Monday, July 29, 2019

A challenge and gift . . .

To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging. This becomes essential when a threshold opens suddenly in front of you, one for which you had no preparation. This could be illness, suffering or loss.
Because we are so engaged with the world, we usually forget how fragile life can be and how vulnerable we always are. It takes only a couple of seconds for a life to change irreversibly. Suddenly you stand on completely strange ground and a new course of life has to be embraced.
Especially at such times we desperately need blessing and protection. You look back at the life you have lived up to a few hours before, and it suddenly seems so far away. Think for a moment how, across the world, someone’s life has just changed – irrevocably, permanently, and not necessarily for the better – and everything that was once so steady, so reliable, must now find a new way of unfolding. (Author Unknown)


Futuring . . .

Into the Future
by Rita Cammack, OSF from Denver, CO

“Oh how gently You nudge me into the future, O God!
You nudge me beyond my fears, beyond my hesitations, beyond my questions. You nudge me…lovingly, tenderly, persistently to open my eyes and look with You into the possibilities.

Other times, You push me, O God! You push me past my stout reinforcements, past my frozen expectations, past my solidified way of thinking.

You push me…encouragingly, simply, intentionally to push past the confines of what I know and let myself be led into the unknown.

Other times, O God, You seem to carry me into the future! You carry me past my entombed pain, past my erroneous misunderstandings, past my clouded vision of others.

You carry me…then draw me…respectfully, forgivingly, and sometimes tearfully to accept myself and others and let love be the healing core.

And then, O God, You are forever beckoning me. You beckon me to move through the darkness into the light, through doubt into confidence, through denial into acceptance.

You beckon me…patiently, joyfully, reassuringly to trust that You are in the future and to let Your grace be enough for THIS moment!” Amen.

Prayer of Gratitude . . .

O God,
I ain’t what I want to be;
I ain’t what I ought to be;
I ain’t what I’m gonna be,
 but, thank God,
I ain’t what I used to be.
Author Unknown

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Resting in God . . .

God is there in these moments of rest and
 can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. 
Then the rest of the day can take its course,
under the same effort and strain,
perhaps, but in peace. 
And when night comes,
and you look back over the day
and see how fragmentary everything has been,
and how much you planned that has gone undone. . .
just take everything exactly as it is,
put it in God’s hands and leave it with God. 
Then you will be able to rest in God
 ~ really rest ~
and start the next day as a new life.
St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein)


Monday, July 22, 2019

Mary Magdalene - Blessed Turning!

Allow me to begin with a short excerpt from a poem entitled, Turning Points.
Taking us
Where we would not choose to go.
Suddenly we pass a point
We will never pass again.
Turning points interrupt us . . .

On this feast of St. Mary Magdalene, this Gospel is a turning point in the post Resurrection stories of Jesus.  As a result of this moment of Mystery, the disciples will no longer hide in upper rooms, for one day soon their NEW WAY will change the course of  history  –  life will be turned upside down and inside out – all because Mary Magdalene has seen the Lord . . . and proclaims to all, Jesus is alive!

In this version of an “empty tomb” story that under girds Christian belief in the Resurrection of Jesus, it is difficult to miss the special importance John assigns to Mary Magdalene.  Only John reports that Mary Magdalene came alone, unaccompanied by other women.  From a cultural perspective, this is very unusual behavior, for in the culture of Jesus, a woman alone outdoors in an anomaly.  Theologians believe that this is John’s way of highlighting Mary’s special importance. 
Mary came to the tomb in great distress.  The huge stone had been moved away and the tomb itself is empty.  This caused Mary to think that Jesus’ body had been stolen.
 In her great love for Jesus, she lingered outside the tomb.  However, our Gospel continues to tell us that Mary looks in the tomb a second time and is greeted by two angels.  She seems to not notice the angels speaking to her for she is totally absorbed in one thing, and that was missing.

Now another turning point occurs. 
After her interchange with the angels, Mary turns and encounters the Risen Jesus, but she does not “know” him.   She mistakes him for the gardener, and asks him where he has placed Jesus’ body so that she can take it away.  The scene and interchange at this point are full of irony.  Here she is, “care-fronted” by Jesus, the focus of her longing, but she does not recognize him, precisely because she is looking for the corpse of the Jesus whom she knew.  Such is the paradox of longing; while it fuels our searching and focuses our attention, it also can limit what we see and so we can miss what we long for most deeply.

Then Jesus simply calls her name, “Mary!”  Jesus spoke her name. Only he could say her name in that way.  Now she turns again and instantly, with the whole of her being, she recognized him and in that moment knew that he had risen from the dead.

This second turning is the fulcrum of this Gospel story.  For in turning and recognizing Jesus when he calls her by name, Mary also turns or comes to herself.   In the instant of call and response Mary’s longing is transformed and fulfilled and she and her world are irrevocably changed.  In this poignant moment, Mary feels at once fully known and fully loved.  She also is fully seen and she knows that the eyes that see her are the eyes of forgiveness, mercy, love, and unconditional acceptance.

In the Scriptures, to be called by name has a special significance.  To call someone or something by name is to identify who or what it is.   Adam, in the garden, named each beast and flower according to its essence. God often changed the names of prophets to fit their roles.  By calling her by name, Jesus manifests his knowledge of everything in her life and his total acceptance of all that she is.  This is the moment in which Mary realizes Jesus loved her with unconditional love. 

When Mary listens to the voice of the risen Jesus, her perspective on the events in the garden changes.  She no longer understands the empty tomb as a manifestation of death, but a testimony to the power and possibilities of life. 

Mary may have attempted to embrace Jesus after she recognized him – (like any of us would do after having lost a dear friend to death) – But Jesus says to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not ascended to the Father.”  When he speaks these words, he teaches Mary that he cannot be controlled or held captive to preconceived standards and expectations of who he should be – The teaching he speaks to Mary is one that says – “Do not hold on to me, but let me be free so that I can give you the fullness of what I have to offer.”

And then a final turning point is presented in the Scripture.  Jesus instructs her to turn once again and he commissions her to go to the disciples, still hidden in fear, and to let them know that he is alive - he is risen from the dead.

This encounter with Jesus is made real for us, too.  We experience turning points of faith as we are called into the transformative process of discipleship. 
We sometimes fail to recognize the gentle hand of God in our unfolding story of walking in faith.  God often calls us by name in the depths of our sacred selves – where we are truly known in our essence and loved in our brokenness. 
God gazes upon us eternally with unconditional love – here, like Mary, we are fully seen, fully known, fully accepted, and fully loved.

Turning points interrupt us . . .
 Looking back we see them for what they are:
 Bittersweet raw reality
 Breakthrough to beatitude
 Bedrock that gives us courage
 to give ourselves away.
For the less we struggle with turning points
The greater the strength
To return
And turn again.

(Author Unknown)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Lupita Vital Cruz Preaches for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Get ready. Get set. SLOW!!!

 "Slow Me Down, God" by Wilfred Arlan Peterson (1900-1995)

Slow me down, God.
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace.
Give me, amidst the day's confusion
the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tension of my nerves and muscles
with the soothing music of singing streams
that live in my memory.

Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art
of taking minute vacations....
slowing down to look at a flower,
to chat with a friend,
to read a few lines from a good book.

Remind me
of the fable of the hare and the tortoise;
that the race is not always to the swift;
that there is more to life than measuring its speed.

Let me look up at the branches of the towering oak
and know that ... it grew slowly ... and well.
Inspire me
to send my own roots down deep...
into the soil of life's endearing values...
That I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
Slow me down, God.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Blessed . . .Fully Rely On God!


Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves; they will always have entertainment.
Blessed are those who can distinguish between a mountain and a molehill; they will save themselves a lot of trouble.
Blessed are those who can rest and sleep without looking for excuses; they will become wise.
Blessed are those who are intelligent enough not to take themselves too seriously; they will be appreciated.
Blessed are you if you can look seriously at small things and peacefully at serious things; you will go far in life.
Blessed are you if you can admire a smile and forget a scowl; your path will be sunlit.
Blessed are you if you can always interpret the attitudes of others with good will, even when appearances are to the contrary; you may seem naive, but that is the price of charity.
Blessed are those who think before acting and who laugh before thinking; they will avoid foolish mistakes.
Blessed are you if you know how to be silent and smile, even when you are interrupted, contradicted or walked on; the gospel is beginning to take root in your heart.
Blessed are you especially if you know how to recognize God in all those you meet; you have found the true light, true wisdom.
- Fr Joseph Folliet
 - Original Source Unknown

Friday, July 12, 2019

Another point of view . . .

In this liturgical calendar year, the Gospel reading for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time is that of The Good Samaritan.  I once had written a reflection on this Scripture from the Inn Keeper’s point of view.  I post it here for your reflection.  I invite you to consider “stepping into the parable” and writing your own reflection.  Blessings!

Shalom to you!

I am the owner and manager of this establishment which some would like to call an inn. It seems to be the only place on this rugged stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho.  I see a lot of strange happenings along these heavily traveled paths, for it is a major trade route.  One has to be vigilant on these roads, especially when the band of robbers surprise unsuspecting victims.

I am often fortunate to encounter a number of travelers who are merchants, pilgrims, temple elders, and foreigners from nearby provinces who are looking for work.  I know that some are not of my faith, but my wife says I need to be open and offer hospitality to anyone who seeks refuge from the desert sun, or needs rest from walking the dirt roads, or who may be on pilgrimage for atonement of sins long ago.  I have a young new family and the extra money is essential for me so I can feed and clothe my family, besides paying taxes to the governor! 

I learned a lot from my father when he was an innkeeper in Bethlehem.  When I was a child, he often told me stories of the people who came to his establishment.  He always enjoyed telling one story in particular of a young pregnant woman, who traveled with a man with strong hands and an anxious heart.  Since this was the time of the census, they sought a place to stay with their relatives, but no one would make room for this unwed mother to be.  It was my father who gave them a place to stay.

So I now encounter this Samaritan man – I can tell by his accent and the way he is dressed.  He is carrying someone on his donkey and is heading here to my desk. We are a simple establishment. No magnetic swipe, cards, no room service (unless there is money to accompany the request) and no extra set of clean towels. This tall, quite burly Samaritan says that he found this Jew along the roadside, beaten and left half dead.  Apparently this man encountered those robbers that I spoke of earlier. The Samaritan requested a room for him to care for this injured man. I accommodated and even gave him those extra towels with no charge – my wife said that would be the compassionate thing to do.  Early the next morning, the Samaritan handed me money, two days wages, and wanted me to give the injured man further care with a bed, food, and healing oils.  I agree to do so immediately.  I guess it was his eyes, his gentle voice, and his deep concern for this traveler.  He didn’t even know his name.  He said that he would return in a few days and pay me with more money if what he had given me was not enough. 

He then turned, started to walk out the door, but turned and spoke a blessing to me and my family.  I wondered if he was a follower of the man from Galilee whom they call, Jesus.  This Samaritan man was so compassionate toward this traveler, a Jew. When he returns, I will ask him where I can find this Jesus. 

~ Based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan ~ Luke 10:25-37

Source Unknown

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Openness to Mystery . . .

An Unclenched Moment
Gentle me, Holy One,
into an unclenched moment,
a deep breath,
a letting go
of heavy expectancies,
of shriveling anxieties,
of dead certainties,
that softened by the silence,
surrounded by the light,
and open to the mystery,
I may be found by wholeness,
upheld by the unfathomable,
entranced by the simple,
and filled with the joy that is You.
~Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace

Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace,
1984, Innisfree Press, Philadelphia, PA

Hiding and Seeking . . .

A Prayer by St. Anselm of Canterbury

O my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You,
where and how to find You.
You are my God and You are my all and I have never seen You.
You have made me and remade me,
You have bestowed on me all the good things I possess,
Still I do not know You.
I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek You.
I cannot seek You unless You teach me
or find You unless You show Yourself to me.
Let me seek You in my desire,
let me desire You in my seeking.
Let me find You by loving You,
let me love You when I find You.
This prayer is from Meeting Christ in Prayer by Fr. John Sessani and Mary Ann McLaughlin

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

How to be vulnerable . . .

"What is the reign of God like? The reign of God is that sacred space where everyone loves everyone else unconditionally, where everyone dwells in peace, where everyone acts in perfect nonviolence, where everyone is happy, where everyone rejoices because they are in the presence of God—most of all, where everyone loves and worships the living God with all their being.

The reign of God is within us, among us, and far away from us all at the same time. It is right here in front of us, and it is nowhere near us.  It is the spiritual experience of inner peace and perfect unconditional love, but it is also an eschatological existence, the heavenly place where God lives, where we shall one day live with God. It is that space of vulnerability, innocence, wonder, peace, and joy that children know. It is the presence of our Lord Jesus.  It is life."     (From: The Questions of Jesus by John Dear)

“Jesus sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he intended to go.”  In the Gospel of this Sunday, Jesus is sending the disciples to the towns and villages before him to prepare the way. What a great opportunity for his followers to be entrusted with the message that the Kingdom of God is at hand!  However, there are a few “guidelines” in the Disciples’ Handbook that they are to practice:
Ask “the God of the harvest” to call up more disciples to assist with this mission to preach the Good News that the kingdom is here!
Be cautious – it is hazardous work – you can often feel like a lamb among wolves!
Travel light – carry no GPS, no iPad, no Smart phone, no extra equipment; Remember - YOU are the equipment!
Greet no one on the way. This is a help to keep you from being distracted from your purpose.  In other words, minimize your social networking!
Enter a home with a greeting of PEACE!  It is always helpful to make a good first impression.
Eat what is placed before you – no “global whining” allowed.  Have an attitude of gratitude.
Don’t move from house to house – be content with the gift of what is.
Cure the sick – and tell them, “God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!” Remember, it is God working in and through you. Keep your ego out of the way!
If you are not received, shake off the dust of the town from your feet and move on. Try not to hold a grudge.  Maybe they were not ready for the message – but keep the experience as a source of learning and as a container of new wisdom for yourself.

In the quote from John Dear, he writes that the kingdom of God is a space of vulnerability. I’m sure all of us can lean back into our life experiences and recall a vulnerable moment or two.  I recently listened to a TED Talk by Brene’ Brown on the power of vulnerability.  Yes, there is power in vulnerability. She states that for vulnerability to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, and that vulnerable people:
live from a wholeheartedness – a worthiness – a sense of courage
tell who they are with their hearts
are compassionate, kind to self and then able to be compassionate toward others
live a life which connects to others and the world; they live with authenticity
they let go of who they thought they should be
live with believing that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful
live with a willingness to accept that there are no guarantees in life

Her final bit of advice to those willing to be vulnerable is:
Let yourself be seen; love with your whole heart even with no guarantees
Practice gratitude and joy in all moments, especially vulnerable moments
Believe that you’re enough!  Then you are kinder to yourself and to others

Returning to the Gospel, the disciples had to move into this space of vulnerability to prepare the way for the Good News!  So let us all pray to the “God of the harvest” this week to give us the grace we need to be seen as whole hearted as we live with struggle, pain, uncertainties, imperfections, ambiguities, and the learnings of life. Let us gain courage that the reign of God “is within us, among us, and far away from us all at the same time.” May we all live with knowing that we are enough, that we are impacted by what we do and are to each other, and that what makes us beautiful is our vulnerability!!