Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sunday Gospel Reflection, April 3, 2016: These are written so that you may come to believe...

How did the Good News spread?

Our first Gospel after Easter is a familiar one:  John tells the story of Jesus’ first appearances to the disciples in a locked upper room where they are hiding out of fear for their lives.  Peace be with you, he says, not once but twice.  Peace – the Peace of God, Peace they will need to be ready for their mission.  The following week, although the greeting is the same – Peace be with you – Thomas wants further proof, and simply seeing Jesus’ wounds is enough to cause him to offer a profound testimony of absolute faith:  My Lord and my God. But Jesus knows there will be many to come who will not have this opportunity to see him:  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.  We might count ourselves among that number… so how do we come to believe?

The Word of God first came to us in the body of Jesus; it was carried forth by the disciples in the form of healings done in Jesus’ name, the signs and wonders done among the people at the hands of the apostles as described in Acts.  Their profound faith in the power of Jesus’ name, the power of God among them, allows the apostles to manifest all that they believe, and through them, God’s power is made manifest – even in the very ephemeral nature of a shadow such that great numbers of men and women were added to them.  It was the faith of these individuals, living in the peace of God, who gave testimony, both in words and in deeds, that caused the Church to grow, and that caused the people of their time to say, echoing Psalm118,  His mercy endures forever – a call to praise that becomes their own testimony, meant to light the fires of belief in others as well. 

The Word of God remains with us, among other ways, in written form. The Book of Revelation gives further testimony to Jesus in the writings of John, whose visions inspired faith and offered consolation, encouragement, and peace to a church under persecution.  Like Thomas, Peter, and John, we too are called to give testimony to the power of God’s love at work in our lives, and to sing the praise of God whose work (and Word) is wonderful in our eyes… May your Easter season be filled with peace and inspire you to just such testimony, so that all may be glad and rejoice, and so that the entire world may come to believe!

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

In the Garden (C. Austin Miles)

   I come to the garden alone,  
While the dew is still on the roses,  
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,  
The Son of God discloses…  
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,  
And He tells me I am His own,  
And the joy we share as we tarry there,  
None other has ever known!  
He speaks and the sound of His voice  
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,  
And the melody that he gave to me  
Within my heart is ringing…  

To hear a recording of this hymn by Anne Murray, click on the video below:

Image source:  Fra Angelico, Jesus Appearing to the Magdalene, Convent of San Marco, Florence (1502)
Video source

Monday, March 28, 2016

I rise to new life... (Sr. Joan Chittister)

  To say, I believe in Jesus Christ… who rose from the dead is to say… [that] I myself am ready to be transformed.  Once the Christ-life rises in me, I rise to new life as well…  Until we find ourselves with new hearts, more penetrating insights, fewer compulsions, less need for the transient, greater awareness of the spiritual pulse of life, resurrection has not really happened for us.  Jesus has risen but we have not.  Resurrection is about transfiguration.  Life as we once knew it, defined it, shaped it – if we really believe in the Risen Christ – rises redefined.  Transformation in any of us calls the rest of us to transformation.  Change changes everybody.  Relationships shift.  Expectations alter.  Insight deepens.  We begin to see as we have never seen before…

--Sr. Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief
Image source (time-lapse photography
--click on the link to view it!)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016: Resurrection Wonder

   It is not easy to convey a sense of wonder, let alone resurrection wonder, to another.  It’s the very nature of wonder to catch us off guard, to circumvent expectations and assumptions.  Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up.  It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement. 
(--Eugene H. Peterson)

May the experience of Resurrection wonder be yours...

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

The alien land of Holy Saturday (J. Hanvey, SJ)

   This day holds us in its bleak starkness.  It is not only the trauma of a tortured, disfigured, broken and lifeless body, or the scandal of goodness and innocence systematically dismembered and destroyed… Memory is held disoriented, dislocated, and disconnected, a refugee lost in the alien land of Holy Saturday…

   If we enter into the silence of Holy Saturday, its bareness gives us no distractions.  There is nowhere to go but inwards; into the very empty places of our own soul and imagination… [And] in the emptiness of waiting, we begin to learn something that the god of this world cannot bear, the knowledge that it does not want us to know:  at the very point of our failure and betrayals, when we taste our own impotence and limit, if we are not afraid to live in his absence, we discover him.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Uses of Sorrow (Mary Oliver)

   (in my sleep I dreamed this poem)  
Someone I loved once gave me  
a box full of darkness.  
It took me years to understand  
that this, too, was a gift.  
                                   --Mary Oliver, Thirst

    Image source:  Crucifixion, S. Stefano, Verona (courtesy of Fr. Patrick Michaels)
    Quote source

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Do you know what I have done to you? (David Haas)

                 Do you know what I have done to you? 
             You who call me your Teacher and your Lord, 
             If I have washed your feet, 
             So you must do as I have done for you. 
             What I am doing now you do not know, 
             But after a time has gone by, you will understand… 
             Don’t you understand what I must do? 
             If you would be mine, then I must bend to wash your feet… 
             I have given to you an example;  
             What I have done for you, you must do for one another… 

Join us at 7:30pm tonight for the Mass of the Lord's Supper!

To listen to David Haas & company sing this beautiful hymn, 
click on the video below:
To purchase this song, click here.

Image source:  Jesus Washing Peter's Feet, Ford Madox Brown
(For Carolyn Pirtle's insightful analysis of this painting, click here.)

Video source
Song source

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Immerse yourself in the immensity of Triduum!

   It's difficult to find the right words to describe the Easter Triduum –– its beauty and solemnity, its pregnant meaning...   Those who have experienced it just once find themselves waiting impatiently for these three days throughout all the season of Lent.  Triduum is the goal, the culmination, the extraordinary endpoint of our journey through forty days in the Lenten desert.  It is unlike any other moment in the Church’s liturgical calendar – it’s almost like stepping over a threshold, out of chronological time and into kairos time, into a sacred space unique in the depth of engagement it offers, and in the beauty of liturgy that graces it.  Nothing, nothing, is like the Triduum liturgy, three awed days of total immersion, body, heart, and soul, into the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord.  If you have never participated before, now is the time:  you will never forget this incredible experience of time-out-of-time.

   Join us first on Holy Thursday evening for the Feast of the Lord’s Supper and recall Jesus kneeling humbly before his disciples to wash their feet, then blessing, breaking, and sharing bread – the first Eucharist – with his disciples… Process afterwards with us to O'Brien Hall for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament…

   Follow in Jesus’ footsteps on the Way of the Cross Friday afternoon, and venerate the Wood of the Cross in remembrance of his death at the most extraordinary Communion service of the liturgical year…  Friday evening, join Christians from all Mill Valley churches at the ecumenical Tenebrae service graciously hosted by Peace Lutheran Church…

   Witness the Light of Christ as it slowly fills Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Holy Saturday evening, and hear the story of salvation history, from Genesis to Romans… punctuated with a joyful Gloria that tells us that Resurrection is at hand… 

   And then, at last, on Easter Sunday, join in the joyful proclamation of Jesus Risen and know in the depth of your being God’s faithful and abiding love….  Alleluia!

Come, immerse yourself in the immensity of Triduum!

Monday, March 21, 2016

That his light must sink down into the gloom... (Hans Urs von Balthasar)

  And now that God’s Word saw that his descent could entail nothing but his own death and ruination – that his light must sink down into the gloom – he accepted the battle and the declaration of war.  And he devised the unfathomable ruse:  he would plunge, like Jonas, into the monster’s belly and thus penetrate to death’s innermost lair; he would experience the farthest dungeon of sin’s mania and drink the cup down to the dregs; he would offer his brow to man’s incalculable craze for power and violence; in his own futile mission, he would demonstrate the futility of the world; in his impotent obedience to the Father, he would visibly show the impotence of revolt… He alone would henceforth be the measure and thus also the meaning of all impotence.  He wanted to sink so low that in the future all falling would be a falling into him, and every streamlet of bitterness and despair would henceforth run down into his lowermost abyss.

-- Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Heart of the World, Chapter II

Image source: Christ of the Abyss (a statue of Jesus submerged beneath the Mediterranean Sea)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Passion is a kind of waiting (Henri Nouwen)

   Passion is a kind of waiting – waiting for what other people are going to do.  Jesus went to Jerusalem to announce the good news to the people of that city.  And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them:  Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner?  There is no middle ground here.  Jesus went to Jersalem to put people in a situation where they had to say Yes or No.  That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion:  he had to wait for their response.  What would they do?  Betray him, or follow him?

   In a way, his agony is not simply the agony of approaching death.  It is also the agony of being out of control and of having to wait.  It is the agony of a God who depends on us to decide how to live out the divine presence among us.  It is the agony of the God who, in a very mysterious way, allows us to decide how God will be God.  Here we glimpse the mystery of God’s incarnation.  God became human not only to act among us but also to be the recipient of our responses.

   And that is the mystery of Jesus’ love.  Jesus in his passion is the one who waits for our response.  Precisely in that waiting, the intensity of his love and God’s is revealed to us. 
--Henri Nouwen, Finding My Way Home
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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sunday Gospel Reflection, March 20, 2016: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord...

  What might our praise sound like as Jesus makes his final entry into Jerusalem?  

   On Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion, we are called to recognize many of the facets of Jesus' identity:  he is at once suffering servant and king, obedient son and Lord, human and divine.  Jesus, as human, fulfills the description of the suffering servant offered by the prophet Isaiah; God has made it possible for him to stand in the face of controversy, steady, his face set like flint, so hard it gives off sparks, ready to suffer at the hands of those who believe they are doing God's will.  On the cross, Jesus will pray Psalm 22, which we should not be too quick to judge as pure lament.  In fact, although the psalm records the poet's distress -- My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? -- in fact, it moves from there to a place of praise for the help God has offered him.  It is as if Jesus is saying, human, I may be completely vulnerable, but so long as God is with me, I will praise my Father and give glory to him!

   The Gospel passage from Luke, read as we conclude the procession with our palms, echoes such praise as Jesus makes his way into Jerusalem on a colt:  Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord, the people cry.  They express obeissance, honoring Jesus by spreading their cloaks -- an essential and intimate possession -- on the road he passes over.  Even the stones will cry out, Jesus tells the indignant Pharisees, should they attempt to silence the crowds.  The inevitability of praise shines through our reading from Philippians as well, an early Christian hymn in which Jesus, humble and obedient, is exulted by God, who bestows upon Jesus the name that is above every name:  Jesus Christ is Lord, divine.

   Holy Week gives us the opportunity to contemplate all of these images of Jesus Christ: servant and king, son and Lord, human and divine.  As we move into the sacred space of Triduum, may we each and every one embrace these deep paradoxes of our faith, that we might advance in our knowledge of the salvation that only a Lord who was at once human and divine could operate on our behalf, and join in our confession that Jesus Christ is indeed Lord!

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

Monday, March 14, 2016

That's how the light gets in (Leonard Cohen)

  The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be.
Ah, the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove, she will be caught again
Bought and sold and bought again
The dove is never free.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
We asked for signs, the signs were sent
The birth betrayed, the marriage spent
Yeah, the widowhood of every government --
Signs for all to see

I can't run no more with that novice crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up a thunder cloud,
And they're going to hear from me.
You can add up the parts but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee.           


To hear Leonard Cohen perform his song Anthem, click on the video below: