Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Gift of Hope . . .

Help Us to Hope

O loving God,
we thank you for bringing us the rivers and streams of this world.
May the rivers we know be an image of the stream
that you want to flow within each one of us.
Teach us now, take away all fear,
dare to let us believe that we could really be a small part
of a reconstructed society, that we could build again.

Take away our cynicism.
Take away our lack of hope.
Take away our own anger and judgments.
We thank you for the faith and the desire that is in our hearts.
You have planted it there. Now help us to preserve it,
protect it and increase it.

We long for vision, God.
We need vision and we know we will perish without it.
Help us open each new day to a new meaning,
to a new hope, to a deeper desiring.
Show us your face, loving God, and we will be satisfied.
We ask for all this in Jesus’ name.

(Richard Rohr, ofm)
Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (2001)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Welcome, Spring!!!


Ready for Spring (by Annette L. Sherwood, 2013)

I stand here watching
waiting, listening
in early Spring
I see the tiny bud
shooting up from
the tip of the branch
in anticipation, I remain still
I take in the cold air,
watching a few snowflakes fall by,
even feeling some of them
melt on my cheek
I breathe in this Holy moment
I did not plant the seed,
nor spend effort to encourage
original years of growth
No, that was not my work
only yours, Dear
I stand here with you now,
holding your hand,
awaiting Spring

We've made it through
another harsh spell,
cold, windy, bare
facing together a New Season,
we stand in a patch of wet snow
as it melts at our feet

Here I am, to Rejoice with you
 as we experience New Growth
 little buds are formed,
 the flowering has already begun
 together or apart, we delight
 and share this moment
 knowing New Life,
 fresh perspective, and green leaves
 are arriving,
 even as the last storm is passing…

 Spring starts blossoming now
 The winter of our hearts will
 begin to fade into cold
 distant memories

 Joy begins sprouting
 with our eyes,
 in our smiles,
 as it softens our hearts,
 leading us to laughter

 Hope enters,
 which we know
 will bud,
 into the flower,
 and then the seed,
 gently dropping to feed the birds

 The passing order of this Season
 feels like it is rooting us on
 toward New Life

 Before long,
 these cold days will pass away
 into warm ones with
 mild breezes
 Easter Blessings
 carrying a new promise for Life

 In Gratitude,
 I bear witness
 to Your Beautiful Spring
 and Celebrate!
(Used with permission)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

What's in a name?

Litany of God's Names

by Joseph Sobb, S.J.

O God of silence and quietness, you call us to be still and know you -
O God of steadfast love, your Spirit is poured into our hearts –
O God of compassion, your Word is our light and hope –
O God of faithfulness, you fill our hearts with joy –
O God of life and truth, from you we receive every gift –

O God of healing and peace, you open us to divine grace –
O God of all creation, our beginning and our end –
O God of salvation, you reconcile all things in Jesus, -
O God of Jesus, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit –
O God of Jesus, who invites us, “Come and see” –
O God of Jesus, who was tempted as we all are –
O God of Jesus, who is your pledge of saving love –
O God of Sarah and Abraham, from whom came  Jesus -
O God of Anna and Simeon, who recognized Jesus, your Son,
  as Messiah –

O God of Mary, who bore Jesus, -  
O God of Joseph, to whose fatherly care was entrusted Jesus, -
O God of all generations, of all times and seasons and peoples –
O God of our mothers and fathers, of all who have loved us –
O God of our past; O God of our future –
O God of our present, O God in our present -
(Original source unknown)

A Blessing of Light and Hope . . .

Blessed Are You Who Bear The Light

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.

Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes ___
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith,
in stubborn hope,
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds.

Author: Jan Richardson
From Circle of Grace/
©Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com

Lenten Blessings, Lenten Practice . . .

May God bless us with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war,
so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them
and to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness
to believe that we can make a difference in this world,
so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.
Author Unknown

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Lent ~ The Beloved!

 First Sunday of Lent ~ (previously posted)

In our CSA Constitutions, in the section on Formation and Membership, there is written this theology statement:
Transitions of every sort mark our lives. We try to recognize in each of them a graced moment in our ongoing formation, one in which we can live out the paschal mystery and build the kingdom of God. (#58)

Some transitions are inevitable in our human experience, some are probable, and others are possible but perhaps not likely.  Birth, adolescence, mid-life, senior life, death.   All are transitions that are natural to every human experience, given an average life span.  Yes, transitions of every sort mark our lives. We continue to encounter daily transitions in which we are invited to name our present reality as we evolve into the future. Transitions always begin with endings that place us in an in-between space – or a liminality that is uncomfortable, uncertain, disorienting; there may be a loss of a sense of identity, and oftentimes we can experience a change in our relationship with ourselves and perhaps with God as well. 

In her book, Journey of the Soul, Sister Doris Klein speaks of transitions with the following words:
“When we face those times of uncertainty in our life, the scene is often blurry.  Things we were so sure of suddenly make little sense.  The answers we thought were clear now seem lost in a distant fog, and we wander aimlessly, unable to regain the focus we once believed we had.

Our confusion is unsettling.  Doubt, like vertigo, distorts our balance as we fearfully wander in a vast and empty inner wilderness.  As we wrestle with the darkness, a rush of panic washes into our hearts, our breath becomes shallow and, with each question, the judgments seem to escalate.”

Here in our Gospel, we find Jesus smack dab in the midst of transition – and “knee deep” in liminal space.  This could be considered his novitiate, or sabbatical time, a vision quest, or the Spirit’s idea of boot camp for prophets.

After Jesus heard God call him “My Beloved” at his baptism, we are told that the Spirit drove him into the desert to discover what it would mean to be God’s Beloved.  It is here in this wilderness that his spiritual, psychological, and personal inner strength is challenged by the tempter who is the master of delusion, denial, and lies, and who is taunting him to choose the “dark side.” 

Jesus’ desert drama is a struggle that will prepare him for all that awaits him in his public ministry and mission as the Anointed One.  He will carry no light saber or magic wand to ward off the stones of critics, opponents, or enemies that find him too much for them. Here in the wilderness, he has fasted for forty days and forty nights.  It is here on the margins of the city that he will wrestle with the demons of hunger, power, prestige, possessions, and fame. In his physical emptiness, he is made vulnerable in his call as Beloved.

He is confronted by the tempter to turn stones into bread – a temptation that entices him to believe that if his hunger would be satisfied with earthly pleasures – it will be enough.  It is here in the school of the desert that he chooses the emptiness of letting go of all that satisfied him in the past – namely, his relationships of his village, his family, his simple life of carpentry, his privacy, his identity.

Jesus, alone in the desolate wilderness where he is without food or water, and is stripped of all his securities, now remembers and embraces the words of love he heard upon rising from the waters of the Jordan. . . You are my Beloved . . . God alone becomes his sustenance.

For Jesus all of the comfortable, familiar, and secure have ended.  He refuses to give in to the tempter of illusion and is nourished again by the voice and words of God - for his journey will be one of feeding the hungry in spirit, mind, and body with the bread of his words.

His second temptation is to doubt God’s abiding love. Jesus is challenged to test whether or not God is really trustworthy.  Jumping from the pinnacle of the temple would gain Jesus instant acclaim as a wonder worker, winning over the multitudes.
But Jesus stands firm.  He refuses to give in to self-destruction and self-hatred and chooses to remain faithful to God, trusting God’s unconditional love.

Finally, the tempter shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and taunts that if he is God’s Beloved, why not be popular, famous, and have a chance to be a rock star? 
This is a subtle temptation for domination and power, to become an owner of everything, having control of everyone, in charge of life itself.  The price demanded by the tempter for all the kingdoms of the world was to worship him. Jesus again says that being the Beloved is all that he needs and he chooses faithfulness to God.

So what is the Good News for us? 
“To struggle is to begin to see the world differently.    . . .  If we are willing to persevere through the depths of struggle we can emerge with conversion, faith, courage, surrender, self-acceptance, endurance, and a kind of personal growth that takes us beyond pain to understanding.  Enduring struggle is the price to be paid for becoming everything we are meant to be in the world.” (Joan Chittister)

• As individuals, as a community, a church, as people of this shared planet . . . how do we face struggles with the hungers, illusions, and powers of temptation that confront us every day? 
• What struggles do we face at this juncture of “in-betweenness” and liminality? Can we accept the challenges: to name them, realize their impact, and consequences?  Then, how will we choose to walk with trust, hope, and audacity into the now and not-yet?
• What is the grace we desire at this time, at the beginning of Lent, as we prepare to move through the paschal mystery?
• What gifts within our present transitions are we invited to claim?  Are we able to surrender to this time of conversion, allowing angels to minister to us and to nourish us with God’s Word and the faith of one another, letting go of the needs and desires that may separate us from God?
• Finally, as we enter this desert time of transitions, let us ask for the graces we need to rekindle our love of God and God’s mission; for God is tenderly, lovingly, unceasingly speaking to our spirits: You are my beloved!

So let us pray:
Transitions of every sort mark our lives. We try to recognize in each of them a graced moment in our ongoing formation, one in which we can live out the paschal mystery and build the kingdom of God. (#58)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Prayer for Mardi Gras Time . . .

Mardi Gras Prayer

Blessed are you, God of all creation,
for it is from your goodness that we have this day
to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.

Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.
Today we feast.
We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.
We thank you especially for one another.
As we give you thanks,
we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.
As we share these wonderful gifts together,
we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those
who need our support.

Prepare us for tomorrow.
Tasting the fullness of what we have today,
let us experience some hunger tomorrow.
May our fasting make us more alert
and may it heighten our consciousness
so that we might be ready to hear your Word
and respond to your call.

As our feasting fills us with gratitude
so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires
and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor.
May our self-denial turn our hearts to you
and give us a new freedom for
generous service to others.

We ask you these graces
with our hearts full of delight
and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead.
We ask them with confidence
in the name of Jesus the Lord. 

 (Creighton University) http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html


Lenting . . .

Fasting & Feasting

Lent is more than a time of fasting, it can also be a joyous season of feasting.
Lent is a time to fast from certain things, and to feast on others.

Fast from judging others
Feast on the Christ dwelling in them
Fast from emphasis on differences
Feast on the unity of life
Fast from apparent darkness
Feast on the reality of light
Fast from thoughts of illness
Feast on the healing power of God
Fast from words that pollute
Feast on words that purify
Fast from discontent
Feast on gratitude

Fast from anger
Feast on patience
Fast from pessimism
Feast on optimism
Fast from worry
Feast on Divine Providence

Fast from complaining
Feast on appreciation
Fast from negatives
Feast on affirmatives
Fast from unrelenting pleasures
Feast on unceasing prayer

Fast from hostility
Feast on peace
Fast from bitterness
Feast on forgiveness
Fast from self-concern
Feast on compassion for others

Fast from personal anxiety
Feast on trust

Fast from discouragement
Feast on hope
Fast from acts that tear down
Feast on acts which build up

Fast from thoughts that weaken
Feast on promises that inspire
Fast from idle gossip
Feast on purposeful silence
Fast from problems which overwhelm
Feast on prayer that is supportive
(Author Unknown)

Closing Prayer:

God, we honor the Mystery of your presence in us.  We celebrate through feasting and fasting your Indwelling Presence in our daily lives.  You are here today in ways we did not know.  We cherish your presence in our lives as we journey through life.  We receive your joy in the midst of our sorrows.  We receive your love in the midst of our fears, and we receive your light in the midst of our darkness . . .
Lent . . .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 as we approach the season of Lent . . .
• What in your life has turned into ashes?
• What in your life is God asking of you to turn into ashes?

(previously posted)