When Solomon asked for “an understanding heart,” to judge the people, God answered the request: “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you” (1 Kgs. 3:12). Some say wisdom comes with age. There’s truth in that, but there are persons wise beyond their years. One such person is Amanda Gorman, the youngest person to deliver a poem at a presidential inauguration. Her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” will continue to inspire down the decades. Gorman begins “When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in the never-ending shade?” Acknowledging our country’s differences, she seeks “harmony for all.” Her wisdom is again displayed in these lines: “If we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.” The last phrase of “The Hill We Climb” attests to Gorman’s mature wisdom, as she says “The new dawn blooms… If only we’re brave enough to see it, If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Author Archives: Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider
What are your favorite books of the Bible? I love Luke’s Gospel, Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, and Deuteronomy. Surprised by that last one? A book that explains the Law of Mount Sinai and recaps the themes and events of the Pentateuch is not a page-turner. However, in this month of Valentines, one can find sentences with a lot of heart. Here are a few:
You shall indeed find the Lord when you search after him with your whole heart. (4:29)
Fix in your heart that the Lord is God, and that there is no other. (4:39)
You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. (6:5-6)
It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations. It was because the Lord loved you.” (7:7-8)
What does the Lord ask of you and me today? “To love and serve the Lord, your God, with a your heart and all your soul.”
On this feast of the Presentation we read of Simeon and Anna, two persons who immediately recognized the Christ of the Lord. Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple” just as Mary and Joseph brought their Child. Simeon had been “awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” He knew at least that he wouldn’t die before he saw the Messiah. Anna was always in the temple, but Luke says she came “forward at the very time.” Ever watchful and attentive, Simeon and Anna sensed the precise moment that would fulfill their prayerful longing. Years of waiting had prepared their hearts. They felt a nudge to be in the exact spot at the exact moment. Now that’s attention!
If today you feel a nudge to your heart, let your feet follow that nudge. You may find the Christ of the Lord.
Valentines replaced Christmas cards several weeks ago, so it’s not too early to write about hearts, which I’ll often do this month. One of the first Scripture passages about hearts is from the Book of Exodus. It’s the account of Moses pleading with the Lord that someone else should speak to the Israelites about leaving Egypt. The Lord reminds Moses that he has a brother who is not “slow of speech and tongue.” Fortuitously Aaron is on his way to Moses. The Lord tells Moses: “When he sees you, his heart will be glad.” And Moses’ heart was certainly happier when he with Aaron assembled the people who believed in the Lord’s words from Aaron’s mouth.
When I see my siblings (though distanced) my heart, like Aaron’s, is glad. Sibling bonds are steel-strong. All the world should have siblings like mine. I am so blessed that each one has my back and I theirs. Secrets are safe, problems shared, prayers promised and prayed. Heart speaks to heart, words not always necessary. As with the friends David and Jonathan, may the Lord be ever between us (1 Sm. 20:42).
Pope Francis spoke of healthcare workers as “the saints next door” and “the antibodies to the virus of indifference.” The Gospel tells us that those who lose their lives save their lives (Mk. 9:24). Doctors, nurses, and others in the forefront of the pandemic are willing to lose their lives so that others may live. Their life is not about themselves. Instead, they freely give their lives for others.
Do I live in such courageous freedom? Do I see and meet the needs of others? Or am I indifferent? Has the necessary isolation of so many over the past months helped us see more clearly how we are all connected? Today as you listen to news or read the paper, check your immunity to indifference. Build up those antibodies through care and compassion.
The Gospel passages early in Ordinary Time are full of optimism. Jesus comes to Galilee to proclaim the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus tells the Eleven to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel.” Jesus claims everyone is his family: “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Very large crowds gather around Jesus to hear his teachings, such as the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. Optimism permeates the Gospel. It should permeate our lives, too. After all, we know the end of the story, the climax of the Good News: Risen Life with Christ in God.
“The deepest truth is our union with the Absolute, Infinite Being, with God That’s the root of our reality” (Beatrice Bruteau). Our days can be dull, unfulfilling, seemingly pointless. Or the events around us can be chaotic, even irrational. But beneath our days that hardly resemble reality, there is the deepest root of our reality: God. Supreme Being. Creator of the Universe. Love. Pure Love. Unconditional Love. Love without limit. Love so particular in its focus that this Love lasers in on me. That’s my deepest truth.
Our nation has many stories from the myths about Paul Bunyan to the biographies of Presidents. Its overarching story is one of justice, peace, liberty, dignity. It’s from our stories that we create our present and our future. Are we a more truthful people, because we’ve heard the story of George Washington’s “I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree”? Are we a more courageous people, because we’ve seen the valor of soldiers on D-Day? Are we a more just society, because we see the evils of racism and prejudice? Are we becoming more united as we hear President Biden’s plea for unity? Our national story sewn into the fabric of flags, carved into the stone of monuments, and recorded in speeches shapes us. May the plot of our national story reach its climax in a world of justice, peace, unity. And may there never be “The End” to our nation’s role as a main character in a world where the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Mercy is God’s nature. God’s merciful love holds nothing back. As the psalmist says, “His mercy endures forever.” A wave of mercy is poured out over all humanity. As Saint Faustina quotes God in her diary, “I am Love and Mercy itself. There is no misery that could be a match for My Mercy. . .. The soul that trusts in My Mercy is most fortunate, because I myself take care of it” (Diary 1273). The Hebrew word that we might translate as “mercy” is hesed, which is also translated as “lovingkindness.” (Yes, that’s one word.)
Perhaps we are fearful today, or we may feel misery. So how can we change our fear and misery to trust in God’s mercy? We can start with the ABC’s of mercy: Ask for God’s mercy. Be merciful. Completely trust in Jesus. We can ask God’s mercy to inspire us to lead more prayerful lives. We can be more merciful ourselves, as we root out anger and jealousy while performing acts of lovingkindness. We can help our social, political, and religious systems become agents of mercy. Above all, we can trust that we are in God’s hands.
Let us practice mercy. As Shakespeare wrote, “The quality of mercy is not strained. / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/ Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:/ It blesses him that gives and him that takes.” May the mercy of God be upon our newly elected leaders, and may our country be twice blessed as it extends mercy.
Pope Francis wrote a Prayer for Peace in 2014. As the nation looks to Inauguration Day, let us pray for a peaceful transition with the Pope’s prayer:
Lord God of Peace, hear our prayer! We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried. But our efforts have been in vain. Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts. Instill in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.
God of Love, you created us, and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that our way of life will always be that of Shalom, Peace, Salaam! Amen.