Monday, April 24, 2017

In the breaking of the bread . . .

The Road to Emmaus ~ Caravaggio
 EMMAUS JOURNEY (Luke 24: 13-35)

All was chaos when he died.
We fled our separate ways at first,
then gathered again in the upper room
to chatter blue-lipped prayers
around the table where he’d talked
of love and oneness.

On the third day Cleopas and I
left for the home we’d abandoned
in order to follow him.

We wanted no part of the babble
the women had brought from the tomb.
We vowed to get on with our grieving.

On the road we met a Stranger
whose voice grew vaguely familiar
as he spoke of signs and suffering.

By the time we reached our village,
every tree and bush was blazing,
and we pressed him to stay the night.

Yet not till we sat at the table
and watched the bread being broken
did we see the light.

Irene Zimmerman, osf
From: Woman Un-Bent

It's all in the hands. . .

“The Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus” by Diego Valázquez  c.1620

The poet Denise Levertov was inspired by this painting to tell the story of the
Servant Girl at Emmaus.

 She listens, listens, holding her breath.
 Surely that voice
 is his—the one
 who had looked at her, once,
 across the crowd, as no one ever had looked?
 Had seen her?
 Had spoken as if to her?

 Surely those hands were his,
 taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
 Hands he’d laid on the dying and made them well?

 Surely that face—?

The man they’d crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
 The man whose body disappeared from its tomb.
 The man it was rumored now some women had seen this morning,

 Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
 don’t recognize yet with whom they sit.
 But she in the kitchen,
 absently touching the wine jug she’s to take in,
 a young Black servant intently listening,

 swings round and sees
 the light around him
 and is sure.
-Denise Levertov

Emmaus ~ "Aha"-lleluia!

This Sunday’s Gospel is the account of the disciples walking to Emmaus. After the experience of the crucifixion of Jesus, they headed out of town ASAP! They were disappointed, disillusioned, disoriented, and disbelieving of the women’s message of Jesus’ resurrection. They expected Jesus to do great things and overtake the political and religious leaders – their hopes in Jesus were sealed away in the tomb with a two ton rock positioned at its entrance.

As they were walking, they were extroverting, debating, and probably taking part in “global-whining” as to what they had recently experienced with shock and terror in Jerusalem. Along the road, Jesus meets them and they are described as having eyes cast down and hearts slow to believe. In other words, these disciples were probably experiencing their own unique form of post-traumatic stress. But it is Jesus who gets them to attend to what they experienced, to recall and remember what was written in the Scriptures, and to stir up their juices of empowerment once again.  The rock was slowly being moved from their hearts, and  their eyes were gently opening to the Mystery that was walking with them.  Then, noticing that it was nearly evening, they asked Jesus to stay with them, and they would chip in for the supper at the near-by inn.

It was then at table, in the blessing of the bread, and it’s being broken and shared once again, that they recognized him.  And what’s more, they noticed that their hearts were on fire!! I am told that someplace it is written that the Jews at that time believed that there was a “connection” between one’s eyes and one’s heart – So eyes cast down leads to sad and slow to believing hearts.  Yet, in the presence of the blessing and bread breaking – their eyes were opened and their hearts were set on fire! Jesus – “aha” “aha-lleluia” – He is alive – just as the women said! So they set out at once to return to Jerusalem, and “the rest is history” as the saying goes.

So what is the Good News for us?  “There are times when we too have our hopes and expectations disappointed. We may feel that God has not treated us fairly or has abandoned us, and we are left in a state of bewilderment and confusion. Our challenge then is to accept, perhaps with difficulty, that God has not abandoned us, but is leading us to a new understanding of what our life is about. To a greater or less extent an experience of disorientation is inevitable until we get our bearings again.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Thomas, One of the Good Guys!

Painting by Caravaggio
This Sunday, in some places, is called, “Thomas Sunday.” Our Gospel for our liturgies includes John 20:19-31. It is the story of a week after the Resurrection event, when the disciples are crowded together again in the upper room - this time with Thomas present. He was absent from their first experience of Jesus’ appearance to them in the upper room.  So here they are again for another time of gathering to process what they have experienced and how to move forward beyond Jerusalem!

So often Thomas is associated with doubting, especially in relation to faith.  Although we hear in the other resurrection Gospels that other disciples doubted as well.  Let us not forget Mr. and Mrs. Cleopas who skipped town after the crucifixion and were “found out” on the road to Emmaus when the Stranger caught up with them.  However, the finger is often pointed at Thomas and we might hear the expression, “Doubting Thomas” in some gatherings.

As I reflected on this Gospel, I thought that Thomas is like many of us who sometimes just need to take leave of all the tensions, trauma, and “too muching” of highly intense events. We then struggle to get back to balance and our inner center. He just witnessed the betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus, whom he loyally followed for three years. Don’t we all have our own individual and unique ways of holding our pain and the ache of our grief?

Perhaps the disciples searched for Thomas, and upon finding him invited Thomas to gather with them once again as they shared their experience of the Risen Jesus. He may have felt hurt, or jealous, or  still be in pain upon hearing that Jesus appeared in the flesh to them and he was absent.  He knew what he saw and experienced as the Roman soldiers pierced the side of Jesus and nailed him to the cross. It was too much for his person to hold!  He needed space far away to let the pain of it all weave through his weary spirit.

But this time, he was in need of some facts – pie charts, bar graphs, graphics, and possibly a spread sheet with more data!  So often in our own journey of faith, have we not murmured  . . . “OK, God, show me a sign and then I’ll believe it . . .” Thomas is all of us who in our faithing have to be invited by our God again and again to trust and to risk being loved unconditionally. 

Jesus came in the way that Thomas most needed.  He instructed Thomas to put his hand in his side and fingers in the place of the nails if that is what Thomas needed.  We don’t know if he did.  But he did as with laser speed move to a deeper place of belief and exclaimed, “MY LORD and MY GOD!!"  This was Thomas’ own moment of inner rising!

So let us pray this day that the hand of God touch into the wounds of our world.  Are we not weary with the violence, wars, injustices, and deaths that humanity has inflicted upon itself and creation? 

Let us also pray that we let God’s fingers probe our minds, hearts, and spirits to release us from anything that keeps us in doubt or resistant to receiving God’s grace, mercy, and unconditional love. Peace be to all of us!!

Hendrick Terbrugghen, Doubting Thomas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1604

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Rolling Away the Stone with Easter Energy!

When dawn stands still with wonder, when birds jubilate in the trees, when buds hurry into blossoms and grass starts wearing green – I always know that Easter wants to come again.

But deeper yet and richer still when Jesus, imprisoned in me, asks me to roll away the stone that locks him in, then Easter wants to come again.

So, let it come. It’s one dawn past rising time and Resurrection is the wildest news that’s ever touched this crazy mixed-up world. It says, yes! When everything else says, no! It says, up! When everything else says, down! It says, live! When everything else says, die!

Easter’s standing at your door again, so don’t you see that stone has got to go? That stone of fear, of selfishness and pride, of greed and blindness and all the other stones we use to keep Jesus in the tomb.

So here’s to rolling stones away, to give our Lord the chance He needs to rise and touch a troubled, lonely world.

Some call it Resurrection. It’s wild with wonder. It’s beautiful and real, intent on throwing life around – it touches and it heals!

Yes, Easter, you can come – an angel of life I’ll be.  I’ll roll the stone away and set you free.

(From Seasons of Your Heart by Macrina Wiederkehr)

Alleluia ~ Shout our happiness!

Easter Exultet
Shake out your qualms. 
Shake up your dreams. 
Deepen your roots. 
Extend your branches. 
Trust deep water 
and head for the open, 
even if your vision 
shipwrecks you. 

Quit your addiction 
to sneer and complain. 
Open a lookout. 
Dance on a brink. 
Run with your wildfire. 
You are closer to glory 
leaping an abyss 
than upholstering a rut. 
Not dawdling. 
Not doubting. 
Intrepid all the way 
Walk toward clarity. 

At every crossroad 
Be prepared 
to bump into wonder. 
Only love prevails. 
En route to disaster 
insist on canticles. 
Lift your ineffable 
out of the mundane. 
Nothing perishes; 
nothing survives; 
everything transforms! 
Honeymoon with Big Joy! 

~ James Broughton ~

(Sermons of the Big Joy)

Friday, April 14, 2017

A day of rest . . .

Jesus dies . .
Image by Michael O'Brien

 In John O’Donohue’s book,
Anam Cara,
he writes about death.

“Death is a lonely visitor.
After it visits your home,
nothing is ever the same again.
There is an empty place at the table;
there is an absence in the house.

Having someone close to you die
is an incredibly strange and desolate experience.
Something breaks within you then
that will never come together again.

Gone is the person whom you loved,
whose face and hands and body
you knew so well.
This body, for the first time,
is completely empty.

This is very frightening and strange.
After the death many questions
come into your mind concerning
where the person has gone,
what they see and feel now.

The death of a loved one is bitterly lonely.

When you really love someone,
you would be willing to die in their place.
Yet no one can take another’s place
when that time comes.
Each one of us has to go alone.

It is so strange that when someone dies,
they literally disappear.
Human experience includes
all kinds of continuity and discontinuity,
closeness and distance.

In death, experience reaches
the ultimate frontier.
The deceased literally
falls out of the visible world of form and presence.

At birth you appear out of nowhere,
at death you disappear to nowhere. . . .

The terrible moment of loneliness in grief
comes when you realize that
you will never see the deceased again.”

John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, (New York, HarperCollins, 1997) p.207
Jesus is laid in the tomb
Image by Michael O'Brien