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Tiny Retreat #2: Hildegard of Bingen

9 Jul

Hildegard of Bingen: Patron saint of green and growing

Hildegard was only five years old in 1098 when her parents brought her, their tenth child, to the monastery of St. Disibode. A holy woman named Jutta took the little girl in and taught her Latin and music so she could sing the psalms with the monks and nuns. Jutta also taught Hildegard everything she knew about herbal medicine. At age 15, Hildegard decided to follow the Benedictine way and become a nun. When Jutta died, Hildegard became the prioress of the community.

Hildegard was a mystic, a person who experiences extraordinary communion with God. Hildegard wrote down her understandings of God in vivid pictures. Many women were attracted to her teaching about God and came to join her monastery, which grew so large that Hildegard started another monastery near Bingen, a nearby city. She continued to write and teach. Here is one of her poems.

Again I am in turmoil.

Should I speak, or must I be silent?

I feel like a gnarled old tree, withered and crooked and flaky.

All the stories of the years are written on my branches.

The sap is gone, the voice is dead.
 


But I long to make again a sacred sound.

I want to sound out God

I want to be a young juicy, sap-running tree

So that I can sing God as God knows how.
 


O God, you gentle viridity

O Mary, honeycomb of life

O Jesus, hidden in sweetness as flowing honey,

Release my voice again.
 


I have sweetness to share.
I have stories to tell.

I have God to announce.

I have green life to celebrate.

I have rivers of fire to ignite.

Hildegard make up the word viridity. It means greening, the life power of God that is in everything. For Hildegard the Word of God is greening; it has the power to create Christians. A tree growing and branching out is greenness in motion. Love is green. Jesus is greenness incarnate. Sin is not green. Sin is drying up, losing one’s ability to create.

• Read the first two verses of the poem again. When have you felt your sap is gone, your voice dead? What or who helped you know you could sing again?

• Does Hildegard’s way of calling on God, on Mary, on Jesus resonate with you? Can you read the last verse of the poem as your own song?

If Hildegard were alive today, she would sing about God’s work in the unfolding of creation in evolution. “O Holy Spirit” she writes, “you make life alive, you move in all things, you are the root of all created being, you waken and reawaken everything that is.”
 
For her teaching, Pope Benedict named Hildegard a Doctor of the Church. This means she is one of the Catholic Church’s greatest teachers. There are four women Doctors—St. Hildegard, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux.

• Make a resolution to see the Holy Spirit greening the earth around you. Pray a thanksgiving prayer each day for one beautiful thing you see.

 

 

“I am a feather on the breath of God.”

 

 


 

 

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Gospel Reflection for March 24, 2019, 3rd Sunday of Lent

21 Mar

Gospel Reflection for March 24, 2019, 3rd Sunday of Lent

Sunday Readings: Exodus 3.1-8, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10.1-6,10-12; Luke 13.1-9

Jesus spoke a parable. A man had a fig tree, came looking for figs, but found none. He said to the gardener, “For three years I have come looking for figs and found none. Cut it down. . .” The gardener said, “Sir, leave it one more year while I hoe around it and manure it.  Perhaps then it will bear figs.” – Luke 13.7-8

How do we see ourselves in Jesus’ parable? What to do with a tree that bears no fruit? Who likes to cut down a tree? If we think of the gardener as God, then God is nurturing, caring more about another chance to bear fruit than cutting it down. If we think of the tree as ourselves or our children, who doesn’t need or won’t give another chance to grow? A fourth, a fifth?

In the Old Testament steadfast, generative love is God’s signature characteristic. Sunday’s responsorial psalm provides one of the most famous descriptions of God: “Merciful and gracious is the Holy One, slow to anger and abounding in kindness” (103.8).

Our daily interactions cultivate conversion. Like the gardener we nourish and encourage one another. Listening to others can cultivate the fruit of compassion or courage or insight. Other believers can freshen our commitments.

In what ways are you like the owner of the fig tree? In what ways like the gardener? What or whom will you give one more chance to bear fruit? What special care with this require?


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Gospel Reflection for February 3, 2019, 4th Sunday Ordinary Time

28 Jan

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 1.4-5, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 13.4-13; Luke 4.21-30

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” – Luke 4.21

In this statement Jesus identifies himself as the prophet the Spirit anoints to bring good news to the poor. He will fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah. He will lives these words and gather a community that lives God’s love and mercy into the future. It is on the Sabbath in the midst of his own people in Nazareth that Jesus proclaims the Spirit, the giver of life, will work through him to heal, forgive, set free, and lift people up. Jesus will inaugurate a jubilee era in which the poor and oppressed have a new chance to thrive.

What is the sermon you try to live? Who gave it?


If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection, please visit the Sunday By Sunday page to order a subscription or view sample issues. Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for October 7, 2018, 27th Sunday Ordinary Time

4 Oct

Sunday Readings: Genesis 2.18-24; Hebrews 2.9-11; Mark 10.2-12

“God made humans male and female, and for this reason men and woman leave their fathers and mothers and the two become one.”  – Mark 10.6-8

Some Pharisees ask Jesus in Sunday’s gospel, “Does the law permit divorce?” This question is still controversial today. The law of Moses does permit men to divorce their wives. To repudiate a wife puts her outside the family social structure, in effect impoverishing her.

Jesus endorses marriage by quoting Genesis 1 that the Creator makes humankind in the divine image and gifts them with sex, “male and female God created them” (1.26.27). The creation story in Genesis 2 describes men and women made of the same bone or essence, equally human and made for becoming one. Jesus insists that in the case of adultery wives should be able divorce their husbands just as men can divorce their wives, a move toward equality.

This Church teaches marriage is indissoluble. Marriage is the most common way Christians live out their discipleship. Marriage builds bond of blood and networks of love and friendship–the social weave that holds us together. In countless daily ways spouses build their union and at the same time their individual wholeness.

Today Pope Francis recognizes the general rules in regard to marriage don’t fit every situation. He wants to make room for conscience and for grace. For him, mercy is the beating heart of the gospel. He cautions in his exhortation Love in the Family, “At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete significance. It’s the worst way of watering down the gospel” (#311).

What do you value about marriage? What is hardest?


If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection, please visit the Sunday By Sunday page to order a subscription or request a free sampleStart a small bible study. Be a leader.

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