Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We are "Epiphany People"!



Matthew’s Gospel is the only one that records the story of the Magi. Right from the get-go, this story has the makings of a Hallmark special movie.  It has high drama, a plot which features long journeys, astrologers, a guiding star that is possibly a remnant from an explosion from a Super Nova, a dark force of threatening danger, political intrigue, divine dreaming, holy whisperings, and a vulnerable new born child. 

We recently heard in Luke’s Christmas story that shepherds came to the stable. Shepherds were regarded as unclean and could not take part in Temple worship without undergoing purification. Therefore, his emphasis is on Jesus being God’s revelation to the poor and the rejected.  While in Matthew, the emphasis is on the universality of Jesus’ mission. 
(A truth that Pope Francis has expressed once again in his recent writings: “. . . it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded. ... That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem:  ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.’”)      (Lk 2:10)

Over several hundred years, Christian imagination, legend, and tradition have embellished Matthew’s story – for in his revelation he does not tells us that  the Magi were wise, or men, or kings, or that there were three, or that they were from the Orient, nor does he speak of their mode of transportation, and he certainly misses the mark by not providing names of the Magi  . . . it is not so much the details that are important;  it is the meaning of Matthew’s message.

Among Matthew’s Jewish community, they were finding it difficult to accept that God came for all, and not just a few. They were clinging to the idea that if you want to follow Jesus, to be one of his disciples, you had to first be a Jew.  And if you were male, then you had to be circumcised; then if you were to become Christian, you had to continue to fulfill all the rules of the law.  This is why Matthew writes this story . . .this is the mystery, that God is now revealed to all nations, and God has come to transform all of human history, all peoples of all times.

The Magi represent the whole Gentile world.  According to medieval legends, they were named Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar. Each of them came from a different culture: Melchior was Asian, Balthazar was Persian, and Gaspar was Ethiopian, therefore representing the three races known to the old world at that time. 

Author John Shea writes that there is a legend that the Magi were three different ages. Gaspar was a young man, Balthazar in his middle years, and Melchior a senior citizen. When they approached the cave at Bethlehem, they first went in one at a time. 
Melchior found an old man like himself with whom he was quickly at home. They spoke together of memory and gratitude. 
The middle-aged Balthazar encountered a teacher of his own years. They talked passionately of leadership and responsibility. 
When Gaspar entered, a young prophet met him with words of reform and promise.
The three met outside the cave and marveled at how each had gone in to see a newborn child, but each had met someone of his own years. They gathered their gifts in their arms and entered together a second time. In a manger on a bed of straw was a child twelve days old.
The message is that Christ speaks to every stage of the life process – the young hear the call to identity and intimacy, the middle-aged hear the call to generatively and responsibility, and the elders seek to hear the call to integrity and wisdom. We all seek to find the Christ in each stage of our own lives and the gift that is given us is that we find ourselves as well.

The word EPIPHANY comes from the Greek meaning a manifestation, an awakening, a showing forth, - and in Matthew’s Gospel of the Magi’s visit, what is made known can be called an “epiphany moment” – there is a sudden spiritual intuitive awareness, a flash of insight that God has come to more than the people of Israel - God is shining forth to all peoples - a showing off of God’s unconditional love of all people through the smile and laughter of a tender new born baby.  The Magi had to trust and follow their limited instincts.  And that is what all of us are invited to do again and again . . . for the mystery of Epiphany is that God is perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed.

They realize that their encounter with Jesus truly changes them and they will live life differently.  (Richard Rohr: “An epiphany is not an experience that we can create from within, but one that we can only be open to and receive . . .Epiphanies leave us totally out of control, and they always demand that we change.”)

Today’s feast tells us that for God there are no foreigners, no strangers, no aliens, and no outsiders.  We all belong to our God no matter what external physical or cultural differences there may be between us; we all belong to God no matter what religious convictions or lifestyle differences there may be between us.  Our God is inclusive, unpredictable, imaginative, compassionate, forgiving, and desires a personal encounter with us.

This feast means that we are all called to be “epiphany people.”  There is no turning back; just an on-going commitment to “shine forth” with courage, compassion, vision, and to hope and to seek, to trust, and to seek again and to live with a restless Spirit, so as to be intensely engaged with humanity each in our own unique way. 

So let us embrace the graces of these readings and this celebration, because it is in this liturgy of joining with one another in the sharing of the Word, and in the breaking of the bread, that we, too, become “epiphany people.”  Here we encounter our God – Holy Mystery– and in this place we are all changed, and we can reflect on the seasons of our own lives when God has shown forth to us and invited us to walk new paths under the guidance of a new star.

Finally let us pray in a poet’s words- Macrina Wiederkehr:
Creator of the Stars; God of Epiphanies
You are the Great Star; You have marked our paths with light
You have filled our sky with stars naming each star
Guiding it until it shines into our hearts
Awakening us to deeper seeing
New revelations  . . . And brighter epiphanies! 

Welcome 2014!






Standing at the Gates of the New Year

Sacred Mystery,
Waiting on the threshold
Of this new year,
You open the gates
And beckon to me:

“Come! Come!
Be not wary of what awaits you
As you enter the unknown terrain,
Be not doubtful of your ability
To grow from its joys and sorrows.

For I am with you.
I will be your Guide.
I will be your Protector.
You will never be alone.”

Guardian of this new year,
I set aside my fear, worries, concerns,
I open my life to mystery, to beauty,
To hospitality, to questions,
To the endless opportunity
Of discovering you in my relationships,
And to all the silent wisps of wonder
That draw me to your heart.

I welcome your unfailing Presence
And walk with hope into this new year.

From: Out of the Ordinary by Joyce Rupp



Friday, December 27, 2013

A Family Album



This weekend in our Catholic Christian churches, we continue to celebrate the Christmas season with the Feast of the Holy Family. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122913.cfm  All the reflections, sermons, and homilies speak of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus being the perfect family and a model for us all.  However, life for them was not perfect.  We know that they suffered from a political system that caused them to flee to Egypt.  Joseph had to trust his intuition, faith, and values - and leave his chisels, mallets, and saws behind – and begin anew. And as Jesus grew older, he became a presence that disturbed – especially the religious and political leaders. Thus being refugees and experiencing “up close” rejection and oppression, they grew in wisdom, grace, and age together.

Over this past week, it seems that folks in the U.S.,  became greatly frustrated with the fact that UPS and FedEx did not measure up to what was promised or expected.  People were “put out” because their orders were not delivered on time for Christmas.  No matter what reasons were offered, they were never enough to satisfy the inconvenienced parties.
But then I thought about all the people who were “inconvenienced” and without electric power (approximately 300,000 homes) for at least a week because of the ice storm on the east coast and Canada.  The linemen were working 18-24 hours a day to restore power.  They, too, were away from their families at Christmas, but believed it was their “call” to rescue these people.  The people were grateful to those who came to their aid and were happy just to be alive.  And what about all the other people across our planet who are still waiting? Waiting for relief, food, medicine, and to hear from lost family members, friends or relatives after earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons?


Here during this feast, I am pulled into remembering that we all are family as we share Earth.  However, Earth has had a difficult year with our humanity.  I will list a few of the “sorrowful mysteries” of our year–
• Floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, wild fires, monsoons, typhoons, and cyclones
• Sandy Hook victims,  Jersey Shores Hurricane
• Death of Nelson Mandela and Dustin Friedland (carjacking victim on Dec. 21st in Newark, NJ) http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/das-office-held-deadly-nj-mall-carjacking-21296900
• Bombing during Boston Marathon
• Three women kidnapped and held captive for 10 years in Cleveland, OH


And yet it was in the responses – financially, physically, spiritually, and psychologically, that we experienced the “joyful mysteries” as a family of Earth to bring hope and healing to all survivors of these devastations.  I will also provide a clip from Yahoo News of the highlights of 2013. May you pray it as you view it. It is a “family album” of the Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries of our 2013 year across our planet.

http://news.yahoo.com/2013-front-page-news-183119205.html


And so we pray:
Creator of the Stars, God of Epiphanies, You are the Great Star.  You have marked my path with light.  You have filled my sky with stars naming each star, guiding it, until it shines into my heart, awakening me to deeper seeing, new revelations and brighter epiphanies.
O Infinite Star Giver, I now ask for wisdom and courage to follow these stars for their names are many and my heart is fearful.
They shine on me where ever I go: The Star of Hope, The Star of Mercy and Compassion, The Star of Justice and Peace, The Star of Tenderness and Love, The Star of Suffering, The Star of Joy.
And every time I feel the shine, I am called to follow it, to sing it, to live it, all the way to the cross and beyond.
O Creator of the Stars, You have become within me and unending Epiphany.                (From: Seasons of Your Heart by Macrina Wiederkehr)


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Prayer

Sharon’s Christmas Prayer


She was five,
 sure of the facts,
 and recited them
 with slow solemnity
 convinced every word
 was revelation.


 She said
 they were so poor
 they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
 to eat
 and they went a long way from home
 without getting lost. The lady rode
 a donkey, the man walked, and the baby
 was inside the lady.


 They had to stay in a stable
 with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)
 but the Three Rich Men found them
 because a star lited the roof.
 Shepherds came and you could
 pet the sheep but not feed them.
 Then the baby was borned.
 And do you know who he was?


 Her quarter eyes inflated
 to silver dollars.
 The baby was God.

 And she jumped in the air
 whirled around, dove into the sofa
 and buried her head under the cushion
 which is the only proper response
 to the Good News of the Incarnation.


– John Shea, The Hour of the Unexpected


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Stable Invitation!

Magnificat of the Shepherds
Luke 2:15-20

My soul delights in the greatness of the people summoned by angels,
and my spirit embraces each puzzled face that peers
through the lamplight at the warm-bundled gift of our song-filled God.
As our eyes meet, joy flows between us and our chins are lifted with gladness.
Yes, from this day forward all generations shall raise their voices
to proclaim those who gather here as blessed, for the Almighty has done
great things for us.
Holy are the simple people. And God’s mercy reaches from age to age
for those who would join hands and follow a holy calling.
The power of wonder has called them from the meadows; they are no longer
cold.  Kings sit alone in their palaces, and we laugh together in this comfortable place.
In the midst of this night we have shared the bread and meat of our haversacks
and our wineskins pass from mouth to mouth. The kitchen of the inn is long locked and
shuttered. Come, God of Israel, celebrate with your people, mindful of your love of  dancing . . .
according to the stories of David and of Judith . . . mindful of your
love of dancing, with garlands of straw flowerets wound about our necks,
with the bells of the flock and tongue-licked pans for tambourines,
we celebrate in psalm and canticle.


From: Miryam of Nazareth by Ann Johnson




Adoration of the Shepherds ~ Nicolas Poussin


UNTO HIS OWN
Homeless that first night –
One more statistic
To add to the census,
One more mouth to feed.
Only the shepherds,
Having nothing to lose
except a little sleep,
came to see.


From: Woman Un-Bent by Irene Zimmerman

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Bethlehem Star Inn!


Magnificat of the Stable
(Luke 2:6-7) 

We came to Bethlehem in early evening, exhausted from the long trip. The city already filled with Jews born here. Bethlehem, House of Bread, City of David, singer of songs, City of his grandmother, the beloved Ruth. There are families who return even to distant relatives, to birth their children here in family homes generation after generation. These Jews are gathered at the command of the Romans in order to record a census of the people born here. 

We see Jews by the thousands, arriving from the west, the south, and like ourselves from the north. Jews are sleeping in the open fields, on the rooftops, for there are no rooms at the inns. The Roman census clerks and their women have confiscated all of the inn rooms for their numbers.  We hear their drunken laughter surging through the open doors.  The smell of their pigs roasting in the garden sickens us as they well know.

This is no place for our child to be born. The innkeeper looks at me with distress as he whispers that there is no room at his inn. But he turns from his house, motions to Joseph to follow as he leads us over the hills to the near empty eastern side of the city.

There he makes room in his private stable cave, away from the crowds and the noise.  A newly cleaned place, safe, pure. He hurries back to his unwelcoming duties.

My soul rests confidently in the animal warmth and the lantern light of this simple place, Beloved Creator, and my spirit rejoices in the privacy of this time of birthing we share with you, O God of Creation, - for you come alive again tonight in the bone and flesh of your people.  Yes, this is  the time we have waited for. This is the moment of blessing.

Holy is birth, and you shall show yourself from age to age in those who enter into creation with you. You have shown the power of a dream enfleshed and we are humbled.

You have pulled down all our strivings and lifted up this simple, common moment. This stable is filled with good things, new life and happy people.

Are those in the inn rooms as satisfied? You have come to Israel, mindful of our shared nature, according to the promise of Eden . . . mindful of our nature to seek the wisdom of new life together as long as we walk the earth.

From Miryam of Nazareth by Ann Johnson


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent-ing to Christmas and Beyond!



Oftentimes, writers post a reflection from their archives. I have done this, too. I wrote this for a Peace Tree Lighting a few years ago.  The images, invitations, and inspirations still ring true.  
Have a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year!  Sister Jean

The Christmas poem, Amazing Peace by Maya Angelou revealed these inspirations:
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes 
Into this climate of fear and apprehension,
Christmas enters.  It is the season of gladness.

Writer and storyteller, John Shea tells us what Christmas is all about through the eyes of a child.  And so he shares this story:  “She was five, sure of the facts, and recited them with slow solemnity, convinced every word was revelation.  She said, ‘They were so poor they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat and they went a long way from home without getting lost. The lady rode a donkey, the man walked, and the baby was inside the lady.   They had to stay in a stable with an ox and an ass, but the Three Rich Men found them because a star lighted the roof.  Shepherds came and you could pet the sheep but not feed them.  Then the baby was borned.  And do you know who he was?’   Then her quarter-shaped eyes inflated to silver dollars . . . as she continued.  ‘The baby was God.’   And she jumped in the air and whirled around . . . which is the only proper response to the Good News of the Incarnation.”

Yes, it is Christmas time; it is the Glad Season; a halting of hate time.  At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ; we celebrate the Promise of Peace.  We celebrate this awesome mystery; an incredible, unfathomable, infinite kind of love that is difficult to wrap our minds around, much less our hearts!  

We, too, need to consider transforming our eyes to silver dollar size and jumping in the air and twirling because we have heard the Good News!  Our God has truly entered the human condition, a human condition that is not all clean and lovely, warm and welcoming as Christmas cards would have us believe.  As one author reflects, “Our secular, consumer society has usurped much of the wondrous mystery of it all from under us. Have we not, as well, sanitized the whole scene?  Have we not softened the rough straw with Downy,  sprayed a fragrance to cover the smells of the animals; silenced the cries of Mary in childbirth; tranquilized Joseph in his fear as he heard the first cries of this baby boy? Then there were these strange shepherds who had come in off the field, unkempt, poor and smelly.  Could not this have felt rather intrusive to Mary and Joseph in this shabby but sacred scene with their new born?  Was there possibly a healthy hesitance in Mary to hand them her baby to hold?” 

Jesus came into the world to homeless refugees, into abject poverty, on the outskirts of a brutal empire.  Christmas celebrates, not just the birth of a baby meek and mild, but a life of one who was perfect and total Love, perfect and total nonviolence, perfect and total peace.   Jesus was Word Incarnate whose words took flesh as well.  His words were of compassion, healing, friendship, encouragement and empowerment.  Jesus not only spoke of a God of mercy and forgiveness, but extended that forgiveness to all whom he encountered.  Jesus not only spoke of God’s Reign of justice, but he stood in solidarity with the poor and the outcasts. He not only spoke of a God who longs for our wholeness, but he touched a leper so that his skin would be made clean; he stooped to straighten the woman bent over by the law.  And to the hungry crowd, he fed their emptiness with the bread of compassion and truth.

Truly the nonviolent Jesus was a presence that disturbed.  He was the thunder in the mountain passes.  Into this climate of fear and apprehension, our God entered. Jesus taught by his way of life - for Jesus was the Word that both stabilized and destabilized; that comforted and discomforted; he was Wonder-Counselor, the Prince of Peace who filled our world with majesty, mystery and meaning.


A life of peace is both an inner journey toward a disarmed heart and a public journey toward a disarmed world.  However, we are not to lose heart. “We were made for these times,” writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  “People everywhere are concerned and deeply bewildered about the state of affairs in our world. Ours is not a task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world will help immensely.”

Once we become aware that our God is a God of peace, that we are created to dwell in God’s own peace here and now, then we can know deep peace within our own hearts, and that we can contribute to the peace of the world, then we will turn around, twirl around, and possibly jump in the air and start the journey of peace and stay with it for the rest of our lives.
Choosing to live a life of peace is a difficult balancing act between the inner work and public work, a high wire trapeze walk that requires calm, patient, step by step mindfulness and heartfulness toward a specific purpose, hope and vision.   

Yes, we are made for these times and as a people, a church, a nation, a world, we need generous, creative, imaginative people whose zeal can be ignited by the vision of a daring and not quite rational undertaking.  In our nation of abundance, let us not forget that 20 percent of the children in our nation live in poverty.   And in comparison with other industrialized nations, we have more high school drop outs, more violent crime among youth, more poverty among the elderly, more medically uninsured citizens, and the widest gap of income between the rich and the poor.  

Unlike the little girl in our initial story, these are real facts that call us to ponder the scarcities and the inequities of our social system.  Yes, we are made for these times – and we must dare to become imaginative, creative and generous so as to confront the dark forces that keep our minds and hearts hostage. Yes,  now is the time for hope to be born again in the faces and hearts of our children, and where we  all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us as pillars of passion, heralds of hope and voices with vision where it will spread around the earth, brightening all things.

Yes, we are made for these times and called, invited, chosen and challenged to not only speak peace but BE peace. We are made for these times to stretch out and to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Together, let us look at our world and speak the word peace aloud. Together, let us commit ourselves to listen carefully as it gathers strength. 

We will hear its sweetness.  It will be loud; louder than bombs.  
It will halt all hate time.
Together, let us look at each other, then into ourselves.
Together we will say without shyness or apology or any hesitation; 
Peace, my friend; Peace my brother; Peace, my sister; 
Peace, my neighbor. Peace to all who are strangers.
Peace, to all the least, the last and the lost.
Peace to all and come the way of friendship.
For at this Holy Moment; at this Holy Instant it is the season of gladness, 
The Season of Amazing Peace!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Advent Retreat: Third Week ~ iSlow Down



http://www.csasisters.org/pdfs/Prayers/advent/advent%20retreat%20third%20week.pdf

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego!


“The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe is for the restoration of justice. She highlights the need to be present to those who are poor, to those devastated by war, to those whose voices have been silenced by the pillage of conquest, to those who are rendered invisible by social and political structures.” (Sister Esther Pineda, CSJ)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tepeyac

http://paxchristiusa.org/tag/our-lady-of-guadalupe/

http://infallible-catholic.blogspot.com/2012/04/miraculous-image-of-our-lady-of.html

http://www.netplaces.com/virgin-mary/ancient-appearances/guadalupe-mexico-1531.htm

http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/


Excerpts of Mary’s words to Juan Diego on Tepeyac 
“My youngest and dearest son, I urge and firmly order you to go to the bishop again tomorrow. Tell him in my name and make him fully understand my intention that he start work on the chapel I'm requesting. Tell him again that I am the ever Virgin, Holy Mary, the Mother of God, who is sending you."

"Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. . .  Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you."

"My youngest and dearest son, these different kinds of flowers are the proof, the sign that you will take to the Bishop. You will tell him from me that he is to see in them my desire, and therefore he is to carry out my wish, my will. And you, who are my messenger, in you I place my absolute trust. I strictly order you not to unfold your tilma or reveal its contents until you are in his presence. You will relate to him everything very carefully: how I sent you to the top of the hill to cut and gather flowers, all you saw and marveled at in order to convince the Governing Priest so that he will then do what lies within his responsibility so that my house of God which I requested will be made, will be built."




http://catholiceducation.org/articles/stories_of_faith_and_character/cs0092.html


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

And when great souls die . . .


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDumMEzYyqk

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/obamas-speech-at-mandela-memorial-mandela-taught-us-the-power-of-action-but-also-ideas/2013/12/10/a22c8a92-618c-11e3-bf45-61f69f54fc5f_story.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrsnwXFKk84

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhUMsqei7kM

Maya Angelou’s ‘When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Remembering Nelson Mandela . . .



Fainting to the tune of Amazing Grace
Imagine this scene from a recent courtroom trial in South Africa: A frail black woman stands slowly to her feet. She is something over 70 years of age. Facing her from across the room are several white security police officers, one of whom, Mr. Van der Broek, has just been tried and found implicated in the murders of both the woman's son and her husband some years before.
It was indeed Mr. Van der Broek, it has now been established, who had come to the woman's home a number of years back, taken her son, shot him at point-blank range and then burned the young man's body on a fire while he and his officers partied nearby.

Several years later, Van der Broek and his cohorts had returned to take away her husband as well. For many months she heard nothing of his whereabouts. Then, almost two years after her husband's disappearance, Van der Broek came back to fetch the woman herself. How vividly she remembers that evening, going to a place beside a river where she was shown her husband, bound and beaten, but still strong in spirit, lying on a pile of wood. The last words she heard from his lips as the officers poured gasoline over his body and set him aflame were, "Father, forgive them."

And now the woman stands in the courtroom and listens to the confessions offered by Mr. Van der Broek. A member of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission turns to her and asks, "So, what do you want? How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?"

"I want three things," begins the old woman, calmly but confidently. "I want first to be taken to the place where my husband's body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial."

She pauses, then continues. "My husband and son were my only family. I want, secondly, therefore, for Mr. Van der Broek to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have remaining within me."

"And, finally," she says, "I want a third thing. I would like Mr. Van der Broek to know that I offer him my forgiveness because Jesus Christ died to forgive. This was also the wish of my husband. And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. Van der Broek in my arms, embrace him and let him know that he is truly forgiven."

As the court assistants come to lead the elderly woman across the room, Mr. Van der Broek, overwhelmed by what he has just heard, faints. And as he does, those in the courtroom, friends, family, neighbors — all victims of decades of oppression and injustice — begin to sing, softly, but assuredly, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnGeMBNS9ZA

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-25190973

http://news.msn.com/world/south-africans-mourn-celebrate-life-of-nelson-mandela 

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. 

For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.

Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.

If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

More Remembering . . .




Lord, make me your witness. In this world of darkness, let my light shine.
In this world of lies, let me speak the good news of truth.
In this world of hate and fear, let me radiate your love. 
In this world of despair, let me spread hope. 
In this world of systemic injustice and institutionalized evil, let me promote justice and goodness.
In this world of sadness and sorrow, let me bring joy.
In this world of cruelty and condemnation, let me show your compassion.
In this world of vengeance and retaliation, let me offer your mercy and reconciliation. 
In this world of war, let me serve your gift of peace. 
In this world of violence, make me a teacher and apostle of your nonviolence. 
In this world of death, let me proclaim the new life of resurrection. 
Help me to witness to the resurrection of Jesus by loving my enemies, showing compassion, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, serving the poor, liberating the oppressed, resisting war, beating plowshares, and disarming my heart and the world.
In the name of the risen, nonviolent Jesus, Amen

Taken from:
You Will be My Witnesses: 
Saints, Prophets and Martyrs
By John Dear, sj
http://www.fatherjohndear.org/


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Remembering . . .



http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=sisters+in+el+salvador+youtube&FORM=VIRE3#view=detail&mid=B9F5427477354B07731BB9F5427477354B07731B

http://www.domlife.org/2010Stories/romero_days_srcarla.htm

http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Martyrs/Churchwomen/index.html

ARCHBISHOP OSCAR ROMERO PRAYER: A STEP ALONG THE WAY

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Advent ~ iListen

There is an Online Advent Retreat link now posted on our CSA main website page http://www.csasisters.org/ 

Simply click on the link  “Online Advent Retreat” under News & Events and you will find the Introduction and First Week of Advent reflections.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In Thanksgiving . . .

“We thank our God every time we think of you. In every prayer we utter, we rejoice at the way you have all continually helped promote the Good News of Peace with Justice from the very first day. We are sure of this much, that the God, who has begun this good work in you, will carry it through to completion. Our prayer is that your love may abound more and more, both in understanding and in wealth of experience, so that with a clear conscience and blameless conduct you may learn to value the things that really matter, up to the day of Christ Jesus. It is our wish that you be found rich in the harvest of justice which Jesus Christ has ripened in you, to the glory and praise of God.” (Adapted from Philippians 1:1-11)
We thank you for visiting our CSA website.  We wish you blessings and thank you for your prayers and support.
Gratefully,
Sister Jean

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Earth . . . Teach Us to Remember . . .



If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice. ~ Meister Eckhart

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~ John F. Kennedy

For each new morning with its light, 
For rest and shelter of the night, 
For health and food, 
For love and friends, 
For everything Thy goodness sends.  ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Creator hear us, for we are your children.
Father we thank you for all that you have given us.
We thank you for the lessons that you have taught us and
for the life that you have allowed us to lead.
We thank you Mother Earth for your beauty and sustenance.
We thank the masters of this universe
for their guidance, protection and direction.
Father we thank you for the white light that surrounds us, and for
that same white light which transmutes all negativity
into love and healing.
We thank you father, for the healing of our souls,
the healing of the Earth and for the healing of all mankind.
We call upon the power of the universe, to
allow us happiness, prosperity, healing and love.
We call upon the power of the universe for
good relationship to all things.
We call upon the power of the universe, for sacred direction,
sacred protection, sacred correction and sacred connection.
We call upon the power of the universe for magic and miracles.
We honor you Creator, as we honor all things seen and unseen.
We honor you Creator, as we honor our ancestors, 
as we honor ourselves.
~ Grant Redhawk - Two Feathers - Native American

Thank You, thank You, thank You, generous God!  You have injected life with joy, thus we know laughter. You have dabbed creation with color, thus we enjoy beauty. You have whistled a divine tune into the rhythm of life, thus we hear music. You have filled our minds with questions, thus we appreciate mystery. You have entered our hearts with compassion, thus we experience faith. Thank You, God, Thank You. Thank You! ~ C. Welton Gaddy   

Thanksgiving Prayer  
In the spirit of humility we give thanks for all that is. 
We thank the great spiritual beings who have shared their wisdom. 
We thank our ancestors who brought us to where we are now. 
We are grateful for the opportunity to walk this planet, 
to breathe the air, 
to taste the food, 
to experience sensations of a human body/mind, 
to share in this wonder that is life. 
We are grateful for the natural world that supports us, 
for the community of humankind that enables us to do many wondrous things. 
We are grateful that we are conscious, 
that as intelligent beings we can reflect upon the many gifts we have been given. ~ Tom Barrett 

Native American Prayers
Oh Great Spirit, 
Whose voice I hear in the wind, 
Whose breath gives life to the world, 
Hear me! 
I come to you as one of your many children. 
I am small and weak. 
I need your strength and wisdom. 
May I walk in beauty. 
Make my eyes behold the red and purple sunset. 
Make my hands respect the things that you have made, 
And my ears sharp to hear your voice. 
Make me wise so that I may know the things 
That you have taught your children-- 
The lessons that you have hidden in every leaf and rock. 
Make me strong, not to be superior to my brothers, but to be 
able to fight my greatest enemy: myself. 
Make me ever ready to come to you with straight eyes, so that 
When life fades as the faded sunset 
My spirit will come to you without shame.  ~ John Yellow Lark


Earth Teach Me to Remember
Earth teach me stillness 
as the grasses are stilled with light. 
Earth teach me suffering 
as old stones suffer with memory. 
Earth teach me humility 
as blossoms are humble with beginning. 
Earth Teach me caring 
as the mother who secures her young. 
Earth teach me courage 
as the tree which stands alone. 
Earth teach me limitation 
as the ant which crawls on the ground. 
Earth teach me freedom 
as the eagle which soars in the sky. 
Earth teach me resignation 
as the leaves which die in the fall. 
Earth teach me regeneration 
as the seed which rises in the spring. 
Earth teach me to forget myself 
as melted snow forgets its life. 
Earth teach me to remember kindness 
as dry fields weep in the rain. 
Ute, North American

http://www.interluderetreat.com/prayers.htm

http://www.worldprayers.org/archive/index/celebrations_index.html

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/blogs/maps.php?id=17144

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/features.php?id=16274

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/

http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/112813.html


Monday, November 18, 2013

Meeting Your Edge!



There is a story about a group of people climbing to the top of a mountain. It turns out it's pretty steep, and as soon as they get up to a certain height, a couple of people look down and see how far it is, and they completely freeze; they had come up against their edge and they couldn't go beyond it. The fear was so great that they couldn't move. Other people tripped on ahead, laughing and talking, but as the climb got steeper and more scary, more people began to get scared and freeze. All the way up this mountain there were places where people met their edge and just froze and couldn't go any farther. The people who made it to the top looked out and were very happy to have made it to the top.

The moral of the story is that it really doesn't make any difference where you meet your edge; just meeting it is the point. Life is a whole journey of meeting your edge again and again. That's where you're challenged; that's where, if you're a person who wants to live, you start to ask yourself questions like, "Now, why am I so scared? What is it that I don't want to see? Why can't I go any further than this?" The people who got to the top were not the heroes of the day. It's just that they weren't afraid of heights; they are going to meet their edge somewhere else. The ones who froze at the bottom were not the losers. They simply stopped first and so their lesson came earlier than the others. However, sooner or later everybody meets his or her edge.

Pema Chodron
From 'The Wisdom of No Escape'


Thursday, November 14, 2013

End Time ~ Make a Difference!

If each grain of sand were to say:
One grain does not make a mountain,
There would be no land

If each drop of water were to say:
One drop does not make an ocean
There would be no sea

If each note of music were to say:              
One note does not make a symphony,
There would be no melody

If each word were to say:
One word does not make a library
There would be no book

If each brick were to say:
One brick does not make a wall,
There would be no house

If each seed were to say:
One seed does not make a field
There would be no harvest

You do make the difference
Begin today and make the difference
~ Author Unknown

My sister called to tell me that she and her husband had just taken part in a three-day Mission at their home parish.  The priest-preacher-presenter belongs to a religious order that ministers in the south side of Chicago.  My sister was so impressed with his presentations that she could actually quote some of his statements to me. But what moved her the most was that on the first night of the Mission, he informed the crowded church that there would be the Sacrament of Reconciliation the next night and that twelve priests would be available.

He told them that they needed only to confess that one story that keeps them from being free – he went on - according to my sister, that there would only be an Our Father and Hail Mary required for a “penance” along with one act of kindness.  He told them that no one would condemn them, yell at them, judge them, or insult them. They would only be companioned by the gift of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion.  My sister also said that he often would tell the crowd of people that in the name of his brothers, he apologizes for any priests who may have brought harm or shame to them in any way.  My sister said that on the night of Reconciliation, there was standing room only.  This one priest, at this one Mission, in this one place and time has made a difference in the lives of so many.

In our Scripture readings this Sunday, in the Gospel of Luke, the Biblical commentaries reflect on Jesus’ preaching of the End Times – it is Jesus’ final time of preaching in the Temple.  And according to the theologians, as Jesus speaks about the destruction of the Temple, “The destruction of the Temple was connected in the popular mind to the end of the world.”  How in our lives have we experienced an “end time” in a variety of forms, such as, significant events or unexpected occurrences? How were we changed because of these occurrences?

I was pondering this writing while waiting for the oil change in my car, and so I made a short list of “end time” items that came to mind.  What if you would make your own “end time” listing – and reflect how each one has affected you in any way.  Here’s my list:
Days are shorter now, temperatures are dropping, trees have shed their leaves, and we have had our first snow.  
Dictators, powerful rulers, government leaders have come and gone 
Houston Astrodome is slated for demolition
Aaron Rogers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, is injured, healing, and waiting to return to the game of football
Pope Francis is a “disturbance in the Force” in a good way ~ the most significant person on Twitter!
So how do we live in “end time” times? We live in them by being present to the Presence of God, and living out our qualities of mercy, generosity, compassion, hope, harmony, and love. 

REVIEW YOUR LIFE NOW

"At least once a year, I imagine that I am about to die. Looking back as truthfully as I can at my entire life, I give full attention to the things I wish hadn’t occurred. Recognizing these mistakes honestly but without self-recrimination, I try to rejoice in the innate wisdom that allows me to see so bravely, and I feel compassion for how I so frequently messed up. Then I can go forward. The future is wide open, and what I do with it is up to me." ~ Pema Chodron

“Simplicity, patience, compassion. 
These three are your greatest treasures. 
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. 
Patient with both friends and enemies, 
you accord with the way things are. 
Compassionate toward yourself, 
you reconcile all beings in the world.”  ~ Lao Tzu

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Prayer of Transformation



Spirit of the living God
Bless us with wisdom and insight.
Confirm in us simplicity and humility
As we recognize our place
In the community of beings.


Flood us with perseverance to continue
The pursuit of justice and peace
In who we are and in all we do.

Draw us into your deep well of love
To courageously embrace new ways
Of living your compassion
With one another, all our sisters and brothers,
And all creation.

Transform us in the living waters of your justice,
So that in countering the hate,
Violence and brokenness of our world,
Each of us is an agent of peace and hope. Amen

 (Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace)

http://c19915.r15.cf1.rackcdn.com/2009/10/PS_Natural_Disaster_Handout_EFJ.pdf
 


Sunday, November 10, 2013

An Inconvenient Truth Re-visited!

Image from Super Typhoon Haiyan

This week the 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Warsaw, Poland from 11 to 22 November.  In light of the recent super typhoons and tropical cyclones it is time to consider once again the “inconvenient truth” of global warming.

I am posting the prayer below by Wende Wheeler which was quoted by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on their website at the time of the tornado in Joplin, Missouri.  The Joplin EF5 tornado killed 161 people and destroyed about 7,500 homes and 550 businesses in a town of 50,000.

And so we pray:
Almighty and merciful God, your people are suffering in the wake of this natural disaster. As we struggle to imagine its scope and comprehend the pain and loss, so that we may be your agents in relief, we lift our voices to you in prayer:

For all those who have lost their lives, that you have received them into your arms of mercy and love;
For all those who grieve, having lost children, parents, family, friends, neighbors, and community, and for all those who are still searching, that they may sense the solace of your presence;

For all those who are sick, injured or suffering, and for those have lost their homes and belongings, that they may find healing and the strength to continue, and the resources to rebuild their lives;
For all those who go to provide food, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and other aid, serving as your hands to comfort, heal and help, that they may be strengthened to do difficult work in devastating conditions;

For all those around the globe who look on in shock and anguish, that you may fill our hearts with compassion for those in need, showing us how you wish us to pray and reach out in the face of such suffering, and not turn from its enormity;

For all of your people, that such events on this earth should not shake our faith. Help us to recognize that our suffering is your suffering, and that your love can be found even in the darkest places. Allow us to see how all of humanity is bound inextricably together, even as we seek your truth in different languages, faiths, cultures, and traditions. Help us to accept the healing and strength you offer, and to remember that ultimately the pain and cares of this world will yield to the peace of everlasting life in you.

All of these prayers we make to you in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Images from Super Typhoon Haiyan