Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, March 8, 2015: The temple of his body...

If Jesus is God dwelling among us, what more do we need?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus storms the temple in John’s Gospel, overturning the moneychangers’ tables and wreaking havoc in the marketplace?  The disciples believe that he is standing up for God’s house, that the merchants who have set up shop must somehow be defiling this sacred space.  They have encountered the love of God in the person of Jesus, yet their reading remains literal… but we know there is more going on here.  Destroy this temple, Jesus says, and I will rebuild it in three days.  His reference is, of course, to the temple of his body:  Jesus carries the presence of God within him, is the presence of God among them.  And Jesus will be the final sacrifice necessary:  we proclaim Christ crucified, Paul tells the Corinthians, we proclaim a Christ whose final act, whose ultimate sacrifice, is beyond our comprehension; it is wiser than human wisdom, stronger than human strength.

We don’t fully understand all the implications of Jesus’ sacrifice for the redemption of humankind.  We can follow God’s commandments as set out in Exodus, and trust, as God tells Moses, that God will bestow mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love him.  These are the words of everlasting life, as Psalm 19 proclaims.  But, as Paul says, neither signs nor wisdom suffice:  neither is as strong as faith.  We discover God partially in the law and in wisdom – but God works beyond these limits, and God’s love has no boundaries.  This, then, is the challenge:  to encounter the love of God, to find Jesus, dwelling among us – and to turn toward that love, in faith, to follow it no matter what it demands of us.  If our hearts open us to the power of Jesus to save us, what more do we need, really?

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

Monday, March 2, 2015

Song of the Transfiguration (David Haas)

 To hear David Haas' Song of the Transfiguration, click here.

Transform us as you transfigured,
Stood apart at Tabor’s height.
Lead us up our sacred mountain;
Search us with revealing light.
Lift us from where we have fallen
Full of questions, filled with fright.

Transform us you transfigured,
Once spoke with those holy ones.
We, surrounded by the witness
Of those saints whose work is done,
Live in this world as your Body,
Chosen daughters, chosen sons.

Transform us as you transfigured,
Would not stay within a shrine.
Keep us from our great temptation –
Time and truth we quickly bind.
Lead us down those daily pathways,
                 Where our love is not confined.

Image source:  Gerard David, Transfiguration of Christ, ca. 1450-1460
Video source

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, March 1, 2015: From the cloud came a voice...

Do you understand God? 

It’s pretty impossible to get your head around God’s promises.  Take the story of Abraham, in this Sunday’s first reading from Genesis.  God has given Abraham a son in his old age, only to ask him to sacrifice Isaac on a height God will point out to him.  What?  How can that possibly make sense?  But Abraham does not question God, not once:  he has embraced God over all, and follows God’s instructions to the letter.  Yes, the messenger stops him mid-deed.  But ultimately, the story is about Abraham believing – having faith – when he cannot possibly understand God’s plan.  He doesn’t need to get his head around God’s request:  he simply trusts.  The psalmist likewise believes, even when he cannot understand; he keeps the faith, even when afflicted, knowing that precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones (Psalm 116), trusting in God’s infinite mercy in his time of difficulty.

Jesus is the son of [God’s] handmaid:  born into the slavery that is human existence, Jesus takes this identity on fully; like the psalmist, he will know great affliction.  Paul recognizes this in his letter to the Romans:  God did not spare his own son, handing him over for us all.  Unlike Isaac, God allowed Jesus to be sacrificed, to die and be raised.  Is this a reality we can get our heads around?  Is it, really?  Or is God’s love simply greater than anything we can imagine?  The disciples certainly don’t get it, even when they are on the mountain with Jesus in Mark's Gospel.  Having heard him predict his own Passion, they witness his Transfiguration before their very eyes.  Peter hardly knew what to say, and the disciples will continue to question what rising from the dead meant in the aftermath of this remarkable event.  Although they hear God’s statement – Listen to him – they really have no clue what it all means.  Not yet.

It is a part of the human condition to live with doubt, to be overwhelmed by the ineffable – it’s hard to get what God is about in our lives.  Understanding the revelation, comprehending what God has done – sending his son, handing him over, raising him – takes time, and we’re still working it.  Hang in there… In the end, it will surely be worth it!

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep (Emma Hart Willard)

Rocked in the cradle of the deep 
I lay me down in peace to sleep;
Secure I rest upon the wave,
For Thou!, O Lord! hast power to save.
I know Thou wilt not slight my call,
For Thou dost mark the sparrow’s fall;
And calm and peaceful shall I sleep,
Rocked in the cradle of the deep.

When in the dead of night I lie
And gaze upon the trackless sky,
The star-bespangled heavenly scroll,
The boundless waters as they roll,--
I feel Thy wondrous power to save
From perils of the stormy wave: 
Rocked in the cradle of the deep,
I calmly rest and soundly sleep.

And such the trust that still were mine,
Though story winds swept o’er the brine,
Or though the tempest’s fiery breath
Roused me from sleep to wreck and death.
In ocean cave, still safe with Thee
The germ of immortality!
And calm and peaceful shall I sleep
Rocked in the cradle of the deep.

--Emma (Hart) Willard, 1787-1870
Poem source

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rainbow (Maya Angelou)

Click on the video above to listen to 
poet Maya Angelou's reflection on 
the rainbow God placed in the clouds 
after the chaos of the great flood... 

There’s an African-American song, 19th century, which is so great.  It says, When it look like the sun wa’n’t gonna to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.  Imagine!  And I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds.  I’ve had a lot of clouds.  But I have had so many rainbows.  And one of the things I do when I step up on the stage, when I stand up to translate, when I teach my classes, when I go to direct a movie, I bring everyone who has ever been kind to me, with me:  black, white, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American, gay, straight, everybody.  I say, come with me, I’m going on the stage.  Come with me, I need you now.  Long dead, you see?  So I don’t ever feel I have no help.  I've had rainbows in my clouds.  And the thing to do it seems to me, is to prepare yourself, so that you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud, somebody who may not look like you, may not call God the same name you call God, if they call God at all, you see?  And may not eat the same dishes prepared the way you do, you see?  May not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody.  That’s what I think.

Video source

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, February 22, 2015: Saved through water...

What do you do when faced with chaos?

In our first reading from Genesis this first Sunday of Lent, the waters of the flood – the epitome of chaos – have just receded.  Recall that God had sent the flood as a way of destroying manifestations of evil in Creation; afterwards, God puts his bow in the clouds, an arc of color (arco iris) that guarantees that God will never seek to destroy the earth again.  Chaos has been vanquished; the arc is a sign of new life.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is also confronted with chaos, albeit of a very dry kind:  subsequent to his baptism, he is driven by the Spirit into the desert – another locus of chaos.  Yet, in this case, when confronted by Satan, Jesus is sustained by angels who minister to his needs.  And Jesus emerges victorious:  having faced the evil temptations of self-centeredness, he ready to proclaim the gospel of God. 

Just as the ark carried Noah and his family through the storms and the chaos to safety, so we are carried by the Lord through the waters, through death in baptism, so that we can rise to safety, to new life.  Our chaos is sin; our way through that chaos lies in following God’s paths, God’s ways of love and truth (Psalm 25).  It is baptism, the First Letter of Peter tells us, that saves us now, bringing us to life in the Spirit. If we open our hearts to God every time we renew our baptismal vows, we too can conquer that chaos; if we allow God to lead us, we can conquer fear and death and be one with Christ, victorious.  It is a worthy aspiration for our Lenten journey!

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