Friday, January 19, 2018

A Prayer for Truth, Wisdom, and Humility . . .


a prayer for prophets:

God of the Great Gaze,
We humans prefer satisfying un-truth
to the Truth that is usually unsatisfying.


Truth is always too big for us,
And we are so small and afraid.


So you send us prophets and truth speakers
to open our eyes and ears to your Big Picture.


Show us how to hear them, how to support them,
and how to interpret their wisdom.


Help us to trust that your prophetic voice
may also be communicated through our words and actions.             

                                                                
May we practice a spirit of discernment
and a stance of humility,
so that your Truth be spoken, not our own.


We ask this in the name of Jesus the Prophet,
for we desire to share in your Great Gaze. Amen.

(author unknown)

Prayer of Hope . . .



Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.


Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.


And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.


For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.


For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.


Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most—Peace.

prayer - maya angelou

A Prayer of Searching

 
I have found You
Without warning
In places of surprise
In the gathering of thousands
In the face with open eyes
In the houses of the suffering
In the solitude of prayer
In bitter disappointments
In the blessings of each day
Though there have been glimpses
The quest will never cease
For when I think I’ve found You
You have taken quiet retreat
Inspiring new horizons
Infinity beyond
The paradise of promise
For You
My soul still longs.
Excerpt from: Where God Hides by Liam Lawton


 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

January 21 . . . Agnes of Rome



Agnes of Rome ~Memorial January 21
Patroness of the Congregation
of the Sisters of St. Agnes
Someone once wrote: If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
This is a question to reflect upon today as we celebrate a martyr.  When I pondered this question it reminded me of the time I was living in Menomonee Falls, and one day 2 very young men from the new Open Bible Church appeared at my door with their bibles in hand and asked me, “Have you chosen Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”  This resulted in a twenty minute sharing of conversion stories and scripture texts– and when they departed, I reflected on how skilled they were in locating just the right passage to prove their faith and convictions; I admired their desire to give testimony to the power of God in their lives, their eagerness to have me make a commitment, and their overall tenacity!  So I asked myself, would I be able to do what they are doing? How do I witness the Word and Wonder of God?

Today we gather to remember and to celebrate St. Agnes of Rome, under whose patronage CSA was founded and called into being.  She declared herself Christian in a pagan society and committed herself to remain virgin in a patriarchal culture.  She gave testimony that she had chosen Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior with the public sacrifice of her life.


Much of her life and death are surrounded by legend, but early writings tell us that Agnes was born into a wealthy and powerful Roman Christian family and, according to tradition; she suffered martyrdom at the age of 12 or 13 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian on January 21, in the year 305.  The story is told how the Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry   his son, for women, at that time, were property of the state and had children to promote the state's agenda.  But Agnes refused and remained adamant that she had consecrated her virginity to Jesus Christ.

Her refusal was considered an act of treason and punishable by death.   At that time, Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, so Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel.  In one version of the story, it is said, that as she processed through the streets, Agnes prayed, and her hair grew and covered her entire body.

Some also asserted that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind.  She was sentenced to death with many other Christian companions who refused to worship the Roman gods and to pay homage to the emperor as divine. Legend has it that Agnes went unshackled to her death because all the irons were too large for her wrists.  According to some accounts, when Agnes was led out to die, she was tied to a stake; however the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her. As a result, the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her. Agnes grew up in a patriarchal culture, whose religion included many gods – a religion of laws, customs, and prescriptions that no longer had the power to define her.  Agnes chose a new way of life – a life of virginity.  She was resolute in choosing her own power in Christ to define her new identity. 

She is one of seven women commemorated by name in the prayers of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  She is the patron saint of gardeners, young girls, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins.  For her steadfast faith, she has been honored as a martyr.

The word “martyr” comes from the Greek meaning “witness.”   Originally, the term referred to the Apostles who had witnessed the events of Jesus’ life, and who also died violently for their faith.  However, as more early Christians were executed for their faith, “martyr” soon came to mean those who firmly believed in Jesus and were willing to sacrifice their lives for the Gospel. They found a treasure in this new way called, Christianity. Truly their search for this new Kingdom required a great price at this time in history.

Agnes, like many of the early Christian martyrs, is referred to as a “red martyr” as she shed her blood for Christ. Throughout the history of the Church, there have been many of these brave women and men who chose death, rather than to forsake Christ. However, there are also “White Martyrs,” who are best known as the desert mothers and fathers, as they gave up everything to live a life dedicated for the love of God.  Interestingly, the early Celtic Christians identified “Green Martyrs” as those who have given their lives to bringing the Word of God to others.  Most frequently, this term is used in reference to Irish missionaries. 

So, we may ask . . . are there martyrs today?  Is there heroic and courageous witness for faith happening in our lifetime?  According to the research of Robert Royal, the past century witnessed the worst atrocities of humankind.  More than all ten early Christian persecutions combined. 

He writes: “How does it happen that in a time of unparalleled scientific advancement, ushering in a new age of reason, one group of people can still be willing to slaughter another simply because of religious beliefs?  - The fact is that for all the knowledge they might have attained, some human beings – some nations, and some movements as well – still desire power – this power can be all consuming, overshadowing reason, erupting in hate, destroying lives in numbers that confound the mind.”

Indeed, there are new witnesses of faith who have been killed because they professed their faith, promoted Christian values and convictions, held fast to a stance of social justice and non-violence, or who were voices for the poor, the least, the last, and the lost, or who died at the hands of persons with hatred for the faith.  

These most certainly are the new heroes and she-roes of our times who work for social justice at risk to their own lives – Let us recall:
• Oscar Romero of San Salvador, a champion of the poor who  was assassinated while celebrating liturgy;
• Jean Donovan, Sisters Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, and Maura Clarke, murdered by Salvadoran government troops in 1980;
• and S. Dorothy Stang, SSND, who in Feb. of 2005, was murdered in the Amazon because she was outspoken in her efforts on behalf of  the poor and the environment.                          
• And today, we undoubtedly, remember our own women of faith –CSA Sisters Maureen Courtney, Jenny Flor Altamirano and Teresa de Jesus Rosales, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – young women who gave testimony with their lives as they lived justice in action and faith-filled generosity.            

                                                                                                             
So what is the Good News for us today?   
• Our God continues to invite everyone to live with hope, trust, courage, and faith.  We are all called to be new witnesses of the Risen Jesus living the Beatitudes in this earthly community.  
• As in the reading from Romans, we celebrate all witnesses who risk everything and refuse to be separated from the love of God; may we strive to model their zeal, courage, and conviction.                                              
• As women and men religious, associates, friends, and partners in ministry, it is on such a feast as today, that we are invited to ponder our own witness to our faith and the values of our Christian lives.  Like Agnes, may we daily choose to be women and men who hold fast to our identity as people of justice, people of hope, and people of peace.
• That like Agnes, when we find ourselves standing naked in our vulnerabilities, limitations, powerlessness, doubts, dilemmas, and decisions that affect the social, economic, cultural, religious, and political challenges of life – may we more and more learn to call upon the Spirit for guidance, grit, and grace - for it is in God that we live and move and have our being.                                                      
• That like Agnes, we are all called to claim our new identity as women and men of faith in the 21st century – we pray to be attentive and open to the signs of our time, while  remaining faithful to our own integrity as individuals, as a congregation, and as People of God in the church and world community.


So let us ponder again the question of the day: 
If we were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

Previously posted 2012

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Day in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., January 15 . . .



A Prayer in Honor of Martin Luther King Day
By Lilly Kaufman, January 2012


Dr. King would have faced hard facts today.
He would know the number of children
going hungry in America this very minute.
He would know the number of our war dead,
and those wounded in new ways.
He would know the astounding costs
of financial corruption.
He would have seen beyond the numbers,
to the faces of our people,
and he would still have faith in them,
and in what is right.
He would be preaching now
a determined, measured, poetic, prophetic outrage.
He would be teaching by example
our civic duty of compassion,
and decrying the grave civic danger of cynicism.
He would challenge the strange new ideas
that money equals speech
and corporations are people
in a democracy.
When he gave his life for peoples’ rights
of speech, and assembly, and the vote,
it was for people
who had no money to pay for speech.
They knew speech as an unalienable right,
and their wealth of spirit sufficed.
Dr. King had faith in a few great things:
one was our essential American dream.
Not a middle-class American dream,
or an upper-class, a working-poor,
or an impoverished-class American dream.
But the defining American dream
which lifts up those bowed down.
The abiding American dream
of liberty and justice for all.
Amen.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Jesus' Baptism~ A purpose driven life!



Baptism of Christ by Dave Zelenka 2005
In 2002, Baptist pastor, Rick Warren published his book, The Purpose Driven Life. In the first year of its publication, there were over 11 million copies sold.  Within 4 years there were over 30 million copies sold and it became an international best seller translated into more than 50 languages. Why was this book so popular? Could it be that in today’s pop culture and social networking the messages that come to us are - we don’t have enough, we are not good enough, and we are not enough – which leaves people “wobbly within” and anxious to have someone help them understand God’s purpose and path for their lives?  Or could it just be that we fear to slow down, to become quieted, and still  - attempting to avoid pondering the questions that everyone eventually faces in life, which are: Why am I here?  What is my purpose?

In the Gospel, Jesus has been walking around with the same questions – yet something happened to Jesus when he was baptized. He was changed – charged – transformed! Something spectacular happened – the heavens opened, the Spirit came upon him, and there was cloud-talk with a voice that said, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.” Nothing like high drama and special effects to get our attention! With these intimate and consoling words, Jesus was changed forever and charged with the energy of the Spirit as he came up from the waters of the Jordan  His purpose was revealed. His mission was announced. No discernment or searching needed. All he need do in his short earthly life is to become it – his mission, his purpose!! As John Dear writes: “God does not mince words or make small talk. God gets right to the heart of the matter.”

As baptized followers of Jesus, we, too, stand in readiness, in vulnerability, in authenticity as we hear in our depths that God says to each one of us, “You are my beloved.”  We, too, are charged by the Spirit to claim, accept, honor, and embrace who we are – for we are beloved!

This being beloved carries personal, spiritual, social, interpersonal, and global implications. If we are willing to take this seriously, it means that we as God’s beloved have to be open to the awesome and wonderful news that every other human being in the world is also a beloved daughter or son of God – it means that we are all one; we are all chosen; we are all called to bring sight to the blind, release to those held captive, light to those who wander in darkness, and justice to those who are oppressed.

As followers of Jesus, we share in his baptism, his ministry, his death and resurrection. It means that just as Jesus heard the cloud-talk-affirmation, “You are my beloved,” God says to each of us, “You are my beloved.” God is loving us, affirming us; God is delighting in us, and calling all of us into our true Self, and to our true purpose.




Baptism of Christ #2 by Daniel Bonnell
 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Presentation: A Story of Faithful Waiting!




Embracement

A presentation in the Temple . .
A mother purified according to the Law.
A child anointed, blessed, and praised.
A child cradled in the arms of Simeon.

Simeon . . . One not to experience death
Until his eyes beheld his Savior,
Yet within his embrace
He holds the Prince of Peace.

Ah, Anna . . .  a prophetess and temple-dweller
Gives praise and thanks for this child of redemption.
She has waited, prayed, and fasted
Eager to be filled with the richness of this sacred moment.

Both old ones, fragile in age and sight,
Experience crystal-clear vision of the God-child
Who rests in their arms – the God-child that visits their temple-dwelling.
The child rests with peace.
The child receives praise and blessing.
The child receives anointing
In this ritual of purification.

However, in time yet to be, this child will be embraced
In the arms of his mother as he is removed from his cross
To be anointed again, and received into his temple of rock . . .
Embraced by earth . . . a tomb of Passover
Waiting, resting, resurrecting!

And so little child, grow strong in body
And wise in spirit.
Grow in the favor of God
For your time has come, your hour has come
To release the captives, to give sight to the blind,
To set the oppressed free, to proclaim the Good News
For you are the Anointed One!

A child of favor, O child anointed, teach us to release
All that is held captive and oppressed within us.
Teach us to seek the wisdom and courage that is deep within
Our very selves so that we may proclaim the Good News . . .
Be Good News! Amen. Amen.