Fearful Yet Overjoyed

Easter Monday, April 23, 2019

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Mt28_8 fear_joy

Today, in Mercy,  we enter the Easter Season which will last until June 8th. The next day we will celebrate Pentecost.

Throughout these several weeks, we will have a thorough reading of the Acts of the Apostles. 

Theologian Walter Brueggemann says this about Acts:

In the Book of Acts the church is a restless, transformative agent
at work for emancipation and well-being in the world.

As Easter People, transformed by the Resurrection of Jesus, that’s what we’re all called to be. Our models and inspiration will be found in these early women and men we read about over the next few weeks. This was a community that acted – within a culture of death – for an alternative, life-giving world.

“The whole book of Acts is about power from God that the world cannot shut down. In scene after scene, there is a hard meeting between the church and worldly authorities, because worldly authorities are regularly baffled by this new power and resentful of it.”
At one point, in chapter 17, the followers of Jesus are accused of “turning the world upside down.
” (Brueggemann)

Our world sorely needs such an active Church, speaking clearly to the issues that threaten and limit human life and wholeness in God. It’s not easy to be that witness, but it is critical. Our Gospel suggests the difficulty, but also defines the motivation:

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
went away quickly from the tomb,

fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the good news …

May we, though sometimes fearful, choose to be agents of the joyful Good News for our times.

Music: Alleluia from Mozart’s Exultate et Jubilate- sung by Barbara Bonney

Happy Easter

The Gift and Practice of Family

Easter

A blessed and happy Easter and passover to all of you!

Easter and Passover, because they are feasts of life, are family celebrations. It is a time to reconnect and gather with those who share our life story, with the tribe we were born into.

Each Pasch, we join our family with a renewed heart, setting aside any small or large fractures of the intervening year.

Easter Rosemarie
Dear Friends at a Long-Ago Easter

This freshness of spirit may be symbolized in a brand new Easter outfit or the spring cleaning of the house.

When I was young, Easter bonnets we’re still the thing, and maybe a new pair of Mary Janes. My little brother wore his first bow tie at Easter, although he wasn’t too happy about it as I recall. 🤗

Though we may have missed their deeper meaning, the house abounded in symbols of the Resurrection: jubilantly-dyed eggs, little chocolate bunnies, rainbowed jelly beans in a sea of papery grass, and elegant lilies.

 

Most importantly, the family shared a meal, often built of contributed elements from each participant. We waited expectantly for Aunt Peg’s pineapple filling and Mom’s chocolate pie. On occasion, Uncle Joe contributed a wondrous ham that had “fallen off the truck” as he made his rounds in North Philly. ( I learned only later in life that a few of our delicious meals were centered on heisted ham.)

This Easter and Passover offer us an invitation to reconnect with our families which we have been given either by nature or by grace. Not all families are bound by blood. They are are tied through the heart by mutual love, hope, vision, surmounted suffering, shared experience, and a host of other fragments that we shape into life’s mosaic.

Our families are the people we have laughed and cried with, the people we turn to when we’re afraid. They’re the ones who pray for us, look out for us, and yell (softly) at us when we are really stupid. They’re the ones who, no matter how long since we have spoken, we pick up a conversation right in the middle. They’re the ones who bring us flowers, ricotta pie, and a rotisserie chicken when we feel punk.  They are beyond blood and genes.

May we reach out in renewed love and appreciation to those who have been “family” to us. May we be grateful and generous with those who look to us for life. May the gift and practice of family rise up in us this Easter morning!

Music: Couldn’t Resist

Rabbouni

Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

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Resurrection

The Upper Room on Holy Saturday evening: a place filled with sadness, silence and seeking. Jesus was dead. Jerusalem, scattered to their various houses to keep Shabbat, murmur their shocked questions under their shaky prayers.

We have all been in rooms like this. They enclose a special kind of agony – one teetering between hope and doubt, between loss and restoration. It may have been a surgical waiting room or the hallway outside the courtroom. Sometimes, such a space is not bricks and mortar.  It is the space between a sealed envelope and the news inside. It is the hesitant pause between a heartfelt request and the critical response. In each of these places, we exist as if in a held breath, hoping against hope for life, freedom, and wholeness.

It was from such a room that Mary Magdalene stole away in the wee hours. A woman unafraid of loneliness, she walked in tearful prayer along the path to Jesus’ tomb. Sweet memories washed over her: forgiving words, release from demons, an alabaster jar. Scent of jasmine rose up on the early morning mist. Hope rose with it that his vow to return might be true. Then she saw the gaping tomb, the alarm that thieves had stolen him to sabotage his promise. She ran to the emptiness seeking him. She was met by angels clothed in light and glory, but they were not enough to soothe her.

Turning from them, she bumped against a gardener whom she begged for word of Jesus, just so she might tend to him again. A single word revealed his glory, “Mary”. He spoke her name in love.

As we seek the assurance of God’s presence in our lives, we too may be unaware that God is already with us. The deep listening of our spirit, dulled with daily burdens, may not hear our name lovingly spoken in the circumstances of our lives. God is standing behind every moment. All we need do is turn to recognize him.

Turn anger into understanding. Turn vengeance into forgiveness. Turn entitlement into gratitude. Turn indifference into love. All we need do is turn to recognize our Easter God.

Music: Rimsky-Korsakov – Russian Easter Overture

Hidden Dance

Hidden Dance

Hidden Dance

How easily I let you go
when the final note was played,
with force as soft
as fracture of the chrysalis,
a breaking web collapsing
mutely in the shadowed night.

How easily it seemed
you slipped into another life,
as if it were familiar to you,
a practiced dance that I
was unaware you’d learned.

You fell in step with music
the living cannot hear.
Instead, I hear your absence
beating like a vacant drum
against the void you left behind.

I know I contradict the peace
with which you said goodbye.
It is as if, in me,
two different people loved you:
one was full of grace and gratitude,
and one still questions why.

Music:  Lux Aeterna – Edward Elgar – sung by Voces8

Sorrow

 

rock

Sorrow

You must be alone

with sorrow

before you can leave it,

or it will crush you

like a black, heavy rock.

You must drive into

the hollow of its face,

under the ledges

it projects against you.

Feel its cold granite

pressed to your grain.

In time,

it will allow your turning

to rest your back

within its curve.

Only then,

you will be free to leave it,

walking lightly once again

on yielding earth.

When you return, it will be freely,

on a pilgrimage,

to touch the name you carved once

with the anguish of your heart.

Music:  Seeking Serenity – Nicholas Gunn

Holy Saturday

 Alternative Reading for Today: Walter Brueggemann

Holy Saturday

Today, in Mercy, we join Mary and the disciples as they deal with Christ’s death. No doubt, the range of emotions among them was as great as it would be among any group or family losing someone they dearly loved.

They had entered, with heart-wrenching drama, into a period of bereavement over the loss of Jesus. Doubt, hope, loss, fear, sadness and remembered joy vied for each of their hearts. They comforted one another and tried to understand each other’s handling of their terrible shared bereavement.

They did just what we all do as families, friends and communities when our beloved dies.

But ultimately, our particular bereavement belongs to us alone, woven from the many experiences we have had with the person who has died. These are personal and indescribable, as is the character of our pain and loss.

Do not be afraid of your bereavement.  It is a gift of love.

Holy Saturday, like bereavement, is a time of infrangible silence. No matter how many “whys” we throw heavenward, no answer comes. It is a time to test what Love has meant to us and, even as it seems to leave us, how it will live in us.

As we pray today with the bereaved Mother and disciples, let us fold all our bereavements into their love.  We already know the joyful end to the story, so let us pray today with honesty but also with unconquerable hope that we will live and love again.

Separately, I will send two poems today that I hope may help with your prayer.

Music:  Farewell – Michael Hoppé

 

Good Friday

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Good Friday

Good Friday

Calvary was a glass box where God,
confined, no longer touched the world.

 It was a white plain, without sound,
not the groaning, blood-soaked hill
the scriptures leave us.

 I know.

Calvary hewed itself inside me once
with the chisel of a long sorrow
that fell, persistent, merciless
like cold, steel rain.

 It was a place bereft of feeling.

Only the anticipation and
the memory of pain are feelings.
Pain itself is a huge abyss,
bled by the silence that mimics death,
but is not as kind as death.

 Calvary is the place where
all strength is given
to the drawing of a breath
to linger in it unfulfilled.

God, now I go quietly inside
where you are dying in a glass box, still.
I am changing now to glass
to pass through and companion you.

 I watch the rain, itself like glass,
crashing to an unknown life
beneath the earth.  Where love roots
absolute, unbreakable, I cling to you
in a transparent act of will.

Music: Handel: Messiah – Part 2

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday, April 18, 2019

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 Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist, infinitely profound in meaning and effect.

John13_12

 The scripture passages for this evening’s liturgy are filled with symbols to help us pray with this profundity:

  • the Lamb
  • its exonerating blood on the lintel
  • the blessing-cup of Psalm 116
  • the bread
  • the wine
  • the towel, basin and water

 There is an action connected to each of these symbols which actualizes its meaning:

  •  sacrifice – the Lamb
  • sign– its exonerating blood on the lintel
  • lifting– the blessing-cup of Psalm 116
  • breaking – the bread
  • pouring– the wine
  • washing – the towel, basin and water

 With his final command in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us how important action is for those who want to follow him:

 I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you,
you should also do.

 As we look at our own lives on this Holy Thursday, what symbol and action speak to our hearts?

  • Is there a sacrifice we are called to make for the sake of goodness in the world?
  • Are there signs of our faith that we need to make evident?
  • Do we lift up our praise to God in all aspects of our life?
  • What needs to be broken and poured for Christ to be fully alive in us?
  • How are we called to be servant like Him?

 On Holy Thursday, Jesus makes it clear that sacrament and service are inextricably tied to each other. As his followers, it is not enough to venerate the symbols. They must be memorialized in our loving actions for one another.

 Dear Friends, on this beautiful feast of Christic Love,
let us pray wholeheartedly for one another.
I promise you that in a special way today.

 Music: two offerings today

 Pange Lingua- traditional Holy Thursday hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas 

 Song for Holy Thursday – English rendering of the Pange Lingua

Hold His Gaze

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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IMG_8978 

Today, in Mercy,  the shadows of “Spy Wednesday” threaten. In our Gospel, Judas asks the chief priests,

“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”

 How terribly sad! This man whom Judas loved and admired! This man who loved and trusted Judas in return! Judas sells Divine Friendship for thirty pieces of silver … about a season’s wages. Hence, for all time, the name “Judas” has been tied to betrayed trust.

 We give a great gift when we trust someone. We hope they will be honest and respectful of that gift. We hope they will be truthful in relationship with us. We hope that, if the relationship frays, they will try with us to re-knit it, or at least to lay it aside in reverence and gratitude. Judas proved unworthy of the trust Jesus had given him.

 Trust is a precious and scant commodity in our modern culture. Our entertainment media presents us constantly with examples of cheating, treachery, greed, and a host of other deadly sins. It shows us relationships built on whim and appearances rather than long and tested fidelity and honor. Our culture has become confused, like Judas, about what is really important for our lives.

 Perhaps some of our errant culture has seeped into our spiritual lives? Today is a good day to test the quality of our relationship with God. Do we trust him, speak with him, choose for him, stand by him? Will God find us faithful? Or are there some little pieces of silver in our lives for which we sometimes trade him?

 Music: May the Lord Find Us Faithful – Mac and Beth Lynch

Fearful Tuesday

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, as Holy Week deepens, so does confusion, fear, and even betrayal among Christ’s disciples.

fearful tuesday

In today’s Gospel, we see Judas turn from his own truth to a disastrous treachery.

We see John and Peter full of questions, confused by the turn of events. Jesus foretells the impending denial by Peter, his chosen successor.

The great trials of Christ’s Passion and Death emerge from the shadows of rumor and deception. Jesus makes it clear that the end is near.

As we read the passage, we can feel the fear mounting in everyone but Jesus. In him, we see see Isaiah’s description strengthening- the Lord’s Glorious Servant rising as the Light of Nations.

Fear destroys while trust and hope liberate.

Praying with this Gospel this morning, I remember the face of a woman I had seen on the evening news. At a contentious political rally, she was loudly shouting her preference to live under a dictator rather than live in a country “full of filthy immigrants”. She thought her raging made her strong. But I saw a person filled with ignorance and fear.

I can’t forget her face. It so saddened me to see the child of a beautiful God so distorted by weakness, prejudice and fear. She could no longer see the face of God in another human being. I think hers would have been the face I saw on Judas, had I met him as he left the Last Supper.

Fear is a disfiguring disease. It seeps into our heart and mind to blind and deafen us to God’s power in our life. It cripples our graced potential. It eventually kills the “glorious servant” we too have been called to become.

Paula D’Arcy says this:

Who would I be,
and what power
would be expressed in my life,
if I were not dominated by fear?

It’s a powerful question.

How does fear keep me:

  • from loving?
  • from hoping?
  • from believing?
  • from giving?
  • from receiving?

Today’s Responsorial Psalm, filled with beautiful phrases, offers us a heartfelt prayer as we place our fears in God’s hands:

R. I will sing of your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;

let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge,

a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
For you are my hope, O LORD;

my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
My mouth shall declare your justice,

day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
R. I will sing of your salvation.

Music:  Where Feet May Fail – Hillsong