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Poem of the week

23 May

Each week this summer we are posting a poem on Keeping Faith Today — Sister Joan’s blog. This week’s poem is by Sister Alice Smith, CSJ, who taught Joan all she knows about writing. Thank you, Sister Alice!

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all of you.

Mother & Child by Ade Bethune

Mary of Nazareth


Mary Queen of Heaven is a mighty queen,
but Mary of Nazareth was a queen no less,
although Nazareth folk never dreamed they had seen
in the carpenter’s house a queen in working dress;
a queen sweeping a floor or laying a table,
or washing the supper things at fall of night.
And even had they watched,
 they would not have been able
to see the angel who came in a cloud of light,
an angel with great eyes aflame with wonder
who knelt before this girl and spoke to her.
The sound of his voice was more terrible than thunder,
but she was not terrified. She did not stir.
And when she spoke, the angel bowed his head,
knowing what power moved in the word she said.
~ Sister Alice Smith, CSJ


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Gospel Reflection for January 1, 2017, Mary, Mother of God

29 Dec

Sunday Readings: Numbers 6.2-27; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21

“Mary pondered all these words in her heart.” – Luke 2.19

Sunday’s gospel about the shepherds visit to Mary’s child and offers only a single sentence about her. That sentence turns on the word pondered, in Greek the word if symballein. Ballein means to throw. Literally the Greek word means to throw together, to wrestle with together. Cymbals have the same root, bringing together to make noise. For Mary to ponder is to interpret the events life is throwing at her. Her faith seeks understanding. Significantly in Luke’s birth narrative, Mary and Joseph can find no place to stay in Bethlehem. Mary gives birth and begins mothering her child in a stable or cave for animals. The sign the shepherds go to Bethlehem to see is the savior, lying in a manger, born among the poor, one of them.

What do you imagine Mary is pondering at age 15 when she give birth to Jesus? At 45 when Jesus starts his ministry? At the foot of the cross?

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Making Room For Jesus

8 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Steve Corey

Photo via Flickr user Steve Corey

The season of Epiphany, this sacred time after Christmas, always brings me back to Mary, and how she made room in her life for Jesus.

When she learned of the child growing inside of her, I imagine her having to rearrange her mind and heart a bit to make room for another person. She had to welcome this detour, this unexpected gift as her path, her life shifted forever.

While pregnant, her body literally made room for him. A pregnant woman’s organs shift dramatically as the child grows. Her lungs rise, the bladder gets pressed on, the intestines shift, and the heart has to work harder.

Then after Jesus was born, I imagine how her world changed. Like so many new parents, I’m sure her love for her child took her breath away. She most likely immediately had to adjust to less sleep, less free time, and the growing responsibility of keeping a person alive and healthy. Her heart broke open in love for her baby.

And yet Jesus was not just any child. Think about the confusion, excitement, fear, pride and trepidation that must have come with watching her son’s ministry grow. Ultimately, she had to watch her son die on a cross. She had to go on without him, something no mother should have to endure.

Mary made room in her body, her heart and her life for Jesus. How can we make room for Jesus to dwell in our lives?

Mary’s Yes

18 Dec

Mary and Gabriel

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” –Luke 1:26-38

What is Mary calling us to this Advent?

Here she is, engaged, anticipating a certain life. Thinking, maybe, that she had some control over where her story was heading. Then an angel came and spoke. She was open enough to hear. Her life changed instantly. Her role changed. Her path changed. She’d need to weather the possibility of being dismissed, disgraced as her belly grew. She did not, in fact, have control over her story.

Yet, she did have control over her response. “Here I am.”

I like to imagine this wasn’t an immediate response. She seems more relatable to me if I envision a period of serious turmoil, confusion, disappointment and fear. Maybe she grieved for the story she thought would be hers. Yet her response remains remarkable. She chooses to embrace the life that was given to her. She said yes to a role she was not anticipating or feeling ready for. She fell in love with her new path. She wanted the life that she got. Instead of clinging, she opened her palms to what was indeed out of her control.

This Advent, can we walk lightly enough to notice the angels among us? Can we admit that we are not in total control of our lives? Can we open our hands, our lives, and our hearts to unknown paths? Can we be brave enough to walk down the unexpected path? Can we, too, say, “Yes?”

A young pregnant girl in a backwater town encountered God in the unknown. Maybe we can join her in saying, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”

Gospel Reflection for December 25, 2014, Christmas/Holy Family

23 Dec

Christmas-Tree

Christmas Readings: Isaiah 9.1-6; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-20

“The angel said, ‘You have nothing to fear.  I bring you good news, a great joy to be shared by the whole people.  For this day in David’s city a savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord.  Let this be a sign to you; you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’”  

Luke 2.10-12

Many people today may identify with how unusual Jesus’ family is. His mother is not married when he is conceived. His mother’s husband is not Jesus’ real dad. His mother is still a virgin, probably still a teenager. Mary and Joseph face all the challenges any child presents new parents, but Luke’s story also tells us their baby is extraordinary–the savior, the messiah, God’s Son.

These titles make claims about who Jesus is that eventually get him arrested and condemned to death. Angels announce Jesus’ identity to shepherds and give them and us a sign. The sign is the baby lying in a manger, a feed trough. Jesus’ first crib hints he will give his life to nourish ours. A manger is a place of low status, a place among animals and shepherds who live at the margins of society. The child is good news for the poor, joy to all of us, and safe with temporarily homeless parents making do.

Where might Jesus be born today to express God’s willingness to identify with all of us, especially the lowly and left out?

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Gospel Reflection for December 21, 2014, 4th Sunday of Advent

16 Dec

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 7.1-5, 8-12, 14-16; Romans 16.25-27; Luke 1.26-38

“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph of the house of David. The girl’s name was Mary.”

Luke 1.26-27

In Mary, the Most High will overshadow and dwell in a human person, intensifying God’s presence among us. No longer will God only tent among Israel’s tents and dwell in a house among Israel’s homes, but God will become human incarnate, one of us and one with us. How can this be? This same God who created all that is will make the impossible come to be in Mary.

The becoming human will happen in Mary’s womb. She will feel the first stirrings of salvation within her own body. God’s Son will look like her. She will nurse and rock him after he is born.

How is Mary’s call like the call of every Christian?

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Our Lady of Guadalupe

12 Dec
via Flickr user Angelofsweetbitter2009

via Flickr user Angelofsweetbitter2009

In Central and South America the conquering Spanish brought both armies and disease in the 1500s that caused 90% of the native peoples to die. With the Spanish came missionaries that preached the gospels to surviving people such as Juan Diego, on whose tilma we see the image of the holy woman he encounters on a hill where Mexico City is today. In her role as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary, Jesus’ mother, appears as one of the poor. Our Lady of Guadalupe promises to hear the prayers of poor and nearly destroyed Indian peoples like Juan. The tradition of enacting the story of Juan meeting the Lady takes place in Hispanic parishes every December 12th.

You are the mother
of the dark and the light
the rich and the poor
the humble and proud.

You are the mother
of the young and the old
the strong and the weak
of those who rejoice
of those who weep.

You are the mother
of woman and man
of small and of great
of broken and whole.
You are the mother who art.

“Our Mother Who Art” by Sister Ansgar Holmberg. CSJ

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