Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Something to Pond-er!

Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen hard.
Practice wellness.
Play with abandon.

Choose with no regret.
Continue to learn.
Appreciate your friends.

Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.

-mary anne radmacher

 I took these pictures of a frog in our back pond at the motherhouse.  I believe this frog was eager to have its picture taken.  I find frogs interesting creatures. They remind me of how transformation is truly a life cycle. sjh

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day - Let us do as much as we can!!

“Prisoner at the bar,” said the judge, “I find you guilty on twenty-three counts.  I therefore sentence you to a total of one hundred and seventy-five years.” The prisoner was an old man.  He burst into tears.  The judge’s facial expression softened.  “I did not mean to be harsh,” he said. “I know the sentence I have imposed is a very severe one. You don’t really have to serve the whole of it.”  The prisoner’s eyes brightened with hope.  “That’s right,” said the judge. “Just do as much as you can!”

No doubt, we are all called to “do as much as we can” in our little corner of the world to be peacemakers.  I recall a phone call I received some years ago from a woman who went daily to church for liturgy with her neighbors, friends, and others from the surrounding towns.  She told me that she was calling because she was very concerned about the way the people at liturgy were treating her.

She went on to tell me that at the “sign of peace” when everyone reaches out with the gesture of a handshake or even a hug, she has decided not to reach out and she does not want to receive the handshake of peace.  She continued her story with the details of how people approach her in her bench and extend their hand and she turns away from them.

She explained that after liturgy, people even had the audacity to follow her to her car in the parking lot and offer her a handshake of peace.  Again, she spoke of how she hurried to enter her car, roll up the windows, and lock the doors – not wanting to share this sign of peace with anyone. Her question to me was, “ Aren't they wrong?  How can I get them to leave me alone?”

As I listened I prayed for insight as to how to proceed.  After she was finished describing her concern, I then spoke. I told her that the liturgy is not a private experience. We gather as a people of God – praying together in song – listening to the Word, breaking the bread and sharing the cup.  It is a ritual of communion and union!  Then I said that the handshake of peace is meant to be a sign of our willingness to live in harmony and right-relationship with each other and to let it be a prayer sent across the world for peace throughout the universe!  She hung up on me!! I just did as much as I could to have her consider a conversion to being a peacemaker or “peace-hand-shaker.”

This weekend, we observe Memorial Day. Three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868, it was established as Decoration Day – a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the ward dead with flowers.  The proclamation by Gen. John Logan’s orders reads thus:  “We are organized for the purpose, among other things, of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.  What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe?”

Let us observe this Memorial Day by doing as much as we can - remembering our power and capacity to gather as peacemakers; to strengthen our spirits and vision; to decorate our hearts with the flowers of nonviolence.  It is a day of gathering with those who mourn at monuments, graves, and memorials. A day of gathering with those who stand in confusion, anger, shame, guilt, and vulnerability.  A day of gathering to remember sacrifices and great losses. A day of gathering to remember ones still held captive throughout the world, or suffering mental anguish from the trauma of terrorism and the ravages of war. It is a day of gathering with those who stand with pride for courage demonstrated and for freedoms won. 

Finally, let us do as much as we can to pray, assist, give comfort,  express understanding and support to all those who have chosen to reach out in peace, and to those willing to  make sacrifices through service to their country – and may we cherish tenderly the memory of our heroic deceased women and men.

Suffering arises from the simple circumstances of life itself.  Sometimes human suffering is dramatic and horrifying.  More often it is ordinary, humble, and quiet.  But neither way is it ‘God’s Will.’ The divine presence doesn't intend us to suffer, but is instead WITH us in all the experiences of life, in both suffering and joy.  And that presence is always inviting us toward greater freedom and love.”
(Gerald G. May, M.D.)

Previously posted: May 2013

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pentecosted People!

"May the Force be with you,” advise the Jedi Warriors, Guardians of the Galaxy in the popular blockbuster movie series of Star Wars. This new expression nudged its way into our language and seemed to settle comfortably into almost every conversation. It was a blessing of luck or general good will when individuals parted ways or when warriors were to face some sort of imminent challenge. The Force was the unseen but discernible source of a Jedi’s power, an energy field created by all living things. It surrounded them and penetrated all things. It bound the galaxy together. Certainly Director George Lucas was influenced by particular elements of mythology, philosophy, and theology.

In today’s readings, there are two different stories describing God’s Force - the coming of the Spirit. No matter what the details are, the Spirit of God will propel these men and women beyond locked doors, and they will be filled with a newfound confidence to preach as they carry forward the reign of God. 

First, let us contemplate the Gospel. It is Easter Sunday evening, and the disciples are hiding in fear in an upper room behind locked doors.  This same upper room is where Jesus encouraged them to not let their hearts be troubled and to believe in him, and they would do great works.

Now they are waiting, listening, pondering what to do next with their lives.  As followers of Jesus, they are terrified of the authorities who may come to take them away as recognizable collaborators of Jesus. They fear they may have to face arrest or something even worse - death. They pray, puzzled over what was and what will be, wondering if they have been fooled.  They ask one another: Are you sure the tomb was found empty? Are you sure it was him on the road to Emmaus and in the sharing of bread?

Suddenly, Jesus stands before them. He gives them the usual Jewish greeting ‘Shalom;’ but here, it is filled with a deeper meaning, a driving force. He blesses them with Peace, instilling an energy of excitement and joy that breaks through their worrisome spirits. 

He breathes on them, and God’s Force, the Spirit – the Sprit that hovered over the chaos, the Spirit that incarnated the Word within Mary’s womb – now with laser like motion, soars over and within the disciples, and they are released, unshackled, set free . . . They will move from terror and hiding to speaking out boldly.  Jesus’ vision now becomes their vision.  His power to heal and forgive is their power. They no longer can be contained, nor can their spirits be restrained. 

There is no more hiding in upper rooms . . .  they will stand among the people in the streets. No more recoiling behind locked doors, they will preach boldly in the Temple. They are transformed from shared fear and insecurity to being empowered with one mind and heart. They will be accompanied with the “surround sound” of the winds of change to preach the mission of Jesus, and thus, all will hear them babble about the love of God and all will understand. 

In our First Reading from Acts (which is usually called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit), Luke presents us with a scene in an upper room, 50 days after the Resurrection event. The disciples are all in one place, when a noise like a driving wind fills the house, the space ablaze with the fire of God’s presence, and they are filled with the Spirit. They begin speaking in different languages, proclaiming the mighty acts of God. The Spirit has moved in the people as well, gifting them with a hearing and understanding of the amazing works of God.

Just as the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, here, the Spirit drives his disciples into a galaxy of streets, villages, towns, cities, countries, and lands far, far away from Jerusalem. They now move forward with a power and courage to withstand the imminent challenges as they are bound together in the Spirit, preaching the reign of God – God’s mighty Guardians of the Word equipped, strengthened, and propelled by the Force of the Spirit.

So is that all there is? One author writes, “The wind and fire ushering in the Spirit in Acts may be the most dramatic, but it is not the only sending of the Spirit of holiness into the community of the world. Pentecost is a timeless event that happens each time the breath of the Spirit reanimates a community with fiery passion that further commits it to advancing God’s reign of justice in the world.”

Who of us then cannot forget the fiery passion we experienced as John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962? 

And each time we come together to pray, to celebrate, to elect leadership, to ponder what’s next for our future, are we not of the work of the Spirit?

Who of us then cannot forget the most recent awareness of the animation of the Spirit as women religious came together in conversation, in mind and heart as we experienced the Apostolic Visitation?

And each time Pope Francis breaks through boundaries and barriers of “we’ve always done it this way” – does not the Spirit reanimate the community? Let us recall that last October he called on the world’s priests to bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need, to stay close to the marginalized, and to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”

The feast of Pentecost animates us with the fire of passion, conviction, and commitment to the reign of God.  We truly are changed when we live a Spirit-filled life as Pentecosted people.  We are invited each day to live out the gifts of the Spirit in our words, our thoughts, and through our very being.

Each time when our words promote understanding, forgiveness, hope, and joy ~ we live Pentecost.
Each time as we participate in the mission of Jesus, and continue to grow in our awareness that we, too, are among the needy and are enriched by those we serve ~ we live Pentecost.
Each time we are willing to unlock the places in our minds and hearts that keep us as individuals, and as a faith community from responding to the injustices in our world ~ we live Pentecost.
Each time as a community of believers, we entrust ourselves to the mission of the Spirit and collaborate to create healing, harmony, and wholeness among the peoples of our world and in all of creation ~ we live Pentecost.

Let us pray:  May the Force – the Spirit of God be with us always!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Divine Gardener

Story:  A woman went into a marketplace, looked around, and saw a sign that read “God’s Fruit Stand.”  “Thank goodness. It’s about time,” the woman said to herself.

She went inside and she said, “I would like a perfect banana, a perfect cantaloupe, a perfect strawberry, and a perfect peach.”  God, who was behind the counter, shrugged and said, “I’m sorry.  I sell only seeds.” (John Shea)

In the northern hemisphere, spring has arrived and is struggling to consistently entertain the warm winds of the south.  With only the slightest caress of a lukewarm breeze upon the face of wannabe gardeners, the garden centers are experiencing “flash mobs” of “earth-mid-wives.” People buy flower or vegetable plants and then invite the challenge of nurturing the plants with just the right amount of water, sunlight, or fertilizer so that one day they will rejoice in their accomplishment of growing their own vegetables and beautiful flowers.  Gardens can be seen in flower boxes outside windows, on rooftops among skyscrapers, and even in large fields shared by a community.

However, God offers us only seeds – this process takes longer, more tending, patience, and the gift of surprise.  I’d like to think that God was the first organic gardener who did not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.  Organic gardeners think of the whole system – the soil, water supply, the people, wildlife, and even the insects.  Organic gardeners are concerned about building healthy soil and nurturing the connectedness of all things.  And so it is with the Divine Gardener – offering us seeds of hope, integrity, risk, resiliency, dreams, purpose, passion, and call.  It is up to all of us to offer these seeds just the right or best environment for germination so we will carry on the creativity and love of the Divine Gardener – and we need not be perfect at this – just willing!

So what is the Good News for us today?  Let us ponder these quotes:
·         The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?  Jack Kornfield

·         Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers.  May Sarton

·         An ordinary favor we do for someone or any compassionate reaching out may seem to be going nowhere at first, but may be planting a seed we can't see right now. Sometimes we need to just do the best we can and then trust in an unfolding we can't design or ordain. Sharon Salzberg

·         Love is the seed of all hope. It is the enticement to trust, to risk, to try, to go on. Gloria Gaither

·         Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.  Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders. Henry David Thoreau

Previously posted: May 2012

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

To Mothers Across the World . . .

Saciido Sheik Yacquub, 34, poses for a picture with her daughter Faadumo Subeer Mohamed, 13, at their home in Hodan district IDP camp in Mogadishu February 11, 2014. Saciido, who runs a small business, wanted to be a business woman when she was a child. She studied until she was 20. She hopes that Faadumo will become a doctor. Faadumo will finish school in 2017 and hopes to be a doctor when she grows up. (REUTERS/Feisal Omar)

The Original Mother’s Day Proclamation
A Mother's Day Reading
Julia Ward Howe
Posted Wednesday, May 07, 2014 in Plough Quarterly

While countries around the world celebrate their own Mother’s Day at different times throughout the year, several countries, including the United States, Italy, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Turkey celebrate it on the second Sunday of May.

In the United States, the origins of the official holiday go back to 1870, when Julia Ward Howe – an abolitionist best remembered as the poet who wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic” – worked to establish a Mother’s Peace Day. Howe dedicated the celebration to the eradication of war, and organized festivities in Boston for years.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, began the campaign to have Mother’s Day officially recognized, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson did this, proclaiming it a national holiday and a “public expression of our love and reverence for all mothers.”

Today’s commercialized celebration of candy, flowers, gift certificates, and lavish meals at restaurants bears little resemblance to Howe’s original idea. There is nothing wrong with that. But here, for the record’s sake, is the proclamation she wrote in 1870, which explains, in her own impassioned words, the goals of the original holiday.

  Oumou Ndiaye, 30, and her daughter Aissata Golfa, 9, pose for a picture in their house in Bamako, Mali February 20, 2014. Oumou, who is a housewife, did not go to school. As a child she hoped to marry a local businessman. She hopes her daughter will marry someone from their ethnic group when she grows up, and that she will stay in education until she is 20 years old. Aissata says that she will finish school when she is 18, and hopes to be a schoolteacher when she grows up. (REUTERS/Joe Penney)
Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Tadjroshan, 40, poses for a photograph with her daughter Ayman, 12, at their house in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad February 4, 2014. Tadjroshan said that she only went to school for two years, just long enough to learn to read the Koran, she then continued to practice reading at home. She now teaches the Koran to local girls. She would like her daughter to fulfill her dream and go to university. Ayman wants to become a doctor, and hopes that her parents will fund her study. She will need to study for 17 more years to become a general practitioner. (REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)

Susana Maria Cardona, 33, and her daughter Alejandra Ruby Cardona, 12, pose for a photograph inside their home in Tegucigalpa February 20, 2014. Susana Maria, who is a housewife, finished school at 17. Her ambition was to become a lawyer. She hopes that her daughter will become a doctor. Alejandra Ruby will finish education in 11 years and hopes to be an agronomist. (REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera)

Denise Arthur, 52, and her daughter Linnaea Thibedeau, 13, pose for a photograph at their home near Blackhawk, Colorado February 20, 2014. Denise Arthur is a restoration ecologist. She has a Ph.D and finished her education at age 34. Her ambition as a child was to be an animal behaviourist. Denise hopes her daughter Linnaea will become a biologist when she grows up. Linnaea would like to get a Ph.D and become a marine biologist. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)