Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Between Two Worlds


22 degrees this morning and snow on the ground.  This goose hesitated for the longest while, torn between two worlds, one cold, the other colder.
Today is the feast of St. Bernadette.  I am going soon to Lourdes, France, where she saw visions of Our Lady. The movie, The Song of Bernadette, had a big influence on my heart as a boy.  I will watch it again tonight.
I wonder if Lourdes will be one of those places where even the air seems holy.  The Irish are not the only ones who refer to such places as "thin places," where the "membrane" separating this world and the next world is so thin that sometimes the Divine breaks through.  If we think of the other world woven into and through this world, it's not such a stretch to think that there are places where we are more apt to sense the Presence.
The strongest experience of a Holy Place that I have had was Assisi.  I have often told people that I wasn't sure St Francis made the place holy or the place made him holy.  The first "thin place" I experienced was the shrine of the Holy Child (Santo Nino) in Chimayo, New Mexico.  A holy well in western Ireland and inside the passage grave of Newgrange were places where I felt God's presence.  Chichen Itza on the Yucatan and Stonehenge in England had a similar feel about them.
Matthew in his Gospel, especially in his account of the Passion and of the Resurrection, is focused on how the Divine breaks through into this world.  Earthquake and lightening and the Temple curtain torn in two and the dead seen all around the city.  Daily prayer sharpens our senses so we can experience the Divine when and where Holiness happens.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dazzling Signal


I passed here on Sunday and these had hardly a bud.  Monday morning I got this picture.  Now they are covered with snow!  It has been snowing all afternoon.  Some of it is laying on bushes and grass.  But Easter is still coming.  They are the same daffodils whose picture I took on March 22, 2012, and used in this blog several posts ago.
The Resurrection of Christ is like the first eruption of a volcano which shows that God's fire already burns in the innermost depths of our world and that everything and everyone is being reshaped gradually, imperceptibly into his image, transformed slowly, but ever so surely by the same new life so evident in the Risen Christ. 
Even if sometimes, even if frequently, life on the surface still seems unchanged, dim and dreary and dark, the bursting forth of Jesus from death into new life is a powerful, dazzling signal  that in our innermost center good had triumphed over evil.
I came across the above today in my handwriting, but most of it is not mine.  I'm guessing it's a quote from Teilhard de Chardin, but I can't find it in his quotes on line.  Maybe I wrote it years ago in a trance!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Faithfulness


Ever faithful Colt's Foot is the first flower of springtime in our neighborhood. (yesterday's crocuses were in a nearby town.)  Click on picture to enlarge.
Matthew writes that after the death of Jesus: "There were many women there looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (27:55-56)"  Matthew concludes his description of the burial of Jesus with the information: "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. (27:61)"  It is the same two who come to the tomb on Easter morning (Mt.28:1.)
Their faithfulness shines in the face of fear.  When everyone else had deserted Jesus, only these women remain.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Abandoned?


Crocuses showing off in a friend's yard on this sunny 60 degree day.  I tried to get a shot without the shadow of a bush on the left and couldn't.  Now that I see it enlarged, I'm pleased.  I see Good Friday and Easter.
Sitting out in the sun I prayed this afternoon about the Crucifixion (Matthew 27:32-56.)  In the whole scene what jumps out at me, and I suppose at a lot of people, is the cry, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!"  Matthew's community would have recognized this as the first line of Psalm 22 and know it had a happy ending.  Good Friday into Easter.
In the last third with profound confidence the psalmist prays:
"The Lord never scorns the afflicted,
  never looks away, but hears their cry....
  My soul lives for the Lord!
  My children will serve,
  will proclaim God to the future,
  announcing to peoples yet unborn,
  'God saves.'"
Since there were no books in the time of Jesus, he and his fellow Jews would have memorized large portions of their Scriptures.  I would not be surprised if he knew all the psalms by heart.  Matthew's community was made up largely of Jews who were convinced, now that the Temple was destroyed, that the way of Jesus was the best way to be true to their Jewish heritage.  So Matthew goes to great lengths throughout his Gospel to show Jesus fulfilling the Jewish Scriptures.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Your Will Be Done


This is the Mount of Olives, just outside the east wall of Jerusalem.  Much of it now is graves.  I suppose that in the time of Jesus most of it was covered with olive trees like the area in the left corner of the picture.  This is where Jesus went with his disciples after the Last Supper and where he prayed in agony that God would take away his cup of suffering (Mt. 26:36-46.)  Because the Gospels tell us he withdrew from his disciples to pray, most of us have imagined him in splendid isolation.  Paintings picture the scene that way as well.
Just yesterday, however, I read that at the time of the Passover the population of Jerusalem doubled because of all the pilgrims from around the country.  They could not all find lodging, so the Mount of Olives would have been one big campsite for many of the pilgrims.  Jesus and his disciples would have had to find space in the crowd.
The second time in Matthew that Jesus prays he says, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done."  Those last four words are from the Our Father that Jesus taught his disciples earlier in the Gospel.  They are the motivation that underlies all that Matthew is about to describe in his account of the Passion.  Acting on behalf of all mankind, Jesus conforms his will to that of his Father, as he goes to his suffering and death.  Jesus lives in us and can help us to do the same.  We pray with him, "Your will be done."

Friday, April 4, 2014

My Breath in You


I want to show you this loon who comes briefly every spring and fall on his travels.  (Clicking on the image enlarges it and shows his beautiful markings.)
This Sundays reading from Ezekiel 37:12-14 is commenting on the remarkable story, that immediately precedes it, of the field of dry bones.  God orders the prophet to command the dry bones to be human beings once again.  Gradually they come together and grow flesh and the Lord says to them, "I will put breath into you, and you shall live again."  Originally this was a metaphor for the revival of Judea after the exile, but in the years before Jesus, as some Jews came to believe in the resurrection of the body, it was seen as a prediction of that survival.
It comments beautifully on Sunday's second reading about the Spirit of God and of Jesus within us and the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  The passage enlarges the promise, "I will put My breath into you and you shall live again."  That we live now with the very breath of God is astonishing.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

When Death Comes


Yesterday's dawn tries to break through the darkness.
Dylan Thomas has a poem to his dying father that I have long liked.  It ends:
"Do not go gentle into that good night.
 Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
Death is not our friend.  It is the enemy that has been vanquished by the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead acts out that message.
I have only recently come upon Mary Oliver's poem "When Death Comes."  While she calls death a bear, measle-pox, and an iceberg, she appreciates its mystery:
"When death comes...
 I want to step through the door, full of curiosity, wondering."
Near the end of the poem the thought of dying makes her determined to make something of her life:
"When it's over, I want to say: all my life
 I was a bride married to amazement.
 I was a bridegroom, taking the world in my arms.
 When it's over, I don't want to wonder
 if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
 I don't want to find my self sighing and frightened
 or full of argument.
 I don't want to end up simply having visited this world."
Jesus makes it possible for us to carry into that other world all the amazement and beauty that we create in this world, and the merry life of the Trinity that we begin here.