Monday, March 31, 2014

God Breaks the Chains

by Marieta Maglas

(A meditation in a complex verse form on what it means to move 
from blindness to sight, from gloom to light,
and God's role in lifting us from that blindness, so long as we are open to faith.
The reference to the pool of Siloam at the end of the poem
recalls our readings this past weekend; the image is by James Tissot.)

When even nothing ever goes my way
I try to keep my goals within my sight.
I hope that they can lead to joy someday,
While overpass these metaphoric night.
Between those crazy things leading to doom,
I am quite melancholic in the gloom.

My life may be infected with the gloom.
When darkness spreads its wicked wings on the way.
In waiting for the approach of next doom,
I am the girl in search for nature’s sight.
When jagged rocks pinch and stick me overnight,
I search that something lifting me someday.

My faith grows strongly, and I hope someday,
Winds of tomorrow will enlight the gloom.
Faith, love and truth will be like stars at night.
Knowledge will be as bright as Milky Way.
As long as rightness will be brought to sight,
And lie will be a sticky bomb of doom.

I utter an impending sense of doom
Like poison killing everything someday.
Or icy flowers shaking in wind’s sight.
We end with hope, and we begin in gloom,
While we’re changing our lives along the way.
We’re making sense of all from day to night.

As fears are left unspoken in the night,
We feel this ending as a latest doom.
Sad minds still try to find a living way,
Hoping that they will save themselves someday.
They make important changes in the gloom.
Religious leaders teach Christian sight,

When wisdom is the synonym of sight,
And blind guides are to lead the blinds in night,
Some end with hope, others begin in gloom,
Between those sinful acts leading to doom,
Praying to God to save their souls someday.
Against all odds they try to find their way.

At Siloam, the blind received his sight.
In working faith the blind could leave his night.
God breaks our chains, and brings us out of gloom.

(Note:  Sestina poetry is a highly complex form that relies on the strict repetition of the same six words in varied orders in each stanza and ending with a three-verse envoi.  To read more about sestina poetry, click here.)

Poem source
Image source (James Tissot, "The Blind Man Washes in the Pool of Siloam" (1886-1894)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, March 30, 2014: How were your eyes opened?

And how clear is your vision?

John’s Gospel relies heavily on the evocation of light and darkness as metaphors for our human condition.  We get a particularly poignant example of John’s fascination with this metaphor this Sunday in the story of the blind man at the pool of Siloam whose eyes Jesus anoints with clay in order to heal him.  The very verb used in the text underscores the sacred nature of the event, and the man moves from physical blindness to spiritual vision in a breathlessly short period of time.  He first believes Jesus to be a prophet, defending his healer (in Jesus’ absence) to the Pharisees.  Then, when Jesus returns, seeking out the man he himself has healed, the formerly blind man comes to recognize with christological clarity that Jesus is the Son of Man.  He who once was blind now can see, see with his eyes and with his heart; he sees clearly that he has been touched by God.

It’s very hard to see clearly when our expectations get in the way of our vision.  Samuel encounters this reality when the Lord sends him to Jesse to seek out the Lord’s anointed, the future king David, with the admonition, Not as man sees does God see.  Jesse presents seven sons before Samuel, expecting that Samuel will choose one of them, but Samuel waits for God’s choice, the shepherd David.  As the consummate host of the Good Shepherd psalm, God similarly anoints the psalmist with oil, a sign of hospitality, and guides him in right paths.  So long as the psalmist allows himself to engage with God’s vision, he is assured of God’s fidelity to covenant:  only goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23).

With the coming of Jesus, our ability to appreciate God’s vision is made all the more clear, as Paul reminds the Ephesians, and we are charged with furthering the clear sight of others, exposing the fruitless works of darkness as we live as children of light. But to do so requires open eyes, that is, openness to God’s vision.  I came into the world for judgment, Jesus tells the man he has healed, so that those who do not see might see.  Healed ourselves, we are likewise called to bring sight to the blind through our witnessing to the healing action of God in our lives.

How clearly do we see?  To what extent does fear keep us in a state of blindness?  How open are we to seeing things differently, and to helping others to clearer vision as well?  Can we imagine Jesus anointing our eyes with dirt and spittle so that we can truly enjoy the light that Christ can give?

Image source

Monday, March 24, 2014

Woman at the Well

A modern monologue for the Woman at the Well
To be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, March 23, 2014: The love of God has been poured out into our hearts...

Are you willing to settle for the tangible?  Or are you holding out for more?

Our first reading this Sunday, from Exodus, shows us the Israelites on a journey through the desert, struggling with their faith as they complain to Moses of their thirst:  Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?  Was it just to have us die here of thirst?  Their spiritual condition is undermined by their physical condition; their bond with God is tenuous, since they seem to assume God will not be there to help.  As Psalm 95 reminds us, their hearts are hardened…  Yet God does intervene in the Israelites’ plight nonetheless, providing what they ask for:  tangible water for the people to drink.  Such direct intervention should be sufficient to allow them to come to an awareness of God’s care for them, but in fact their spiritual life is unchanged, and they will soon be building a golden calf to worship in God’s place.  Their ability to trust God – their faith – is limited by their human parameters. 

The Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel is likewise limited, at first at least, by her own human parameters.  Jesus breaks every rule in the book by asking her for water, placing himself on par with her, though he is a man and a Jew and should not be conversing alone with this Samaritan woman.  He then tells her she should herself be asking for living water – not merely life-sustaining water, but a new kind of water, welling up from the spring that is Jesus himself, intangibly, something she can hold onto only in her heart.

We too are on a journey; we struggle with faith.  What does it take to find the faith we need, and to maintain it?  We are often willing to settle for what we can hold in our hands, the tangible.  But God offers us eternal life, love, infinite and forever, in the person of Jesus.  Only Jesus can slake our thirst for God. To worship God in spirit and truth is to enter into God’s place, into real relationship, to enter into who God is — I AM —, not just our concept of who God is.  Because of Jesus’s death on the Cross, there is no longer any barrier:  God is accessible.  We enter into relationship because the Spirit acts; it is God’s action.  But we have to be ready to receive the gift, to enter into where God draws us, embracing fully the fullness of God revealed in Jesus, whether we understand it completely or not.  Jesus wants to draw the woman at the well out of the tangible to something more:  living water.  Our faith constantly calls us to that more that is the love of God poured out into our hearts (Romans).  And it’s not tangible.  But it is perfect.

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

Faith in the Promise - The Long View

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

This text was composed by Bishop Ken Untener, 
who included it in a publication as a reflection on the 
anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Oscar Romero.  
It has come to be known as The Romero Prayer.