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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Empty My Soul (Jonathan David & Melissa Helser)

                        I fall on the floor, down at Your feet  
                        I know You want me here with my suitcase full of needs  
                        Oh my heart is heavy, and my mind is full  
                        I let go of my pride, and empty out my soul  
                        I let go  
                        Empty my soul  
                        I let go  
                        Empty my soul  
                        I pick up all my ashes, and my tattered robes  
                        Bury them in a sea of love indescribable  
                        You drown me in forgiveness and fill my lungs with hope  
                        For the first time in my life, I really let go  


                        It’s a love indescribable  
                        It’s a love indescribable  
                        It’s a love indescribable  
                        It’s a love indescribable  
                        [I let go]  
                        Empty my soul  
                        Just let go 

                        Empty my soul  
--Jonathan David & Melissa Helser, Empty My Soul

To listen to the song, click on the video below:

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Awaken Christ! (St. Augustine)

 When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind.  When your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves.  So when the winds blow and the waves mount high, the boat is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering.  On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune – shipwreck.  Why this?  Because Christ is asleep in you.  What do I mean?  I mean you have forgotten His presence.  Rouse Him, then; remember Him, let Him keep watch within you, pay heed to Him… A temptation arises:  it is the wind.  It disturbs you:  it is the surging of the sea.  This is the moment to awaken Christ and let Him remind you of those words:  Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?
--St. Augustine of Hippo (391-430AD), Sermons, 63,1-3

Image source:  Rembrandt, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633
(For more information about this painting, which was stolen in 1990 and never recovered, click here.)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, June 21, 2015: They cried to the Lord in their distress...

Where is God in all this mess?

Scary things happen to us all the time:  accidents, earthquakes, the deaths of those we love.  Or we create tempestuous situations ourselves:  anger, abuse, insults...  And we may be tempted to wonder:  where is God in all this suffering?  what’s God up to while I’m dealing with this crisis?  This is certainly the question Job poses when, having lost both family and earthly possessions, he struggles to hold onto his faith.  And God responds:  I am here.  I am always here, in everything going on all around you.  Who shut within doors the sea?  I set limits for it, God says.  In other words, though you may not understand this just yet, trust.  Trust in my power to be with you through it all, know that I am capable of wonders in the abyss (as Psalm 107 reminds us), always at your side in your time of need.

In Mark's Gospel, Jesus, too, exhorts his disciples to trust.  While he sleeps peacefully on a cushion in the bow of the boat in which they are traveling, the disciples are terrified at the violent squall that causes waves to break over the boat, filling it with water, filling them with chaos.  His rebuke to the wind – Quiet! Be still! – might well be advice to the disciples as well.  Why are you terrified?  Don’t you know I’m right here?  Do you not yet have faith?  Trust!

We perish only if we don’t recognize Christ with us.  He who, as Paul tells the Corinthians, died for all, calls upon us to do the same, to embrace our suffering, our every difficult moment, as easily as we accept the good, no longer living for ourselves, attentive only to him who for our sake died and was raised.  Conquering fear, let us be a new creation, so that the love of Christ might impel us, driving us forward in our journey toward the fullness of union, quieting our distress, allowing us to appreciate the power of the Lord – the power that is Love – and all the ways that God, who is Love, is present, available to us at every moment of our lives.

Image source:  Wordle

Monday, June 15, 2015

Walk by Faith (Jeremy Camp)

                        Would I believe you when you would say 
                        Your hand will guide my every way 
                        Will I receive the words You say 
                        Every moment of every day 

                        Well, I will walk by faith 
                        Even when I cannot see 
                        Well, because this broken road 
                        Prepares your will for me 

                        Help me to win my endless fears 
                        You’ve been so faithful for all my years 
                        With one breath You make me new 
                        Your grace covers all I do 

                        Well, I’m broken, but I still see Your face 
                        Well, You’ve spoken, pouring Your words of grace 

                        Well, hallelujah, hallelu 
                        (I will walk by faith) 
                        Well, hallelujah, hallelu 
                        (I will walk by faith) 
                        I will walk, I will walk, I will walk by faith
                        I will, I will, I will walk by faith

To listen to Jeremy Camp's song, click on the video below:

Image source
Video source

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Living Faith, Spiritual Gardening (C. King)

This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.  (Mark 4:26-27)

Next to my desk at work is posted a Zen proverb that offers an even more passive version of Jesus’ words:  Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.  […] My role in kingdom building is simply to scatter seeds.

Claire J. King reflects on our spiritual growth, or spiritual gardening, and the ways the kingdom grows, ever imperceptibly, ever powerfully.  To read her complete reflection on the Catholic website Living Faith, click here.

Video source
Reflection source