Monday, April 28, 2014

I am a cheese, make me a mystic, immediately

What I am asking for is really rather ridiculous.  Oh Lord, I am saying, at present I am a cheese, make me a mystic, immediately.  But then God can do that -- make mystics out of cheeses.  But why should He do it for an ingrate slothful & dirty creature like me. [...] Dear God, please give me some place, no matter how small, but let me know it and keep it.  If I am the one to wash the second step every day, let me know it and let me wash it and let my heart overflow with love washing it.  God loves us, God needs us.  My soul too.  So then take it dear God because it knows that You are all it should want and if it were wise You would be all it would want and the times it thinks wise, You are all it does want, and it wants more and more to want You.  Its demands are absurd.  It's a moth who would be king, a stupid slothful thing, a foolish thing, who wants God, who made the earth, to be its Lover.  Immediately.

If I could only hold God in my mind.  If I could only just think of Him.

--Flannery O'Connor,  A Prayer Journal 
(New York:  Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2013), pp.38-39

(Flannery O'Connor's prayer journal dates from her time at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, when she was twenty years old, and was only recently discovered by her former colleague William Sessions. To read Marilynne Robinson's  review of the volume, published in 2013, click here.)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, April 27, 2014: The genuineness of your faith...

Are you fully engaged in living your faith?

Our readings for Divine Mercy Sunday focus on stories of faith.  In John’s Gospel, coming to the fullness of faith means moving out of the upper room – where the apostles are hiding out of fear – and into the world, where faith can transform us.  Thomas, who missed Jesus’s earlier appearance to the disciples, realizes perhaps better than any of them the fullness of faith to which Jesus has invited him.  Without even touching Jesus’s wounds, Thomas responds, My Lord and my God, articulating an insight his friends have not yet come to, entering into a profound place of faith, already proclaiming the Good News!  

Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles demonstrates – in a kind of idealized representation of communal life – the deep faith the disciples finally do embrace.  Living as best they can for other, their faith is very much alive for them, directing their lives, their decisions, their days.  They have chosen a lifestyle in which the relationship they have with Christ is the totality of their identity, their hope, their ideal, their aim.  And so they proclaim the Good News with their very lives, breaking bread together, praying together, supporting one another in every way they can.  They daily give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his love is indeed everlasting (Psalm 118); they give witness as one body to God’s activity in their lives, to God’s love and care and salvation.  What would make us so radically change our lives so as to live our faith so fully, so that our very lives would be a proclamation of the Good News?

Our second reading from 1 Peter reaffirms the radical living hope expressed in the first reading.  If God’s love is the core of our faith, if we allow that love to keep unfolding, every day, holding on to transcendence, engaging God in the present moment with all of our being, then heaven is indeed possible.  If our faith is genuine and we rest knowing we are safeguarded through faith, then indescribable and glorious joy, radical joy is indeed possible…

Are you fully engaged in living your faith?  
Are you willing to radically change your life so as to do so?  

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

From Sorrow to Joy

After Jesus, the individual most present in our Easter readings seems to be Mary Magdalene, the focal point of the gospel not only at the Vigil Mass on Saturday and on Easter Sunday, but also on Monday and Tuesday of this week.  Mary of Magdala’s deep sorrow, followed by ecstatic joy, demonstrates how – with just a little tweaking of focus – we, too, can witness and give witness to the power of God’s love revealed in the death and rising of His Son.

You know John's version...  Filled with sorrow, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, weeping.  Looking inside, she finds, not Jesus, but two beings in white, and her pain is palpable in her statement to them:  They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.  Turning, she sees a man she believes to be the gardener, and she questions him as well:  Sir, if you carried me away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.  It is only when Jesus pronounces her name, Mary!, that she recognizes the gardener as her friend.  Jesus’s voice causes her to refocus, allowing Mary to cast off her despair for a newfound joy, as well as a mission:  Go to my brothers and tell them, Jesus says.

Like Mary Magdalene, we too sometimes experience cloudy vision, an inability to focus, to recognize God’s presence in our lives. Perhaps we too are sorrowful, or simply too distracted to pay attention to our Lord, dwelling in us, dwelling in those around us.  Today, may we endeavor, like Mary, to reflect on what Jesus’ voice sounds like, accustoming our heart’s capacity to listen for that sound, an echo of God’s love for us.  May we strive to refocus, to open the eyes of our hearts to see what we might be missing:  Jesus himself, present, in our midst – so that, like Mary, we might go out to all the world to say, I have seen the Risen Lord!

Image source (upper):  "Noli me tangere," Fra Angelico, ca. 1440
Image source (below):  Notre-Dame de Paris, side panel.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Christ is Risen!

Wishing you and your family a very, very Blessed Easter!
We hope you enjoy the Hallelujah (story & song) below in celebration...

Video source  (courtesy of Ellie & Steve via Onnie)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Chemin de Croix, Chapelle des Jésuites, Québec

Chemin de Croix, Chapelle des Jésuites, Québec

In the Jesuit Chapel located in the city of Québec, there is a rather powerful set of the Stations of Cross, handcarved by a wood sculptor named Médard Bourgault (1897-1967).  The original carvings were intended for another site, and when they were moved to the Jesuit Chapel, they were judged to be a bit too small and plain for the space, so (as my guide told me when I visited) members of Médard Bourgault's family, also woodcarvers, added figures to either side of each central scene, fictional spectators, if you will, to Jesus's Way of the Cross.  Contemplating these supplemental figures -- their physical gestures and postures, their emotions, their faces -- might inspire a new relationship to the Stations themselves in us as we, too, walk the Way this Good Friday. (Click on each image to enlarge it.)

1.  Jesus is condemned to die.

2.  Jesus carries his cross.

3.  Jesus falls the first time.

4.  Jesus meets his mother.

5.  Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross.

6.  Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

7.  Jesus falls the second time.

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

9.  Jesus falls the third time.

10.  Jesus is stripped of his clothing.

11.  Jesus is crucified.

12.  Jesus dies.

13.  Jesus is taken down from the cross.

14.  Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Enter into the Extraordinary!

Take a step out of the ordinary this week… 
and enter into the extraordinary celebration of the Triduum!

As those who have made this journey will tell you, the Easter Triduum is unlike any other moment in the Church’s liturgical calendar.  To enter into this singular event is to step out of chronological time and enter into kairos time, into a kind of sacred space or holy ground where nothing – no song or gesture or prayer – feels quite the same.  Triduum ("three days") is total immersion into the Passion, Death, and Rising of Jesus.

Come, join us at the table on Holy Thursday evening for the Feast of the Lord’s Supper, as feet are washed and Eucharist is blessed, broken, and shared, then borne in procession for Adoration...

Follow in Jesus’s steps on the Way of the Cross on Friday afternoon, as we pray and absorb the lessons of a moving set of Stations, then venerate the Wood of the Cross in remembrance during the most special Communion service of the year…  Friday evening, meditate on the Seven Last Words of Christ during the ecumenical service hosted by Peace Lutheran Church, which brings insights from Christian leaders throughout Mill Valley together under one roof…

Witness the Light of Christ as it slowly fills our church on Holy Saturday evening... The Word of God recalls to mind our own salvation history from Genesis to Romans…  And we celebrate with exuberance the full participation of our catechumens at Eucharist with us, the culmination of their own journey through Baptism and the Cross to the joy of new birth…

Lend your joyful voice to our communal celebration of Jesus's Resurrection on Easter Sunday as the church is filled with new light and we become infused with a deep knowledge of God's enduring and abiding love...  and rejoice!

Come, enter the Triduum… Pray with us, and let that prayer transform you, allowing you to embrace the deepest sorrows of the Passion as well as the most exalted joys of His Rising.

Enter into the Extraordinary ~ Join us for the Triduum!
(For specific times and locations for all of the above, click here.)

Image source

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thinking about Passover

For our Jewish neighbors, Passover begins this week…  A new telling of the story of the Exodus (written for The New American Hagaddah, by Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander) reminds us that, in celebrating the Passover, “In every generation, a person is obligated to view himself as if he were the one who went out of Egypt.”  How do we get our minds in that place, that mindset where Jesus may have been as he celebrated his Last Supper with the disciples?  Perhaps, New Yorker writer Sasha Weiss suggests, through poetry and prayer and the poetry of prayer, beginning like this:

Sanctify and Wash
And tell

Be Washed
And Bless
The Poor Man’s Bread

And Set Down to Eat

Hide It
And Bless

Praise It
Be pleased

To read Weiss’s article about The New American Haggadah, click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, April 13, 2014: It must come to pass in this way...

This Sunday, we hear Matthew’s version of Jesus’s Passion.  What makes this version different from the others?  Well, first, Jesus seems to be in control of what is happening, from beginning to end, going forth resolutely to meet all he is to meet.  Nothing takes him by surprise; nothing startles him, because he maintains throughout a strong communion with God, into which nothing else can intrude.  Even when he calls out, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?, Jesus is likely praying the whole of Psalm 22 on the cross, a psalm that is ultimately about giving praise to God.  Like the Suffering Servant in our reading from Isaiah, Jesus is in profound relationship with the Father; the Lord God is [his] help.  Day after day, Jesus never loses sight of God’s plan, of the larger purpose of his mission.  Are we always so careful about listening to God, morning after morning, and waiting for God to reveal himself?  Jesus is, even in the terrifying reality of his last moments.  He does not rebel, does not turn back.

The other players in this scenario are not so together.  The disciples, for their part, want to do the right thing, but they can’t.  They can’t stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Judas betrays Jesus.  Peter denies Jesus three times, in spite of himself.  And don’t we find ourselves in that same predicament?  Isn’t it hard for us to follow through on our intentions in relationship with our Lord? 

Even those who call Jesus’ blood down upon themselves don’t realize they are proclaiming a blessing.  Let his blood be upon ourselves and upon our children, they say.  In other words, they accept the guilt that Jesus’s blood be on them, yet in so doing they also open a door to God’s plan, which is salvation and infinite love for all.  Do we always realize that Jesus took our sins to the cross?  Do we realize the blessing he represents in our lives?  Jesus’s purpose was never to destroy, but to build up, to give life, and—obedient to the point of death, as Paul tells the Philippians – Jesus pushes the story through to the end so that that can take place.  As the veil of the sanctuary is torn in two and the earth quakes, Jesus’s purpose is achieved, and access to God is made available to all people.  This is the message of his Passion:  that Jesus’s suffering made God accessible to humankind in all God’s infinite compassion and love… a love for all, made possible by the steadfast progression of Jesus to his human death on the cross, and, ultimately, his resurrection.

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