Every Broken Branch

( I wrote this reflection for the Sisters of Mercy. It will be available on that blog as well. You may be interested in some of the other excellent articles to be found there.
Click here for Sisters of Mercy blog.)

Today, in Mercy, we enter the sacred embrace of Holy Week.

Palm Sunday is a feast with two faces.

Jesus rides in triumph into Jerusalem, but his deep heart realizes that the road ultimately leads to his death. Jesus, who once called himself the Vine, knows that the bright green branches waved in adulation will soon be trampled to the ground.

Phil2_palm sunday

In these final days of Lent, we are faced with the question, “What turns green hope to crumbled brown in us – and how can it be green again?”

Many years ago, I sat in a marbled, flowered funeral home with a bereaved father.

“There are things worse than death,” he said.  After several absent years, his drug-addicted son had been found dead in an alley, under the cardboard box where he lived.  “At least I know where he is now.  Finally, we can all be at peace.”

Jack’s son had been lost to him.  In the stranglehold of heroin, the great hope of his young life had degenerated into profound suffering.  The vigor of his early dreams had withered, like broken tendrils on the once hopeful vine. It was, in every sense, a human tragedy.

Jesus understood such withering.  He prayed for his disciples that they would not suffer it.  He knew what would face him and them in the week following the lifted palms. He knows what will face us as we try to discern the honest path to joy, peace and fulfillment.

The enticements of evil are deceptive.  Greed comes clothed as entitlement. Lust masquerades as passion, addiction as pleasure. They entwine and choke us in a false embrace that whispers, “This is for you.”  Fed by the fear of never having or being enough, we resort to these very catalysts that will destroy us.  Even the voice of love struggles to reach someone locked in this cycle of self-absorption.  Like every barren branch, they wilt and sever themselves from all that could enliven them.

Jesus acknowledges that the choice for life is not always easy.  He tells the disciples that, indeed, they will be pruned.  No life escapes the incisions of hard experience. Like his followers, we too will face loss, pain, frustration and diminishment.  But if our hearts have been fed by his word, we will hold to grace and we will thrive.

Much of the Palm Sunday crowd shifted gears by Friday, becoming a rabble of accusers.  They could not follow Jesus through Calvary to his Resurrection.

But there is no true life apart from God.  There is no path to perfection and joy but through God’s Will.  The Passion and Death of Jesus have already set our roots in this blessed soil.  May we cling by grace to that treasured Vine.

Music: J.S. Bach – Cantata; Himmelskönig, sei willkommen / King of Heaven, be Thou welcome – BWV 182

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Readings: Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, commemorating the apparitions of Mary to the Mexican peasant Juan Diego in 1531. 

OLofGuadalupeJPG

It is also on this date, 300 years later, that Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. 

Both Mary and Catherine found their joy in total commitment to God’s will and presence in their lives. May they inspire and help  to make God the center of our lives. May that discovery fill us with joy.

Perhaps  by increasing our spiritual simplicity, trust and humility like Juan Diego, we can grow closer to Mary and to her Son.

Today’s beautiful readings can lead us closer into Mary’s arms.  Zecharia, even without knowing her, named Mary the Holy Dwelling from whom Christ would come forth.

Revelation captures multiple images from the Hebrew scriptures, fashioning a glorious picture of Mary’s significance in salvation history.

And our treasured passage from Luke — can we not read it like a beloved family story that gives us roots and wings?

Mary is not so far away from us.  She chose to enter Juan Diego’s life, looking like a queen he would recognize in his own culture. She has chosen to do the same thing in many other struggling cultures. 

How is Mary present to us today? How was she present to Catherine McAuley? A homeless woman? An immigrant mother? An incarcerated young woman/? A sickly neighbor? An annoying, lonely grandmother?

What language is Mary speaking to us?

Music: Tota Pulchra Es Maria – Latin words and translation below. This lovely hymn reflects our responsorial psalm for today.

Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tota pulchra es, Maria.

 

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
Your clothing is white as snow, and your face is like the sun.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honour to our people.
You are all beautiful, Mary.