Tag Archives: scripture

Morning Star Rising

When I professed my perpetual vows as a Sister of St Joseph of Peace four years ago this November, I felt great joy planning the liturgy and carefully chose  the readings and songs. For the meditation song after communion,  I chose a somewhat unusual song: “We Are” by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

This morning as I prayed with the readings for today’s Feast of the Transfiguration,  I remembered that moment, sitting in the chapel at St. Mary-on-the-lake, surrounded by community and family and friends, after proclaiming my forever yes, after remembering together Jesus as bread broken for us, in the silence, the song played.

“For each child that’s born, a morning star rises and sings to the universe who we are.”

It was a powerful moment of the love of God for me, and I wanted that song to help the moment sink in for all those present, to reflect a bit on the light they bring to the world, that we are called to bring together.

In today’s second reading from Peter we hear about Jesus and the “unique declaration:” This is my son, my beloved,  with whom I am well pleased.

That is powerful enough, especially when we imagine that declaration being proclaimed from the heavens, to the universe,  that each of us is indeed a beloved son or daughter pleasing to God by our very existence!

This morning I spent more time with what follows in the reading. “Moreover we posses the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

God is love, and we are invited into that love by our very existence, pleasing to God. We are called to share in that love, to share that love ever more deeply and widely, that it may rise in our hearts like the morning star.

God’s love is altogether reliable, and we are part of that love.

Prayer on waking

Sometimes like Jacob I wrestle

with my demons, my doubts, my frustrations,

my wondering how it will all work out.

But maybe that is what it takes,

those moments of struggle to make it

through to the other side,

to joy and wonder and awe and light and love.

And laughter. Don’t forget the laughter.

Or the tears.

God is present to us and with us and for us

through it all.

God is present through our friends and family

and community.

Together we struggle. Together we live.

And on waking I am content

in the loving

 (if sometimes mischevious)

presence of God.
Inspired by Genesis 32 and Psalm 17

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.

IMG_0014

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!

Video Prayer Reflection: If Not Now

As I prayed with today’s Scripture readings this morning, I was reminded of this video prayer reflection I created last summer as I was facing the possibility of major changes in my life. It is set to “If Not Now” by Tracy Chapman, a song that has had great meaning to me ever since I first heard it as a 16 year old (this album was constantly in the tape deck of my first car). It’s also a song with meaning that has grown for me over the years. Even now, in a new context, the meaning shifts and deepens.

I’m not quite sure why the story (John 4: 43-54) of the royal official who asked Jesus to heal his child made me think of this video prayer. Perhaps it had something to do with my suspicion that while the official did believe that Jesus could bring about healing, and he took the step to ask him to do so, he also wondered how it could be so.

So much in our life and in our world cries out for healing. In the words of Isaiah 65, may we too believe that God is about to create something new, something which will be the cause of great rejoicing and happiness.

Our job is to show up, here and now. The rest, my friends, is up to our loving and creating God.

Lent: Never ending Lessons in Paradox

jesus_disciples_iconThe Lenten Scripture readings can sometimes be hard to wrap your head around, and yet, on another level, they are so very simple. Trust in God. Serve. Forgive. Love. Be merciful just as God is merciful.

I find consolation in that the disciples also seemed to have a hard time wrapping their head around the message of Jesus.

Two cases in point …

In Sunday’s Gospel from Mark (9:2-10) we have Peter wanting to set up tents and stay on the mountaintop with Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, almost missing the point that this was a new moment. In the end it required a voice from the heavens to snap him out of it!

Today we have the story of the mother of James and John (Matthew 20:  17-28) asking that “these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” The sons also did not get it, thinking they were up for what was ahead without stopping to think of the level of sacrifice following Jesus might entail.

I imagine that Jesus must have been just a little bit frustrated when, once again, his friends just did not get it.  But he rolled up his sleeves, sat down, and tried another way of teaching lessons in paradox.  His way was not business as usual, but something new centered on God’s way of love, justice, and mercy.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It shall not be so among you ….

What are the ways that we are called to live the paradox of the Gospels today? In our families? Communities? Ministry?

What is is that I just don’t get? My prayer this morning is for my heart and mind to be opened to Jesus’ never ending lessons in paradox this Lent.

Lent: Journey of the Heart

Image by Pat Farrel, OP

You know you run in certain nerdy church circles when your Facebook feed fills up with creative ways to observe the liturgical season of Lent. One meme that is making the rounds is a “Reverse Lent Challenge,” with the message that rather than giving something up (like the proverbial chocolate) you might consider taking something on, such as making a commitment to helping a family member or friend, writing notes to lonely folks, etc… It’s a nice idea to be sure.

As for me, I gave up giving up a long time ago. Well, that’s not actually exactly true. I do still take the opportunity of this season to look at my life and see what is getting in the way of a healthy relationship with God, others, and even self, and commit to making adjustments. The focus that helps me is not on what is given up, but rather what is gained.  I also find this to be a very personal practice, and so I’ll be keeping to myself what I’ve chosen as my own personal Lenten practice(s).

We don’t have to go far to see what kind of fast it is that God seeks.  This morning’s reading from Isaiah is one of my all time favorites, and makes it pretty clear:

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

This time of Lent is such a gift. It is a time set aside to reorder our priorities and to prepare our hearts, lives, and world for the joy of the resurrection.

If you are still sorting out your own Lenten practice, I highly recommend reading the Lenten message from Pope Francis.  I’ve adopted his closing lines as my own Lenten prayer:

During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.

Blessings of peace as we ease into this Lenten season. May your heart (and my heart) be opened by God’s love to what is really important.

Video Prayer Reflection: He Woke Me Up Again

I was the lector at mass this morning in the Chapel at St. Michael’s Villa where many of our senior Sisters live. I’m actually living next door now, so it’s wonderful to have such a faithful and welcoming praying community so close by.

Today’s first reading is a favorite of mine from 1 Samuel Chapter 3, where the young Samuel is called again and again by God. Samuel doesn’t know who is calling him, so he goes and wakes up Eli, thinking he was the one calling him. It seems to me like Eli is somewhat annoyed at being awoken again and again, until he finally gets it, and says to Samuel: “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’”  It was a pleasure to proclaim the word for my CSJP Sisters this morning, particularly this passage.

I also found myself remembering this video prayer reflection which I made a few years ago on retreat at Stella Maris, our retreat house on the Jersey Shore. It is set to a song by indie singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens.  The song has always reminded me of this passage, and of God’s persistent love.

How wonderful it is that God calls, and calls, and calls, until we get it, until we are ready.  God is persistent and faithful and waiting for our yes. And sometimes, perhaps most times really, it takes others to help us realize and understand and respond to the call.

Because God Loves Us

When I professed my vows as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, I said as part of our vow formula: “In response to God’s call to seek justice, to love tenderly, and to walk in the way of peace …”  What is implied in that introduction to the profession of vows is made clear in today’s first reading from the Letter of St. John:

“Beloved, we love God because he first loved us.”

Having just finished up coursework for a graduate degree in theology, I have big theological words for this thanks to Thomas Aquinas – exitus et reditus. God loves us and so we seek to respond in kind.  But I don’t need big words or theological concepts, because it is written on my heart.

God seeks justice, and so I seek God’s justice. God loves tenderly, and so I desire to love tenderly. God is peace, and so I begin each day praying that I too may walk in peace.

Simple, really, when you get down to it. I love the readings this week from John.

Love. As another John once sang, maybe that is all you need.

LoveisAllYouNeedYoda