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:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What are you fasting from? Feast!

We know that Catholics between 18 and 60 years of age are bound to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  But what about fasting during the rest of Lent?  Here's another possibiity to consider:

Fast from judging others; Feast on Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; Feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of all light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; Feast on God’s providence.
Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; Feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; Feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; Feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; Feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; Feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; Feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; Feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; Feast on prayer that sustains.

--William Arthur Ward

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Busted Halo's Fast Pray Give Calendar

It's back..... Busted Halo's terrific Fast Pray Give calendar, designed to give us food for thought and ideas for observance every single day during Lent!  It offers a topic for spiritual contemplation daily, plus new and practical suggestions for fasting, praying, and almsgiving.  Highly recommended.

You can check out the calendar here:  
but remember, it goes live on Ash Wednesday...
(Patience is a virtue.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Restore Me (Anthony Evans)

We can perhaps imagine Christian singer-songwriter Anthony Evans' Restore Me in the mouths of all those healed by Jesus in our Gospel readings recently... or we might enter into the song as a meditation on our own need for Jesus' action in our lives as we enter the season of Lent this week.  Restore us, oh Lord!

On the outside, You think I’m all right
There’s a smile on my face, everything’s okay
But on the inside there’s a different story
I’ve stumbled down this road and I’ve got so far to go

I’m a broken man
On my knees again
Longing for a touch from You
I need your hand to

Restore me, I need Your mercy
Take me to the place I used to be
Use all the pain and the hurt
To do a greater work and restore me

I wore my mask, running away from my past
Hiding all my scars, thinking I’d gone too far
But He knew my pain and He loved me just the same
He promised I’d be free if I fell on my knees and cried


Restore unto me the joy of my salvation
So I’ll sing again, the song You wrote for me
Give me a clean heart, I want a brand new start
Like the moment when I first believed


Please, Jesus, oh yeah,
Give me another chance
I want to be a new man

Please restore me, yeah, yeah, yeah