs. The yoke is a discipline, a way of being present, a way of cooperating, and an enormous equalizer. Are we yoked to one another? What does that look like? What are we learning about our dependency on each other? About our interdependence?
Jesus doesn’t just teach about being yoked. He also asks us to learn from him, to be meek and humble of heart. Meekness is a deliberate choice not to be greater, or stronger, or more powerful than someone else. Meekness invites us to see every person as human, just like each of us. It is up to us to open our hearts and be humble of heart. It is up to us to pull together, different as we might be—differing in status, in political affiliation, in skin tone, in religious beliefs and in values. How could meekness put an end to racial discrimination, solve the climate crisis, and end wars and conflicts?
Love makes burdens lighter. Love is a yoke—a practice of disciplined care for each other’s health, happiness, and well-being even when we feel we have nothing left to give. Who is in need of my love? How can I recognize the burdens of others and lighten the load? What can I learn from Jesus’ example of meekness?
The photo image that accompanies these words is also worthy of study. What do you see? Feel? What might be some important messages from this visual lectio divina?
Of Water and Influence
What is “the cup of water” each of us needs? When do we give and when do we receive water—refreshing and cleansing, essential for existence, re-creational? What does hospitality look like, feel like in the throes of a pandemic when we are sequestered? These are the questions that stayed with me as I reflected on the Scripture readings for this weekend.
What is on your list of needs? If you are sequestered in your home with all your family members, you probably are thirsting for privacy, peace, order, more rooms in the house, higher speed internet. If you are at work, you might be thirsting for assurance that it’s a safe environment, for job security, for the teamwork you enjoyed when everyone was there. If you are out of work, thirst for financial security, opportunities for new work, perhaps job training or re-training are on your list of needs.
We are all living with much uncertainty in our personal lives. And then there are all the social sins—the injustices and inequities—we are living with—racism, no access to healthcare or inadequate healthcare, COVID-19 and the various disruptions it is causing, increased homelessness due to inability to pay rent, growing poverty, domestic violence, and abuse of every kind.
The reading from Kings tells the story of “the woman with influence” who desires to provide hospitality for the traveler who frequents her dining place. Her arranging of a little room on the roof of the house brings the promise of the birth of a child. We too have an opportunity to be women (and men) of influence in attending to the corporal works of mercy—the hungers and thirsts, the nakedness, the ignorance (lack of knowledge and understanding), the visits to the “imprisoned.”
The “cup of water” that we give can be direct assistance, study and research of the issues, or action for systemic change. The “cup of water” that we receive can be a new sense of connection, of relationship, of engagement, and of action that changes us to experience the promise of “new birth”—the birth of understanding, empathy, compassion, and relationship that we are all in this together with Christ as our center. Christ gives us the groundedness, the perspective we need to do what he has taught us to do. As disciples of Jesus, we can do no less. May we all be women and men of influence!
Dad Jokes and Christmas in June
What’s Forest Gump’s password? 1forest1. What kind of egg did the evil chicken lay? A deviled egg. Why did the coach go to the bank? To get his quarter back. What do you call an illegally parked frog? Toad. Where do baby cats learn to swim? The kitty pool. How can you tell it’s a dogwood tree? From the bark.
My dad relishes telling cheesy jokes like these. Sometimes I can tell he has been waiting all day to tell me a new one, but then he forgets or stumbles over the punchline, a spectacle that oftentimes turns out to be funnier than the actual joke as he tries out several incorrect punchlines before finally remembering the right one.
Along with his sense of humor, my dad is humble and considers his Catholic faith to be an extremely important part of his life. Growing up, he always had my sister and I at church at least 20 minutes before Mass began to give us time to pray and go over the readings.
As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, I give thanks to God for my dad, my first teacher in faith, and I think about St. Joseph, Jesus’ foster father on earth. We do not know too much about St. Joseph from the Bible, but we do know that “he was a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19).
Pope Paul VI goes on to say, “The Gospel does not record a single word from him; his language is silence. It was his attention to the angelic voices which spoke in his sleep; it was that prompt and generous obedience which was demanded from him; it was manual labor, in the most modest and fatiguing of forms, which earned Jesus the reputation of being ‘the son of the carpenter’ (Matthew 13:55). There is nothing else known of him, and it might well be said that he lived an unknown life, the life of a simple artisan, with no sign of personal greatness.” (http://osjusa.org/st-joseph/magisterium/homily-on-the-feast-of-saint-joseph-27-march-1969/)
For such a seemingly unremarkable man, God trusted him with the unfathomable mission of protecting the Holy Family and, along with Mary, bringing Jesus up according to the law of the Lord, ensuring that “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52). St. Joseph showed total commitment to God and to his family. Life for the Holy Family certainly was not easy, but St. Joseph remained humble and strong in his faith through all the burdens, risks, and responsibilities he faced.
It is fitting that Father’s Day this year comes on the heels of the feasts of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, tying together the members of the Holy Family. With the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, a prominent figure during the Advent season, later in the week on June 24, I cannot help but feel like the Church is providentially giving us a summer preview of Christmas. Our world can certainly use a little injection of that Christmas joy right about now.
Like Jeremiah in this Sunday’s 1st Reading, we may feel inundated with “the whisperings of many: Terror on every side!” The pandemic, racial injustices, and all manner of transgressions bombard us through the news every day. Jesus, however, reminds us many times in the Gospel, “Do not be afraid.”
This Father’s Day, let us remember that great mystery of our faith that we celebrate at Christmas: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). I offer a challenge this week: act like it is Christmas—not with the lights and the trees, but with a heart that is overflowing with joy knowing that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
Jesus instructs us in this Sunday’s Gospel to “speak in the light.” How will you acknowledge Jesus before others this week? St. Joseph offers a model for us. As Pope Paul VI reminds us, “he is the proof that in order to be good and genuine followers of Christ there is no need of ‘great things’; it is enough to have the common, simple, human virtues, but they need to be true and authentic.”
Happy Father’s Day!
Remain in Me
Jesus and I—the first catechism that I studied in preparation for my first reception of Jesus in the Eucharist. I am not sure if I realized then what I know today. It’s not just about the personal relationship that I have with Jesus. It’s also about how I act communally in the Body of Christ, in all of humanity.
Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Jesus remains in me? Whenever we eat (receive), as infrequently as it might be in these pandemic days, we are transformed, we are changed. We become the ears of Jesus, stopping to listen and to hear the cries for racial justice. We become the eyes of Jesus, seeing the hungry lining up at food banks. We become the heart of Jesus, gently loving and comforting those who are suffering. We use the limbs of our bodies to move, to act in solidarity, to feel the pain, to bring relief, to do something! We use our brains to reflect on what Jesus would do in response to all that is death-dealing in our world. Jesus is the bread of life. As we remain in Jesus and Jesus remains in us, we have a relationship, a covenant that does not allow us to be passive. We are all one body implies that we are all related and all responsible for each other.
In John’s Gospel, the Eucharist is so much more than a ritual meal or a religious ceremony. Gathering at the table and receiving sends us to be actively engaged in feeding the hungers of the world, the haunting hungers for justice, love, healing, hope, and help. How will we take up this work? How will we be the bread of life to others? Who will be our partners in this journey?
Can You Believe It?
We believe in a triune God whose very nature is communal and social….God reveals God-self to us as one who is not alone, but rather as one who is relational. We who are made in God’s image share this communal, social nature. We are called to reach out and to build relationships of love and justice.
I could just stop right there. Given the events of the last few weeks, we could say that our work is really cut out for us. We can’t avoid it: racism is as much a virus as is COVID-19 and we know who suffers most. Perhaps we are observing communal acts given to lament, to cry out for mercy and justice. Perhaps we are participating in action for justice. Perhaps we are questioning if love and justice are even possible. Perhaps we can only imagine. Perhaps we are paralyzed by fear.
Beverly Harrison, a feminist ethicist, wrote an article many years ago entitled, “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love.” Many of us fear anger. But at times anger—the kind that says “Enough already” or “I’m not going to take this any longer” is just what propels us into action. It takes a fire in us, a scream of sorts that will not let us be silent. It takes our knowing someone, our being in relationship to someone who is suffering to act. To be in God’s image, that of a triune God, is to be participants in creating, redeeming, and inspiring. The reading from Corinthians uses powerful verbs—action plans! Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace.
Friends who wish me well have added another dictum—educate yourself! So I have been reading voraciously, watching videos, talking to others, and listening to podcasts. As good as I think I have been—being relational and caring—I am becoming aware of my learned behaviors and white privilege.
My prayer now echoes the words of Moses: “O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.”