Journal Archive 2006 CYCLE B

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Lk 2:41-52

Hanging out at the Temple
I can hear my dad say to one of my endless questions that began with “why…?” “Because I said so” I never found this a satisfying answer. I really had no control over the adult world. This was just one more example.

In the gospel reading on December 31st, where we celebrate the Holy Family, Jesus absents himself from the trip home with parents and stays in Jerusalem at the temple. Here he astounds the temple teachers with not only his questions, but also his answers to their questions.

Can you imagine this, adults allowing themselves to both be surprised and awed by the questions and thoughts of a twelve year old! Can you imagine a twelve year old hanging back at church to ask questions with spiritual and theological content?

There are many lessons often drawn from this gospel reading. One focuses on the unity of the Holy Family and how they deal with conflict of a son that just disappears. Another faces the question of “who is this boy child Jesus?” I have decided to think about a whole other invitation from this story. I wonder what are the questions percolating within me seeking answers that can only be found by leaving the familiar and looking in the temple.

Dare I, dare we step out of the every day patterns that have defined our view of the world to a new view that brings God into our lives in new ways? Perhaps now is the time to be open to questions that seek an answer bigger than, “because I told you so!”

Is 52:7-10
Heb 1:1-6
Jn 1:18 or 1:1-5, 9-14.

Advent Tools and Christmas Light
This week I was torn between writing something for the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas which was anywhere between eight to twenty-four hours later…depending on when you go to church. On the one hand I think for many people, or at least myself, are so busy, that Advent asks us to do that thing we most need to do – Be. On the other hand, today’s news is often about what is not good about our world and we desperately need to hear “Good News.”

Perhaps the 4th Sunday of Advent and the readings of Christmas so close together invite us to bring together the blessings of both. In the first reading from Isaiah, it talks about the blessed one who brings glad tidings and announces salvation to Zion I ask myself, “What is the glad tiding that I bring to today’s world?” “What does salvation look like?” My quick answer can be Jesus…however, what are my lived answers to these questions?

What do my actions and reactions say to others, especially at times when I am struggling with a grudge or frustrated with a co-worker or spouse? It is here in the in between that I so desperately need the wisdom of Advent waiting and listening. From the various Christmas gospels, I have chosen Christmas morning, John 1: 1-18 the first part of the gospel says:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

After my listening and waiting, the message of this Christmas gospel talks about the power of the Word becoming flesh. This powerful Word of God who brought light into our darkness invites us to do the same in today’s world. This Word invites me to bring this light daily into my comings and goings. I think that the Christmas message cannot be lived on a daily basis without the Advent disciplines of waiting and listening. Let us move into this season of joy supported by the gifts of Advent and the light of Christmas.

Zep 3:14-18a
Phil 4:4-7
Lk. 3:10-18

The Peace that Surpasses All
The 17th of December’s readings gave me a lot to think about. However, the reading that really snuck into my soul space was the second reading from Paul to the Philippians. Our homilist did a great job talking about the concept of joy and rejoicing, but the phrase I was drawn to is one that I often use in my prayers with patients and families who are anxious.

Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Imagine for a moment a peace so strong, so big that even in our most enlighten moment it still surpasses our understanding! And on the other hand, as connected as we can be to our fears, our disappointments, our anxieties, this grace of God is big enough to change that in the blink of an eye.

I found myself thirsting for this peace to guard my heart and mind as I enter a week with several patients who are very sick. My challenge and opportunity this week is to trust that this peace is not given for good behavior, or held back for not doing everything just so, but rather this peace is so big that it is within our midst no matter what.

Although my mind and heart are still working their way through clutter, the letter of Paul to the Philippians fits perfectly well into this season of waiting as it seeks to create space otherwise used up by “get everything done.”

Bar 5:1-9
Phil 1:4-6, 8-11
Lk. 3:1-6

A Timeless Message
The Second week of Advent has come and gone. I was on call for my hospice and each day was full of folks who were getting ready to go home to God. I would come home each night and even though I was full of thoughts about the readings for December 10th my fingers never got to the keyboard.

I apologize for a week that needed more than ever a response to the invitation of John the Baptist to:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

I am not sure how you make straight a pathway, when you are responding to work. However, perhaps the challenge for a week like this is to clear a space in our hearts so we can hear the healing words of God say, “I know you are trying, be gentle to yourself and breathe.”

So, as we walk this Advent journey let us seek to clear the pathways. Let us make space in our inner heart space to hear a voice calling out in the wilderness. Let us take time in our busy schedules to stop, breathe and respond to the message of John the Baptist. That message is timeless, Second Sunday of Advent or not.

Jer. 33:14-16
1 Thes. 3:12-4:2
Lk. 21:25-28, 34-36

Barren Branches
I love this time of year when I can see the bare branches against the sunset. I love the shapes and the curves of the trees that are usually hidden by the leaves. Everything becomes remarkably visible.

As we begin this season of Advent we are invited to journey our own inner landscape. We are invited to become more awake to that which we need to see. There is a heighten anticipation of the blessings that can come with waiting. This is happening at exactly the same time that the consumer culture is telling us in order to be ready, we must not wait to get things done, but rather we must hurry. And as we hurry about getting this and that, forget about the bare tree branches against the night sky, there is way too much to do to be looking around.

This season of Advent however, continues to be counter cultural and challenges me to slow down and be still. It invites me to re-evaluate what is really important. The church invites us in the readings of the Season to wait, not idly but rather with a sense of anticipation of a coming. As it says in the first reading of December 3rd, we are waiting for the fulfillment of a promise…a time which will speak of safety and security.

The second reading invites us to make room within ourselves for a boundless love towards all. To be filled with this boundless love, most of us need to make some room in our inner landscape. What do we need to let go of? Do we have wants in our lives that have become needs? Do we dare to make enough room within to feel our hunger for this boundless love in our lives? Dare we empty ourselves enough to make room for hope with expectation? Advent waiting calls attention if we dare listen. We are invited to make room like the barren trees for a dormancy that bares its fruit in the seasons to come.

Why? Because eventually, we like Mary and Joseph will be called to take the journey to Bethlehem. Let us use this season of Advent, this time of barren branches and waiting to nourish our inner landscape, so that when the time comes we will be guided by the Christ Light into the fullness of Light of the Christmas Season.

Dn 7:13-14
Rev 1:5-8
Jn 18:33b-37

Thanksgiving 1970
As the grow-ups gathered in various rooms my sister and I created with the help of our friends a replica of the first Thanksgiving out of play dough. That night when we came to the table someone asked my sister to say the grace. It was a simple enough request and Bridget was not shy when she was asked to pray out loud. This is what happened…Bridget began with the pilgrims, continued with the Native Americans and included all of the historical stories she had learned in school. Everyone began to fidget at the table, as there seemed to be no stopping of this third grader “giving thanks for all of thy benefits…”

Bridget opened the door that Thanksgiving to a prayer that was heartfelt, sincere, and in recognition of the largeness of our history. Her prayer was a story that began with thanking God for our history and ended with thanking God for the present day.

On the Feast of Christ the King liturgy we are invited to hear the stories of prophets and gospel writers who focus us toward the waiting for the Holy One whose kingdom is not of this world, yet oddly enough it is through the here and now that we meet Christ the King! Like Bridget’s prayer of gratitude which took in the actions of the past, that brought us to that Thanksgiving grace, we too in today’s Eucharist gain strength and perspective by looking not only at the stories in the bible, but also at the stories of people who have brought us to today.

As we move forward from the Feast Day of Christ the King to Advent how shall our actions bring forth the kingdom of Christ the King?

Do we follow the ads in the newspapers and on the television that seek to guide how we might move forward into celebrating this Season of Waiting and Promise? Or shall we move into this Season of Advent giving voice to this season of waiting by being more present to the people in our lives than the media? Might we move into this season by reflecting with gratitude on the kingdom to which we are called to live daily?

How might our lives be different if we entered each day of this unfolding kingdom with thanksgiving, trusting that gratitude can give light to the kingdom that is at hand?

Dn 12:1-3
Heb 10:11-14, 18
Mk 13:24-32

This Little Light of Mine
This week’s readings are full of the end times’ readings we get at this time in the church year. I was aware as I listened to them at the liturgy today, that I encounter “end time” or “what may happen messages” in all facets of my daily life, they are everywhere. Here are some that have happened in just the last seven days.

I was at a talk this week and the speaker said we have, according to scientist, about ten years to turn around the patterns which we have toward the earth, if we hope to change the progression of global warming and the extinction of a variety of species. The speaker said, we must choose what we hope for our future by beginning today. I left the talk a bit undone and thinking what are the choices that I am willing to make to turn these predictions around?

In Weight Watchers this past week, we talked about the kickoff of the holiday season. We addressed issues of food that can swallow us up during the upcoming season of overeating and gluttony. What food choices will I make in the coming weeks ahead to avoid my pattern of overeating?

There are politicians who have told us that we must fight terror, it is a war that surrounds us and if we don’t respond to it, “they” will overcome us. During this past election many said if we voted a certain direction, we were voting for the terrorists. I certainly don’t want terrorists, how am I called to vote to address this issue?

The scenarios of things that could go from bad to worse or from bad to better are all around us these days. In the first reading and gospel from November the 19th readings, are full of predictions and things to look out for. Here are a few excerpts from today’s first reading from the book of Daniel and from the Gospel of Mark.

Dn. 12:1-3
In those days, I Daniel, heard this word of the Lord:
“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince,
guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress
since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape,
everyone who is found written in the book.”

Mk. 13:24-32
Jesus said to his disciples: “In those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

Sometimes I don’t want to hear the news, as it seems to describe in the words of Daniel, “a time unsurpassed in distress.” And I wonder at times how much tribulation has to be happening for us to tip over into end times.

I am amazed at how little energy it takes to move into that place of fear and what it takes to draw from both the Hebrew scripture and the New Testament from the well of hope! At the end of the gospel, Jesus invites us to be awake and engaged in building the kingdom of heaven, for we do not know the time or day.

What we do have is the choice of how we stay awake. Each day, the choice is ours. From what source shall we draw our inspiration for today’s actions? Will we be awake and choosing from fears of “what if” or from the “hope of what is possible”?

In the midst of our liturgy today, a four year old boy was baptized. At the time of his baptism with the help of his Dad he lowered his head over the baptismal bowl and Father Bob poured over the blessed water. Later when his Godparents were given the baptismal candle newly lit from the Easter Pascal candle, the little boy reached for the lit candle; after the candle was blown out his Godfather handed him the candle.

Once the candle was in his hands, the little boy reached back toward the Pascal Candle to light it, but to his dismay he wasn’t able to get it light. After that he leaned forward in his father’s arms and sought to douse the candle in the baptismal waters. Even at a distance I could see as did others that this newly baptized Christian reached out for more…granted it may have been the excitement of playing with a light or water doused candle, after all he was only four.

Yet what if my choices this week were based on the fire of God’s love for us and the grace of forgiveness? God calls each of us beyond ourselves to moments of healing and reconciliation? It is our choice, to choose what drives our responses to everyday life, fear of others or love for others.

1 Kgs 17:10-16
Heb 9:24-28
Mk 12:38-44 or 12:41-44

Enough Oil in my Jug
I was sitting quietly, trying to slow my very full brain, trying to empty out a little bit before the liturgy began. My friend to my right said, “Move down these people need more seats”. So I did. Again trying to drop into that ever so evasive quiet place within, a woman from my left moved into the pew and said, do you need all that room to your right? “The folks to our right are expecting more people”. My friend to the right said, “We have lots of room.” The lady to my left said in a somewhat defensive tone, “After all these pews should fit eight people!” I responded defensively, “Whatever you say!”

And so began the liturgy of the Eucharist where all are welcomed!

I have to admit I was frustrated with my friend, who had verbally shoved me (from my perspective) down the pew in the first place and then the lady who came in from my left; words took that irritation to a whole new level. Shortly after our brief interchange I had to turn to her and say hello, thank God we didn’t have to do the sign of peace yet, as I was no where near feeling those words.

I didn’t have any secrets with my inner feelings to myself, but I had a long way to go to get from there to what I wanted to feel at the sign of peace toward my two neighbors. The first reading was like an arrow through the heart. I felt like the woman who barely had enough oil and flour to make the one cake for her son and herself. I came to church this morning undone and scattered. How was I to move from that place of scarcity within to having enough to go far beyond where I had sunk to?

I think the prophets and Jesus have their nerve, they are so often asking those who have less to give more. There the lady was with hardly enough food to survive and Elijah asks for the little she has to be shared, I have to admit, I was right with her. And then she dares to risk sharing the little she has with this traveling prophet and much to both her and my surprise there is not only enough, there is an abundance of ingredients left for a year of making bread.

You can imagine where that put me! I needed to reach deeper and pray for the grace to move out of my crabby frustration. I heard myself praying to call back those negative thoughts I had sent to the woman after our interaction. Further more, I asked that I might appreciate how she is loved by God as much as I am. None of this happened quickly. However, by the Our Father I could take her hand and hold it with the intention of her being my sister. By the end of the liturgy I could apologize for being so crabby at the beginning of mass about having enough space.

As Elijah and the lady taught me, there is enough grace for the smallest and the greatest of miracles to happen.

Dt 6:2-6
Heb 7:23-28
Mk 12:28b-34

Land of Milk and Honey
How often do we think about words of commitment: I promise you in sickness and in health; I vow to you my sisters and brothers in community; I seek to live out my life serving; I promise to give my support to this newly baptized; and so forth? Our lives are full of individuals and couples who in sacred liturgies and ceremonies put words around commitments that will frame their present and future days of living in relationship.

Last weekend I had an opportunity to watch people at an international airport re-unite after part of the group came through customs. I could not understand their words, but their gestures of affection were powerful. It made me think about my reunions with my family members and how I take for granted those connections. As I heard the Eastern European language being spoken by one family, I wondered if this was a “taken for granted reunion?”

Reunions usually have some previous history of commitment, be it the core blood connections that may exist between families or commitments that came from sacred and civil promises. Again it is these frameworks that act as guides for the hopes and desires of people seeking to live out relationships with others in a particular way. In the readings from the Sunday of November 5th, Moses and Jesus give the followers of God a framework through which they are called to live out their relationships with God and with each other.

When Moses spoke to the Israelites, he was giving the important and intimate framework that was needed to define their relationship to Yaweh.

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
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.”

In the gospel reading when the scribe was asking Jesus about the most important commandment, he was seeking to find out if Jesus was guided by the cardinal commandment of any Jew; Jesus not only did not disappoint this seeker, he took him into a deeper understanding of living this law.

Through a newly spoken second commandment he invited the scribe and those listening to put love of God into action through love of neighbor and self.

The second is this:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Later in the gospels, Jesus poses the question, “Who is my neighbor?” It is in that lesson that we learn about the good Samaritan.

For you and I, we are invited to be about the commandments given to us in the readings from this Sunday’s readings. Dare we risk going against the cultural tide and love God with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our strength? And even more risky, dare we love our neighbor, both known and stranger, as we love ourselves? What are we willing to commit ourselves to in order to build up the kingdom? What words might guide our hearts that will lead us into the land of milk and honey into being close to the kingdom of God.

Jer 31:7-9
Heb 5:1-6
Mk 10:46-52

The Remnant
Hearing and reading the scripture from the Sunday of October 29th, I find myself wondering how long will it be until we experience the description in the first reading of coming home? Will I experience that from this side of heaven or might I be part of the welcoming committee?

Behold, I will bring them back
from the land of the north;
I will gather them from the ends of the world,
with the blind and the lame in their midst,
the mothers and those with child;
they shall return as an immense throng.
They departed in tears,
but I will console them and guide them;
I will lead them to brooks of water,
on a level road, so that none shall stumble.

In the first reading today we hear about the return of the remnant of Israel from exile. All are brought back and for those with special needs, the God of Israel will do what is necessary in order for them to come home. Jeremiah draws us into the poetry of a people exiled and finally led home by a loving God, who is faithful.

As a hospice chaplain I am often in conversations with people preparing to die, who wonder, “What will it be like when I die?” I have had so many people tell me the impact of having had near death experiences and how it has made them excited about the next part of their journey. I also have people tell me of their fear of the after life, especially if they haven’t made peace with this life.

There are other days when I think about the scripture verse from Jesus that says, “The kingdom is at hand,” and I wonder am I doing anything to help it be more obvious? Or I wonder am I awake enough to see the miracles in the here and now?

In the gospel reading Jesus responds to hopes of a blind man who is calling out Jesus’ name. Jesus asks him, “What is it that you want from me?” The man replies, “I want to see.” Jesus responds and the man receives his sight.

In this gospel story Jesus offers this man an opportunity to join the remnant of Israel. However, the man in this story already has the most important kind of sight, he can see with the eyes of the soul.

Today, we like the people of both Jeremiah and Jesus time are waiting for the fullness of the kingdom. We, too, may not be able to see because of the attitudes which keep us from asking, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” Our hearts may be lifeless, or at the very least tired. Today, this blind man full of faith and poetry calls to us to live the reign of God, the question is, dare we risk our safety to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, I want to see.”

Is 53:10-11
Heb 4:14-16
Mk 10:35-45

Can You Hear Me Now, Can You See Me Now?
Tonight I am sitting and stewing over a work related issue. It happens to be something that can happen anywhere, at anytime, and really to anyone. It’s that old struggle with power and visibility. I have found myself struggling with how to regain a sense of visibility and involvement in a new organization. I thought that I had voiced this in the right way to the right people at the right time.

As you may have guessed not all went well with the receiving committee for my thoughts and hopes. Tonight as I sat outside on my prayer bench smelling the warm night air, I asked myself new questions, what extent am I struggling with issues of arrogance and pride? I asked God and the heavens to guide me to move from a place of humility rather than from a place of wanting visibility.

Initially when I reflected on the readings from October 22nd, I could not believe the arrogance of the disciples in the gospel reading in asking Jesus the following:

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”

A friend and I talked about this for quite a while. She saw the readings from a much bigger picture. She saw the second reading as a foundation for Jesus’ response to the disciples as being gentle and very understanding of their humanity. She said, “Jesus understood the human desire of his disciples to want to go to heaven and share in that glory. He said, “Okay, you can share in my glory but I cannot place you on my right or left hand side, only my heavenly Father can do that.” She then went on to say, “Jesus told them what he could and could not do. He did not judge them, he merely asked them if they were willing to take on His baptism and walk where he would have to walk.”

I thought that she had a very good insight into the gospel and wondered how I might learn from her. Tonight, I am grateful for this Jesus who can hold my humanness as I sought more visibility and involvement. I am relieved that he understands us. My challenge is to figure out what it means for me to live his baptism and to serve without worrying about me being visible and having influence. I shall seek to draw from the admonition of the second reading for direction

“So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”

Wis 7:7-11
Heb 4:12-13
Mk 10: 17-27

Grant me the Serenity
In the readings from the 15th of October, we are invited to consider what is important in our lives as we seek to find the kingdom of God. The first reading talks about the importance of wisdom as a guide to the path. The gospel reading challenges us to consider the story of the rich young man who goes away sad when Jesus tells him he must sell belongings to be able to follow him.

I remember thinking how much easier it was for me than the man in the gospel. I didn’t have any material belongings I needed to sell to enter the kingdom. That’s before I became aware of the “riches” in my life. My riches were internal. I really didn’t want to part with my belongings when invited by Christ. My opinions and judgments are often my hardest treasures to give up. When I am talking to someone about something that I feel is necessary to defend, I find it difficult to listen to people who think quite differently than me.

Sometimes, I hear myself (at least internally), creating imaginary boundaries that keep me from venturing into “the other’s ideas,” because I am right already. I am especially protective of ideas and things that I have prayed about. I find myself much more able to give away one hundred dollars than I am some days to open my heart to the kingdom of love, if that means handing over a dearly beloved way of thinking.

Yet isn’t that what Jesus is asking us to do, to let go of those realities (thoughts, actions, things) which keep us from being part of the kingdom of God…of love? Jesus often chooses children as the model of who can enter the kingdom of God. This week I have the opportunity to live in the question, in what ways is God inviting me to free up my treasure chest in order that I might live in the kingdom?

As we walk this path, perhaps this prayer can guide us.
God, grant me the serenity,
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Gen 2:18-24
Heb 2:9-11
Mk 10: 2-12

The Path of Love
The readings from the Sunday of October 8th are often used at weddings. It is so easy to be at a wedding and space out when these familiar readings are read. Sometimes it is very easy for those who are not married to leave this reading only for those who are married. Yet if we space the readings out or find ourselves not part of a marriage, we miss our opportunity to find the way Christ may be talking to us.

I remember the woman who was caring for her dying brother, not because she had lots of money nor a big house, but rather because of their relationship as sister and brother. I think about a friend who has reframed her daily life to take in the needs of her elderly parents, who stands in that place of transition with her parents as they meet their aging process. I think of my friends who fed me supper every night when a dear friend was in the hospital. Each meal they gave me the food of hospitality and presence.

I think that these stories invite us to think about the covenant relationships in our lives. Christ calls all of us to a deep faithfulness and a very tangible experience of love becoming flesh. Our challenge and opportunity today and each day is to be awake and aware when God invites us to share our “rib bone,” and give voice to the age old covenant of love.

Num 11:25-29
Jas 5:1-6
Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Do You Have a Light?
I saw the man as I was pulling into the parking lot. I saw him moving from car to car and felt myself getting a little nervous. I had been to this nursing home many times and never saw anyone doing this in the parking lot. I parked the car and sure enough the man came up to my window and indicated he wanted me to roll down the window so he could speak to me. I took a deep breath and rolled the window down about two inches.

The man asked if I had a light. I was relieved as I knew that I truly did not have a cigarette lighter in my car, nor did I have a book of matches with me. He thanked and walked away. This man challenged my insides. He was somewhat disheveled and his clothes were very dirty. His lunch appeared to be on the front of his jeans. I noticed all of these things as I tried to talk myself into letting go of the encounter.

I was kind of nervous this day anyway as I had a new patient to meet and that is always a little anxiety producing for me. I walked back to the patient’s room and he wasn’t there, nor was the other patient I had hoped to visit. I asked one of the nurses where she thought I might be able to find this new patient. She said he is often outside smoking…and then she described him…and I knew then that I had already met him on my way in the building.

Returning to the parking area I met my new patient…he was very gentle and very dirty physically. I had to work very hard to get out of the way and as I worked I heard the words of Mother Theresa as she talked about Jesus being every person with whom she worked…I heard later that this man had cared for his mother until her death this past summer. He had a strong sense that something was wrong with himself during that time, but put it off so he wouldn’t worry his mother…

In both the First Reading and in the Gospel, the followers of both Jesus and Moses are reporting to their leaders that others are giving voice and witness to God. Both men tell their followers not to get caught in their jealousy and ownership of the message.

My new patient last week challenged me to allow the bigness of Jesus’ message to be alive and well despite my short sightedness and ownership of the gospel. I still get rattled when I think about the whole experience. It is so easy to fall into blind Pharisees and haughty disciples. I am reminded through these unexpected sightings of Jesus, just how much I need the message of Jesus.

Wis. 2:12, 17-20
Jas 3:16-4:3
Mk 9:30-37

Just the Right Seat
I arrived to church a little early two weeks ago. It was tough because I was still on my vacation routine and it took a little more focus to get there. It was nice being able to sit near the end of the pew and being able to get a clear view of the alter…(I am a little shorter than average and so I am use to getting only partial views of everything up front.) Anyway the upshot of this is that I had the “perfect seat for me!”

Just as the liturgy was starting a young woman and her son pulled themselves into “my” pew and felt perfectly comfortable in brushing against me. This gentle “push” moved me from my perfect seat to being stationed right behind a man who was born with a larger body. I have to say that I found myself a little pushed out at this seat change. Then came the gospel…and I found Jesus words a bit tilted toward me and my attitude.

In the gospel Jesus’ disciples were arguing among themselves, who would be the leader…who among them would be the “big” shot. As I heard the words, my face began to burn as I thought about my reaction to the woman who sat next to me. I really had no idea what it took for her to get to the liturgy that morning. I didn’t know what any of her needs were, what I knew is that I had just returned from a two week vacation with lots of great memories.

I wonder how often my own sense of entitlement places me outside of the call of Jesus. It was a tough way to re-enter daily life…I left church feeling much more like the disciples in this uncomfortable gospel. I was much more aware of how easy it is to let a sense of entitlement get in the way of simply moving over for the Word of God.

Is 50:5-9a
Jas 2:14-18
Mk 8:27-35

Global Village
I have been aware lately of how very blessed my life is. I have all of my basic needs met and have several of my wants covered as well. I listened to a letter of some Catholic Sisters who live in Lebanon. They spoke of their blessings, personally, and then went on in their letter to describe the shambled condition of their country. They talked about the great needs of food and water, the number of children and adults left physically scared by the war.

I know that the same story repeats itself throughout this global village in which I call home. Yet these stories make smooth places within me sharp and uncomfortable. I read the words of Isaiah from the Sunday readings of September 17th and I ask myself, “Have I become one who plucks the beard of the Holy One, do I turn my face toward or away from the face of God in need?”

The letter of James encourages me to be strengthened by my faith as the foundation for reaching out to those in needs. And in the gospel reading of Mark, Jesus who said so much more by his doing than his speaking, invites me to feel the same call of his disciples. I am invited to follow the way of Jesus. Today that begins by acknowledging my rough edges and yet listening to the ways in which I am being called to respond to the needs of those who are speaking.

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.”

Is 35:4-7a
Jas 2:1-5
Mk 7 :31-37

The Good Life
As a hospice chaplain, I am often asked to sit with a loved one who is dying. One night I sat with a 96 year old woman, as she breathed her way into God’s light. She had lived, according to others, a “good life.” Sitting there throughout the night I had a chance to meet many of the caregivers who had come to love this dear woman.

Those experiences always stop me in my tracks because it challenges me to review my life thus far. What will be said of me, when the time comes for another to sit by my bed as I breathe my way into God’s light? Will it be the scenario of an old woman who has lived a full life? Will it be one of a younger person trying to understand God’s ways? Will I meet the dying process with trust and courage or fear and doubt?

The reading from Isaiah doesn’t answer how I will be or how you will be, but it does answer how God will be…how God is. The Buddhists have a saying, “Today is a good day to die.” In saying this they seek to let go of those things which keep them from being present to today. In essence they are also saying, “Today is a good day to live.”

This week I shall seek to live my daily life in a way that helps me practice being present. I shall seek to live in such a way that I can dare to be-

“the stream that burst forth in the desert, the blind whose eyes have been open, and the deaf whose ears are cleared. Let today be the day that others say by my presence, that “I was strong and feared not, trusting in my God who came with vindication and with divine recompense to save me.”

Dt 4:1-2, 6-8
Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27
Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Old Movies
Last night I watched very old family movies. It was amazing to see my parents as young adults in their late twenties being young parents. As a child growing up we watched these movies on special occasions and it was always a treat to hear Mom and Dad tell the stories.

The movies capture my parents traveling with my brothers and sisters all over the country and into Asia, as my Dad was in the military. They capture early scenes from the recovery of Japan following WW II, as well as scenes of parades for the statehood of Alaska. Watching these movies as an adult in my late forties I saw many things as though for the first time.

I watched the loving activities which both of my parents created for my older siblings and me. I saw the careful way in which my father sought to document the life of his family from baptisms to early haircuts, from fishing adventures to family gatherings. I had lost many of these memories of my Dad after he divorced my Mother. Time lapsed and with time hurts and disappointments painted over these memories.

But last night I was aware that my heart was not hanging on to those hurtful memories. Instead a new era of a healed heart allowed me to see with new eyes. I was both surprised and excited. As I read the readings for Sunday the 3rd of September, I felt connected to the phrase from the letter of James: 1:17-18:
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.

Today I am grateful that I was able to recognize and accept this good gift given from above and experience it as coming from a gracious God of lights.

To Whom Shall We Go?
I’m trying to put myself in the shoes, I mean sandals of the disciples in the gospel reading from John 6:60-69 for the Sunday of August 27th. Jesus’ language is very “woo woo.” He is talking to his disciples about the bigger spiritual picture and he doesn’t dummy it down. He isn’t using metaphors, but rather he speaks directly about his relationship to the Father.

Some of his disciples decided they can no longer follow him. We aren’t really told why they leave. Perhaps these statements of Jesus were too much on the edge for them…too far fetched. All we know from this part of the scripture is that they return to their former ways of life.

Jesus then turns to the twelve and says, “Do you also want to leave?”

Because we have heard the whole story it is so easy for me to say, “Of course not Jesus, I will go the whole way with you.” I read and hear the gospel with the knowledge of the resurrection…but the disciples didn’t have the exact knowledge of the big picture without engaging a tremendous amount of faith.

Although we might not be asked as directly as the disciples were asked by Jesus about our choice to follow or not follow him, I think that there are many times in our lives when we are challenged to name and then follow our convictions; in essence then, Jesus does put the question before us.

Today’s gospel invites me to take time to remember those experiences when I had to answer the call of Jesus and at that time the bigger picture was not clear to me. It also invites me to evaluate where and how in my life am I being asked again, “Do you also want to leave?” As we examine that call, may we respond as Simon Peter did…

“Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Gospel: Jn 6:60-69
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.

As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

1 Kgs 19:4-8
Eph 4:30-5:2
Jn 6:41-51

Ready or not, Here I Am
Last weekend I sat with my monthly spirituality group to discuss the concept of discernment in our lives. As we were guided to connect ourselves to the breath of life within us, the mountain breezes gave our internal breath some encouragement. The breeze brought with it an amazing smell that brought us to a profound connection with the God of Creation.

We were then encouraged to connect the importance of being aware of our breath and our body to the ability to discern God’s will in our lives. In our ordinary lives, understanding God’s guidance in the day to day does not (usually), unlike Elijah’s involve the appearance of a mystical being or an angel to guide our action.

Our daily glimpses of walking in discernment is probably more like hearing someone we know say something that could guide us and deciding that couldn’t be it because after all we know him or her. Much like the people who heard Jesus, we are unable to see it/hear it because their beings don’t fit our stereotype of a would be angel or prophet.

Before I left for my spirituality group my expectations were for a good day. I was heading for the mountains where we had spent time in June. I wasn’t expecting any big insights, after all everyone who would be there were from Nazareth. However, despite myself I was lucky…fortunate…blessed because the ears and eyes of my heart were primed through our prayer to be ready for the extraordinary.

The scripture readings from the Sunday readings on August 13th invite us to “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord.” May we dare to be surprised by those people and experiences we usually label as “ordinary” making room for the God of Jesus to speak to us.

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14
2 Pt 1:16-19
Mk 9:2-10

In the Eyes of the Beholder
In the gospel of Mark 9:2-10 we join the disciples Peter, James, and John as they wander up the mountain with Jesus. They seem to be expecting some quiet time with Jesus and in the midst of the quiet, Jesus is transfigured before them. Not only does this happen, but unexpected visitors show up…not just any visitors but the holy men, Elijah and Moses. Next the voice of God speaks directly to the gathered to acknowledge Jesus as His beloved Son. And then in the next breath Moses and Elijah are gone and Jesus is telling his disciples to tell no one about what they have witnessed until the “Son of Man has risen.” All of this is hard to imagine! God’s huge presence showing up in the here and now.

I wonder how often we miss the opportunity to encounter the unexpected presence of God in our lives? Even though I am a chaplain, I can’t say that I begin each day of work thinking that I am going to encounter the transfigured Jesus, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, or the voice of God speaking out in day light.

Today I had an opportunity to visit with several patients. It struck me that out of the eight patients that I saw, two of them talked about people who had cared for them had been in prison. In both cases, the patients talked compassionately about how important it is to give people another chance. Both had good things to say about their care givers. As I listened to them, I wondered if I would have the same amount of trust to give another human another chance to allow their gifts to be as known as their past histories. What happened in these patients’ lives that allowed them to see in these two care givers a new present and future? It is as if they (in the name of God) said to their caregivers, “Behold, here is my son, my daughter in whom I am well pleased.”

Today, I am challenged to be transformed by their examples, to be aware of opportunities in my life to bear witness to the transfiguration of people in my life.

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John,
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Ex 24:3-8
Heb 9:11-15
Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

With the Grace of God
On Sunday the 18th we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. As I thought about this holy feast which celebrates one of our most called upon Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I found myself quiet. How do I as a pilgrim find words and ways to hold today’s readings? As I thought my mind drifted to the recent attendance of my nephew’s wedding I saw the connection.

The couple through the Sacrament of Marriage pledged to live their lives in union with each other. They used familiar words like, “I Chris pledge to you Missy to love you all the days of my life…” and so forth. In some ways it is very similar to Jesus saying, “Take this…this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood the new and everlasting covenant,…”

In both stories a deep commitment has been made to share life in all circumstances. Jesus tells us in the gospels through his words and actions, that the place to share this sacred meal is everywhere; at the seashore, on the mountainside, with two or three friends gathered together.

Chris and Missy promised to each other to share their life stories in all of life’s circumstances, with the grace of God. So, it is my hope this coming week, to look for opportunities in my daily life where I will be asked to share my life with others from a point of communion as a sister to them on the journey.

Sometimes I am frightened by the people God puts in my life, I am not always drawn to them. It may be the tattoos on their bodies, the language they use, the clothes they wear, or the political views that they hold. So this week, I will seek to connect to this solemnity by drawing on Chris and Missys’ commitment to love each other, (Love them as I have loved You) with the Grace of God.

Dt 4:32-34, 39-40
Rom 8:14-17
Mt 28:16-20

Emily Marie
Today at our celebration of the Holy Trinity, little Emily Marie was baptized. She was beautiful. Just before the water was poured over her head the congregation sang the litany invoking the presence of the holy women and men to guide and protect this little one. Our belief in the communion of saints is such a rich heritage, both for the newly baptized and those of us walking the path.

Through the scripture readings of the day, all of us, along with Emily Marie, were reminded that we are called, led and guided by a God who calls us into holy relationship. This relationship is not one that is afraid or cowardly, but rather one that calls out in trust to “Abba,” certain that God will hear our voice and respond. What a powerful doorway for us to stand in at a time in our history when so many reactions to our larger world seem to move out from a place of fear.

I do not know how this little baby will be asked in her life time to stand and bear witness to a God who calls us out of slavery to freedom. Yet, today I heard her blessed and anointed with Baptismal oil to be priest, prophet and king and to bring forth her light into the kingdom of God. If it is true for Emily Marie, it is any less true for you and me. May we dare this day to live boldly our Baptismal call to give witness to a God who calls us to give voice to the power of love and forgiveness? Along with the communion of saints, may we join Emily Marie in calling out “Abba” in trust and hope that we can become the light of Christ for others.

Acts 2:1-11
1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13
Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15

Seeds of Pentecost?
I was awed by the response of people to 911 and the 2005 hurricane tragedies. Through new accounts and televisions reports I watched people from different backgrounds reach across the usual boundaries. These events brought out in people an amazing generosity of time, skills, and money toward those in need. Some gave to the needs of the people through physical labor, organizing people to make things happen and others of us reached out through money, prayer, and by giving blood. These tragedies tapped within us a deep desire to reach out to people who became for us in a very real way, brothers and sisters in need of support and love.

The tragedies in themselves were tragedies, yet they called forth from us an awareness of union with others – despite and in the midst – of our differences. We found ourselves saying, that could have been me/us if…”there but by the grace of God, goeth I.” Today as I caught up in the Pentecost story, I had forgotten all of the groundwork that had happened for the disciples between the crucifixion and the coming of the Spirit. This powerful experience came after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The ground of Pentecost was readied by all of this and the individual Easter experiences that happened behind closed doors, while fishing and walking, and in what was thought to be ordinary experiences…until Jesus showed up unexpectedly.

What has been the groundwork prepared for you and me, that readies us for that inner Pentecost? How has the Holy Spirit worked the soil of our lives to make us ready for new revelations and transformations? Let us be ready to be in awe and amazement of how the Holy Spirit will come to us today and use our tragedies, our sufferings, and our doubts to reveal the Holy.

Acts 1:1-11
Eph 1:17-23
Mk 16:15-20

The Call Today
At our parish this past Sunday we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. As I listened to the readings, I wondered how years passed between the event of the Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit and the writing down of each reading. At that time the oral tradition was alive and well, and history was passed down by word of mouth. At some point each of these oral accounts were put into written word.

My question is really this, how many experiences of the power of Christ words to his disciples did it take before the Word was digested and lived out in their daily lives? If Jesus said to me as it is written in this passage of Mark:

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

I would at the very least have performance anxiety. I would wonder if my faith was strong enough, if I was good enough, all of those questions that come to us when we are asked to live and walk with humility and power. The interesting thing about this gospel reading is that the disciples got their marching orders and then Jesus ascended out of their sight. I would imagine that like us the disciples had questions, I would want a manual on “How to Pick up the Serpents.” In the following line of scripture it says:

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

So this is the question I have for myself, “Do I look for extraordinary blessing in my everyday life?” In the long run, I suppose it doesn’t matter how long it took for the reality to be moved from oral tradition into the written word. What matters is that today that message of preaching and being the carrier of the Good News is meant for me. Not as a challenge of faith as much as a response to the Word alive and active in me today.

Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
1 Jn 4:7-10
Jn 15:9-17

Sagging Vines
This past week I was full of business. The embarrassing fact about last week was that my life was full with workshops talking about self care to other professionals. Each workshop was full of practical ways to care for oneself spiritually, emotionally and physically. Each workshop was enjoyed and appreciated by the participants. I am grateful this was true. However, after the third workshop I was exhausted. I had no ability to prune my own schedule.

As I shuffled through the last part of my work week, I kept thinking about God’s ability to prune the vines in order to assist in their vitality and ability to bear fruit. Knowing this, I was withering on the vine. I realized in hindsight in the midst of doing good things, my own garden was overgrown.

In today’s gospel we are invited by Jesus to love one another. We are asked not as slaves but as friends to enter this invitation. So this is the glitch for me, I am feeling embarrassed that I ran myself over by my own scheduling last week. I find myself saying, “oh yah right, but who am I to speak of love to others, when I am struggling with loving myself?” In the first reading I am encouraged by the apostle Peter, who also struggles with mission of Jesus to love. Good old Peter.

In the first reading Peter meets his limitations and is again invited by the God of great surprises to love folks he deems as not worthy of the message. Peter sees that God is bigger than his vision. Last week’s over-scheduling does not limit what God calls me to this week. This week’s hindsight can prune the weary vines and allow the branches new growth.

I think it is easy for me to shut down the bigness of God’s ability to love me when my scheduling fails balance. Yet God is not hampered by my self-judgments any more than God was limited by Peter’s vision.

We are invited as friends to love others. We are asked to love others as we love ourselves. In this week, I am challenged to be open to a God who loves me into wholeness despite my scheduling and then in turn to be that love to each person I meet.

Acts 4:8-12
1 Jn 3:1-2
Jn 10:11-18

The Invitation
In Sunday’s reading, Jesus talks to us about the Good Shepherd. He lays out for us the traits that set the good shepherd apart from just the hired hand. The shepherd is steadfast in times of peril. The shepherd knows his/her sheep and in turn the sheep recognizes the caring voice of the shepherd.

In the reading from Acts 4: 8-12, Peter is upset that there are people in the crowd who are questioning an act of healing that took place for a cripple. The crowd or at least some want to know in whose name this action was done. Peter filled with power of the spirit claims the healing in Jesus Christ the Nazorean.

As I thought about these two readings together, I wondered how many of us actually expect a miracle, a miracle as the result of one choosing to be a follower of Christ. The invitation as a follower of Christ to be attentive to the needs of people who are usually invisible, like the lame person was in the time of Peter? How many of us are willing to trust that there are people in our midst who are called to bring us to our whole selves?

Illness seems to be a difficult, yet extraordinary bridge for us as human beings to look both within and beyond ourselves to others for the living traits of the Good Shepherd. There seems to be a seeking, that longs for answers, ones that show the path through this time of peril, whether it leads to a physical cure or remission or the final transition.

As a hospice and hospital chaplain I am often asked to read the Twenty-third psalm for a patient and their family in the final hours of the patient’s life. Unlike so many other psalms that I read, I almost always have a soft chorus praying the psalm as I read it. It seems to bring calm, a handle to grab hold of, as we all enter that sacred space of transition from this life to the next.

It is so easy for me to take off my work badge, set down my bible for tomorrow’s “official” time of work and miss the unfolding needs of family and friends. I wonder how often I miss the opportunity to offer a smile, a moment of listening, and a slow down moment with someone who doesn’t need answers but presence?

How often am I, are we, missing the opening to be part of the path that the Twenty-third psalm invites us to be? When might my quiet presence with another give them the courage to hear the voice of the Shepherd? I don’t really see myself rebuking the crowd like Peter for their lack of faith…but I would love to see myself so full of the bigness of God and the breath of the Spirit that I could believe that God might use me to give flesh and bones to the Good Shepherd!

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
1 Jn 2:1-5a
Lk 24:35-48

Taking Time to Water
The last ten days a group of friends have been helping us bring color and softness to our zeroscape landscaping. Zeroscape landscaping uses plant and trees that need less water and as a result honor the patterns of the desert. I have learned this new way of living with respect to land and water fall since moving to the Southwest. I am still in a learning process. It is very different from the world that I grew up in the Midwest.

One of the friends was working with us in the yard today. We had purchased some native grasses and plants to bring beauty to our backyard. We were discussing the best way to use the already installed drip system that is mystifying to us. Our friend said to us, “You can use the drip system, but I would suggest that you water the plants and trees manually until you have a sense of connection with them. Then if you want, set up the drip system to meet their needs.” As a lover of nature and the earth I appreciated her framing our plants and trees watering needs from a relationship point of view.

It strikes me that in the Third Sunday of Easter Jesus did the same thing for the disciples. The disciples are discussing all that has been happening the last days in Jerusalem and Jesus approaches with a greeting of peace. Not just a hello which would be good for any passerby, but with a greeting that offers connection…relationship. He doesn’t stop there, he moves into the stories by connecting them into a sequence that paints the relationships between each of the happenings. It is then when their hearts are full He steps into a deeper place by sharing not only peace, but also a simple meal. This gesture of sharing time and food connect the disciples to all of the previous meals that they have shared with Jesus. This meal wove once again that Jesus came not just to give a message, but to be the message in relationship.

How might Jesus come into our lives this week to be in relationship? Will I dare to slow down long enough to listen and to fed?

Acts 4:32-35
1Jn 5:1-6
Jn 20:19-31

What if Peace?
Each of the readings from the Second Sunday of Easter is so rich, so powerful, and so very encouraging. However, the reading which I have been walking with daily for the past two weeks is the gospel reading. It is this reading that I have chosen to share with my hospice patients and their families.

I personally can find myself very easily hanging out with the disciples behind the locked doors for “fear of…little things like gas prices or big things like the War in Iraq. I find myself locked behind doors of self doubt and lack of trust toward others who make decisions that directly impact my life. When I am with my patients and their families/significant others they are often in fear of losing friends and family as they get closer to dying…or fear of returning to work after the death of their loved one -not knowing if they will weep when they are asked, “How are you?”

Our friends, the disciples of Jesus, had their world turned upside down and as mentioned in an earlier entry, they had lost their dream of an earthly king and kingdom. If the Jews and the Romans would dare kill Jesus, who among them would be next to be killed? I think each of us can say that about something in our lives, “If my sister can get cancer, then what about me?” If my dad, my brother-in-law, my partner can get laid off without any warning, then what about me?” We all have our own “what ifs”.

So it is easy for me to slip into that room of fear being held back only by a simple lock. It is in that moment that Jesus comes and says, “Peace be with you Angie, you Peter, you Sally, you Danielle…But for most of us that is not enough to hear, because after all what if I am making up this sense of inner peace and I should be really worried? What if I let down my guard and I end up paying a price?” The disciples were no different than us, except we have the privilege of 2000 years of hind sight.

So Jesus sensing their fear offers further proof that He is really the Risen One by showing his hands and sides. This does it for those present and they begin rejoicing. So now that they are present in a new way he says to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

This is not where the reading ends…but what if we allow ourselves to be open to this being the beginning of our celebration of the Easter season? To face our fears with the breath of Jesus…to be empowered to have our fears and allow others to have theirs without a word of judgment, but rather to be present to ourselves and others with peace?

Arms Empty for Miracles
On this Easter Sunday I found myself watching people going up for communion and smaller children in line to receive a blessing. The children going up for a blessing are asked to fold them arms in a crossed manner so the priests and communion ministers know the child is coming for a blessing. Many of the children who were going up for the blessing also carried in their folded arms stuffed rabbits and other Easter animals. I saw a few grandmothers carrying, what I assumed to be, their grandchildren’s newly received stuff animal.

As I watched them on this Easter Sunday, I was taken to the story of various disciples going to the tomb, each of them with their own expectations of what they would find once there. In the Easter readings, we hear that it was hard for some of the disciples to believe what others had encountered at the tomb. It was as though their hearts were so full with their sorrow and perhaps their fears, that there wasn’t room for the story of a Risen Christ. Perhaps their experiences of the past made it too hard to trust or believe this new Easter mystery.

It made me reflect on my own approach to encountering the Easter mysteries in a new way. Did I have room in my heart to be surprised… to be transformed and blessed by the unexpected or might my heart also be too full? How often do I approach what I think is going to be the given, the expected, (like those women or those disciples i.e. Mary Magdalene and the women who followed Jesus, Peter or the beloved disciple) and find my heart to be open to the new truth even when it is beyond my expectations?

Dare I open myself to miracles large or small? During these fifty days of celebrating the story and the reality of the mysteries of Christ, let us be open for the many ways that Christ steps into our path in unexpected ways.

Reading myself into Holy Week
On Palm Sunday as I listened to the long gospel reading I tried a new way of listening and being present. I decided that I would allow myself to imagine being all the characters that were part of the reading. In previous readings I melted into the faithful people’s stories. What would happen if I opened myself to all of the characters?

The woman wiping Jesus’ feet distracted me early on…I found myself thinking about trying to clean my hair with the oil in it after wiping Jesus’ feet. I felt childish for moving so quickly in my imagination from the power of that story to my own human element. That quick awareness of the way my mind wandered made it very easy for me to sit at the table and wonder, “Am I the one to betray Jesus?”

Later in the garden, I was initially excited about staying and keeping watch until my own feet became tired from all the standing we had done between the marching with palms and the reading. It was simple then to slip into that place of sleep with the disciples. I felt Jesus words to both Peter and to me, He said to us, “Are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

I resisted the role of Judas…for the stories we have heard about Judas just makes him a loser…yet, how many times have I set someone up to fail when I was angry about being ignored and dismissed…the stories rose up as I resisted Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss.

The crowd yelling out in a spirit caught up by the rush of energy and fear…perhaps a deeper intention…”we want Barabbas, crucify him.” As I child I always put those words on the other even though we the parish crowd would yell them out…on Sunday those words acknowledged stories when I didn’t step forward for immigrant, the disabled, and those in prison…

Even the short stories of Peter, the rock, crumbling felt possible. Peter reminded me of those times when fear of the next or the unknown was bigger than the grace that was willing to carry me through the right now. As I walked the way of the cross and watched the crucifixion I wondered if I would have the courage of the faithful women. I wondered what it would be like to mock Christ and to be the hearer of the mockery. I wondered what the darkness felt like for the people who loved Jesus and stayed at the cross.

At the final words of Christ, I felt some relief as his suffering came to an end. Walking internally these words of the gospel I became quieter as we walked to the point where Jesus would be laid in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb.

With internal reflection I felt embarrassed that I was so capable of being the less favorable characters. Deep out of this place of, my God I could abandon Thee, I heard a smaller voice praying,

“Dear God Heal Me. Let me not be foiled into believing that I have to make these changes by myself, whether it be how I look and act toward others or toward myself. Expand my heart that I might be open to seeing and hearing you in a wider circle of people and circumstances. Guide me this Holy Week in such a way that I remember the grace and hope that are the foundation that awaits me on Easter Sunday.”

I invite you to be open to the grace and hope that awaits all of us during this powerful week of pilgrimage and healing.

Jer 31:31-34
Heb 5:7-9
Jn 12:20-33

Heart Walking
The first couple of months after I moved here I found myself church shopping. I know technically we have a geographic area and in a previous time that would be the place you would go to church. I left a very wonderful church in the Upper Midwest. It had parishioners who were still wet from their recent Baptism to people waiting and wanting to go home to God. Among that age span there was, for the most part, a respect for what everyone could and did bring to the table.

In this new land, I was looking, searching for its counterpart…and of course I want it sooner than later. It took awhile to find that place where I felt comfortable enough to begin the journey of feeling at home in a new place of worship. Now many months later it turns out that the closest parish ended up being the best fit and slowly new faces are beginning to have names.

This comfort level came just in time to sustain my inner journey of Lent. As I listened to and read the first reading from Jeremiah from the Sunday liturgy, I was struck by the comfort of God’s words to the Israelites, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be my people.” Jer. 31:33-34.

Like the Israelites, I was searching to return to a place familiar within my God journey. A major move, and in their case being taken from their homeland, can make the inner landscape feel and seem topsy turvy. My conscious mind searching even while that covenant made so long ago was waiting to be read like a map. A map that could remind me of that quiet place within that has always been my inner compass or guide, the place where God’s words are ingrained in my very cells and in each breath.

As I walk into that deeper covenant promise shown to me and to you by Jesus during this Lenten Season, do we dare to feel the power and promise in the words found in Jeremiah, “I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

Someday maybe…
Today I visited a number of people who described their lives as active and vital until recently; recently measured anywhere from 3 months to four years. As I listened to them and their loved ones talk I wondered what my faith story might be if I for one reason or another lose control over my mobility, my thoughts, and life’s little “take it for granted.” Some folks had no reason to believe that their physical bodies wouldn’t take them into their golden years with ease and blessings.

In the second reading from Sunday, Paul says to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” So many of us juggle our lives trying “to do,” for others as a way of showing our faithfulness to the Gospel…And yet Paul reminds us it is not what we do that saves us, it is grace that saves us…roots us to the deepest place of faithfulness.

In our culture very little room is given for activity that cannot be measured by outcomes. How then can I, can we be present, and how do we model in our own lives, to these beloved ones of God who are facing the challenge of being without the measurements of doing? Perhaps our Lenten challenge is about learning how to be light without measuring not how big the light is, but rather the fact that the light is.

Ex 17:3-7
Rom 5:1-2, 5-8
Jn 4:5-42 or 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Thirst hidden in the Rock
I am one of those people who have spent more years of my life on a diet than not. Perhaps I ate freely from the age of zero to six, but since then each bite has been measured. What has always surprised me in any heavily focused diet period, is all that I can think about at the beginning of the diet is that thing from which I am suppose to refrain. I have also a similar reaction to my fasting experience during lent, that which I am fasting from becomes that which I most want to eat or do.

During this Lenten season I have been touring churches with out of town company and found several holy water fonts filled with rocks or sand. Immediately upon seeing this I find myself thirsty. The power of symbolism and its impact is amazing.

In the first reading, the Israelites are on their pilgrimage to the chosen land and on the way they are suffering with deep thirst. It is not obvious where they will find the water to quench that thirst. God calls Moses to look in the most unlikely place…in the rock. Later in the gospel reading, Jesus finds himself thirsty and he goes to an unlikely well to be refreshed. There he meets a woman who does not even know about her deeper thirst until she meets him. I find myself identifying with the woman at the well from a whole new vantage point…I wondered how satisfied she thought she was prior to the encounter with Jesus? What about Jesus’ words or presence stirred up that thirst that went beyond the everyday water in the well?

And for me as I walk the journey to the well within…what thirsts within me are hidden within? What are the words made flesh that will break open my own thirst, my own longings, and my hidden secrets waiting to be healed? The psalmist says to us, “If today (not tomorrow, not next week or next month) you hear his voice, harden not your heart.”

Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
Rom 8:31b-34
Mk 9:2-10

Backwards up the Mountain
I recently had an opportunity to climb up a mountain with a patient…only I walked backward up the mountain much like you do in a snowstorm. This patient was rough and ready. She had no or at least very little room for a chaplain. I would go with an extraordinary clinical nursing assistant (CNA)…who treated this woman like the Queen of England. My blessing was that I got to be the assistant to the CNA. She was gracious and would direct my actions with the patient, so that together we would care for her physical needs. Our patient was crabby and slowly allowed Ellen and me to not only care for her physical needs, but also get to a point where she would allow us to tease her about everyday things.

I got to a point in my work week, where this patient became my favorite visit. Perhaps it had as much to do with working side by side with the Ellen the CNA as it was seeing the hard shell of our patient open up to our gentle, steady care. When I heard the scripture readings for this week, I thought of this beloved patient who had invited change in both of us by being true to her own nature. I perhaps like the disciples went up the mountain haltingly…unsure what I could be or do in this situation. I have to admit that I have not gotten to a point where I want to pitch a tent…but I have taken home within me a bigger heart more open to hope.

My patient who has become my teacher for so many lessons started out to be my chaplain challenge and has now ended up as a permanent teacher of my heart. Her lessons have led me back down the mountain, face forward ready to meet the Holy in the most unlikely of places.

Gn 9:8-15
1 Pt 3:18-22
Mk 1:12-15

Parking for Ashes
The other night I went to our local parish for Ash Wednesday. This might be a slight exaggeration, but truly I think that every car and truck in our city was circling the same blocks as me looking for a parking place. I drove around that four block area several times. At one point I began to question if it really mattered whether I got ashes or not. My work schedule was such that I wasn’t able to go until the 5:30 mass, it would be dark when I got out and I wasn’t going to be seeing anyone tonight but the animals. Who would know anyway…?

However, this morning I woke up and my first step in this Lenten journey was to take Hannah for a walk and use it as an opportunity for prayer. So all day as I spent time with patients it seemed as though I had a rainbow over my head colored with the Lenten colors and inviting me to spend the day in covenant with the God of Noah, Abraham, Sarah and Jesus.

Once I found the sacred parking place and found myself a place to sit in the very packed church, two thoughts surfaced. One had to do with Jesus’ escape into the desert for forty days. I wondered if Jesus had to work as hard to find a place in the desert, as I did a parking place…On the more serious side of that question I wondered what drew him into that place of contemplation. Was the draw just an escape from the crowds? Was it something which a spiritual mentor had encouraged him to do? Did it start out as an adventure with his disciples and he chose to move beyond the group to a quieter place?

As I thought about my own desire to find a parking place and make it to the service, I realized that the longing wasn’t as much about the ashes nor the reminder about living in a mortal body that one day would become ashes, but rather, it was a deeper desire to begin this journey of wholeness from a context of community. A group of people with whom I would celebrate each Sunday’s readings, attend a communal Sacrament of Reconciliation, and with whom I will wade through the depth of the Triduum.

As we move forward into the Lenten journey with whom do we journey and what do we seek?

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

Hos 2:16b, 17b, 21-22
2 Cor 3:1b-6
Mk 2:18-22

Desert Wineskins
Seven months ago, I moved from my known and beloved Midwest to the Southwest. Everything about my new land is different. The colors, the landscape, languages commonly spoken, and my work have taken me out of my known professional field, a big medical center, to a home hospice.

I think many people have experienced moving from a place of being known and knowing to a place of total newness. It was both hard and uncomfortable. In the reading from Hosea chapter two, the Lord speaks about calling his beloved into the desert, where he will espouse her in fidelity, mercy, and love. Where I lived in the Upper Midwest I could see lakes and rivers, a variety of colors, and large old trees. Here in the Southwest I am learning to appreciate the variety of textures that the desert has to offer. I am finding an ever expanding gratitude for the wide open skies, the mountains and mesas.

In the Upper Midwest where I had lived for most of my life, I was blessed to have good friends. In many of the meetings that I attended for work I usually knew at least a few people. I wasn’t even aware of how much I took for granted simple things like knowing what roads to use at what time of day due to traffic slow downs.

These past months I have remembered again what it is like to be so new that every person I meet is new. In my new work environment I had a serious learning curve when it came to doing the necessary paperwork, even though I was very familiar with charting at my old job. There was one day when the freeway was very backed up and I realized that I didn’t have enough road smarts here to get off and use a secondary road. It is these experiences and others that make me have a much deeper appreciation for the challenge it is to follow the call to the desert, to a new covenant with the Lord.

In my new work I constantly have to lean into trust that calls me to relationship with the Holy in such a way that I don’t miss God’s presence because I am familiar with particular ways of being a chaplain in the hospital and not in home hospice. You see I am very comfortable with my old wine skins mentioned in the gospel of Mark, chapter 2. I liked the familiar and it worked for me. In my new desert the Lord invites…calls…challenges me to let go of patterns that no longer work or fit.

Perhaps it is in these kinds of situations that Jesus is asking all of us to break out of a comfort level with who we were in our old wine skins. Here that we face our greatest challenge…that as we are graced not only with the courage to let go of what doesn’t fit, that we be equally ready to receive the new wine which will come for the new wine skins.

Is.43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25
2Cor. 1:18-22
Mk. 2: 1-12

I Make All Things New
For a long time I held tightly in my fist angry stories about my Dad. I felt self righteous about my anger and somehow felt that this self righteousness was what he had coming for decisions that he had made. In the midst of this unresolved pain my dad had the nerve to die about nine years ago. However, that did not stop me from continuing to carry the unhealed memories. I worked very hard to forgive my Dad after he died. I found it very hard to use God’s vision to look at my situation… mainly my self righteousness was reluctant to be open to the healing in me that needed to happen in order to free my Dad.

In the reading from Isaiah today, God says to me (and perhaps to you too), “Remember not the things of the past, see I am doing something new… Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” The fact is that I can’t always see the whole picture nor am I always a refuge of forgiveness. This hampers my ability to receive God’s bigness when it comes to divine love. Paul says, “the first installment of God’s yes to us is the installment of His Spirit.” This Spirit of God has no intention of being limited by our small mindedness. It is the same Spirit who gave courage to the friends of the paralytic man in the gospel of Mark today, the courage to lower their friend down in front of Jesus that he might be healed.

Here I am face to face with a God who says, “I have let go and I am doing something new.” The same God who also says to me, “let go of that which is unfinished.” Then there is Jesus who pushes me to the edge with His healing of that which kept the man lame physically and spiritually… and He said to the man, only after forgiving him his sins, “pick up your mat and walk.”

In the presence of such love and mercy, I can only respond, not for the first time… but once again, “Gracious God, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.”

Me and Them
As a child and growing into adulthood, I too, learned ways to feel safe from others who were different than me. I would talk about “those” people with their particular behaviors, cultures, or diseases. I would be sure to indicate in any number of ways that I was different than them. It made me feel secure and safe, in a way sanctified.

When I was a sophomore in high school my father left our family in the early seventies and I became “one of those children from a broken home.” As I read the first reading from Leviticus for this Sunday’s liturgy I identified with those who had leprosy forced to cry out, “unclean, unclean.” It wasn’t an identification that filled me with being the image of Christ, but rather shame.

Jesus, however, in the gospel is approached by a bold man, who believed that he was made in the image of God. He places Jesus in an awkward place and says to him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Who of us can approach the healing power of God without some place within us, knowing that divine gift within? So what was Jesus’ response? “I do will it. Be made clean.”

I didn’t see my own patterns of making people “broken” until later in my twenties. It was my blessed misfortune to beginning to work people that I had identified as “them.” In time they began to become people with stories and not ——–, and I found myself less able to separate my humanness from theirs. I had a different story and I had the same story.

As a woman, like the leper in today’s scripture seeking wholeness, and someone tired of being limited to screaming out what I wasn’t, rather than what who I am. Today’s scripture reminds me again of that call of Paul to each of us to: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Harden not your Hearts
Today at church I watched a man try to stand up at the end of the liturgy. It was clear from his effort that he was determined to get up all by himself and without the help of his wife. I am not sure what physical issue made this movement a challenge. He tried several times as his wife watched. As I watched his efforts and her ability to be present without taking away his control, I wondered how long it would take for him to get up. I wondered how long I would wait if I was his wife…and then in that split second he stood up and reached for his walker with great ableness.

What were the circumstances in this couple’s life that created the space free enough to allow each other to move from that place of knowing and sureness? In Paul’s reading today, he says plainly to the hearers of the Word, “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” 1Cor. 7:32

What inside of me watched this man with a certain degree of anxiousness…hoping that indeed he would be able to get up without help? Certainly this man and his ability to stand could be a metaphor for me and all the times I don’t recognize the power of God at work – within us, within creation, in people who see the world from a different vantage point – to do the unexpected and at times the impossible.

All things being equal, I wished that I had not been aware of my doubts and concerns that this man would not be able to get up by himself. Yet, it was because of him, that I became more aware of the many ways that I do doubt the bigness of God, the places where my heart may not be harden, but does have some crustiness forming where in my anxiousness I miss the opportunity to be present and “just” trust.

This awareness begins the step toward change and the beginning of having a heart which is open to the bigness of God.

Preaching the Good News
St. Francis told his disciples, “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.”

Whenever, I hear a gospel like today’s I am reminded of these instructions from St Francis and usually I am brought up short. I often depend on my words to carry the message of my intentions, my hopes, and my challenges. I don’t think that I am alone in this pattern.

However, today Jesus gives us example after example of actions which speak to the core of the gospel message.

This message was one of my early lessons as a chaplain resident. I was with two other chaplains and a family who were taking their young son off of life support. They had engaged the best of medicine to fight leukemia. They had tremendous faith and were very grateful for prayer. Each of us had worked with this family during the child’s care at our hospital. Two of us were new chaplains and the other chaplain was both seasoned and wise.

As for me, I was green when it came to being with a family while a loved one was dying. In my efforts to fill in as God’s ambassador I filled the final minutes of that family’s presence with their sick child with words from the bible. The words weren’t bad words and in many ways they spoke exactly to what was happening. However in hindsight I learned from my mentor, that words aren’t necessarily the answer in the midst of the profound experience of death… Like the story of Elijah sitting at the mouth of the cave waiting for God, sometimes God speaks in silence and presence.

This week as I seek to live the gospel, I will remember the advice of St. Francis, “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.”

Spaghetti and More
When I was growing up, the sixth of seven children, we ate on normal days in the kitchen for our meals. We had two long benches and my parents sat at both ends of the table both to keep us in line and to be able to get up from the table with ease. Some nights it was more one than the other!

But there were special times when we would eat in the dining room. These meals often included using the china and on the very special days it also included using the sterling silverware. On occasions, our special meal served the purpose of not only setting this or that meal as special, but it was also used by my mom as a chance to teach us how to eat for the “public.” As you might imagine there were not a lot of times when our family would go out to eat due to cost, but my mom wanted us to be ready for the day we would. It was very important to her that we would know the right way to eat at table with more than three utensils sitting, two to the right of our plate and one to the left on top of the napkin.

My favorite and most difficult lesson was learning how to use a fork and large spoon to eat spaghetti. This involved the ability to take some long (not cut) spaghetti with my fork and put the fork against the inside to the bit spoon and begin to roll the spaghetti around the fork. The goal was to be able to bring the fork to one’s mouth with the right quantity of spaghetti and then eat it. This lesson took a long time for me to learn. At some point it happened and I found myself utilizing the magic of the fork and spoon as a way eating the spaghetti. In fact, I now know what it means to be in “public” and bringing my mom’s lesson into action.

In the readings today, the psalmist invites us to ask the Lord to teach us the way…later…Jesus invites his disciples to come and follow him. I think that the Spirit of Jesus is much like my mom. We are given many opportunities to learn how to be in the “public” with the dynamic invitation to repent and follow…and the challenge for us is to seize the opportunity when Jesus calls our name and invites to come, because the “kingdom is at hand.”

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

Here I Am
When I was little I always had both a night light on and the door open. Closing my eyes at night seemed like a great vulnerability, especially as a child and teen who believed that God could show up at night. As a young child I would check under the bed and in the closet to make sure everything was okay.

Unlike Samuel waiting for the Lord to speak, as a first grader (after seeing the movie, Joan of Arc) I told God in no uncertain terms that I did not want any visions or voices. After all look what had happened to a saint who had them. I was merely a little girl and I had no tools, no pockets of experience of how to deal with such challenges. I think that I was open to a God who might show up in the day, but this night time when my sense of control seemed less engaged was another thing.

Recently, a patient’s family and his care giver invited me to come and sit quietly with the patient. He was restless and they thought that my presence might help him. I sat with him quietly for the most part, occasionally offering a prayer or reading scripture. During that time he became very quiet and his breathing changed. Later that evening he died.

Today’s first reading invites us to be open to God’s call and in the gospel; Jesus invites us to respond both as individuals and community to the Good News. It is our challenge to recognize God’s voice and respond.

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