Speaking Truth to Power

29 May
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

“If I am killed, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.” –Mon. Oscar Romero

This prophecy of Oscar Romero came true. He was killed for speaking out on behalf of the poor in El Salvador. He did rise again in his people.

On five different occasions, I brought a group of high school juniors to El Salvador for a ten-day justice education trip. We sat at the feet of Salvadoran people and learned about Romero’s death, the twelve-year civil war that followed, and the role the United States played in that war. We stood on the alter, right where Romero was shot. We went to his tomb to pay tribute, and we ran our fingertips over his name etched in stone alongside all the others killed during the war. We acknowledged his death, but we were also surrounded by his spirit everywhere we went. I have never felt anything quite like it. In the rural villages they sing his praises. In the city his face is painted in mural after mural. People want to share what they know about him. He lives on in the continued justice work being done, in the hope of the people. He is their champion, their saint, and in the heartbeat of the people, his spirit is alive and well.

Romero’s story is one that gives me so much hope. He was an intellectual, a well trained lover of liturgy. The higher ups thought he would be moldable and obedient to them. They were wrong. Instead, Romero answered the call to go and see his people. What he saw converted his heart. He did not tell the poor people of El Salvador that they should live gracefully in poverty and love the Lord. Instead, he accused the unjust political and economic systems for their suffering and demanded change. He refused the large dwelling for the Archbishop in the capital and lived in a humble, small room. He preached truth to power, and received death threats immediately. He became a pastor of the people.

On May 23rd, Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified. This is a move that also gives me hope. El Salvador’s history is full of repressed truth, secret buried bodies, and the wealthy taking charge of the country’s narrative. Pope Francis is allowing the truth to breathe, to have its turn. Romero was killed for his beautiful faith and his advocacy for the poor.

Mon. Oscar Romero reminded us that violence and repression is never the answer. He warned us that a system where a few hold too much power and have too many resources while others want is not sustainable. It seems that now is the perfect time to celebrate the life and teachings of Romero so that we too may live into a world that is more equitable and free.

Gospel Reflection for May 31, 2015, Trinity Sunday

27 May
Photo via Flickr user Larry Koester

Photo via Flickr user Larry Koester

Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 4.32-34, 39-40; Romans 8.14-17; Matthew 2816-20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.”

(Matthew 28.19-20)

Our God is no smug solitary being enclosed in egocentric self-regard but the living God, three persons in free communion, always going forth in love and receiving love. Our Judeo-Christian traditions testify that our God is irrepressibly friendly, steadfast, faithful, and compassionate toward us.

Our heads start to hurt when we think about God, whom we experience as close as we are to ourselves but beyond the adequacy of our words. Importantly the Trinity is a communion of equals, not a monarchy, giving us community and mutual love as models of how to live on Earth as in heaven.

What is at stake in trying to understand God as a communion of equals? How do you experience God?

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Oscar Romero Proclaims God’s Love

22 May

This Saturday, in El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Romero will be an official candidate for sainthood. He was martyred while saying Mass in March of 1980. Like Pope Francis, Romero wanted a poor church for the poor. Go to the internet to read his story. Let this message from him resonate in your heart today and give you courage.Romero

Each one of you has to be God’s microphone. Each one of you has to be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as there is someone who has been baptized. Where is your baptism? You are baptized in your professions, in the fields of workers, in the market. Wherever there is someone who has been baptized. that is where the church is. There is a prophet here. Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people.

How To Be a Person

22 May

Wendell Berry has a poem titled “HOW TO BE A POET (to remind myself).” Even if we do not fancy ourselves as poets, I think it has some helpful tips in reminding us how to be a person. If you are anything like me, we can all use a reminder sometimes:

Make a place to sit down.

Sit down. Be quiet.

You must depend upon

affection, reading, knowledge,

skill – more of each

than you have – inspiration,

work, growing older, patience,

for patience joins time

to eternity. Any readers

who like your poems,

doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath

the unconditioned air.

Shun electric wire.

Communicate slowly. Live

a three-dimensioned life;

stay away from screens.

Stay away from anything

that obscures the place it is in.

There are no unsacred places;

there are only sacred places

and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.

Make the best you can of it.

Of the little words that come

out of the silence, like prayers

prayed back to the one who prays,

make a poem that does not disturb

the silence from which it came.

My writing professors challenged us to be contemplatives. They told us to sit and keep sitting. To sit in silence, to sit and think, to sit and question, to sit and do nothing at all, and to count all of this sitting as possibly the most important part of the creative process. They challenged us to get off of the screen and write in a notebook. One professor, in trying to get us to communicate slowly, assigned a measly two pages of writing a week, but he expected each sentence on those two pages to be perfect, to add to the silence, to have a rhythm and a life all their own.

This poem speaks to me, then, as a writer. But as I said, I also think it can speak to me as a person. Just this week a friend lost her father. I told her there are no words, and she agreed. We remained in the silence. I asked my young students how they discern the will of God and their first answer was, “Sit still. Reflect. Listen to the silence.” Each time we meet we carve out time to sit, quietly. They were skeptical at first, but they have come to love those few minutes. They look forward to it. They benefit from it. “Good sitting,” I say as we blink our eyes open together. They agree. The ordinary room feels sacred.

Together, we are getting better at finding a place to sit still, finding a silence to work from. It feels countercultural, and it feels like as we get better at sitting, we are getting better at being human. Maybe from this place we can hear the prayers prayed back to us.

Pentecost

21 May

“All of us have been given to drink of the same Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12.13

Let taking deep breaths and drinks of water remind you this week to pray, “Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of us all.”

Pentecost-Sequence(1)

 

 

 

Gospel Reflection for May 24, 2015, Pentecost Sunday

19 May

Gospel-people2

Sunday Readings: Acts 2.1-11; 1 Corinthians 12.3-7, 12-13; John 20.19-23

“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

(John 19.23)

To send his friends forth with the good news of Easter, Jesus breathes the Spirit on the community gathered in fear and prayer. This is a sacramental scene. Breathing is Jesus’ sign of the Spirit of God’s power in us — invisible but life-essential air, moving into our lungs, hearts, blood, and brain, animating every cell of our bodies, coextensive with being alive. The Holy Spirit is a transforming give in us.

The Spirit calls us always toward peace, unity, and new life. Where bitterness, grudges, greed, pride, estrangement, addiction put up walls, freeze people out, fray family and friendship bonds, there the Spirit unsettles us, looking to mend.

The Spirit thaws the frozen, bends the stubborn, shakes the arrogant. The giver of life empowers us to be life-givers in our relationships and continuously renew the face of earth.

What is a peacemaking action you no longer want to put off?

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The Holy Spirit is hope in us this Pentecost

19 May
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Read aloud these words of our sister Joan Chittister. Thank the Holy Spirit for  dwelling within you, speaking through you, showing God’s face in you.

The Holy Spirit moves us to new heights of understanding, to new types of witness, to new dimensions of life needed in the here and now. The static dies under the impulse of the Spirit of a creating God. We do not live in the past. We are not blind beggers on a dark road groping our separate ways towards God. There is a magnet in each of us, a gift of God that repels deceit and impels us toward good. The gifts are mutual, mitered to fit into one another for strength and surety.

We are, in other words, in the most refreshing trite, most obviously astounding way, all in this together — equally adult, equally full members, equally responsible for the Church. Nor does any one dimension of the Church have a monopoly on insight, on grace, on the promptings of God in this place at this time. The Spirit of God is a wild thing, breathing where it will, moving as it pleases, settling on women and men alike.

from In Search of Belief by Joan Chittister, OSB (Liguouri)

 

 

Pray Without Ceasing

15 May

One whole wall in my home office is whiteboard, and the other day I got on a chair, and in purple whiteboard marker in big, looping cursive I wrote, “Renewal.” It has been my prayer, my meditation mantra, my plea, my daily bread.

Until a few months ago, I lived hard. I worked hard and played hard and then crashed out when needed. In parenting, there are no days off. There is no spring break, no sleeping in on a Saturday, no vacation to recuperate. Very quickly I have had to figure out how to live without crashing. I could no longer go without taking a breath knowing I could hide away and regroup when I needed to. The day after big turning points like my spouse being out of town or a weekend trip, when I would usually lay low, I struggled realizing that I had to just keep going, no crashing possible. I have to pace myself. I have to take one day, sometimes one moment at a time. And I humbly pray a whole lot more often.

When my baby needs some comfort or transition time, I rock him, walking slowly in the circle of my house’s main floor, from living room to kitchen to family room to office, and I see that purple prayer of Renewal staring at me. Because it is my focus, it is my lens, it is my daily, hourly prayer, I see and feel renewal in places I never looked before. I am consciously grateful for each new morning sun, each cup of coffee, each shower, each stroller walk, each time a friend visits or each time I sneak in a nap. Every day I cobble together these mini gifts of renewal. They give me hope and the strength I need to keep going.

These mini renewals are all I have, and they are enough. I pray for renewal from a deep and honest need, and I receive it. I pray without ceasing and God gives me what I need.

Ascension

12 May
Photo via Flickr user Katharina Friederike

Photo via Flickr user Katharina Friederike

“To them I have revealed your name, so that your love for me may live in them.” – John 17.26

Whose kindnesses and love bring this text alive in your life? How can you, too, have Christ’s love live on in your daily tasks?

Put a photo of someone you admire or love in a place where you see it daily. Give thanks to God for this person in your life.

Prayer for the week

Come, Holy Spirit.

Gospel Reflection for May 17, 2015, Ascension

11 May

Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; Mark 16.15-20

“Go to the whole world and preach the gospel.”

(Mark 16.15)

The ascension is the hinge event between Jesus’ resurrection and his sending of the Spirit. Luke’s gospel ends with Jesus’ ascension and the Acts of the Apostles begins with the same scene. Luke draws on ancient imagery of God’s heavenly court to picture Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, returning to reign with God, to take his place at God’s right hand. As God’s incarnate Son, human and divine, Jesus is the firstborn of a new creation — the promise of who we are to become.

What are you looking to heaven for that you should be doing on Earth?

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