Thursday, February 28, 2013

Part 2: A Woman, A Well, and the Word!



In this encounter, Jesus tells her who he is. He opens himself up and reveals himself to her, calling himself, ‘I Am,’ – the name Yahweh gave to Moses in the burning bush. Transformed in her hope, she then can share the joy of her discovery and bring her neighbors to Jesus.  Having fulfilled her task she then moves again into the background. The townspeople no longer need her.  She has brought them to Jesus. The encounter with Jesus had transformed her life, and she had received a gift that no one could take away from her. “For God’s hope does not disappoint, and God’s intimate love has been poured out into her very being."

Now with the grace of love, acceptance, faith, joy, truth, and freedom the hidden messages within her own life-giving well are generously and abundantly shared with all who are willing to encounter this woman.  For now she stands tall in her transformation. Jesus is the “Gift of God” who is Living Water. The secret message in Jesus, the Living Water is that he is the real well! 

If we drink from Jesus we will never be thirsty again.  If we make Jesus the center of our lives, we will have a spring of water welling up from within us, giving us life, no matter what is happening around us!

So let us ask this woman of the well to walk with us during these Lenten days.  Let her guide us in our journey of faith, hope, and love, so that we, too, will be open to the Hidden Messages of the Life-Giving Water that our God so desires to pour into our hearts.

In closing, the following reflections are by Edwina Gately who places the following words upon the lips of our Samaritan woman. 

“He tells me who he is -
The Christ- the one we all await,
The one who is to come, is here!
I am swelling with a joy and freedom I have never known!
There is a rush like cleansing water
Running through me, Leaving me light as air.
I have no need now - For my jar of clay.
I run - With the Living Water!
I run with the Good News entrusted to me –
To me – By the Christ - Who waited for me, received and filled me at the well
Where women gather.
Honored, blessed, Bearer of new life.
First witness of the Christ - Amongst us
Who broke the rules of exclusion,
Who dared to speak to a woman,
Who asked a favor from such as I,
Then chose me,
Chose me,
The woman
To run, oh, so filled up,
With such Good News.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Part 1 - A Woman, A Well, and the Word!




In 2004, the revolutionary work of the renowned Japanese scientist, Dr. Masaru Emoto, was published in a book entitled, The Hidden Messages in Water.  He discovered that molecules of water are affected by our thoughts, words and feelings. He showed in his research, that when ice forms under positive conditions, (that is, when water is exposed to positive and loving words) then the ice crystals form complex, colorful snowflake patterns.  Then again, he showed that when it is exposed to negative conditions, the crystals that form are incomplete and dull in color. Since humans and the earth are composed mostly of water, his message is one of personal health, global environmental renewal, and a practical plan for peace that starts with each one of us.  His findings imply that we can positively impact the earth.  

In Sunday’s reading from Exodus, God’s hidden message in the water from the rock was that God was present in their midst totally and tenderly. The story recounts the murmuring of the people in the wilderness and the miracle of life-giving water from the rock. Truly, the people thirsted, yet rebelled against Moses and lacked trust in God.  

Here for these desert people, the messages hidden in the water invited them into a deeper awareness that God is truly the one that quenches all thirsts, satisfies all hungers, and fills all emptiness. God was constantly calling them to the Promised Land, but just as constantly, they wanted to go in their own direction.  

In our Gospel, Jesus is in pagan territory, enemy territory, in Samaria where he is absolutely not supposed to be. But as usual, Jesus disregards the rules and breaks through boundaries and borders.  He is tired and thirsty, sitting by the ancient well which belongs to Jacob. Then something extraordinary happens. Jesus is approached by a Samaritan woman, engages her in conversation about religion, and opens her mind and heart in ways that he has not done for anyone else. The result is that he completely changes her, transforms her, if you will. He accepts her as she is and asks for her help. He speaks to her about her life and tells her about herself, and she says, “I see you are a prophet.” Jesus invited her to raise her believing beyond the immediate reality of water of the well that satisfies physical thirst to what would satisfy her spiritual thirst.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Second Sunday of Lent - Shelter me, O God!


This Sunday’s Gospel of the Transfiguration account reminds me of an experience I had with a group of men at the homeless shelter, Repairers of the Breach in Milwaukee, WI.  It is Milwaukee’s only daytime shelter and resource center for the homeless.

Our parish church volunteers faithfully attended monthly gatherings at the shelter to share prayer with the membership of the shelter. We also brought brown bag lunches so that we could “break bread” together and the members could take the “twelve bags of leftovers” with them on their street journeys.

When you approach the shelter, you are greeted by a member who says, “Welcome to our living room.”  We then are given chairs among the shelter members, who also have come for prayer, and we all are introduced. The Scriptures for the day are read a couple of times while we munch on our lunches. Then we proceed to move into groups for shared prayer – again the Scriptures are read a few more times; we hold hands, sing a little,  and we are given the directives to share a word or phrase that is meaningful to us.  

I recall Jerome,  on my right side, who began to share how he was so grateful for the day shelter. He had been living with his mother for a number of years, but since her recent death he had to move out of the house since he could no longer manage its finances. His new house was his truck.  He “drove truck” for a living and got by with very little comforts in life. After reading the Scriptures of how Jesus’ BFF’s wanted to hang out a little longer at the mountain of Transfiguration and erect themselves shelters – Jerome was moved by this scene and expressed that he would only desire one shelter and he would believe himself to be blessed by the almighty,  loving God - and that  he was truly most blessed by the shelter – Repairers of the Breach.

Let us pray:  
O God, gather me now to be with you as you are with me.  Soothe my tiredness; quiet my fretfulness; curb my aimlessness; relieve my compulsiveness; let me be easy for a moment.

O Lord, release me from the fears and guilts which grip me so tightly; from the expectations and opinions which I so tightly grip, that I may be open to receiving what you give, to risking something genuinely new,  to learning something refreshingly different.

O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.  Forgive me for claiming so much for myself that I leave no room for gratitude; for confusing exercises in self-importance with acceptance of self-worth; for complaining so much of my burdens that I become a burden; for competing against others so insidiously that I stifle celebrating them and receiving your blessing through their gifts. 

O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.  Keep me in touch with myself, with my needs, my anxieties, my angers, my pains, my corruptions, that I may claim them as my own rather than blame them on someone else.

O Lord, deepen my wounds into wisdom; shape my weaknesses into compassion; gentle my envy into enjoyment, my fear into trust, my guilt into honesty, my accusing fingers into tickling ones.  

O God, gather me to be with you as you are with me.  (Guerrillas of Grace ~ Ted Loder)

Monday, February 18, 2013

People of the Cloud!



Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult--once we truly understand and accept it--then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. Scott Peck 

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. Pema Chodron  

Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing we call human existence. Anthony de Mello     


In the Gospel, for Sunday, February 24th, Jesus has taken his BFF’s  up the high mountain.  It was believed that on mountains one could go who was seeking a special relationship with God.  Here on this mountain, Jesus stands with two prophets, Moses, “the liberator” and Elijah, “the troubler of Israel.”  On this holy mountain, Jesus bursts forth into a presence that overwhelmed the disciples.  Jesus turned into a radiant laser-like beam of energy!

The voice within the cloud directs the disciples to listen to God’s Beloved – “not just here on the mountain top – but on the plains of challenge and within the valleys where the people of God experience hunger, injustice, poverty and exploitation at the hands of the powers that be.”

The Transfiguration is a moment of glory commissioning us all and empowering us to live in the presence of God and to see the radiance of that presence in all the events of our lives: the people, the cosmos, and in ourselves.  Initially, the disciples were overcome by sleep, yet with this “explosion” of divine energy, they were awake . . . wide-eyed awake!

By our Baptism, we are all called to be “people of the cloud.”  We are invited to listen, and to be wide-eyed awake to express something of God through our lives. Through us, God wants to say something to this world.  Our task is to radiate the image of God and let it shine through us by our compassion, our healing, our understanding, and our willingness to be transformed.  It is said, that the purpose of life is not to be happy.  The purpose of life is to matter, to have it make a difference that you lived at all.  Our Baptism is the gift in which we choose to live out our purpose and it is the purpose of every human being to give God glory simply by being who we are with all our potential.

In an ancient story, it is told of an old pilgrim who was making his way to the Himalayan Mountains in the bitter cold of winter when it began to rain.  An innkeeper said to him, “How will you ever get there in this kind of weather, my good man?” The old man answered cheerfully, “My heart got there first, so it’s easy for the rest of me to follow.”

So let us be open to the graces of these readings. 

  • Let us take up the challenge to be prophetic voices, “people of the cloud” and to speak for the least, the last and the lost.  
  • Let us take up the challenge to not stay in the comfort of the present, but with an urgency move with the mission of Jesus into a future full of mystery, paradox, ambiguity, wonder, and wisdom.
  • Finally, let us get up, look up - and see only Jesus, and not be afraid to follow our hearts purpose and may we allow the light of God to shine in us, through us and to transform us and our world.
  • http://www.sacredspace.ie/  See an online retreat at the bottom of the page.




Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Lenten Reflection


Lenten Psalm of Longing by Ed Hays

I thank you, O God, for the warming of the winds that brings a melting of the snow, for daylight hours that daily grow longer and richer in the aroma of hope.

Spring lingers beneath the horizon as approaching echoes of Easter ring in my ears.

I lift up my heart to you, Beloved, in this season of Lent that gently sweeps across my sluggish and sleeping heart, awakening me to a deeper love for you.

May the wind of the Spirit that drove Jesus into the desert, into the furnace of prayer, 
Also drive me with a passion during this Lenten season to enkindle the fire of my devotion in the desert of Lenten love.

Birds above, on migratory wings, signal me to an inner migration, a message that draws me Homeward bound on Spirit’s wings to the heart of my Beloved.

May I earnestly use this Lenten season to answer the inner urge to return.
(Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim)

The earth is resilient. As creative beings, we, too, are resilient. We are watered by the slightest daily practice that brings our creativity gently to bloom. Julia Cameron

Visit our online Lenten retreat.  Posting each week at:
http://www.csasisters.org/lent.cfm

Video: Ash Wednesday and Lent in Two Minutes - 
http://bustedhalo.com/video/ash-wednesday-in-two-minutes

http://www.csjp.org/sjp/images/trasnaWEB.pdf


Monday, February 11, 2013

Lent~a season of soul-growth!



A story:
A businessman needing to attend a conference in a faraway city decided to travel on country roads rather than the freeways so he could enjoy a relaxing journey.  After some hours of traveling he realized he was hopelessly lost.  Seeing a farmer tending his field on the side of the road, he stopped to ask for directions. “Can you tell me how far it is to Chicago?”  he asked the farmer. “Well, I don’t rightly know,” the farmer replied.
“Well, can you tell me how far I am from Fond du Lac, WI?” the businessman questioned again.  
“Well, I don’t rightly know,” the farmer again replied.  
“Can you at least tell me the quickest way to the main road?”  The exasperated businessman asked.  
“Nope, I don’t rightly know,” the farmer again answered.
“You really don’t know very much at all, do you?” blurted the impatient businessman.
“Nope, not much, but I ain't lost,” the farmer calmly answered.

Lent is a season of soul growth –  possibly we will need to take leave of the “business as usual” main roads in our lives and risk taking some back roads that may lead us into spaces within ourselves that we have hesitated visiting. We may find ourselves having to be more aware and watchful of signs and symbols that gently direct us to the next turn on our journey. We may even find ourselves a little lost, and having to stop to ask for directions, or just sit listening for the soft and intimate voice of the Divine whispering encouragement to our fearful and anxious hearts. 

It is said that Lent is not an event – It is not something that happens to us.  It is at most a microcosm of what turns out to be a lifelong journey to the center of the Self. It is written: The purpose of Lent is to confront us with ourselves in a way that’s conscious and purposeful, that enables us to deal with the rest of life well.  

In the gospels, (Mt. 6: 1-6, 16-18) Jesus addressees the three pillars of religion in ancient Judaism – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – the voice of Jesus down the ages warns us about being seduced into believing that any of these practices, by virtue of their own worthiness, is really religious.

About those who got their satisfaction out of standing up in the synagogues or praying on the streets, he warned his disciples “When you pray, go into your room alone and pray in secret.”
To those who gave great alms and in return got great publicity for it, he said, “When you give alms do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
In regard to those whose fasting was done with public fanfare and insincere distress, he said to his own followers, “When you fast, dress up, look your best.”  In other words, Lighten up and smile!

Another story:
The story goes that the Holy Man, Nasrudin was now an old man looking back on his life.  He sat with his friends in the tea shop telling his story.
“When I was young I was fiery – I wanted to awaken everyone.  I prayed to God to give me the strength to change the world.”

“In mid-life I awoke one day and realized my life was half over and I had changed no one.  So I prayed to God to give me the strength to change those close around me who so much needed it.”

“Alas, now I am old and my prayer is simpler, ‘God,’ I ask, ‘please give me the strength to as least change myself.’”

http://www.ronrolheiser.com/columnarchive/?id=364

http://www.ronrolheiser.com/columnarchive/?id=50

http://www.ronrolheiser.com/columnarchive/?id=393

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




Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ash Wednesday - a movable feast!



At one time in my life, (in the other century to be exact), I was in a ministry in which I was on a team of talented, highly educated, hard-working, creative, and visionary people. All was great in relationships, purpose, goals, systems, etc. We had a few “speed bumps” now and then in which we had to “wrestle” with what was going to keep us moving forward for the sake of the people we served. We truly believed in empowerment and unlocking the potential of those we served, and how they, too, could encourage that in others as well. Then, one day, the “keepers of the system" decided to reconfigure structures, goals, philosophies, programs, and outcomes.  No matter how many committees were designed, or meetings were scheduled, it became evident that “what was” was gone – it was no more. Our team had to make personal decisions as to how we would move forward. Conform or take leave??  Regretfully, some of us discerned leaving all together.  So I moved on to a Sabbatical program for three months – to catch my breath, to rest my spirit, and possibly gain insight as to where I was being invited to stretch beyond my “comfort zone.” 

Upon my return to the Midwest after my Sabbatical, I attended a liturgy on Ash Wednesday.  When the Presider began the Gospel reflection, I almost fell out of my bench. You see, he began his reflection with this question: “What in your life has turned into ashes?”  Yikes, it felt like a tsunami washed through my soul!  I knew what he was asking!  He further reflected on how a bishop in a near-by State had been so loved by his people, and was a great leader in his diocese, was recently picked up by the local police for drunk driving.  They found his car in a ditch.  He was asleep, smelled of alcohol,  and slumped over the wheel.  Sorry to say, that pieces of his life had turned into ashes.  

At the end of the Gospel reflection, the Presider concluded with another question: “What in your life is God asking you to turn into ashes?” I knew this answer deep in my soul as well.Truly, Ash Wednesday is a movable feast.  It comes at different “seasons” of our lives, and at different times of the year other than the predicted introduction to the Lenten liturgical season.  Reflecting back, I realize that I would not be writing this blog if God had not invited me to learn about the gift of ashes in my life.  Have a blessed Lent!!

So let us ponder this week:
What in your life has turned into ashes?
What in your life is God asking of you to turn into ashes?

Story:  Two seeds lay side by side in the fertile soil. The first seed said, “I want to grow! I want to send my roots deep into the soil beneath me, and thrust my sprouts through the earth’s crust above me. I want to unfurl my tender buds like banners to announce the arrival of spring.  I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the blessing of the morning dew on my petals!” And so she grew.
The second seed said, “I am afraid.  If I send my roots into the ground below, I don’t know what I will encounter in the dark.  If I push my way through the hard soil above me I may damage my delicate sprouts. What if I let my buds open and a snail tries to eat them? And if I were to open my blossoms, a small child may pull me from the ground. No, it is much better for me to wait until it is safe.” And so she waited. 
A yard hen scratching around in the early spring ground for food found the waiting seed and promptly ate it.
Moral of the Story: Those of us who refuse to risk and grow get swallowed up by life!              (Patty Hanson)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Jesus ~ The Depth Finder!



Our Gospel story for this Sunday, reminds me of the time in which four of us women went fishing with our families. The women were in one boat and the dad’s were in the other. The deal was that the boat with the team that caught the most fish would not have to clean the fish. In other words, losers get the guts, but no glory! 
Both boats were out early evening.  For awhile no one was catching fish. Suddenly, we women hit a pocket of active small fish, and soon we filled our nets, the pail in the boat, and part of the boat’s floor so that the fish were flapping around our ankles!  At the end of our time, we came ashore to claim our prize of having caught the most fish while the dad’s got the prize of cleaning all the fish! Then our mother’s prepared them all and we banqueted together to celebrate our abundant haul of fish!

This Sunday’s Gospel is another “fish story”- and in particular, a story of call, in which Jesus is not only trolling for companions, but seriously out to “hook” members for his “fishing team." He is near the lake, a place of great village activity, and “catches” Simon and his buddies doing what they do best. He climbs into Simon Peter’s boat, asks him to push away from the shore, and does what he does best, -  a little teaching to lure them into listening to his message. How do you like Jesus’ assertive skills?  At times when we are aware that God is truly “in our boat”, we feel comfortable, secure, everything seems to be going smoothly. But life being what it is, can cause turbulence and rock our boat quite suddenly to make us feel afraid, insecure, wobbly - we may even feel that we might fall out and drown!

Jesus, the carpenter, (who may even have had a hand in building these boats) asks Simon and his gang to stop cleaning their nets and go out again. Jesus says, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Now Simon, a professional fisherman, and a savvy businessman, is a little hesitant, or possibly a tad -  or maybe a whole lot skeptical with this request – but somehow is trusting in his depths that this will be worth it. This was their livelihood –yet, this would be a significant financial gamble. They do follow through and soon their nets are filled to the breaking point and the boats are on the verge of sinking.  Jesus calls them again, (some of us need repeated callings) but this time with more clarity and intensity - Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”  Then we are told that they left everything, father, brothers, boats, business – everything.  Yikes – this was pure grace!!

Today, fishing has gone high-tech. Fisher-persons have instruments such as ultrasound-like fish finding gadgets, sonar, GPS, depth finders, and touch screen - hi-resolution 3D fish finders.  You can literally see the kind of fish that’s swimming around under your boat, in super clear images and in real time. 

After reflecting on this story, I think I'd like to consider Jesus as a “depth finder.”  He truly saw the depth within Simon and his friends and knew they would be a great catch for his ministry.  They were team people; they were hard workers; they were (no doubt) multilingual, patient, and community oriented. Why not invite them? Why not cast a net of love, empowerment, and challenge around them to move their gifts into the light beyond the boundaries and borders of this village? Beyond what they had always known.

So what is the Good News for us to ponder?
What is our “boat” that gives us safety, comfort, and possibly “stuckness”? 
Are we willing to search the depths of ourselves within to find our potential?
What are we willing to let go of to respond to God’s voice in our lives to possibly be a servant leader?  
Are we a person who is willing to step out of our own boat of comfort, control, set attitudes, and patterns of behavior and be about the call to search out the potential in ourselves?  In others?  - And invite them to find God in their depths as well?

The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.” Dale Carnegie

“Noah was a brave man to sail in a wooden boat with two termites.”