It is a relief to be back in Ordinary Time. Although Lent and Easter, especially the Sacred Triduum, are very meaningful to me, those seasons are stressful. We run from ashes to Easter Candle. (And even after that we have the liturgical details that come with Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi.) Ordinary Time has a walking pace. Yet it has its challenges, too. For the next 30+ weeks the Sunday gospels call us to complete the mission of Jesus. “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51), and we must do the same. We cannot look back once we determine to follow Jesus. Completing his mission takes multitudinous forms. Big issues of climate change, immigration reform, and all types of poverty confront us. Then there’s the annoying little stuff, the daily frictions that test our love of neighbor. The mission of Jesus was to bring about the reign of justice and peace reconciling all things to God in loving unity. What a tall order! I can’t even imagine what it all really means. I only hope that you and I somehow join our actions to Christ’s own mission–even if only at a walking pace.
When I saw the movie Breakthrough I gasped at the moment the three boys fell through the ice. The next few minutes were harrowing and horrifying, as the one boy descended into the dark water. Later I reflected on the deep plunge the neophytes took at the Easter Vigil. They willingly died with Christ in order to be raised with Him.
The ritual of baptism buried the neophytes with Christ. As happened in the harrowing of hell, Christ grasped their hands and pulled them out. For all of us who are baptized, our hope is in Christ. Jesus broke the chains of death and descended among the dead. In his victory, we are risen. May we always accept the outstretched hand of God.
Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection are bound up with the mystery of the Incarnation. It was the Incarnation which began Christ’s kenosis, his self-emptying when he left heaven for earth. His death fulfills kenosis when his emptying became complete. By dying, Jesus rejoins the Father, sits at His right hand, and sends the Spirit. Our baptism unites us with Christ’s death and resurrection in the mystery of our salvation. We are also thus united with Christ’s incarnation, to be fulfilled when all things are put beneath Christ’s feet and Christ becomes head over all.
The art of visiting has all but disappeared in our society. How regrettable as I think back to the weekly visits with dozens of cousins playing softball or hide-and-seek or singing and playing musical instruments. We are also missing out on the mystical act of finding Christ in one another, as that of the visit between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. We miss the chance to see and celebrate what is hidden and deeply powerful. All that Elizabeth’s neighbors saw was her happiness to see Mary and receive her help. But unseen to them were the cousins’ looking into each other’s eyes and intuiting God’s miraculous power. The three months spent together would be the support that carried Mary and Elizabeth through wonderful moments and the suffering they would endure. Their souls magnified the Lord in unison; the Magnificat became a duet.
The feast of the Visitation is my favorite Marian feast. It’s the Feast of Friendship, a friendship that acknowledges the God-life within. Mary and Elizabeth were companions on the spiritual journey, trading the role of guide according to the needs of the moment. They supported each other over rough inner terrain, giving direction and sharing God.
The next time you visit someone, risk to share yourself and your God.
During the second half of the Easter Season several of the weekday readings from the Acts of the Apostles tell of the early Church’s hesitancy to admit Gentiles. That’s understandable enough, for the Jews had a history of being the Chosen People. Even Peter was reluctant to accept Gentiles until his vision of the sheet containing animals, birds and reptiles and being told “Take and eat!” The Spirit told Peter to not discriminate against anyone. After that, Peter would debate that “God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the world of the Gospel and believe,” and Peter proclaimed that God wanted “no distinction between us and them” (Acts 15).
Our Western culture’s mindset is dualistic; it’s either-or; things are right or they are wrong; people are on the right or on the left. This phenomenon describing Western thought patterns Cynthia Bourgeault in her book The Wisdom Jesus calls the “egoic operating system.”
As we strive to let go of our ego, we have more chance of seeing another thought pattern, of understanding another point of view, of creating unity and building community. When we “lose ourselves,” abandoning our silos, we gain access to numerous benefit that comes from community.
Who do you think you are? God’s gift to the world? You’re right! Just for a moment, accept that you really are God’s gift to the world. You can make a positive difference in the world. This is what we pray for when we pray “Renew the face of the earth.” Let the Holy Spirit inspire you with a smile or a kind word. These acts are all “bits of hope,” “fragments of salvation.” Remember the words of Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” So “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4) and let everyone know it, because your face shows it.
Do certain persons come to mind whenever you see a particular object or do a specific thing? When memories are of deceased persons, I appreciate the reminder of their unseen presence and recall the days I lived with them. Whenever I throw towels in the dryer, I hear the voice of deceased Sister Marilyn Kay Borer say, “Make sure you shake out the towels before putting them in the dryer.” I hear the voice of Sister Thomasita exclaiming “You unkempt rodent!” (her polite version of “you dirty rat”) when foiled in a card game. I can hardly pick up a magazine of current events without thinking of Sister Mary Bernarda Sullivan who kept up with the news despite advancing age. When I improvise to cover the action in church, I think of Sister Mary Delphine who said that she accidentally played “Beer Barrel Polka” when improvising in church. When tuning up to sing, I think of Sister Mary Michel Schmidt who would sing “Asperges Me” in staccato. When I remember my dad, I hear him say, “Be nice, girls.” And my mom would get us up in the morning by calling out, “Everybody happy?” These memories are a little chance to say hello to these wonderful people once again.
Jesus professed to be a servant as he washed feet and commanded his followers to continue his example of servanthood. The apostles should not have been surprised by Jesus’ unusual gesture. They had been with him three years, enough time to see Jesus putting others before himself. Once again, Jesus puts others before himself when he cooks breakfast for his apostles. Maybe Jesus was whistling, a chuckle playing on his lips, as he thought of their surprise to see him now risen from the dead—and in such a place. No temple or synagogue or verdant garden, but a campfire in their former stamping grounds. Perhaps Jesus is recalling the many times he said, “I came not to be served but to serve.” The system of have and have not, lord and servant, more worthy and less worthy needed to be washed away in the Sea of Galilee. Maybe this time his apostles would get it. “There’s always hope,” he thought.
The word: “Fiat”
The Word: God become flesh.
The word: “Flee.”
The word: “You yourself shall be pierced with a sword.”
The Word: “Why did you search for me?”
The word: Silent compassion
The Word: “There is your mother.”
The word: Silent grief
The word: Silent faith.
On Good Friday I reflect on the suffering of Jesus as an individual, as one person stumbling to Calvary and hanging on a cross. However, I need to reflect more on Jesus’ solidarity with all the suffering and powerless people of the world before and after the first Good Friday. Jesus is with his people, for his people, a solidarity always in readiness for a Simon of Cyrene, a Veronica, a centurion, a Peter, a John, a Mary of Magdala, and a Sorrowing Mother. In his helplessness Jesus offers an example of attention to others. Each receives a gift: Simon of Cyrene a deep understanding of suffering on behalf of others, Veronica an image of God, the centurion belief, Peter forgiveness, John a mother, Mary of Magdala discipleship, and the Sorrowful Mother a son to cradle a last time and every son and daughter in whom her Child lives.