I was reading the Urbi et Orbi message that Pope Francis gave today in an empty St. Peter’s square. He reflects on this time of Covid-19 in light of the story of the storm in Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41).
“Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this. …
Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.” -Pope Francis
More than once in my life I have echoed the disciples refrain… do you not care that we are perishing?
Imagine their consternation, frustration and fear that he is, of all things, asleep!
We are terrified … we think we are alone.
But Jesus is with us in the storm.
A few years ago I created this video prayer reflecting on this passage, set to “How to Sleep in A Stormy Boat” by singer songwriter Amy Speace. The Pope’s message reminded me of this video, and so I share it here in case it is a helpful reflection for others in this time.
Peace. Be not afraid. We will weather the storm together.
I am spending a couple of days at the Oregon Coast for some rest and renewal.
This morning, armed with my coffee and perched in a comfy chair looking out at the ocean, I cracked open my morning prayer book and prayed these words from Psalm 104:
How many are your works, O God!
In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your creatures.
Vast and wide is the span of the sea,
with its creeping things past counting,
living things great and small.
The ships are moving there,
and Leviathan you made to play with.
All of these look to you
to give them their food in due season.
You give it, they gather it up.
You open wide your hand, they are well filled.
Vast and wide is God’s love, like the sea. So big it is hard to imagine. There are storms in our lives. The horizon may be hidden in fog. But the sun rises in the east and sets in the west each day. God is present, source of everything that is good, wanting us to soak up and spread that goodness that comes wave upon wave, if only we are open to receive it. God’s goodness strengthens us, helps us to weather the storms of our lives, and to welcome the wonder and majesty of the gift of creation. And then my friends we can share the gift of that goodness, becoming the waves ourselves.
At least, that’s where my prayer led me this morning. Guess I have been a bit renewed!
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
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.
This morning, the prayer booklet I use for my morning prayer included a reading from Proverbs 3. This was one of the readings that I used for my final vows liturgy, and it played quite a role on the retreat I took before requesting to profess my final YES. (The picture is one I took on that retreat, which I then included on the cover of my final vows liturgy program).
Today during my morning prayer, as I sat with this passage, my heart gave me this:
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.
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.
I am back from my visit with our sisters and associates in the United Kingdom. It was a wonderful trip and always so good to be with our community in the various regions where we minister.
Transatlantic travel means I woke up very early this morning. By nature I am not a morning person, although these days I am becoming more so. I am coming to appreciate the quiet of the morning. For one thing it is a good time for prayer.
In the little booklet I use for prayer and reflection, today there was a reflection by Henri Nouwen:
Somehow we don’t fully trust that our God is a God of the present and speaks to us where we are. “This is the day the Lord has made.” When the people of Nineveh heard Jonah speak, they turned back to God. Can we listen to the word that God speaks to us today and do the same? This is a very simple but crucial message: Don’t wait for tomorrow to change your heart. This is the favorable time!
I came back to New Jersey yesterday with a very long running to do list in my mind. It was great to be with our UK community for a few weeks, to sit at the feet of wisdom women and experience the movement of God in their lives and ministry. But my practical side is anxious to get busy about many things.
How fitting then that today we have the Gospel of Mary and Martha, one sitting at the feet of Jesus, the other anxious and busy about many things. If sit in the quiet of the morning and listen to the word that God speaks to me today, I realize it is good to be here, it is good to be in the present moment. It is good to sit and be present to my sisters. It is also good to be about the work I have been called to do for the community. God is here, now, with me. God is with us, always, if we but pay attention!
And so this morning I pray in gratitude for the Mary moments of the past few weeks, even as I get ready to face my to do list and channel Martha for a bit. I also hold the promise of many Mary moments with our Sisters and Associates in our two US regions. I am feeling very blessed for the opportunity to soak in the presence of such amazing faith filled people. Fairly often these days, I give thanks to God who broke through all my resistance to religious life a decade ago and led me to this community of peace. I am all the better for it, and have come to know and love and serve God in a whole new way in the process.