7:02am: I have just had two hours of silence – in and out of dozing – not achieving anything, not even trying…aware of God’s presence and my “being here,” watching my thoughts come and go and not trying for anything. The world is waking up around me now – cars going by…impetus for moving. I wonder what effect these hours will have on my day: such a rare (non-)happening! Non-action feels so full. What can be learned from such a practice? I hope to learn…
Everyone is busy in today’s lectionary readings. I smile as I think of long ago Saturdays in the convent when the primary activity was cleaning and making sure everything was done, readied for the week to come in our school work or wherever our ministry called us for love of the “dear neighbor.”
Abraham was front and center in the first reading, sitting at the entrance to his tent as if waiting for instructions about the day. When he saw three men standing nearby he sprang into action, ready to provide them with what is described as “a little food” for their journey. It became a group project as Abraham gave instructions first to Sarah—to make rolls —then to a servant who prepared the meat of a “tender, choice steer.” Abraham finished the job with curds and milk and then watched while they ate. There are lots of words that make it seem like there wasn’t much time to waste, words like “he ran,” hastened, “Quick!” and repetitions of the same. Abraham must have been aware that these three visitors were messengers from God because he was immediately on alert to do all that he (and his entourage) could do to serve the guests. And the news was startling, news that Sarah, in her old age, was to have a son. Unbelievable, at best! But the prediction came true, likely because of the hospitality shown to the guests.
The theme continues with people who are gifted with messages from God—first Mary, in the amazing news of her motherhood, impossible but true—sung by Mary in what we call the Magnificat, and for the humble centurion whose servant was paralyzed and suffering. Jesus was willing to come to his house to cure the man but because of his belief, Jesus made sure of the healing simply because of the man’s faith—no need to be in the presence of the needy one.
So how do we put this all together? Where are the connections and the willingness of the participants to surrender to the present moment and circumstances? Of what do they need to let go, suspending their beliefs when God steps in?
I leave that to your reflection and hope that the message becomes clear to you—for you—as you listen to God speaking to you and through you on this day.
When I read some of the chapters in Genesis where God is in conversation with Abraham, I get a little jealous, wishing for a relationship that seems sometimes so “daily.” I mean that it would be nice to talk about the family, e.g. Sarah having a son and Abraham laughing at God’s promise because he was 99 years old (Gn 17). As I write that, I see that I have moved away a bit from the conversational relationship with God that has long been a part of my morning meditation. I would like to blame the pandemic but I don’t think that would be fair. My meditation mat and home altar are still in place and no one is prohibiting me from the quiet of my bedroom…I just seem to have become lazy and am realizing that this recognition might be a value of revisiting a prayer schedule on a regular basis. Sometimes all it takes to wake up is a line from the Scriptures, as this morning with verse one from chapter 17. Listen:
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said: “I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless.” That shook me awake in an instant so that I almost felt a need to stand up and salute…but then I read the rest of the text and heard the softening of God’s voice as God spoke of descendants, especially “Sarai” (Sarah) having a child in her old age.
This is the God I want to be close to, the God in whom I place my faith, my trust and my love. I meet that God everywhere: in the dancing of the trees on our land…in the sounds and smells from the kitchen where Liz has begun to prepare our dinner for today…even in the wonder of my aging hands as I notice the curving of my right index finger. Even there I bless my mother whose arthritis, much more serious than mine, was borne with grace and a luminous smile…
I will stop here begause I can no longer avoid the pull of my prayer space and the gratitude that rises in me from the gifts of this morning. Blessings all… Stay Awake!
I have a friend who often speaks of “the Forerunner” as the spirit of God in the form of John the Baptist when she has something important to accomplish—or when she has an important journey to make. Perhaps I’m thinking of the word because the Olympics are on the horizon and there will be many races for which runners have trained in earnest. Do you ever add John the Baptist to your list of companions on the journey?
Today we celebrate this “Forerunner of Jesus,” the one who announced the coming of the long-awaited “Savior,” the one who had been promised for generations, centuries even, “the one who was to come.” John the Baptist spoke of himself as “a voice crying in the wilderness” to announce the coming of “the One”…the One who had been promised, the laces of whose sandals John did not feel worthy to untie.
We have heard many stories about this John, this strange man who emerged from the desert “eating locusts and wild honey” with a message that would have perhaps been better announced with trumpets and drums than simply with his booming voice shouting “PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD!‘
Do you ever think about John the Baptist, relative of Jesus and deliverer (maybe “front man”) for the long awaited Messiah? Sometimes I think about some of the musicians that appeared in the late 20th century—like Bob Dylan who told us that “the times they are a changin,” upending the way we messaged music for generations.
Do you ever consider yourself as a messenger from God? What is the message you give to the world? I have come to trust a line in the Constitution of the Sisters of St. Joseph (the document that I live by in addition to the Constitution of the United States of America). It’s the first line and it says that”the Sister of St. Joseph moves always toward profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction...” If I remembered that all day every day, I think I could be seen as preparing the way of the Lord. Some of us are called to speak with our voices, some with our actions—some in a more courageous way than we would choose. Whatever we are called to, we ought to trust that God will see us through if we continue to listen and respond when called.
The problem sometimes in reading the gospels is their familiarity. We have heard them so often and they are so familiar that we stop digging in for the deep meaning and let them go with just a passing glance. Having spent the last little while with the Gospel of Matthew, I’m beginning to think that I ought to take it for at least a year of serious study. I wonder what I would glean from picking apart each line and even each word that sits waiting for new interpretation. I’m not considering rewriting the gospel, but what spin from my experiences might gift a little newness to the rich passages that are waiting before me? Take today’s reading from chapter 7 for instance.
“Do unto others what you would have them do unto you…”(Pretty simple to interpret, right?) But then: “Enter through the narrow gate for the gate is wide that leads to destruction. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.“
So I start thinking about roads that I have traveled that were narrow and/or difficult to navigate. The first one that comes to mind is the road that leads up the mountain Haleakala in Hawai’i. The goal is to see the sunrise at the top of that winding road that has to be traversed in the pre-dawn dark. If you have not had the experience, think of the most winding road you have ever traveled and then cast a shadow over it. You will get the challenge! So why attempt that narrow road that winds up and up…(at 3:30 AM!)? For the sun that comes slowly, and when it is fully over the top of the mountain, is all you can see without your sunglasses…so you quickly put them on and then you can hardly breathe at the sight.
You had thought all along that you were alone atop the mountain but as the sun washes over the peaks you see that you were in great company! There are small groups of people populating the peaks…sitting quietly or snapping photos as they wait with you for the glory of full sun. And then everyone turns this way and that to smile and offer a “Good morning!” across the peaks. The camaraderie is inexplicable; it cannot be described but only felt. It is a good feeling – a feeling of unity that can never be achieved on a wide road to anywhere. The effort of climbing to the top, the waiting in the cold morning, and the surprise of those who experience it with you remain.
So what is the take away from that experience? You would have to be there to know. But being there, you could never refuse a narrow road again—whether it be on a mission of mercy, a community ritual, a brief encounter on the street…Never again…
This may take longer than I thought…Are you game? Do you have people with whom to share? Give it a try. What have you to lose? Blessings on the journey!
It’s hard to miss the meaning of the reading from Matthew (7:1-5) when Jesus is heard talking about judgment. His image of having a wooden beam in one’s eye and not noticing it is outlandish hyperbole by anyone’s reckoning. But it does capture our attention, which is the obvious purpose of Jesus, I suspect. The question at hand might rather be whether or not I notice the specks in my own eye. That seems to me the more difficult test. I can easily rub my eye and (perhaps) get rid of a speck—or grab some eye wash and blot it out. It may be too easy to find such a remedy. I still don’t want to think of a wooden beam…so how do I stop judging?
Whatever it takes to wake up the vagaries of your mind is the essential question here. What might you suggest to help others accept people without judging them? Do you judge yourself? If so, might that be a first step in changing your judgements of others? Instead of judging yourself or anyone else, why not try to just love without judging? You know: “Love the sinner, not the sin.” Then pray for the possibility to forgive—yourself and everyone else. It will be difficult but certainly worth the effort.
I think that today’s gospel could be called “Getting to know you…” It’s early in the writings of Mark; Chapter four, to be exact. Those fishermen who have left their nets to follow Jesus are just now crossing the Sea of Galilee to get to another place where Jesus will preach. It’s a very placid scene. The water is calm; the Teacher is asleep in the boat and all seems as it should be.
Suddenly a violent wind storm comes up and threatens to capsize the boat. Jesus is still sleeping. Finally someone yells to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?!” (That’s a rather strange question that presumes a faith in Jesus as healer that they otherwise do not seem to possess yet.) Next, Jesus acts in a way that one might expect later in the relationship but which at this point seems rather startling. He wakes up (one might think as if he was waiting for the challenge) and speaks directly to the wind (somewhat unusual, you must admit) saying “QUIET! BE STILL!” and miraculously, the wind calms.
The apostles must be totally flummoxed by that time, as Jesus throws a challenge at them. “Why were you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” What would you have said in reply to that question? I don’t see the possibility of any reasonable response. Rather, I am certain I would have been “in the same boat” as the apostles, wondering, “Who is this whom even the wind and the sea obey?”)
The story ends with a beautiful saying, one that I saw many years ago on a “holy card” and recall as often as I am in the presence of a body of water. It says that He hushed the storm to a gentle breeze and brought them to their desired haven. Each time that comes to mind, I ask myself the state of my faith. Do I trust that I will be given the strength to come through the storms of life? Am I feeling able? Is my faith in need of a boost, a sign that I will be taken care of so that I need not be “terrified” by circumstances? Happily, I am usually able to respond in the affirmative, trusting that the waters will not drown me but rather will lead me to that “desired haven” where God awaits.
Today Matthew is still recounting a part of the famous message of Jesus from the Mount of the Beatitudes, one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited. Jesus is preaching about the danger of storing up earthly treasures and he makes a statement that engenders my question this morning about “treasure.” He suggests that we not be concerned with material goods and such, but rather go deeper, finding more precious things. He says simply and directly, “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” And so I ask myself today: “Lois, where is your heart?”
I know the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father”) in two languages and can recite it without a thought. Unfortunately, that is sometimes precisely how I say it—without a thought. I rarely stop to consider what the words mean. Sometimes that is a comfort, telling me that the message is deeply ingrained in my heart and I am changed in the saying of it. Sometimes, however, my thoughts are somewhere else and I am moving as if on a treadmill, going nowhere and in danger of falling off/losing my place with every step.
This morning’s gospel (Mt 6:7-15)) has Jesus teaching his closest friends how to best approach God: simply—not babbling with lots of words. There’s no need for that after all, because God already knows what we need. We might ask “why bother then?”
This morning my answer is simple: the recitation wakes me up to what I’m doing/saying and I have that good feeling of connection in my heart. What’s your reason/experience?
Every time I read chapter five of Matthew’s gospel, I feel more and more challenged! The Beatitudes are enough but then there are so many other things added on…. One could spend a lifetime simply in that one chapter! Just take one little section like: I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…. Yikes! I try but have been very short of success in that endeavor, especially as that statement is followed up with questions like: If you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Difficult questions…challenging statements…. Love can certainly get complicated if your desire is to listen to the way of the disciples…. Are you still willing to go along?