Saturday, March 30, 2013

Vigil Darkness ~ Vigil Light!

It is written that Jesus told so many stories that he became one.  This past week we have been privileged to listen to Jesus the “storied one” through the readings of the Passion and other Scriptures that speak to us of God’s faithfulness to humankind.  In a way, we have been filled up with the wisdom of the God who dwells with us.  It is said that it is a truth so large that we can only touch one part of it at a time.”We have to let ourselves encounter it bit by bit, without expecting that we will comprehend the whole story.  We can never grasp this mystery; we can only allow ourselves to be grasped by it.”

In our Gospel reading this evening (Lk. 24:1-12), we hear how the women set out to anoint the body of Jesus.  Author Irene Zimmerman gives poetic form to this story of the empty tomb as she writes:

“None of the men had offered to go, so the women had set out in haste alone to straighten twisted feet and fingers, comb black blood from matted hair, anoint the precious body with spices.

‘But who will roll away the stone?’ They whispered again as they neared the tomb.  When they looked up, they saw that the stone had already been rolled back. From inside they heard –' He has been raised, he is not here.'  Fleeing from the tomb, intent on telling no one, they tripped pell-mell over terror and amazement.
After the telling, they set out in haste together this time, a community of equals, to roll away stones, straighten crooked paths, comb the far countries, and anoint the precious world with Good News.”

Over the next few days, we will hear again and again of the power of the Resurrection through all the appearance stories that surround Jesus. He passes from cross to tomb and from death to new life; he shatters all boundaries and moves through closed hearts, locked minds, and anxious spirits, both then and now.

In the Resurrection, we are assured that there are no doors that are eternally closed.  Every time we close a door or one is closed to us, God opens another for us to cross over to a new threshold –one that assures us that God never gives up on us.

I’d like to conclude by sharing a story about  a group of monks who were filled every day with the Words of Scripture-and they were nourished daily with the stories of God’s love for them, as they too were filled to overflowing and spilling over with amazement, wonder, and awe of the God who loves unconditionally.

Story:  The story is told that there was a small group of monks living in the high mountains of a faraway land. Early in the dark hours of morning, they would gather in the chapel. One of the monks would rise and begin the readings of the day, and then there would be a silence. Then some of the monks would leave and return to their cells.

Again, the Scriptures would be read, followed by a long pause for silence and more monks would leave. The Scriptures would be read again and again, allowing the monks to hear and absorb each word of the readings. And when there was no one left in the chapel, the reader would read the Scriptures one more time to the emptiness of the chapel – listening to its echoes and the Spirit, and then he would close the book and leave. Each monk would reflect upon the Word of God, and then later, they all would gather back in the chapel to share what they had heard and how it had impacted their lives.

At this vigil time, we have been filled with the wonder and amazement of the story of the empty tomb – yet, much like the monks, we will leave with our faith, hope, and joy spilling over again and again into our everyday lives. We are challenged to give voice to what we have experienced here this evening and how it has impacted our lives.

So let us too like the disciples in the Scriptures – set out in haste together, as a community of equals, to roll away stones, straighten crooked paths, comb the far countries and anoint the precious world with Good News! Christ is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia,Alleluia!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Good Friday ~ And it was night. . .

Crucifixion by Irene Zimmerman

Stripped of godliness, hands hammered open, arms yanked wide,
The crossbeamed Christ pours himself out
Till rivers run red with wine enough to satisfy
Century-cries of thirst.

Holy Thursday ~ God in an Apron!

A Prayer for Washing Feet by Macrina Wiederkehr 
(from Seasons of Your Heart)
Jesus, is it really you kneeling before me with the bowl of water in your hands? I’d feel more comfortable if we could trade places. I wouldn't mind kneeling before you, but you before me? I can’t let you love me that much. Your piercing eyes suddenly heal my pride. I’m able to accept your gift of love and I am blessed. O Gift Giving God, I blush with the memory of gifts I've refused because they weren't given my way.

God in an Apron by Macrina Wiederkehr 
(from Seasons of Your Heart)
Supper was special that night. There was both a heaviness and a holiness hanging in the air. We couldn't explain the mood. It was sacred, yet sorrowful.  Gathered around that table eating that solemn, holy meal seemed to us the most important meal we had ever sat down to eat.

We were dwelling in the heart of mystery. Though dark the night, hope felt right as if something evil was about to be conquered. And then suddenly the One we loved startled us all. He got up from the table and put on an apron. Can you imagine how we felt?

God in an apron! Tenderness encircled us as He bowed before us. He knelt and said, “I choose to wash your feet because I love you.”  

God in an apron, kneeling. I couldn't believe my eyes. I was embarrassed until his eye met mine.  I sensed my value then. He touched my feet. He held them in his strong, brown hands. He washed them. I can still feel the water. I can still feel the touch of his hands. I can still see the look in his eyes.

The he handed me the towel and said, “As I have done so you must do.” Learn to bow – Learn to kneel. Let your tenderness encircle everyone you meet. Wash their feet not because you have to, because you want to.

It seems I've stood two thousand years holding the towel in my hands, “As I have done so you must do,” keeps echoing in my heart.

“There are so many feet to wash,” I keep saying. “No,” I hear God’s voice resounding through the years, “There are only my feet – what you do for them you do for me.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy Wednesday – “Spy Wednesday” – Great Wednesday

This is the day that stories speak of Judas Iscariot as moving to the “dark side” to conspire with the religious leaders to betray Jesus and hand him over to be arrested. I often think of the writings of Megan McKenna and a particular story she tells within a story. It goes like this: Megan was driving the back roads of Ireland’s countryside listening to the radio. There had been a short-story writing contest and the stories submitted were to be limited to thirty words.  As she was listening to the stories being read over the radio – the following entry was read:

“Welcome home, son!
Hello, father.
It is so good to see you.  It’s been a long time.
Yes, father, a very long time.  It was hard.
Hard as nails.  Hard as wood.
I know.  What was the hardest?
The kiss, father, the kiss. (long pause)
Yes.  Come in and let me hold you.” 
Megan continues with her story – “I nearly drove off the road.  Within seconds I was crying and had to pull over.  It hit me hard.  I was overwhelmed by the realization that sin is evil and terrible, and some sin is more evil and more terrible . . .” (From LENT by Megan McKenna) 

Poem: The Cold Within by James Patrick Kinney 

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In Dark and bitter cold
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back.
For on the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.

The next man looking cross the way,
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes,
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use,
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store.
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from sight,
For all he was in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without,
They died from – THE COLD WITHIN.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Tuesday

If you can't let go completely, try to 'hang on loose.’ (Melodie Beattie)

The process of letting go is never easy and certainly is not one we enjoy. The process calls us to move from comfort, security, routine, success, control, efforting to be right, and certainty to a space of high anxiety, insecurity, uncertainty, dis-ease, not knowing, experiencing inner and outer chaos, loss of balance in our way of living and sometimes we even move into a “fog of forgetfulness.”

It is a place of many questions, of facing fears, struggling against disconnecting and disassociating and possibly having to even name our illusions.  We struggle to walk in faith – having only enough light for the next step – and we attempt to believe through it all, that in this place of paradox, ambiguity, and confusion that God is our faithful companion, loving us intensely and creating us anew!

Links to share on suffering, struggle, compassion, and letting go.
Joyce Rupp:

Joan Chittister:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Monday!

Anointings in Bethany (John 12:1-8)

Solemnly, Mary entered the room, holding high the alabaster jar. It gleamed in the lamplight as she circled the room, incensing the disciples, blessing Martha’s banquet. “A splendid table!” Mary called with her eyes as she whirled past her sister.

She came to a halt at last before Jesus, bowed profoundly and knelt at his feet. Deftly, she filled her right hand with nard, placed the jar on the floor, took one foot in her hands and moved fragrant fingers across his instep.

Over and over she made the journey from heel to toes, thanking him for every step he had made on Judea’s stony hills, for every stop at their home, for bringing back Lazarus.

She poured out more nard, took his other foot in her hands and started again with strong, rhythmic strokes. She felt her hands’ heat draw out his tiredness, take away the rebuffs he had known – the shut doors, the shut hearts.

Energy flowed like a river between them.  His saturated skin gleamed with oil. She had no towel!

In an instant she pulled off her veil, pulled the pins from her hair, shook it out till it fell in cascades, and once more cradled each foot, dried the ankles, the insteps, drew the strands between his toes.

Without warning, Judas Iscariot spat out his anger, the words hissing like lightning above her unveiled head: “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”

“Leave her alone!” Jesus silenced the usurper. “She brought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”

The words poured like oil, anointing her from head to foot.  
From: Woman Un-Bent by Irene Zimmerman

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Holy Week ~ From Cheers to Tears!

Between Parades
We’re good at planning! Give us a task force and a project and we’re off and running!
No trouble at all! Going to the village and finding the colt, even negotiating with the owners is right down our alley. And how we love a parade! In a frenzy of celebration we gladly focus on Jesus and generously throw down our coats and palms in his path. And we can shout praise loudly enough to make a Pharisee complain. It’s all so good, the parade! It’s between parades that we don’t do so well. We don’t do so well from Sunday to Sunday. For we forget our hosannas between parades. The stones will have to shout because we won’t. ~by Ann Weems~ from Kneeling in Jerusalem 

I Thank You For Being Wrong   
I thank you for becoming weak, Lord Jesus, so I don’t have to be strong.  
I thank you for being willing to be considered imperfect and strange, so I do not have to be perfect and normal.
I thank you, Jesus, for being willing to be disapproved of, so I do not have to try so hard to be approved and liked.
I thank you for being considered a failure, so I do not have to give my life trying to pretend I’m a success.
I thank you for being wrong by the standards of religion and state, so I do not have to be right anywhere, even in my own mind. ~ by Richard Rohr ~ from  Hope against Darkness

Friday, March 22, 2013

From March Gladness to March Madness!

Here in the USA, NCAA March Madness has been set in motion. It is all about college basketball tournaments in Men’s and Women’s respective divisions. Sports related sites state: it is “a feverish month of college basketball filled with more than 60 games across the country,” and “three weeks of legendary performances, fantastic finishes — and the alternating agony and ecstasy of predictions gone right or wrong.” Well this is the extent of my sports expertise. Unfortunately, I can’t tell the difference between brackets and braces or sort out the groupings of The Final Four or The Magnificent Seven!  However, I think this March Madness term can be a clue as to what will happen in the Scriptures as we attend to the readings of the Passion this Holy Week.

Recently, we all in some form of technology or in person gathered around a little chimney to watch it produce white smoke to signal the election of a new pope.  Eventually, Francis appeared on the draped balcony amidst red robed cardinals and “priests in waiting.” The days kept building with March Gladness in preparation for the pope’s inauguration when he would be presented with the Pallium, the Ring, and the Book of the Gospels signifying the beginning of his pontificate.

His election became even more of a reality when throngs of people in the square outside St. Peter’s Basilica appeared including marching bands, Swiss Guards in their finest, clergy in their finest as well, with trumpets blaring, and with Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, heads of the official delegations from various countries, accompanied with vested cardinals in attendance. Again, this is the extent of my hierarchy expertise.  However, I believe this March Gladness can also be a clue as to what will happen in the Scriptures this Holy Week.

Holy Week presents us with the reading of the Passion after processing with palms. Then we listen to the reading of the Gospel of Luke telling again the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  Here begins the March Gladness which will eventually be turned into March Madness on Good Friday . . . These readings are filled with much symbolism. I suggest you consider reading a biblical commentary, i.e., Preaching the New Lectionary by Dianne Bergant, Year C .  

Jesus enters riding upon a colt, no Popemobile. He will meet throngs of people cheering Hosannas now and later hurling shouts of “crucify him.” Religious and political leaders presently puzzled now, already plotting in their hearts how to get rid of this “presence that disturbs.” No banners, no bands, no ring, no Pallium of lamb’s wool. For you see, he is the “sacrificial lamb.” No Book of the Gospels - for he is Word;  he is the Good News that now comes in gladness only to enter into the Good Friday madness of darkness, anger, and hate. He will stare evil in the face – this, too, will be a legendary performance with a fantastic finish - alternating with the agony and ecstasy of predictions gone right - gone Mysteriously right!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sentinel of Wisdom

A first day of spring reflection . . . anticipating summer!

On the day of Judgment God will only ask one question: “Did you enjoy my world?” (Traditional Jewish Saying) 

She stands sentineled near the waters edge, surrounded by birch, ash, and maple companions with vines entwined between her exposed ground roots. This white oak remains upright and almost motionless as the whispers of the lake breezes float through her branches. Gentle winds seem to tease her leaves as if prompting them to stir with laughter. Her sapwood continues to produce leaves that encircle her like a crown, while her center’s heartwood is now completely spent. This is the prized wood sought after for special wood artistry. Yet she thrives. She becomes our teacher and speaks these wisdoms to us: 
Live life by giving your heart-center away. 
Always provide shade and shelter for those who seek refuge from this world’s storms. 
Be sure to have friends stand by you when struggles find you. 
Seek nourishment from the waters of laughter, prayer, love, and solitude. 
Enjoy the beauty of creation and let butterflies teach you about transformation. 
Dream often and reach beyond the possible. 
Practice speaking words of comfort, mercy, and forgiveness. 
Don’t be afraid to bend and risk a new perspective. 
Always be a learner and trust in your talents. 
Be curious and chance walking to the edge. 
Be content when your growth is steady and slow, for that is what makes you of value.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Joseph is the man on the outskirts, standing in the shadows, silently waiting, there when wanted and always ready to help. He is the man in whose life God is constantly intervening with warnings and visions. Without a complaint he allows his own plans to be set aside. His life is a succession of prophecies and dream-messages of packing up and moving on. He is the man who dreams of setting up a quiet household, simply leading a home life and going about his affairs, attending to his business and worshiping God and who, instead, is condemned to a life of wandering. 

Beset with doubts, heavy-hearted and uneasy in his mind, his whole life disrupted. He has to take to the open road, to make his way through an unfriendly country finding no shelter but a miserable stable for those he holds most dear. He is the man who sets aside all thought of self and shoulders his responsibilities bravely — and obeys. 

His message is willing obedience. He is the man who serves. It never enters his head to question God's commands. He makes all the necessary preparations and is ready when God's call comes. Willing, unquestioning service is the secret of his life. This is his message for us. 

Author Unknown

A Prayer for Work . . . 
Creator God, thank you for providing us with the gift to share our talents. Provide our community, our nation, our world the fortitude to provide work for all which is decent and fair. Make us faithful stewards of your creation to enhance the human dignity of our global family.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit now and forever. Amen. 
(From Being Neighbor: The Catechism and Social Justice, USCCB)

From Downton Abbey to Jerusalem ~ Part 2

This week we begin to be ever mindful of the Lenten readings, practices, prayers, and ponderings that have moved us toward a deeper awareness of ourselves and our relationship with our God and all creation. The week that is named Holy is fast approaching. Therefore, it would be an excellent opportunity to lean back into the seasons of our lives as we have journeyed from Advent to Lent. What have you noticed? Where have you felt resistance? With what have you resonated within  the readings?  Are there places within you that need “realignment” as you manage your journey of life?

A beggar tugged at the sleeve of a passer-by and begged for money to buy a cup of coffee.  This was his story. ‘There was a time, sir, when I was a wealthy businessman just like you.  I worked hard all day long.  On my desk was the motto: THINK CREATIVELY, ACT DECISIVELY, AND LIVE DANGEROUSLY. That’s the motto I lived by – and money just kept pouring in.  And then . . .and then’ the beggar’s frame shook with sobs, - ‘and then the cleaning woman threw out my motto with the trash.’

So what is the Good News for us this week?
Let us ask to be open to the graces of the Scriptures as we take up the challenge to walk in mystery with Mystery this pre-Holy Week.

Let us be receptive to God’s invitation to “think creatively, act decisively, and live dangerously” as we discern what it means to embrace Jesus’ mission.

Let us practice using the Examine to reflect on our lives as to what is life-giving or life- zapping!

Let us ask for the grace we need to grow in our belief that God believes in us  . . . and ponder what would be a great motto for each of us to live out this week?