Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tremors and troubles across our world . . .

From: Our One Great Act of Fidelity by Ron Rolheiser

There’s a story told of a young Jewish boy named Mordechai who refused to go to school. When he was six years old, his mother took him to school, but he cried and protested all the way and, immediately after she left, ran back home.  She brought him back to school and this scenario played itself out for several days. He refused to stay in school. His parents tried to reason with him, arguing that he, like all children, must now go to school. But to no avail. His parents then tried the age-old trick of applying an appropriate combination of bribes and threats. That, too, had no effect.

Finally, in desperation they went to their rabbi and explained the situation to him. The rabbi simply said, “If the boy won’t listen to words, bring him to me.” They brought him into the rabbi’s study. The rabbi said not a word. He simply picked up the boy and held him to his heart for a long time. Then, still without a word, he set him down. What words couldn’t accomplish, a silent embrace did. Mordechai not only began willingly to go to school, he went on to become a great scholar and a rabbi.

What Rolheiser reflects to the reader about this parable is that within the Eucharist, “God physically embraces us . . . The Eucharist is God’s kiss.”  Having pondered his beautiful reflection, I couldn’t help but pray that at this time in our lives, humanity across the world needs an abundance of hugs and kisses from God. We try to seek understanding and walk blurry clear paths of hope and faith in regard to the earthquake in the region of Nepal, and the “quakes” here in the United States as protests and eruptions occur as fallout from the Baltimore incident resulting in the death of Freddie Gray. 

Today is also the one year anniversary of the shooting death of the young African American, Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee, WI. At this time, I lean back in my memory and recall the other deaths of Eric Gardner in New York, Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Tony Robinson in Madison, WI. Overnight there have been a number of protest marches in the cities of Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, New York, Minneapolis,  and a few other cities.  There is “quaking” and much tension going on beneath the everyday movements in cities across this country. The deaths of these men have caused our nation to once again ponder, analyze, consider, evaluate, and move forward with naming the “illnesses” within our society which oftentimes are ignored, repressed, denied, or dismissed.  Yet social media will not let this happen.

So why am I walking in these waters of unrest?  This Sunday in our liturgy, we hear the Gospel parable of the Vine and the Branches.  I believe that being a branch on the vine is a place of great intimacy and belonging.  And so I ask, what is the Good News for us as we reflect on this parable?  How do we all belong to one another as we share this weary planet?  How do we hold the pain of the families, friends, and communities whose “branches” have been severed?  How do we respond in compassion and justice to humanity across our world that is suffering from natural disasters, war, poverty, and many other injustices?  So I pray that God will hug and kiss us all until we are willing to stop struggling, blaming, kicking and screaming at one another.  May we come to that place within us that beckons us to be willing to hear the heartbeat of the goodness of humankind so that truly we can respond in loving kindness again and again and hear, understand, and act with justice and liberty for all. May we all remain and abide in God as we walk in this time of great quaking in our cities, our nation, and our world.  Hold us, O God, and let us hear your heartbeat . . . What words can't accomplish, may your silent embrace do so.

A prayer for unrest in BaltimoreIn the midst of tragedy after tragedy, our nation faces its darkest demons from its past.  Some say those demons have never been defeated.  Some say they were defeated and this is all a show now.  Both are right and both are wrong.  The fact of the matter is our nation has a lot of work to do.  Our policies and laws and programs leave a lot to be desired.  Make no mistake; America isn’t some kind of modern “Promised Land”.  We can, though, work together to shed light in those corners where it is hidden and bring the scabs in to the light to try and bring healing.  Leave the extremists of all sides to froth and grumble.  They will never be satisfied.  Let us be reasonable and work for something that is real and concrete and merciful and healing. (Author Unknown)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Catherine of Siena Feast Day!

April 29, the feast day of St Catherine of Siena, a lay Dominican,
Doctor and Reformer of the Church

 St. Catherine of Siena was the 25th child of a wool dyer in northern Italy.
She started having mystical experiences when she was only 6, seeing guardian angels as clearly as the people they protected. She became a Dominican tertiary when she was 16, and continued to have visions of Christ, Mary, and the saints.

St. Catherine was one of the most brilliant theological minds of her day, although she never had any formal education. . Her spiritual director was Blessed Raymond of Capua. St, Catherine's letters, and a treatise called "a dialogue" are considered among the most brilliant writings in the history of the Catholic Church. She died when she was only 33, and her body was found incorrupt in 1430.
ARISE! by Doris Klein, CSA

Catherine’s Prayers:
• You, God, are a fire that always burns without consuming. You are a fire consuming in its heat every compartment of the soul’s self-absorbed love. You are a fire lifting all chill and giving all light. In Your light You show me Your truth. You’re the Light that outshines every Light. You, God, give the mind’s eye Your divine light so completely and excellently. You bring lucidity even to the light of faith. In that faith, I see my soul has life, and in that light, I receive You who are Light itself.

• God is a bright ocean that distills and reveals hidden truths so that my soul has a better understanding of how to trust Love, and the water is a mirror in which You, Eternal Trinity, give me knowledge.

• I want you to be a tree of love, grafted into the Word who is love, Christ crucified – a tree with its roots in deep humility. If you are a tree of love, sweetly rooted, you’ll find the fruit of patience and strength at the tips of your branches, and crowned perseverance nesting within you. You’ll find peace and quiet and consolation in suffering when you see yourself conformed with Christ crucified. And so, by enduring with Christ crucified, you’ll come with joy from much war into much peace. Peace! Peace!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring . . .seeds are waking up!

Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring. The gray perished landscape is shorn of color. Only bleakness meets the eye; everything seems severe and edged.

Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. Yet beneath the surface of winter, the miracle of spring is already in preparation; the cold is relenting; seeds are waking up.

Colors are beginning to imagine how they will return. Then, imperceptibly, somewhere one bud opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible. From the black heart of winter a miraculous, breathing plenitude of color emerges.

The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival.

Because nothing is abrupt, the beginning of spring nearly always catches us unawares. It is there before we see it; and then we can look nowhere without seeing it. 

(Thresholds/To Bless the Space Between Us by
John O’Donohue)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Day the Earth Quaked . . .again and again!

Photo by Omar Havana
Avalanche on Mt. Everest
Loving God,
We pray for all those affected by the earthquake in Nepal as we offer the words of the psalmist, “Be strong and take heart, all who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:25).
May those who are paralyzed by fear…
Be strong and take heart
May those who have lost or are still searching for loved ones …
Be strong and take heart
May those who remain trapped under rubble …
Be strong and take heart
May those rescue workers who provide relief and recovery …
Be strong and take heart
May those who are moved with compassion to help …
Be strong and take heart
God, whose love knows no bounds,
fill all those who suffer with your comfort and peace.
We ask all this through Christ, our Lord. Amen
Author Unknown

“Flag of Nepal” by Drawn by User:Pumbaa80, User:Achim1999 – Constitution of The Kingdom of Nepal, Article 5, Schedule 1 [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.


Honoring Earth . . .

The Earth is always a good teacher — and especially in spring. End your days this season with this prayer from the Native American tradition.

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 all 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 with rain.
— Ute prayer

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day ~ Everyday!

Earth Breathing video:
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.

Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.

Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.

a prayer for the world - rabbi harold kushner - 2003

"Because I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd."

Reflections on Fourth Sunday of Easter:

Shepherd Story #1:
There’s an old story about a priest was celebrating his 50th Anniversary of Ordination.  For this occasion he had invited his personal friend, Richard Burton, to come and recite his favorite Psalm 23.  Richard Burton agreed to do this on the condition that the priest would also recite it after him. 

At the appointed time, Richard Burton stood and proclaimed the popular psalm with such oratorical mastery the congregation immediately applauded.  And then this humble pastor stood up and began to recite, from heart, this beloved Psalm.  After he had finished his not nearly so professional recitation, the congregation was in awe, and some moved to tears.  Someone in the front pew with Richard Burton leaned over and asked him, "Why did people loudly applaud you and yet were silently moved by the pastor?"  Burton replied, "Because I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd."

Shepherd Story #2:
There was once a Shakespearean actor who was known everywhere for his one-man shows of readings and recitations from the classics. He would always end his performance with a dramatic reading of Psalm 23.

Each night, without exception, as the actor began his recitation - "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”. The crowd would listen attentively. And then, at the conclusion of the Psalm, they would rise in thunderous applause in appreciation of the actor's incredible ability to bring the verse to life.

But one night, just before the actor was to offer his customary recital of Psalm 23, a young man from the audience spoke up. "Sir, do you mind if tonight I recite Psalm 23?" The actor was quite taken back by this unusual request, but he allowed the young man to come forward and stand front and center on the stage to recite the Psalm, knowing that the ability of this unskilled youth would be no match for his own talent.

With a soft voice, the young man began to recite the words of the Psalm. When he was finished, there was no applause. There was no standing ovation as on other nights. All that could be heard was the sound of weeping. The audience had been so moved by the young man's recitation that every eye was full of tears. Amazed by what he had heard, the actor said to the youth, "I don't understand. I have been performing Psalm 23 for years. I have a lifetime of experience and training - but I have never been able to move an audience as you have tonight. Tell me, what is your secret?"

The young man quietly replied, "Well sir, you know the Psalm... I know the Shepherd."

Shepherd Story #3:
The banquet hall was filled. To speak for the occasion, a renowned orator had been brought in. After a wonderful meal, he mesmerized the crowd with his voice as he recited poetry and famous selections of speeches.

Near the end of the program, he asked if anyone had a favorite selection that they would like for him to recite. From the back of the room, an old man stood up and kindly asked if he would mind reciting the 23rd Psalm. The speaker said that he would be glad to do it if, when he was finished, the old man would recite it as well. The old gentleman nodded his head and sat back down.

In a beautifully trained voice that resonated throughout the great room, the speaker began, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…” When he was finished, there was thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

He then looked at the old man and said, “All right sir, it is your turn now.”
In a trembling voice that was cracked by time, the old man began to recite, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” It is said that when he was finished, there was no applause, but neither was there a dry eye in the building.

After the event, someone asked the famous speaker what he thought produced the different responses in the crowd. The speaker paused, thought for a moment and said, “I know the 23rd Psalm, but that man knows the shepherd. That makes all the difference.”

Do you know the shepherd?

Shepherd Story #4:
A shepherd was tending his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a dust cloud approached at high speed, out of which emerged a shiny silver BMW. The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Ferragamo shoes, the latest Polarized sunglasses and a tightly knotted power tie, poked his head out the window and asked the shepherd, "Hey! If I can tell you how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?" The shepherd looked at the man, then glanced at his peacefully grazing flock and answered, "Sure."

The driver parked his car, plugged his microscopic cell phone into a laptop and briskly surfed to a GPS satellite navigation system on the Internet and initiated a remote body-heat scan of the area. While the computer was occupied, he sent some e-mail via his BlackBerry and, after a few minutes, nodded solemnly at the responses. Finally, he printed a 150 page report on the little laser printer in his glove compartment, turned to the shepherd, waving the sheaves of paper, and pronounced “You have exactly 1,586 sheep."  "Impressive. One of my sheep is yours." said the shepherd.

He watched the young man select an animal and bundle it into his car. Then the shepherd said: "If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?" Pleased to meet a fellow sportsman, the young man replied “You’re on.”  "You are a consultant." said the shepherd without hesitation. "That's correct," said the young man, impressed. "How ever did you guess?" "It wasn’t a guess," replied the shepherd. "You drive into my field uninvited. You ask me to pay you for information I already know, answer questions I haven’t asked, and you know nothing about my business. Now give me back my dog."

Stories: Authors Unknown

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Crossing Place

Image by Doris Klein, CSA
“Like Spring secretly at work within the heart of Winter,
below the surface of our lives
huge changes are in fermentation.
We never suspect a thing.

Then when the grip of some
long-enduring winter mentality
begins to loosen,
we find ourselves

and we are suddenly negotiating
the challenges
a threshold…

At any time you can ask yourself:
At which threshold am I now standing?
At this time in my life, what am I leaving?
Where am I about to enter?

A threshold is not a simple boundary;
it is a frontier
that divides two different territories,
rhythms, and atmospheres.
Indeed, it is a lovely testimony
to the fullness and integrity
of an experience or a stage of life
that it intensifies toward the end
into a real frontier
that cannot be crossed
the heart being passionately
woken up.

At this threshold
a great complexity of emotion
comes alive:

This is one of the reasons
such vital crossings
were always clothed in ritual.

It is wise in your own life
to be able to recognize and acknowledge
the key thresholds;
to take your time;
to feel all the varieties of presence
that accrue there;
to listen inward
with complete attention
until you hear
the inner voice
calling you

The time has come
to cross.”

John O’Donohue
From: To Bless the Space Between Us

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Easter Threshold of Holy Newness!

Image by Douglas Lawrence
3rd Sunday of Easter

In her recent book, “Open the Door, A Journey to the True Self,” author Joyce Rupp reflects on the power and gift of thresholds in the visible and invisible realities of our lives.  She writes: “Thresholds grant passage between two different external spaces.  Thresholds are doorsills or entrances to a house or building; it is any place or point of entering or beginning.  . . .

A threshold contains the power of transformation. In this place of uncertainty and decision-making we are forced to slow down and take stock of what’s happening. Threshold experiences contain tremendous energy.  They hold the power to unglue and shake us deeply and they can set an imprisoned spirit free, and bring peace to a desolate mind.”

As a metaphor, a threshold is that unique and significant component of our spiritual journey. It is that invisible space within us that marks the division between who we are now and who we will become.

In the past few weeks, we have walked with Jesus and the disciples from threshold to threshold as we have reflected on the Resurrection accounts of the Gospels in which the writers have endeavored to tell the story of this glorious mystery.  These accounts were not only what they remembered, but how these events affected them and how they reacted to what had happened.
We have heard the story of Mary of Magdala waiting and weeping at an empty tomb.  It is in her turning that she encounters Jesus and crosses over an inner threshold in which she views him through the lens of fear and believes him to be the gardener.

We have heard the story of the two disciples passing over the threshold from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  They were carrying within themselves desolate spirits and visionless eyes unable to recognize the stranger walking with them to be Jesus. As they conversed with him, he is chided as being the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in the recent days.

We have heard the story of the frightened disciples who crossed over the threshold of the upper room with closed hearts, locked minds and anxious spirits.  It is within this space that Jesus appears to them with greetings of peace, and yet they think him to be a ghost.

The power of the threshold resonates in the resurrection  event and 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 back then and even now.   It is in the intimate and early moments of an Easter dawn that Mary hears Jesus whisper her name and then upon being known, she names him Teacher.

It is in the quieting of the early evening the two disciples invite Jesus to stay with them and in the breaking of the bread Jesus passes over from being stranger to friend leaving them with a blessing and hearts blazing!

Jesus waits for them on the seashore.  He calls to them to throw their nets to the other side of their boat - casting aside their shame, fear and old ways of being and doing.  It is here in this early morning mist that Jesus invites them to breakfast on love and friendship - and in so doing, they name him, Lord.
Jesus shows up in the upper room to those behind locked doors companioned by their post-traumatic stress and dread.   He greets them with peace, shows them his wounds and breathes on them to receive the Spirit.  He liberates them from everything that holds them hostage, and disturbs them into discipleship and sends them on a mission to believe in him no matter what.

Jesus challenged his disciples to receive this new Easter Alleluia Peace and to come to their own inner rising above and beyond fear and doubt – passing over a threshold to a new freedom and faith, courage and compassion, justice and joy, passion and peace. 

As Easter People, we, too, are challenged in our resurrection belief to declare that true resurrection faith does not arise from seeing and believing in an empty tomb, but from meeting God in the Scriptures, in the breaking open of the Word, and sharing the bread.  And in our everyday lives with eyes open to surprise, with hearts receptive to the unexpected, and with minds willing to surrender to mystery.

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 on us, God opens another for us to cross over to a new threshold – one that assures us that God never gives us up on us.

We are Easter People whom God continues to disturb into discipleship to take up the mission where Jesus left off.  It is the Mission of loving and serving one another, resisting evil and doing good, showing mercy and compassion, justice and forgiveness.

So what is the Good News for us today?

“The resurrection stories reveal the always-present tension between coming and leaving, intimacy and distance, holding and letting go, at-homeness and mission, presence and absence.  We face these tensions every day.” (Henry Nouwen)  Let us pray for God’s gift of transformation which awaits us at every threshold of our lives.

Let us pray for the courage to cross over this Easter threshold of Holy Newness for it contains tremendous energy and has the power to unglue and shake us deeply.

Finally, let us pray for openness to lovingly welcome the daily invitations to come to our own inner rising and to live as Easter People because Jesus has risen.  Alleluia, Alleluia!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thomas ~ one of good guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painting by Jusepe Martinez

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

It's in the breaking of the bread . . .

EMMAUS JOURNEY (Luke 24: 13-35)
All was chaos when he died.
We fled our separate ways at first,
then gathered again in the upper room
to chatter blue-lipped prayers
around the table where he’d talked
of love and oneness.

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

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

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

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

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

Irene Zimmerman, osf
From: Woman Un-Bent

The Servant-Girl at Emmaus (A Painting by Valasquez) - Denise Levertov
She listens, listens, holding
her breath. Surely that voice
is his - the one
who had looked at her, once, across the crowd,
as no one ever had looked?
Had seer her? Had spoken as if to her?

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

Surely that face-?

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

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

swings round and sees
the light around him
and is sure.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Easter Exultet

Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.
Trust deep water
and head for the open,
even if your vision
shipwrecks you.
Quit your addiction
to sneer and complain.
Open a lookout.
Dance on a brink.
Run with your wildfire.
You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.
Not dawdling.
Not doubting.
Intrepid all the way
Walk toward clarity.
At every crossroad
Be prepared
to bump into wonder.
Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.
Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.
Nothing perishes;
nothing survives;
everything transforms!
Honeymoon with Big Joy!

~ James Broughton ~

(Sermons of the Big Joy) 

An Inner Rising . . .

Mary Magdala's Easter Prayer
by Ron Rolheiser, omi

I never suspected
                        and to be so painful
                        to leave me weeping
With Joy
            to have met you, alive and smiling, outside an empty tomb
With Regret
            not because I’ve lost you
            but because I’ve lost you in how I had you -
                        in understandable, touchable, kissable, clingable flesh
                        not as fully Lord, but as graspably human.

I want to cling, despite your protest
            cling to your body
            cling to your, and my, clingable humanity
            cling to what we had, our past.

But I know that…if I cling
            you cannot ascend and
            I will be left clinging to your former self
            …unable to receive your present spirit.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Good Friday story . . .

Once upon a time there was a poor peasant family that had worked for years scrimping and saving to buy a piece of land of its own.  Finally the day came, and they took possession of it.  The mother and half a dozen children gathered in the two-room shack that would serve as their house, while the father walked the length and breadth of their land.  He paced it out, marking the four corners as boundaries, praying in joy and thanksgiving as he walked.  As he rounded the last corner and laid the stone in place he noticed something sticking out from under a bush.

He bent and scratched at the dirt, digging with his hands, and soon unearthed the corpus from a crucifix.  It had obviously been in the ground a long time.  Its hands and arms were gone, and its feet and legs missing. It was mangled, scratched, cracked, and paint nearly all gone. He picked it up and carried it back in his arms to the house.  It was a good size corpus. The crucifix it hung on must have been ten or twelve feet tall.  He came in and laid it on the kitchen table.

The family stood around it, looking at it, in an awkward silence.  The father explained that he had found it on their land.  It was the first thing he had dug out of the ground.  What should they do with it?  Should they take it to the church and give it to the priest?  Should they burn it?  Should they bury it again?  They all stood and looked at it.

Finally, the youngest spoke: “Father, I have an  idea.”
“What, my child?”
"Why don’t we hang it on the kitchen wall and put a sign underneath it.”
“What would you put on the sign?”

And the youngest told them. There was a long silence.Then the corpus was hung with care on the whitewashed wall of the kitchen and a small sheet of paper was tacked underneath.  It read: “Jesus has no arms or legs.  Will you lend him yours?”    


And it was night . . .

Crucifix at Jesuit Retreat Center ~ Oshkosh, WI
Astride a borrowed donkey whose hooves trampled the royal palms and cheered by the poor who have no voice and rocks that have recently learned to shout, Jesus arrived at the feast of a liberation long gone with the hope of a liberation yet to come.

The Son whose hands never left the plow and who pushed past fields of the dead burying their own, moved with the anger of a long lost heir into the traffic of the temple.

The priest of the whip and the dream shouted over the clatter of coins at the fleeing priests of smoke and magic.
“Not for the people, but for you! Not for the law, but for you! Not for the faith, but for you! Not for the children, but for you! I must die!”

So Anna whispered in the ear of Caiaphas
And Caiaphas whispered in the ear of Herod
And Herod whispered in the ear of Pilate and the thin man hunted in the midnight streets till he found him awake in the garden of sleep and whispered in the ear of Jesus who screamed at the night. “Send twelve legions of angels and I will crush them.”

But the voice was not his own. It had no ring to it, like someone had ripped the tongue from a great bell.  Jesus prayed again, “Your will is my blood. Your wish is my breath.” And the music of the water returned and with it the name the Jordan gave him.

Then a tree without leaves and nails against the carpenter and cracked lips of gall and the thin man turned legion, his voice splintered into a 1000 thorns, each one piercing the darkness of noon.
“If you are the Son of God climb down from that cross; and dance in the temple air or bake rocks into bread or step on the neck of the world, or escape into the desert and starve yourself into heaven.”

But Jesus held fast to the life he was losing.
It was the centurion of many crucifixions who saw in the man on the edge of the world the Son of God of everlasting embrace. “Truly, this was the Son of Love.”

Then he ran a lance into the side of the man who would not come down. The blood of Jesus and the water of the Jordan flowed as one stream down the cross, soaking through the earth
with the determination of a journey, carrying the Son to the unmoving center of the universe.
(Stories of Faith by John Shea)