Monday, July 6, 2015

Where we meet God...

This is why Christians speak of meeting God in the Cross.  By failing to embrace the cross we may miss opportunities to know God in a deeper way.  The cross is often where we meet God; because our vulnerability can make us more open to God’s grace, we are more open to God.  Many recovering alcoholics point to the acceptance of their disease as the moment when they began to find new life.

Finally, God’s gift is often not what we expect.  And sometimes it takes time to grasp that what we are experiencing is a resurrection.  The disciples too had a hard time seeing Jesus.  As the Apostles discovered on Easter Sunday, the resurrection does not come when you expect it.  It may take years for it to come at all.  And, it’s usually difficult to describe, because it’s your resurrection.  It may not make sense to other people [..., for] where the world sees only the cross, the Christian sees the possibility of something else.

--Fr. James Martin, Facebook, September 8, 2013

Saturday, July 4, 2015

George Washington's Prayer

  Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage:  We humbly beseech You that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Your favor and glad to do Your will.  Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.  Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.  Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in Your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to Your law, we may show forth Your praise among the nations of the earth.  In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness and in the day of trouble, do not allow our trust in You to fail; all this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.
--Attributed to George Washington

Happy Fourth of July
from Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mill Valley!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, July 5, 2015: What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!

Are you ready for your world to be rocked?  

It’s remarkable how resistant we can be to what’s right in front of us.  When Ezekiel is called to be a prophet in the midst of exile, the people of Israel don’t like his message because it threatens to rock their world:  first, that Jerusalem – the center of their universe – will be destroyed in their absence; second, that consolation will come, if only they have faith.  So the people of Israel, a rebellious house, reject Ezekiel, and Ezekiel must therefore fall to his knees, go to his weakness, and ask God for the strength to continue.  The spirit that sets him on his feet makes it possible for Ezekiel to hear the word of God and proclaim it, so that, one day, others might also come to hear, and believe.

Jesus is faced with a similar situation in Mark’s Gospel.  In his native place, everyone thinks they know him: he is only the carpenter, the son of Mary.  Setting up their own parameters around Jesus’ identity, the people aren’t able to acknowledge that God is speaking to them:  they are not open to Jesus the Word, and therefore refuse to believe.  To believe, after all, would rock the world as they know it.  And they’re not ready for that:  they embody the mockery of the arrogant to which Psalm 123 refers, and the contempt of the proud.  They are unwilling to show their weakness, unwilling to admit their limitations.  Jesus is amazed at their lack of faith.

Is it so important that the world be defined the way we think it ought to be?  Or might we not benefit from being open to God, open to God’s ability to rock our world?  Our Christian journey is about letting go of arrogance and going to our weakness, which is what arrogance is usually protecting.  Paul knows this when, in his letter to the Corinthians, he mentions his thorn in the flesh, a constant reminder from God that God’s grace is enough, because power is made perfect in weakness:  it is the Christian paradox.  To accept the cross is to allow God’s love to touch us; to reject the cross is to hold God’s love at bay. The people of Israel reject Ezekiel, but God pursues them up to their point of weakness… at which point their world is rocked by God’s love.  Our challenge is to allow the grace of God to be sufficient for us, to accept the difficulties, to embrace the cross, to allow God to rock our world in ways we can’t anticipate or control.   It is there that we meet God, where we will find our strength… and it won’t be in ourselves, but in God.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source:  Wordle

Monday, June 29, 2015

Free Hugs! (plus, some Maya Angelou)

 I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.  I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things:  a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.  I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.  I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.  I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.  I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.  I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.  I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.  I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.  I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.  I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
--Maya Angelou
What happens when people follow this advice?  
Check out the "Free Hugs" video, below, for one answer... 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

That hand of fire that touched my lips (Denise Levertov)

                        All others talked as if
                        talk were a dance.
                        Clodhopper I, with clumsy feet
                        would break the gliding ring.
                        Early I learned to
                        hunch myself
                        close by the door:
                        then when the talk began
                        I’d wipe my
                        mouth and went
                        unnoticed back to the barn
                        to be with the warm beasts
                        dumb among body sounds
                        of the simple ones. 
                        I’d see by a twist
                        of lit rush the motes
                        of gold moving
                        from shadow to shadow
                        slow in the wake
                        of deep untroubled sighs.
                        The cows
munched or stirred or were still.  I
was at home and lonely,
both in good measure.  Until
the sudden angel affrighted me—light effacing
my feeble beam,
a forest of torches, feathers of flame, sparks upflying:
but the cows as before
were calm, and nothing was burning,
            nothing but I, as that hand of fire
touched my lips and scorched my tongue
and pulled my voice
            into the ring of the dance.

--Denise Levertov
Poem source
Image source:  Luke Allsbrook, The Vision of Isaiah, 2006

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, June 28, 2015: Who touched me?

How can human contact break down the barriers that separate us?

Every culture has its taboos:  forbidden practices or behaviors, prohibitions based on notions of morality or danger or even taste.  When, in Mark’s Gospel the woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years makes her way through the crowd in order to touch Jesus’ cloak, she is doing the unthinkable:  she is rendering Jesus unclean because to touch a woman in this condition was taboo, and she herself is ostracized because of it; no relationship is possible for her.  Yet Jesus is not angered by her touch nor is he concerned with ritual impurity; for him, the woman’s great faith trumps any socially constructed prohibition, and he heals her: Daughter, your faith has saved you, he says.  Likewise, because of the great faith of her father, Jesus touches the dead daughter of Jairus, breaking down the barriers, bringing her back into community, back into relationship. Jesus offers both the woman and the girl a new sense of belonging; his generosity imparts love to their lives, proclaiming the love that appears to be in such short supply.  He has done what the narrator of Psalm 30 so appreciates:  you brought me up from the netherworld, the psalmist says, You changed my mourning into dancing.  You brought me back into relationship, in other words; your touch has made me whole.

We often create a bubble or barrier around ourselves:  those who are within the barrier are acceptable, while those without are not worthy of our attention, not worthy of contact with us.  Yet Paul tells the Corinthians that their responsibility is not just to those within their elite Corinthian bubble but also to needy Christians of other communities as well:  your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, he tells them.  Christianity is about support for and contact with all, not just some, so that all may have life.  Because, as Wisdom reminds us, God fashioned all things that they may have being, and the creatures of the world are wholesome.  Division, separation, barriers, walls:  these are all human constructions imposed on the goodness of Creation against the will of God.  It is our job to reach out to others, to destroy the barriers that separate us, to make the fundamental connections that ensure relationship, so that we might enjoy that relationship, both with other and with God.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source:  Wordle