Friday, June 29, 2012

Fires, and Floods, and Droughts, O, MY!

Listening to My Soul – by Joyce Rupp
Guardian of my Deepest Self
I need to be still, to listen,
not only to falling leaves
and the gentle wind;
I need to listen to my soul,
too long neglected
while I bowed to the wild cries
of my greedy culture,
ever ravenous
for my undivided attention:
Do more, Buy more, See more, Be more, Go more.
+ + +
Let me be still
amid the beauty of earth.
Let me be a silent admirer
of all that is sacred.
Let me be reverent in the presence of another.
Let me restore my inner eye.
Let me put to rest the wildness of endless activity.

In 2007, the film, The Inconvenient Truth,  aired and starred former United States VP Al Gore which told the “unbelievable” facts about climate change and specifically global warming.  In the film, Gore reviews the scientific evidence for global warming, discusses the politics and economics of global warming, and describes the consequences he believes global climate change will produce if the amount of human-generated greenhouse gases is not significantly reduced in the very near future. In one particular scenario, he presents the film footage of his presentation on this subject to the U.S. Senate in 1992 and he also brought in climate scientists to authenticate his findings. He thought that once legislators heard the compelling evidence, they would be driven to action.  Not so.  Some listened, some became skeptical and others shirked it off.  It was simply viewed as an inconvenient truth.

 In the Gospels, we are presented with numerous episodes of Jesus’ power over disease, demons, blindness, fevers, the sea and sin itself.  As we read between the lines, we discover Jesus, too, was an Inconvenient Truth  for both the religious and political leaders of his time. Their economic and religious interests were threatened by him, and they were often rebuked for their hypocrisy. He moved to the “margins of society” and hung out with those who were “outsiders.”  He banqueted with sinners and tax collectors; he healed women, touched them, raised them up, and freed them from demons and patterns of life which restricted them. He challenged everyone to become light and salt; to forgive and love their enemies, to ask, to seek, and to knock on the door of God’s heart; to walk through the narrow gate; and that when they fasted or gave alms that it would not be done for show; that they would give away their extra cloak, go the extra mile, and bend and wash each other’s feet.Truly, he was an Inconvenient Truth.

At this time as I write, the USA is experiencing major forest fires; and from the space lab, they have observed over 284 fires on earth. We also are dealing with other climate issues, such as, floods, drought, and extreme heat. Seems that global warming, which in the recent past skeptics made efforts to discredit, now scientists’ truths about our climate are being heard; a noticing is happening and countries the world over are taking steps to slowly remedy these large-scale planet issues. 

So what is the Good News?
We are all called to listen to the falling leaves, to the melting glaciers, to the gasping of earth from our greedy clutching, and to the sacred voices of nature crying out their lamentations.  We are all called to listen to our souls, to the souls of one another, and to our Mother Earth.

So - May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we will live deep in our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth so that we will work for justice, equity, and peace. Let us do as much as we can to take up the challenge to be prophetic voices in our church, our government, and the world, and to speak for the least, the last and the lost so that all that is scattered may be gathered, healed and treated justly. And may God bless us with the foolishness to think that we can make a difference in the world, so we will do the things which others say cannot be done.   Finally, may we ask for the graces we need throughout this week to create a climate change of hope and peace in our world as we entrust our lives to the One who is the Way, the Life and the Inconvenient Truth.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


It seems that in ancient times there was a king named Akbar, who had a brilliant and clever prime minister name Birbal. Akbar was always asking questions that he hoped would baffle Birbal, but Birbal was always able to answer and so save his life and his ministership. One day Akbar asked Birbal if he could bring him someone who was HERE and not THERE.  Birbal brought him a thief, saying, “This thief is only in the world trying to get money and goods to increase his wealth HERE.”
Then Akbar told Birbal, “Bring me someone who is THERE and not HERE.” Birbal responded by bringing a wondering ascetic and said, “He completely neglects all aspects of this world.  Including his body and his well-being, to focus entirely on the world beyond.”

“Very good,” said Akbar. “Now bring me someone who is neither HERE nor THERE.” Birbal left for a while and then returned, presenting to the king a beggar, saying, “This man is neither HERE nor THERE, because he is always envious of everyone else in the world. He’s not participating in the world in any sense and, at the same time, has no concern for spiritual matters. Thus, he is in no way THERE either.”

“Very good again,” exclaimed a pleased Akbar. “Now, is it possible that there is anyone in the world who is both HERE and THERE?”  “Yes, your majesty,” answered, Birbal., and he brought forth an honest household couple. “This man and woman work in the world and tend to their family, but do everything with God in their thoughts. Because they do the work of the world and allow their spiritual practices to carry them through both the good and the bad times, they are a woman and man who are both HERE and THERE.” (Story by John Shea – The Legend of the Bells)

Reflection: In a recent article it stated that many of us are being seduced by multi-tasking, - trying to do a number of things at once. Researchers have now identified a new syndrome emerging called Continuous Partial Attention (CPA). This is described as when a person continues to e-mail, text message, and blog, while supposedly listening to someone else.       Much like our story, CPA can fool us into being not HERE and not THERE! - or be an Absent Presence (another syndrome). These syndromes can un-ground us from our capacity to listen to ourselves, or to the words of another, and to listen between their words and beyond their words. So let us consider a simple practice for the week:  Stop, breathe deeply, – be HERE, be PRESENT, and attend to the moment. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

His name is Gracious!

The story is told that in Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer.  Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries. Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth.  Thus their motto was   “Ne Plus Ultra,” which means, “No More Beyond.”  The word being torn away by the lion is “Ne” or “No” thus it reads “Plus Ultra.”  Columbus had proven that there was indeed “more beyond.”

Today, we celebrate the feast of John the Baptist - June 24, whose witness and voice called his hearers to a baptism of repentance and to recognize the “more beyond” in his prophetic message; the “more beyond” rules, regulations and religious customs,  the “more beyond” predictable practices, and certainly the “more beyond” an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!
From the beginning of his life to the end, John the Baptist was a living witness to God’s unconventional and unpredictable ways of acting.  Elizabeth, his mother, was “more beyond” the age of childbearing when she conceived.  Her relatives and neighbors rejoiced at God’s intervention on her behalf, but they had very definite ideas about how things should go after that.  Religious convention prescribed how the rite of circumcision and naming were to proceed.   

Here in our Gospel, all of Elizabeth’s family and friends gathered around her for the purpose of circumcising the child.  But they also decided that her newborn child would be named Zechariah, Jr. after his father.  And then in this awkward moment, Elizabeth’s voice is heard in the wilderness of promise and possibility, and she says: “No, no, the child’s name will be John.”   Which translates, Yahweh is gracious. 

These people are faithful Jews, good people and lovers of God.  But at this moment, God is about to reveal a mystery that has never so much as entered their minds or hearts.  God was preparing to do something new.  Something  “more beyond” their imaginations.  God and not social convention was to give John his name.  Perhaps the miraculous and unusual circumstances surrounding John’s conception, birth, and naming are clues as to God’s plan for this child who will be a prophet – one chosen to be voice and heart, call and sign of the God whose design for the world is justice, compassion, forgiveness, love and peace.

So what is the Good News for us today?
Let us be open to risk the “more beyond” our comfort zones so that we, too, can be voice and heart, call and sign of the God who unsettles us.

Let us pray for all who are called in our time to be prophetic and speak words of challenge that people don’t want to hear.

And let us pray that John will intercede for our world today so that we, too, will choose to live “more beyond” violence, greed and power and truly live peace, be peace.   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Amen! Hallelujah!

The Preacher's Donkey

A man bought a donkey from a preacher. The preacher told the man that this donkey had been trained in a very unique way (being the donkey of a preacher). The only way to make the donkey go, is to say, "Hallelujah!" The only way to make the donkey stop, is to say, "Amen!"

The man was pleased with his purchase and immediately got on the animal to try out the preacher's instructions. "Hallelujah!" shouted the man. The donkey began to trot. "Amen!" shouted the man. The donkey stopped immediately. "This is great!" said the man. With a "Hallelujah" he rode off, very proud of his new purchase.

The man traveled for a long time through the mountains. As he headed towards a cliff, he tried to remember the word to make the donkey stop. "Stop," said the man. "Halt!" he cried. The donkey just kept going. "Oh, no..."  "Bible...Church!...Please! Stop!!," shouted the man. The donkey just began to trot faster. He was getting closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. Finally, in desperation, the man said a prayer..."Please, dear Lord. Please make this donkey stop before I go off the end of this mountain, In Jesus name, AMEN."
The donkey came to an abrupt stop just one step from the edge of the cliff.
"HALLELUJAH!" shouted the man.

Since I will be in ‘n out of my office over these next few weeks, I offer some prayer websites that may assist you in your time of reflection and prayer.  A spiritual director once wrote – prayer isn’t anything that we do, it simply is allowing God to reveal divinity. . .  So I wish you well Amen, Hallelujah!
(a prayer site run by the Irish Jesuits)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Putting the Extra in the Ordinary!

We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new.” (Henri Nouwen)

Liturgically speaking, this time after Pentecost until Advent is considered the season of Ordinary Time. These are the numbered Sundays in the liturgical calendar with readings that reflect how we are to live out our faith in our everyday lives.  However, I’d like to take a little different twist on “ordinary time.”  Ordinary usually is defined as “common,”  “average,”  “uninteresting,” “unimpressive,” or “unremarkable.”  However, as I reflect on the ordinary times in which we presently live, there are many remarkable things happening in which we all, on this planet, are being invited to ponder, to pray about, and act upon in a healthy and just manner.

In his book, Deep Change, Robert Quinn writes that there is a difference between incremental change and deep change.  He states that incremental change is “usually limited in scope and is often reversible.”  Whereas, deep change “requires new ways of thinking and behaving.  It is change that is major in scope, discontinuous with the past and generally irreversible.  . it involves taking risks and means surrendering control.”  As he continues to contrast and compare the changes that happen on an organization and individual level, he cautions that “deep change is not something we need to do every day . . .but we need to do it more frequently than we have in the past.”

So let us step back into our inner selves, setting aside any distractions that may be pulling on our ordinary time, our ordinary thoughts, or our ordinary feelings.  Then with our extraordinary imaginations – call up all the ordinary issues of our time (across our planet) – that require extraordinary courage, integrity, hope, vision, faith, creativity, innovation, and compassion like never before.  Here are just a few to get started: poverty, health care, joblessness, trafficking of women, children and body parts, drug wars, abuse – physical, mental, spiritual, and psychological, global warming, homelessness, the rainforest, discrimination, lack of resources, obesity, famine, genocide, wars, global economy, water and food issues - to only name a few.

I make no judgments on these, but this “ordinary time” calls for all of us to do our part to risk being people of deep change - it is a time - "a unique opportunity to make everything new" – that is, to have a vision and to actualize it. 

I recently viewed a documentary of how the Carter Center is working to eradicate Guinea Worm disease through water filers. Also, there is  Mary Cortani, a CNN Hero nominee, who runs a canine obedience school, and whose mission it is to assist returning war vets with learning to find and train dogs to help them overcome their struggles with PTSD.

These times are not ordinary – they are really  extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures of faith, hope, courage, integrity and love.  So together let us call upon our “Everyday God to be strength and love in us as we live each new moment to begin again and again and again!

What incremental or deep change have you recently experienced?
Who are your mentors through this time?
Reflect on a time in your life you felt called to do more for others and to make a difference which called for risk on your part.
What are the learnings and wisdoms you hold after a choice you made to “surrender” your control and to open up with extraordinary faith, vision, hope, and courage during these ordinary times?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The People of the Story!

Once upon a time there was a Rabbi.  Whenever he wanted God’s presence, he went to a special place in the woods, lit a fire, said some prayers, and did a dance.  Then God would appear to him.  When he died, his disciple did the same.  When he wanted God’s presence, he went to the same spot in the woods, lit the fire, and said the same prayers, but nobody had taught him the dance.  It still worked, God appeared.

When he died, his disciple carried on the tradition.  When he wanted God’s presence,     he went to the same spot in the woods and lit the fire, but he  didn’t know the prayers, or the dance, but it still worked, and God came.

After he died, his disciple too, whenever he wanted God’s presence, went to the same place in the woods. However, nobody had taught him how to light the fire, or say the prayers or do the dance, but it still worked, God appeared.

In the end, he died, but he too had a pupil.  One day this pupil wanted God’s presence.  So he searched for the place in the woods, but couldn’t find it.  And he didn’t know how to  light the fire or say the prayers or do the dance.  All he knew was how to tell the story.  And     it worked.  He discovered that whenever he told the story of how the others had found God, God would appear.

Today we come to this place - our Motherhouse - in the woods, surrounded by these prolific streams.  We have lit the fire; we have come to say the prayers and enter into the dance of the Eucharist.  All who celebrate this feast today come to hear the story again of how our God has appeared in our lives and continues to appear in Word, in the breaking of the bread, in our gathering together around the table, in the passing of the cup, in sharing a great mystery and a great gift which beckons us to go out in the world as people of peace, people of the story.

This feast combines two previously separate celebrations.  Originally, each feast concentrated on one aspect of the awesome mystery of the Eucharist – Corpus Christi and  the Precious Blood. Now together these feasts celebrate the incomparable love that God has for us. 

Each year the church invites us on this feast of The Body and Blood of Christ to think about the Eucharist and what it means to us who receive the body and the blood of Jesus.  We come because of the story, we remember, we celebrate, we believe.  

As a Eucharistic people, we come to share this holy meal; we come to be in communion with one another in Christ Jesus.  We come to be a community around this table where we are reconciled.  We gather to hear the Word, break the bread, pass the cup, forgive one another, love one another, and make peace with one another and the world.

We are commanded as disciples to go forth from here into the world to be people of generosity, compassion, creativity, honor, forgiveness, and mercy, and be non-violent in word, heart, mind, and fist.  And it will work, God will appear. 

For we are a people of the story. And no matter where we go upon the earth, when we  share the story, the place becomes holy, the fire will appear, the words become the prayer,   the dance begins again, and it will work.  God will appear.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Swish, swosh, swoosh, whoosh!

As to what I am going to blog makes me think of an experience on a gigantic water ride at a theme park.  Put on your seatbelt - for off we go . . . Ready, Set, Go!!

A young woman -Dianna- who is on her discernment journey with us, just graduated as a nurse practitioner and shared with me that she has been searching everywhere for a job with a focus in pediatrics.- but just wasn’t having any luck.

I shared with her that one of our Sisters, Sister Kathy, who was a wonderful nurse, had recently died and that her wake was the next day.  I told her I would pray to Sister Kathy, and ask her to find Dianna a job.  So how did I pray?  As I viewed Sister Kathy‘s body, I touched her arm and prayed: Kathy, you know that Dianna needs a job as a nurse practitioner.  How about it if she takes your place on this earth?  Please find her a job ASAP.  And I say, THANKS in advance. Amen!

Hold on!  The very next day, Dianna wrote me an email and told of how a job offer came to her email and they asked her to come to their center for an interview and that they were impressed with her resume′.  Believe it or not, it was a position as a pediatric nurse practitioner.  Yes – that’s the truth!  The center said that they don’t often work this quickly but they didn’t want to miss the chance to interview Dianna.

Swosh!  So she went for the interview and all that it entailed, and two days later the center offered her the job!  Usually they would take 3-4 weeks to consider the interview and documentation.

Swoosh!  Next, she would need a place to stay.  It is a small city that has two large manufacturers so that most rented apartments are taken up by their employees.  But something opened up within a week.  Dianna was called by the center and their realtor, and was able to obtain an apartment with all the conveniences for her lifestyle – besides, it is only 3 miles from her work.

Whoosh!  So there it is - this process all happened within two weeks.  Sister Kathy was not known for her punctuality.  However, “on the other side,” it seems that she moves with laser-like speed!

For Reflection:
What in this writing touched into your own story of the God of Surprises acting in your life? Have you thought of giving your experience an image?  How have you experienced challenges, resistances, “road blocks” to your hopes and dreams?  How did you mange them? What learnings or insights did you encounter?  Did you have companions along the way who gave you support, advice, or encouragement?

So let us pray: Swish, swosh, swoosh, whoosh! We are grateful! For “gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failure into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” (Melodie Beattie)  Swish, swosh, swoosh, whoosh! Amen, Alleluia!