Going to Work

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afactoryworkers.pngI can’t say that I am excited about going to work this morning. My list of homegrown tasks is long enough to fill the whole week, but an office day will bring me back to focus on the part of life that is more difficult to celebrate on lovely summer days.

Joan Chittister says in her book, Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, that in the monastic tradition “work is not a punishment or a penance. Work is a privilege.” She is certainly right about that in my life. I’m so grateful for all the different positions I have held and every kind of work I have been called to in all my years. My work has put me in touch with a huge number of people – some tangentially and some directly – all of whom have added to my growth as a person.

I think today of all the people who work in monotonous situations, as in factories where there work consists of one repeated task all day, every day. My prayer for them would be the knowledge of how their work is essential to whatever is being created by the collective work of all the employees, and perhaps that they might consider their part as a mantra, repeated for the good of all. And for those who work in sanitation departments, I pray in thanksgiving for their service to the rest of us as they take away all the things that clutter our lives so that we can come to see more clearly.

I could go on but I need to get ready to leave for work. I do, however, want to continue thinking about those who offer essential services to the public and to pray in gratitude for them. And my hope is that they can find satisfaction in their service, especially in relationships with those who share in their work. And for the unemployed, I pray that work will soon be offered to them and that they will be taken care of by the generosity of others until that day comes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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God Calling

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alongingIn the early 1970s the Benedictine monks of Weston Priory in Vermont began a music ministry that has enhanced the spiritual growth of innumerable people over the past half century. One of the most beloved of their early compositions that still appears in church hymnals and touches hearts of those who desire relationship with God, even while knowing human frailty, is Hosea. It is based on passages from the book of the prophet Hosea in the Hebrew Scriptures, which is one of the most tender texts in the Bible as it recounts the relationship of Hosea and his harlot wife, Gomer – a representation of God’s relationship with Israel.

Those words in this morning’s lectionary (HOS 2:16-22) float through my mind and call me back to the song. The music itself is full of longing while the words simply and directly present God’s desire for us. It sings in my heart this morning as I listen to it again on YouTube.

God calls: Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart. Trees do bend, though straight and tall. So must we to others’ call. Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.

How can I resist?

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Grace In Us

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aweaknessSometimes it can be very comforting to read the letters of Paul in the Scriptures, like today when he speaks about his ego getting the best of him. When that happens, he notes that there’s always something that reminds him of his fallible nature. When he begs God to make him better (Sound familiar??) God’s response is amazingly reassuring and loving. We would do well to believe God says the same to us. Listen and see if you can rest in both parts of the answer.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. (2 COR 12:9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Moment

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amourningdovesI believe that I understand at this moment what Thomas Merton wrote at dawn on a day a half-century ago about waking up. It is totally silent inside my house; everyone is sleeping still or again. (The coffee is made so someone was up before sunrise.) Outside is a different story. The mourning doves punctuate the conversation that is constant and loud – some would say cacophonous – among all  the other birds large and small. And through it all the rooster reigns, splitting the silence with a voice that carries to the river and back again calling us all to wakefulness. “It is like the first morning of the world,” Merton writes, “when Adam, at the sweet voice of Wisdom, awoke from nonentity and knew her…” Only in silence, I think, is it possible to have such an experience. And so I will dress and go into the day, carrying with me the pure sounds of praise in the natural world, hoping to know the wakefulness that is available to me this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take A Good Look

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aculturalIn the little book of Jesuit prayers entitled Hearts on Fire, I opened this morning at random to one called “Prayer of Reconciliation.” I was interested in what the prayer said about the mental process that can quickly lead to blame in our dealing with others as well as our judgment of their motivations. When we come from a place of difference or separation it becomes easy to denigrate the other while shoring up a skewed sense of our own innocence or righteousness. We would do well to carry a small mirror with us (if only a virtual one) to look into our own eyes and see the love that is God’s Spirit looking back at us before we judge another.

Lord Christ, help us to see what it is that joins us together, not what separates us. For when we see only what it is that makes us different, we too often become aware of what is wrong with others. We see only their faults and weaknesses, interpreting their actions as flowing from malice or hatred rather than fear. Even when confronted with evil, Lord, you forgave and sacrificed yourself rather than sought revenge. Teach us to do the same by the power of your Spirit. (William Breault, S.J.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Sins Are Forgiven

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asinsforgiven.jpgThe gospel holds a question that I have never before stopped to consider in the way I heard it today. As I reflected, I noticed even a lot more in the short passage that led me to a deeper place. In MT 9:1-8, Jesus has just returned to “his own town” where he encounters a paralyzed man, brought to him on a stretcher by people who obviously have faith in his power to heal. There is no conversation; Jesus just saw their faith and immediately said, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”

I probably wouldn’t have thought much about the encounter in this very familiar passage but a second look at the entire event gave me much more to ponder. When the scribes who were in hearing distance thought to themselves that Jesus was speaking in a way that could be called blasphemy (speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things), Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked them, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Rise and walk?’ My guess is they were quite surprised that he was reading their thoughts.

My original intent in writing about this passage was to consider the question just raised by Jesus. I wondered what the scribes would have answered if Jesus had given them a chance. He did not do that, however, but indicated that his purpose was to show his “authority on earth to forgive sins” rather than his ability to heal the body. Most likely because they were not at a level of development to understand what that meant, he then told the man to “rise, pick up your stretcher and go home.” The conclusion of the passage illustrates a lack of understanding on the part of the whole crowd of who Jesus really was, noting that “when the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.”

So what is my point? In a sense it is the thought I started with: a consideration of internal and external healing. We are living in a time when the consciousness of the connection of body, mind and spirit is evident in the literature of mainstream culture as well as in spiritual circles. Meditation is touted as essential to health and wholeness as is physical exercise. Healing of memories is as important as dealing with present-day conflicts. The soul and the body are both in need of healing. Jesus was talking about the former while observers were waiting for the cure of the latter.

My wondering has now come full circle. My question to myself was: If I were the paralyzed person to whom Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven,” would I be shocked and resistant at being judged a sinner (and thereby, probably not cured) or would I recognize the need for forgiveness and let that be enough, whether or not my body was freed from paralysis? It’s a question of humility and recognition, it seems, as well as a trust in God’s unconditional love that takes more than a quick look inside to answer honestly.

 

 

 

 

 

God Bless America

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aflagSometimes it’s difficult to get in touch with all the extraordinary blessings we experience as citizens of a free country. If I stay in the peaceful village where I live and don’t access the outside world through the “marvels” of technology it’s possible to enjoy a picnic or a good book while sitting outside in the sunshine. These days, however, in a political climate that is totally untenable, where hate is blatant and civility is often missing from human discourse, one wonders where it will all end.

When I was young, among the many things I learned about morality was the important axiom that freedom is not the same as license; we are not allowed to do everything we want just because we can. We must consider the common good as well as our desires. As the technological age has put us in touch with the world such that we now know what is happening everywhere – sometimes at the exact moment it occurs, our responsibility to the freedom we have inherited has deepened. At the same time, in a country as largely populated and diverse and a society as complex as what we still call the United States of America, we find that freedom can be what some have called a “hard grace.”

There is a tendency in me this morning to lament the “state of the nation” but I know that would be unfair to all those Americans around our country and the world who are responding to crises today, to all those health workers and researchers who are working to overcome disease, to teachers and farmers and mothers and fathers who are teaching their children what a privilege it is to live in this country and how we must work to assure justice for all. It would be unfair as well to people who are gathering in places of worship today – in churches, synagogues, mosques and the wide open spaces where the Holy is found – to give thanks for what we have been given and to ask for guidance as we go forward. I add my prayer to theirs as the music and the words rise in me, giving me confirmation of my gratitude for this country and the life that is possible here.

God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above. From the mountains to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam, God bless America, my home, sweet home. God, bless America, my home, sweet home. 

 

 

 

 

 

Short and Sweet

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apraiseToday’s lectionary offers us the shortest of psalms for response to the first reading. Ancient Songs Sung Anew gives a good idea for a spiritual practice using this text, saying that since it is one of the most universal in its meaning, “it could rightly be said by almost any person from any nation on earth.” Here’s the psalm, the challenge and the rest of the commentary.

Praise the Lord, all you nations; glorify God all you peoples! For steadfast is God’s kindness for us, and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever. (PS 117:1-2)

If you can, put this short Psalm to some music of your own making. Sing it to yourself till you have memorized it, and use it for a number of days as you pray for the nations of the world. Notice, though, that it is a prayer addressed to people rather than to God.

If you were to write your own short “doxology” (hymn of praise) what would you add or leave out? What should the people of the earth come to know about God which you yourself have personally experienced? (Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p. 297)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Morning After

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acockcrowingThe weekend just ended brought both old friends and new faces to our tiny “island of grace” (the way I see our small retreat center these days). The privilege of preparing meals for them allowed me observation time of their interactions with one another and the alternation of their movements to and from the conference room – so often peppered with “thank you” or smiles of appreciation for every little thing. I cannot help feeling judgments about people melt from me as I observe the gifts that diversity brings to a retreat where everyone is desirous of spiritual growth. The ways that people dress or speak or choose their food are all overshadowed by the blinding light of their intention toward unity with the Divine (however they perceive the One I call God).

I was prompted to this realization this morning by Rainer Maria Rilke’s thought, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy in a book entitled Rilke’s Book of Hours. I wasn’t looking for anything special as I pulled the book from my side table but here is what I saw upon opening to page 177.

You are the future, the red sky before sunrise over the fields of time. You are the cock’s crow when night is done, you are the dew and the bells of matins, maiden, stranger, mother, death. You create yourself in ever-changing shapes that rise from the stuff of our days – unsung, unmourned, undescribed, like a forest we never knew. You are the deep innerness of all things, the last word that can never be spoken. To each of us you reveal yourself differently: to the ship as coastline, to the shore as a ship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balance, Please!

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ajesusmountainToday’s gospel has Jesus squarely in the midst of his healing ministry. (MK 5:21-43) On his way to heal the daughter of Jairus he encounters the woman with the hemorrhage. He is so totally present in his healing power that all she has to do is touch his cloak to be healed and he knows that power has gone out of him. That was most likely the easy part of the day. When he arrives at the home of Jairus, he would only allow the parents and three of his close friends to go with him into the room where the child was already dead. It seems that perhaps this was a conscious act of “conservation of energy.” Crowds can so easily suck all the air out of a place and those following him were obviously skeptical of a good outcome since he told them the girl was not dead but asleep. Jesus is confident in his power to heal, gets the job done and tells those in the room with him to keep the incident to themselves so as to be free, perhaps, of those who did not seem interested in understanding who he was and in whose power the healing took place. That would be the work of another day.

Joyce Rupp has a short prayer reminding me that even as this gospel implies constant healing work on the part of Jesus – going from one dire situation to another – he did, in fact, know when to take a break. It’s good advice for all of us on this day when Christians celebrate the weekly Sabbath.

Jesus, we turn to you, our model and mentor of giving and receiving. We recall how you poured yourself out in service to those who crowded around you. We bear in mind, too, how you withdrew to the mountainsides to pray and restore what was depleted in your body and spirit. Grant us, Giver of Gifts, the wisdom, inspiration and discipline to cultivate a healthy balance between generous service to others and compassionate care of ourselves. Amen. (Prayer Seeds, p.134)