Undivided Unity—The Trinity
When are we most aware of the Trinity in our lives? Think about it. When do we invoke Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? What images remind us of the Trinity? At a meeting that I attended this week, the leader began the prayer with the sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” That was the prayer and he proceeded to explain why. Whatever we do next—at the meeting, in the morning when we wake up, at work, before our meals, at Mass, at prayer times—is done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that we are partners with God in continuing creation, in continuing relatedness. We acknowledge that the Father sent his Son who sent the Holy Spirit. They are so related, so connected, so in sync! No wonder then that so many images of the Trinity somehow display an “undivided unity.”
The life of the Trinity is ongoing. It is not self-contained or self-absorbed, but ever flowing outward, touching and embracing all of creation, all of life in unity and communion. Listen this weekend to all the ways God delights in creation. As we continue to be active in God’s continuing acts of creation, do we take delight in God?
Ron Rolheiser describes the Trinity this way: “God is community, family, parish, friendship, hospitality and whoever abides in these abides in God and God abides in him or her.” God is a trinity, a flow of relationships among persons. If this is true, and scripture assures us that it is, then the realities of dealing with each other in community, at the dinner table, over a bottle of wine or an argument, not to mention the simple giving and receiving of hospitality are not pure, secular experiences but the stuff of church, the place where the life of God flows through us.” https://liturgy.slu.edu/TrinityB053021/reflections_rolheiser.html
We look forward to experiencing the life of God flowing through us this weekend as we share the Eucharist!
“Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” As we sing this refrain from Psalm 104 this weekend, are we ready for the wind and the fire, the presence of the Holy Spirit among us? Most of the time, we hold firm or lean into the wind to resist being blown over. We run from fire or do everything we can to put it out. But in the Acts of the Apostles, the wind—the breath of God—and the fire—the tongues of fire that led to common understanding, lead us to overcome our fear and to work to renew the face of the earth.
Like the disciples, we receive the gifts of wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence and awe in God’s presence. We receive them in a special way at the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation. Pentecost reminds us that we have those gifts; perhaps it is time to open them! Perhaps it is time to use them for the benefit of ourselves and others!
The coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples changed their fear into power, the power to speak with great courage and freedom. That same Spirit is dynamic and constant in all of life. Are we confident enough to invite the Spirit to work through us and in us to change things that need changing—to renew the face of the earth? Climate crisis? Hunger? Living wages? Immigration? Racial bias? Trafficking?
When the Holy Spirit came, all began to speak different languages. And they all understood! In our community, we also speak different languages. We do that when we don’t see things the same way. We speak different languages in expressing love and affection. Do we understand? Do we seek to understand? Or do we hide, barricaded with only those who speak the same language? Do we believe in the promise of unity among God’s people, brought together by the power of the Spirit?
At home, in our families, at work, at school, in our neighborhoods, in our city, and in our parish, where and when and how is God’s Spirit offering us wisdom to change our perceptions of “the other”? Understanding to curb our denial of racism, sexism, and ageism? Right judgment in the face of bad choices? Courage to do and say what I fear doing and saying? Knowledge to open our minds and hearts to truth? Reverence to help us to love what is pure and beautiful? Awe in God’s presence?
The gifts are in our presence. They are all here. Gifts are intended to be opened! Gifts are meant to keep giving! Let us rejoice in the gifts of the Holy Spirit!
“You don’t fear people whose stories you know. Real listening always brings people closer together. Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world. Rely on human goodness. Stay together.” -Meg Wheatley in Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future
Ascensions in Our Lives
These are the messages of the Ascension! They are the messages to us of how we are to ascend out of the depths of whatever binds us in darkness, despair, sadness, and paralysis. They are imperatives guiding us to new life, renewed hope, and joy—to ascension.
Those who were present when Jesus took leave of this earth experienced a leave-taking, a despedida like none other. What gave them hope was the promise of the power of the Holy Spirit. They left Jesus’ presence, profoundly and keenly aware of God’s presence with them, a presence that filled them with joy and with enthusiasm for being witnesses who preach in Jesus’ name.
Sometimes the ascension of Jesus reminds us of our leave-taking, our farewells to loved ones, and the rituals of funerals. Lots of people leave us. Some leave by death; others leave by choice. But God, with mercy and compassion, draws us into something new, something we could never conceive, something we have never done before. As promised at the time of the ascension, Jesus becomes nearer to us now that he is gone. Even when we feel most alone, most deserted, the Holy Spirit’s presence brings hope and promise that emerges from the suffering.
May this be true for us this weekend. We pray that we be mindful of the various experiences of “ascension” in our own lives. We pray in gratitude for God’s guiding presence in our lives and God’s nudges to witness new life, new hope, and boundless joy! We praise God for the promise of boundless love forever!
Love could be the theme for this Sunday; after all, it is Mother’s Day. Or we could believe that we have come to love Sundays because we can gather in person, perhaps more readily. Or, it could be that we have come to know what love (both given and received) means in the midst of all that we have lived through in the past 15 months. The words almost sound like we are in an echo chamber: Love one another. Remain in my love. Love one another as I love you! I have called you friends. I chose you. As the Father loves me, so I love you. This I command you: love one another. Words about love abound in our readings for this weekend.
Love is not a suggestion or a wish, but a command from Jesus. In fact, all of these are imperatives. They have power and strength; they come from Jesus. No “if you want” or “if you wish” or “just a suggestion.”
And since I am dwelling on words, I also love the verbs used to describe the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to the word. The gift of the Holy Spirit …poured out on the Gentiles also. No doves in flight and no fiery tongues, but powerful and lavish falling and pouring! Imagine the Holy Spirit being as prolific as the drenching rains of the past week.
We have experienced the capacity not just to hold on to love, but also to extend love to all of our brothers and sisters, no exceptions, in our Parish ReConnect gatherings. We have named the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been profoundly and consistently present in our lives, physically distanced as we have been. As we anticipate Pentecost and the fullness of life in the Holy Spirit, we are grateful for our reflections and our learnings and we give voice to our commitment to accompany, welcome, and engage (AWE) our brothers and sisters in parish life and beyond. We are being transformed. Life in our cocoons is generating beauty and awe—the awe in seeing new leaves and blooms, the awe we see in butterflies, the awe we experience in the children among us, the awe we know in the resilience of all who continue to inspire ( in-Spirit) us in actions and deeds, in thoughts and feelings.
And so we work and pray: Loving and generous God, we ask you to fall on us and pour out on us the gift of listening deeply to one another with love and respect. Bind us together in love and help us to be clear channels of your wisdom and love for one another. May it be so!
The Sap of Love
These days many of us are amazed at how we see much of the vegetation that we thought had died in the ice/snow storm in February come to life. It seems that the visible foliage and branches died, but the roots had sap. What we had almost given up on, suddenly has new life at the ground level, as well as below in the roots. These images of nature, vines and branches, offer us so much to think about, to reflect on after over a year of distancing—a kind of dormancy, and most certainly a pruning in our lives.
We all went through a “pruning” experience, whether we chose it or not. What we can choose is to ask ourselves, “What did we learn from the experience?” How are we different? Do we value some things more than before COVID? Have we let some things matter less? How have relationships changed? What have been some of the blessings of our dormancy and our pruning? What has died and what is coming to life?
In Church life, in our parish community, I am hearing and seeing signs of the new in us too! We are telling stories about how we tended our personal and communal growth as “vines and branches” in our Church community. We are looking for signs of new life among us as people, as the St. Francis Community. We have changed! We are identifying deeds and actions that invite us to new relationships, new sprouts of leadership, initiative, and desire to heal divisions among us. We are digging deep to find our roots again. We want to re-connect!
We have been pruned by the Word. The sap in our lives is the Word. We have new life, often revealed to us through the gifts of the Holy Spirit—patience, kindness, joy, resilience, openness, new understanding of ourselves and others. We have opportunities to cherish the “sap” and to discover our rootedness through the Saturday morning reflection tomorrow from 9-11, the Parish ReConnect experiences (both in-person and virtual), and conversations and deeds that are expressions of Easter AWE (Accompaniment, Welcome, and Engagement). We are spreading out our branches and budding forth delights! For this, let us all work and pray!
One of my favorite authors is Meg Wheatley. Her 2002 publication, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, is a book that almost 20 years later is offering inspiration to me today. The quote from that book that has been on my mind throughout this pandemic, this time of distancing and separation—some chosen to be healthy and safe, and some that has been caused by a difficult national election, a difference in political views, some differences about religion, and a lot of Facebook or other social media postings that draw the line between “us” and “them.” I assume that none of us “likes” what we are experiencing. When families are divided by beliefs, it becomes particularly distressing.
Meg Wheatley writes: “You don’t fear people whose story you know. Real listening always brings people closer together. Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world. Rely on human goodness. Stay together.”
In the Gospel for this weekend, we are reminded about what a Good Shepherd does to keep his herd together. In the midst of all the distancing and division, the longing and yearning that we have had for connection, to be together, we need time to have some simple conversations. We need each other. We need to turn to one another. I assume that we want to “stay together” as one flock.
I invite us all to reflect on each of the words in Wheatley’s quote. In many ways, I personally can hear Jesus’ words and actions in that quote. It describes the world described in Acts of the Apostles. It describes our world, our city, our community.
We have several opportunities to enter into simple conversations that identify and name what we are individually and collectively willing to do to “stay together.” Join us for our Parish ReConnect experiences on Sunday from 12-1 in person for the first gathering. Other times are listed at http://sfasat.org/parishreconnect/. Please come!
Recognizing the Lord
After the Resurrection, Jesus has a hard time being recognized. Mary Magdalene thinks he is a gardener. The disciples on the road to Emmaus think he is a stranger who didn’t know anything about the week of events. And in this week’s Scripture, the men and women followers think he is a ghost. Until he eats real food with them.
I have been thinking a lot about what it means to eat real food with others who are considered gardeners, strangers, and ghosts. In many ways, these are often people I just don’t know, or I don’t know them YET! John in the Epistle for this weekend says we can’t say “I know him” referring to Jesus without keeping the commandments. Knowing people and actions that do not hurt people go hand in hand. If we know Jesus, or claim to know Jesus, we are treating people the way Jesus would. What would Jesus do, the famous rubber bracelet expression of some time ago, becomes a measure of both our knowledge of Jesus and the actions that follow.
For weeks now, I and a growing number of St. Francis parishioners, have been putting our faith into action. We, like Jesus, have been recognizing some of the same sufferings of our brothers and sisters in SA and Bexar County that Jesus confronted. With love, compassion, and mercy, Jesus recognized the ways in which those who had power exercised it was convenient to their way of thinking, their idea of economics, and their view of who should succeed. Jesus challenges and confronts; Jesus creates tension with those who have power and authority. Jesus acts to change the policies that kept people outside, separated from access to the fullness of life.
What was the disciples’ task, having recognized the risen Lord, and having seen that he “opened their minds to understand the scripture,”? Is our task now to preach the good news of God’s mercy and goodness to all? Is it our task to act on those teachings?
This Sunday from 3-4:30, citizens of all faiths, from all over the city will hold candidates for public office accountable for priorities that I feel confident Jesus would support. COPS/Metro leaders have spent many hours during this past year advocating for gardeners, and strangers, and “ghosts.” Ghosts can simply be the people we “don’t see” because we never go to their part of town.
In this past year, during this time of isolation, I realize that I have come to know my brothers and sisters on all sides of town through action with them. Now that I know them, I cannot turn away. I have “recognized them” in “breaking open the word” of Scripture.
I may not need or benefit from what they are asking for; but because we are the “community that holds all things in common” from Acts of the Apostles and the “beloved community”—our relationship to each other that activists (people who act on values, priorities, and love for each other) ACT on. To know them is to advocate for them—to live God’s commands of love of neighbor.
Putting the Gospel into action this week means that I will be at that Accountability Session on Sunday afternoon. I invite you to join me and others from our parish.
Here is the Zoom link to register: www.copsmetro.com/accountability_20210418
Here are the priorities identified that we are asking support for: http://sfasat.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/COPSMetro-Issues-Agenda.pdf
The Easter AWE!
“The community of believers was of one heart and one mind…” I know without a doubt that all of us learned something about ourselves during this past year. We learned it about ourselves as individuals, as couples, as families, as a parish community, as a compassionate city, as a country, and as world citizens, as explorers of the universe. Did we get closer to being of “one heart and one mind” as Jesus envisioned life after His resurrection?
Jesus was so present to his disciples. He showed them the way. To reinforce the witness He had given, the teaching He had done, the ways of being with them, He spent even more time with them. He had them experience the power that they had to heal, to show mercy, to care for all. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles does just that. They held all things in common and everyone had all they needed.
This “holding all things in common” is a real struggle for us. Perhaps we have had inklings of what that is like as we shared during the ice storm in mid-February. Perhaps we get glimpses of that knowing that we can care for migrant children who come here with nothing. Perhaps those who have had COVID-19 are sharing their blood to provide antibodies for those who are fighting the virus.
As we enter the time of recognizing signs of “new life”—the meaning of resurrection—we are being given opportunities to name the ways that we can be of “one heart and one mind” and to “hold all things in common.” During this time of Jesus’ reinforcement of His teachings, the boosters that He gave His disciples, we too are entering into a new journey, a new way of being community.
We don’t know exactly what that looks like or feels like. All we know is that we have been waiting, we have been learning, God has been working in our lives. It is time as we journey to Pentecost to open our minds and our hearts to how we want to be with each other in the future. We can’t go back to the past, the way it was. It is a different time. We are different. We have the opportunity to re-connect, to renew relationships, and to form new ones. What are we willing to do, who are we willing to be when we too have the opportunity to live and to be as the community described in ACTS?
This is our call to be witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus. Only then can we call ourselves disciples. Only then do we enter into the dance of discipleship: Accompany, Welcome, and Encourage—the very real AWE of Resurrection!
May we all be filled with AWE!
So You Must Do
Did we fall asleep last night as we entered into the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus? Jesus asked that his followers pray and be present, to recognize the anguish of suffering. On the first night of the Holy Triduum, we too were asked to be aware of the suffering of many in our world today, to pay attention, to not fall asleep.
Ron Rolheiser observes that in John’s gospel read last night, we don’t hear about the institution of the Eucharist. The gesture of washing feet replaces that institution. Ron says, “It specifies what the Eucharist is in fact meant to do, namely, to lead us out of church and into the humble service of others.” Jesus modeled a new kind of leadership and service.
Each Sunday, we are sent with words like, “Go forth and live the Gospel.” Yes, we are indeed being led out of church and into service.
“As I have done so you must do.” To bow and to kneel, to act with love and compassion, to recognize the humanity and goodness of all of God’s creation is to do as Jesus did. Jeannine Grammick offers some ways that we wash feet today.
We wash feet when we make a phone call to a friend inviting her to dinner or a party. We wash feet when we smile at a senior citizen and bid him a bright “Good morning”. We wash feet when we scratch the chin of a cat, stroke her fluffy fur, and hear her purr “Thank you”. We wash feet when we write to our Congressperson or the White House to support a proposed bill to enhance human welfare or end violence.” (paxchristiusa.org/2021/03/31/reflection-for-holy-thursday-april-1/)
One of my favorite songs at Easter is “Roll Away the Stone.” Easter 2021 seems the perfect time to acknowledge the need we have to see the Glory of God. Let’s roll away all the stones and tombs depicted here, all the “they have been saying” and proclaim new life! We rise too when we cast away the stones and the tombs in our lives. Let it be so this Easter!
These are the lyrics to “Roll Away the Stone”
They have been saying all our plans are empty.
They have been saying “Where is their God now?”
Roll away the stone see the Glory of God. Roll away the stone.
They have been saying no one will remember.
They have been saying Power rules the world.
Roll away the stone see the Glory of God. Roll away the stone.
They have been saying no one hears the singing.
They have been saying all our strength is gone.
Roll away the stone see the Glory of God. Roll away the stone.
They have been saying “All of us are dying.”
They have been saying “All of us are dead.”
Roll away the stone see the Glory of God. Roll away the stone.
Living the Way of the Cross
The Way of the Cross, or the Stations of the Cross, a devotional prayer of the Catholic Church, has taken on new meaning for many of us during this past year—what many of us call not just a season of Lent, but also a YEAR of Lent! As I recall the events of this past year and hear the reading of the Passion of Jesus, I am reminded of the ways in which the Way of Jesus has come to focus in the grief and suffering of so many. For many of us, this year has awakened us. Like the disciples, we have fallen asleep to so much.
When I was teaching high school religion, I would ask my students to create their own Stations of the Cross using modern images of how we identify with suffering. Who and how are people today condemned to death? Who are their accusers? How are people today stripped of their dignity, called names, spat on, whipped, and tortured? In what ways do people fall, over and over again, being forced to “carry a cross?” Who are the persons who help to carry the cross? Who offers to “wipe the face of Jesus?” Who among us have been burying the dead? Who dies by execution today? Who keeps watch over the graves? Who stays with, persists in attention, and believes in resurrection?
In Jerusalem, people walk the Via Dolorosa, places designated as stopping points to pray and remember in the midst of all the busyness of the streets, the vendors, the residences, the churches. The way of the cross is in the midst of the realities of our lives.
Each Lent, I look for different versions of the Stations of the Cross—those that have meaning for me in the midst of life. This year I was caught sleeping about many ways of seeing others. Here are two that I suggest.
April 2, 2021 at noon – Good Friday Stations of the Cross with FutureChurch Staff