Tag Archives: Jesus

She Persisted – Praying with Gospel Women

Today’s Gospel tells the story of the syrophoenician woman, whose persistent faith led to the healing of a loved one. I was inspired by the Gospel, and by current events, to create this video reflection praying with persistent Gospel women.

The women speak out and act for healing, for justice, for compassion, and for love.

Grant me justice

Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs

I will be made well.

They have no wine.

May they inspire us, strengthen us, pray for us, be with us.

May be be blamed for persisting as well, for the sake of the Gospel

#ShePersisted

Resistance and Relationship

When I was studying theological ethics at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, one of my main research areas was the ethics and spirituality of Christian nonviolent resistance.

Resistance of course now is a trending hashtag on Twitter. I was invited to share some of my thoughts and research about the urgent need for an ethic of resistance grounded in relationship in a guest blog post for NETWORK Lobby (the folks behind Nuns on the Bus).

Whatever comes next, it is crucial that we develop an ethic of resistance that is grounded in human dignity and right relationship. Otherwise, we face the danger of recreating and repeating negative cycles of violent and dehumanizing language and actions. …

In fact, we would all do well to read up on the history of resistance to social sin. Resistance is not futile, but neither is it easy. The Christian tradition of resistance begins with Jesus, and think of where his path of resistance led.  Jesus resisted dehumanizing social norms, created a wide web of relationship, and engaged in liberating action for the oppressed.  In the centuries since, Christians have followed in his footsteps and resisted social sin and injustice.  

Read the rest over on the NETWORK blog.

Storms

Even though today is the beginning of the last week of Advent, and we actually have a full four weeks of Advent this year, I must admit to being a bit liturgically mixed up.

For one thing, I’ve been experiencing a lot of waiting and expectation these past few months, so on the one hand I feel like my Advent has been much longer than usual. And given that some of the expectation will continue into the new year, my Advent will also continue.

Next Sunday is of course Christmas, but I’ve not gotten much into the spirit just yet. This will be a simple and easy Christmas spent with community in a much needed low key kind of way.  Spiritually, I am ready to welcome God with us, Love incarnate, and to remember and share that miracle through ritual and prayer and celebration. Christmas is good, even if I’m not super into all the festivities this year.

Then there is the rhythm of ordinary time, which we won’t take up liturgically for a while but in our lives is part of the every day mix, some good, some bad, all of it part of life.  I’ve been reflecting a bit on the storms of life, both literal (we had a minor winter storm yesterday that has turned to mild rainy weather) and the figurative ones in our lives that rock our world from time to time.

The other day, a song popped up on my play list on my music player in the car. I’ve been avoiding Christmas songs, trying to stay in the Advent mood, so the other day I listened to a play list I created for retreat a few years ago.  It included a song I’ve not listened to much, by singer songwriter Amy Speace – “How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat.” Her words and music really spoke to my heart and where I’ve been a bit lately, seeking peace in the midst of the storm. The song has helped me to bring that to prayer, and today I spent some time in prayer creating a video prayer set to her words and music.

It’s not necessarily liturgically appropriate for the fourth Sunday of Advent, but life is pretty stormy right now for many people I know and even more I don’t know, so I offer this as a pre-Christmas gift in case it is helpful on your journey.

Peace

Hoping with St Martha

martha1Today is the Feast of St. Martha. My latest Global Sisters Report column, published today, includes my musings on St. Martha as a model of hope.

Martha was indeed real, living in a world where some things just needed to get done, even if her sister Mary was too busy to help. She also lived in a world where the people she loved were suffering. I suspect there may have been times when she too wanted to hide under the covers.

Martha certainly had her own doubts about what was possible in such a world. When Jesus asked her to roll away the stone from her brother’s tomb, she warned him that the smell would be overpowering given that her brother had been dead for four days.

Yet Martha — worried, anxious and doubting as any real woman would be in the face of such stark realities — also listened to the hope and promise of Jesus. She made a home for hope in her heart. She helped to roll away the stone, and her brother Lazarus came out, ready to be unbound and free. We have a lot to learn from Martha, who in the end engaged in hopeful action in the midst of her own anxiety, worry and grief.

Read the whole column here.

Retreat Prayer – Love is the Way

I found myself in the company of the disciples on this retreat, sometimes caught by their bumbling attempts to get the message of Jesus, as told in the scripture.  For example, Thomas in the Gospel of John when he does not know where Jesus is going, so how can they know the way?

This retreat in many ways was simple, in the gentle ways that God was present to me and the movement of the heart.  Yes I bring my anxieties and worries and wonderings and vulnerabilities and insecurities and challenges and realities and unknowns to the mix. Yes I often do not get it. Yet my loving and persistent and patient God is there. And the answer is simple … Love. Love is the way.

Words again don’t do the movement of the heart justice, hence this video prayer set to “Perpetual Self” by Sufjan Stevens.

Global Sisters Column: Easter People

My latest column on Global Sisters Report has been posted- Help Wanted: Easter People. It is a reflection on being Easter people in a mixed up world, in conversation with Pope Francis, Gustavo Gutierrez,  and the founder of my religious community, Margaret Anna Cusack.

In the face of such suffering, against the backdrop of fear-mongering and terrorism, and with the soundtrack of an oftentimes toxic political debate, we celebrate Easter.

Christ is risen. Alleluia!

If Easter and the Resurrection are to mean anything, then we must be Easter people in such a world. …

As Easter people, we are called to find joy, to create hope, and to build peace.

Through us, the Easter story continues.

Click here to read the whole column.

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Me, Sister Camillus, and the Easter Bunny

Decking my heart

Wow, it is already Christmas Eve. Advent has been very full, as has the past year. Full of good things, full of hard work, full of light and laughter and love and loss, because all of those things come together in this package we call life.

This Advent I’ve been spending some time with words written almost 150 years ago by Margaret Anna Cusack, who later as Mother Francis Clare founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in 1884. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, her little 1866 book Meditations for Advent and Easter is freely available under public domain.  Her words are steeped in theological worldview of her day. That is a given. But there are also kernels of wisdom, insight and challenge sprinkled throughout that are every bit as relevant today as they would have been to a 19th Century audience.

In her reflection for Christmas Eve, she writes this:

Tomorrow sweet Jesus will come. Oh, how blessedly near is His advent! Today we are decking our houses for His divine visit; let us not forget to deck our hearts.  Let us sweep out every imperfection, every imperfect disposition, every wandering thought, with the besom of penance and adorn ourselves with the fair bright flowers of contrition and love.  Tomorrow our Infant King will come. Are we prepared to receive Him? Have we all the love ready for Him we should like to offer Him?

This is my prayer this day, that I may deck my heart to be ready to welcome the one who is love incarnate.

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Rise and Walk

Paralytic (1)Today’s gospel story is both a powerful and perplexing one (Matthew 9:1-8). It is one of many stories of healing by Jesus where he heals in the face of challenges by the powers that be or prevailing wisdom.

It is also quite simple in a way. Friends brought a paralyzed man to Jesus. Jesus knows what is possible. “Courage,” he says to the man. He lifts the weight of sin from the man, telling him that his sins are forgiven. That draws the ire of some scribes, who thought Jesus to be presumptuous at best and blasphemous at worst. So Jesus draws on his practical side and tells the man to do what he knows he can now do. Rise and walk. And he does.

It is a story recorded long ago of a healing from a physical ailment, paralysis. Yet it speaks to me and maybe it speaks to you. My own inner critics doubt whether I am really healed, whether I can really rise and walk into whatever lies ahead. Sometimes it is as if I am paralyzed by my own ailments which weigh me down, anxieties or self doubt or any other mix of worries and woes and wounds. Am I paralyzed by what I am sure is not possible, or do I  choose to live in the light of possibility and hope that is the way to peace?

One key to the story for me is that the man is brought to Jesus by his friends. He is strengthened and supported and brought to new life by community. He also responds to the loving action of Jesus, stepping literally into possibility.

And so I pray for faith, to truly live as if I believe that all things are possible through Jesus. I pray that I may stand with those close to me on their path to freedom, and accept their love and accompaniment on mine.

Rise and walk.

Worry

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I cannot help but worry. I might worry about a particular situation. I might worry about people I love. I also find myself worrying on a grander scale, such as about the state of our collective hearts and the manifestations of our woundedness that we seem to inflict upon one another writ large (a la the shooting in South Carolina and the abysmal state of racial justice in our society). Ok, so some amounts of worry is warranted.

But yet, I find myself returning again and again to these words Jesus said on a mountain all those thousands of years ago:

“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes?  Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

As it happens, this is the liturgical reading for today. It always stops me in my tracks and slows down the pace of my worrying. It gives me perspective.

And it helps me to realize that the path forward is not worrying about all the little nitty gritty details ad nauseum (which in my case I know can lead to a never ending worry loop), but in seeking to build the reign of God and seeking God’s peace through justice–in essence, seeking to live with the heart of God today and every day.

That, my friends, is the path to life, and when we step onto that path, Jesus tells us, tomorrow will indeed take care of itself.

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Peace is the word

peacescrabblePromoting peace has been central to the mission of my religious congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace from our very beginnings. Our original 1884 Constitutions tell us that we were founded “to promote the peace of the Church both by word and work. The very name Sisters of Peace will, it is hoped, inspire the desire of peace and a love for it.”

Promoting peace is also central to the mission of the Church. This has been true from the very beginnings of the Christian community. This morning as I was praying with the Scriptures in my morning prayer book, I ran across this quote from a homily by St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407), one of the early Church fathers and a Doctor of the Church:

So as far as a human being can, you must do what Christ the Son of God did, and become a promoter of peace both for yourself and for your neighbor. Christ calls the peacemaker a child of God. The only good deed he mentions as essential at the time of sacrifice is reconciliation with one’s brother or sister. This shows that of all the virtues the most important is love.

Sometimes, when I tell people that I am a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, they ask if we are a new community. In conversation with these folks, this seems to be because we have a notion that concern for peace is something new.  Hence, a community founded to promote peace must have been formed recently. And yet, as these words from an early Christian leader tell us, and truly as the example and peaceful witness of Jesus constantly remind us, peace is central to our mission as Christians.

This morning as I was praying with this reflection and the Scriptures, I found myself remembering a song from my childhood – Grease from the movie of the same title with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.  My sister Monica and I used to spend hours in our bedroom, hairbrush in hand, singing the lyrics along with our vinyl recording of the sound track (the G-rated version of course!).  In prayer today, I playfully changed the words of the song, simply replacing the word “grease” with the word “peace.”

They think our love is just a growing pain
Why don’t they understand, it’s just a crying shame
Their lips are lying, only real is real
We stop the fight right now, we got to be what we feel
Peace is the word
It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning
Peace is the time, is the place, is the motion
Peace is the way we are feeling
Peace is the word my friends.  We are the motion. Go … be peace today!