Gospel Reflection for June 14, 2015, 11th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Kamil Porembinski

Photo via Flickr user Kamil Porembinski

Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 17.22-24; 2 Corinthians 5.6-10; Mark 4.26-34

“This is how it is with the reign of God. A farmer scatters seed on the ground, goes to bed, and gets up day after day. Through it all the seed sprouts and grows without the farmer knowing how it happens. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.”

(Mark 4.26-28)

We live in a long history of God’s love unfolding in our evolving cosmos. Some four billion years ago simple cells appeared; two billion years ago cells with nuclei appeared. A farmer in Jesus’ time and all of us who grow plants today inherit the leap from the ocean to land that early cellular life made. We can ready the field, sow the seed, and sleep until harvest time. We depend on the miracle of life in seeds to grow and become food for us.

We live in a dynamic world in which all that is has the capacity to become more, to self-organize into new wholes. This image of growth calls us to value our own potential for outgrowing present flaws. Like the seed our spiritual growth flourishes with our willingness to trust the potential and future within our real selves.

Jesus identifies the seed with the word of God. Like seed Jesus’ teachings take root and grow in us. The person of faith realizes our lives of eating, sleeping, working, and playing are more than meets the eye. God is present in our lives in every here and now.

What does the story of evolution tell us about God and God’s reign? About ourselves?

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Social Action Has Two Feet

5 Jun

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Dwelling in Metaphor

4 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Jose Maria Cuellar

Photo via Flickr user Jose Maria Cuellar

My family loves to be outside. We look forward to walks, hikes, and simply exploring our backyard. When I am playing inside with our son, I find myself assessing the value of our activity. As soon as we step outside, that assessing stops. The inherent goodness of just being outside takes over, and I can feel that goodness in the deep contentment of my baby. We’ve started to plant more and notice the micro changes in our yard day by day through the observant wonderment of a child.

It’s makes sense to me, then, that one of our creations stories takes place in a garden. It is the perfect setting to think about creation. The garden is an ideal metaphor for life. The garden is a perfect paradise for us to learn about God:

…the garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things. The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe…And what a wonderful relief every so often to know who your enemy is–because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time. And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth and growth and beauty and danger and triumph–and then everything dies anyway, right? But you just keep doing it.   –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I feel this. Simply dwelling in my garden helps me feel human. There is no learning activity needed. God is all around us, and we can just breathe and be still. When we do act, when we do weed and plant and trim and water, I do not feel the urgent need to talk through my motion with my baby. “This is earth. This is life. This is food. This is beauty.” He watches intently and does not need an explanation. He gets it, and the joy, wonder and curiosity on his face is pure.

Pablo Neruda, in his poem “Keeping Quiet” reminds us that the earth has something to teach us:

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

Yes, everything that is bursting with life will all go away, but then what seems dead will later prove to be alive. We’ll do it again next year. And we’ll keep doing it, and we’ll keep sitting quietly in the garden. We’ll keep creating a mini paradise for our family to dwell in. It will be our own little metaphor, God’s classroom.

Gospel Reflection for June 7, 2015, Body and Blood of Christ

1 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Alex Leung

Photo via Flickr user Alex Leung

Sunday Readings: Exodus 24.3-8; Hebrews 9.11-15; Mark 14.12-16, 22-26

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples. Take this; this is my body.”

(Mark 14.23-24)

Perhaps a parent or grandparent has cautioned: if you eat any more chocolate chip cookies, you will turn into one. The caution explains well why we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and why we celebrate Eucharist weekly and daily. We gather as the Body of Christ to become to Body of Christ. Joining in Eucharist can become a school of transformation. We want to turn into the Body of Christ — to embody who Jesus is, people in our lives, and people in need in our world. At Jesus’ table we share the food that fuels us to become his feet, hands, eyes, ears, and heart in the world.

As what part of the Body of Christ do you think of yourself — feet, hands, eyes, ears, heart?

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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.”

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Gospel Reflection for May 24, 2015, Pentecost Sunday

19 May

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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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Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

 

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