Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I call myself a "human being" not a "human doing." That's a neat twist that I came across in James Martin's The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. It reminds me that I want to value being over doing. That was my intention when I retired - to allow more time in the day for just being and a lot less for doing.
It is not easy for many, perhaps most, of us Americans. It is particularly not easy for people, like myself, who made our own schedule when we were working. In the publications I get from the AARP there are often suggestions for how to keep busy in retirement. I still talk with people who can't imagine a retirement given over to doing nothing.
This single plant of columbine might teach me how to be.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
When my phone rang at 7 AM yesterday morning I was expecting it to be bad news, but it was a friend who couldn't wait to tell me that a mutual friend was going to become a bishop. "That's great!" I said. Then I told him that I couldn't wait to call another friend. "I was just about to call him," said my friend, "but you go ahead." "No," I said, "You go ahead and do it." "No, no, you call him." That went on for a minute or two. We settled who would call first. Then I thought of who else I wanted to call. And she was pleased. We are eager to be the first with the news, good or bad.
Since this is the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit urges the disciples to spread the news about Jesus, I got to wondering why we are not as eager to do that as we are to spread the lastest gossip. Those first disciples were so excited and enthusiastic that they convinced 3,000 people that day to believe in Jesus. Within 50 years they had spread the word all the way to Spain.
I think I need the Holy Spirit to help me be more excited about the Good News but, mainly, to help me overcome the embarassment that keeps me from talking about it with friends and relatives.
(From a considerable distance I could hear the excitement of this little stream caused by the heavy rains.)
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Maybe this bird was trying to get this plastic over the nest as a kind of canopy to keep the rain out or maybe she didn't intend it to be useful, just decorative, something distinctive. Whatever, it's home, and she made me laugh.
In John 14:23 Jesus assures us, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them, and make our home with them." Like a mother, the Holy Spirit is the Love that creates this home within us where we can live with our Father and our Brother.
A few verses earlier Jesus has used the name "Paraclete" for the Spirit. The Greek means "someone who is called to the side of." I find it helpful to think of the Spirit of Love "called to my side" to create a home within me where I can live the life of the Trinity.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
As I opened my eyes from my prayer this morning, this was what I saw. God! This, I think, is one of those mystical experiences that come to anyone at anytime, even if they don't know what to call IT. Gerard Manley Hopkins had words for it. I rarely think of the last two lines of his poem God's Grandeur, but they came to me almost at the same time I looked at this silver-gray lake and sky:
"Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings."
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
In the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles Luke searches for words to describe the indescribable. He chooses fire and wind. He writes that the coming of the Holy Spirit was something like flames of fire and a roaring wind. It makes me think of a wildfire. An event so powerful and conspicuous that no one can ignore it.
"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit made them so keenly aware of what Jesus meant that they could no longer contain themselves. The Holy Spirit gave them the power and the courage to break out of their hiding and risk everything for the Good News of Jesus.
What does this mean for me? I pray that the Holy Spirit will bring me to a deeper understanding of what Jesus means now and fire up in me the courage to say it.
"A lukewarm thing loses its heat when it touches something else; a burning thing sets fire to everything it touches."
(Ghandi in Lanza del Vasto's Return to the Source)
Saturday, May 15, 2010
I continue to reflect on how much Jesus counts on us to continue his work of witnessing to God's unearned love. Returning from my morning walk, the rays of the early morning sun sparkled off this red berry on a hillside. It was there without my noticing it. The sun's rays called it to my attention.
God's unearned love is always present even though many people do not notice it. Through the centuries the Church calls attention to it. That's what I think witnessing is.
A friend sent me an article from the New York Times by a man writing from Sudan about how he sees Jesus in the Catholic priests and sisters that he has met there. One of the sisters is someone I know. She calls attention of Jesus and his love for the poor and needy. The writer calls attention to her work. My friend called my attention to the article. I called other people's attention to it. Probably they called someone else's attention to it. All of us are witnessing, doing something that the Risen and Ascended Jesus can do only through us.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
For many years I have thought that "witness" is a good job description for the Church. Near the end of Luke's Gospel Jesus tells the disciples, "You are witnesses of these things." In the first chapter of Luke's Acts of the Apostles Jesus says, "You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth."
They not only witness to the facts of Jesus' public life and of his death and resurrection; they also witness to the meaning of these facts, that they are saving events. Jesus came to witness to God's unearned, saving love. Since Jesus is no longer visible in our world, he expects his followers to continue that witnessing. I do this not only as an individual but mainly as a member of a community of believers who care for each other and reach out to serve those who need us. This community also witnesses to God's unearned, saving love by the prayerful way that we worship together and preach and teach.
To carry on the witness of Jesus is a daunting job description, but it is possible because the Risen Jesus lives in his Church and shares with us his power to witness.
Friday, May 7, 2010
"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well," is a quote which I like from Julian of Norwich whose feast is May 8. She is an English mystic who lived a contemplative life in a small building attached to a church. The book she wrote about her mystical experiences may be the first book written by a woman in English. She lived in the 14th century and early 15th century, a dark time when there were two and three men claiming to be pope. Whenever I catch myself thinking what a mess the Church is in now, it helps to remember these years and the centuries right before and after.
I don't even know if Julian was aware of the "papal schism" or of the role played by St. Brigid and St. Catherine of Sienna in helping to get the papacy back on track. If so, her mystical experiences surely helped her see what was really important in religion. If not, her words are a much needed assurance in our troubled times. She echoes the words of Jesus in this Sunday's Gospel, "Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:27)
This view of Lake on Wednesday from near the ski slope also assures me that all shall be well.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Where's Alfred Hitchcock when you need him! After the pretty little parula stopped fighting his reflection in the window, a sparrow started doing the same thing. Yesterday when I went out to my side deck I saw a robin fly out of a fuschia that I hang there. I looked and, sure enough, she had almost finished building a nest in the fuschia. I came back inside and tried to finish my breakfast.
This would mean that every year that robin would come back and build her nest in the fuschia. It would complicate watering it. The fuschia is there first of all because I really like the flower. It reminds me of Ireland where I saw along some country lanes hedgerows of fuschia ten feet tall. It has also become very attractive to hummingbirds, who probably wouldn't come if the robin were there.
So I left my half-inished breakfast and went out and took the nest out of the fuschia and threw it off the deck. Then I thought the robin would come back and build another. So I took down the fuschia and sat it on the floor of the deck.
In a minute I looked out and there on the lawn looking up at where the fuschia and her nest used to be was the stunned robin with some straw in her mouth. My laughter overcame my guilt. And my St. Francis cross had not burned a hole in my chest.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
In bidding farewell to his disciples (John 14:27)Jesus says, "My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives." I love the very sound of the word "Shalom." It is an ordinary way to say goodby, but Jesus wants to make it clear that the "shalom" he gives is not ordinary. It is the deepest kind of peace.
The peace that Jesus gives is not the absence of war, nor the settlement of an argument, nor even a sentimental feeling of peace. His peace can hold my heart firm even in the midst of war and pain and trouble. It is a profound sense that I am safe in his loving embrace no matter what threatens me. Troubles in the country and in the church concern me, but they don't trouble my heart. They don't disturb this kind of shalom that the presence of Jesus within me brings with it.
"Teach us to care and not to care.
Teach us to sit still.
Even among these rocks
Our peace in His will." (T.S. Elliot)
Monday, May 3, 2010
"We have met the enemy and he is us." This bird and its partner have been eating at my bird feeder and sitting on my miniature tangerine tree for three days. He has been spending way more time attacking his reflection in the window than eating. He is so focused on this enemy that he doesn't even notice me right inside the window taking his picture. I'm wondering whether he will eventually hurt himself, flying at the reflection and hitting the window with his beak.
I guess there's a sermon here somewhere. Maybe "enemy" is an illusion. Maybe it would be more sensible just to enjoy what I want and let this stranger enjoy it as well rather than getting all upset about protecting my turf.
I had never seen this kind of bird before. I was able to get this very close picture and look it up in "North American Birds." It is a northern parula, which until recently was called a "parula warbler." With such a variety of color he is lovely to look at and, at four and a half inches, very cute.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Jesus expects our love for one another to be the hallmark of Christianity. In only two verses of John's Gospel (13:34-35) he three times tells his followers to love one another. He concludes that everyone will know that we are his disciples if we have love for one another.
I think of the big split between Catholic and Orthodox, then the Protestant Reformation and the continuing splintering of Christianity after that, and I look at the serious division among Catholics today. I find it hard to love those, for instance, who are trying to undo the Vatican Council.
We are told that in the early days of Christianity everyone would look at the Christians and say, "See the Christians! how they love one another!" It's been a long while since people have been able to say that
Jesus expects me to love people I don't agree with. He loves both good and bad. He loves because of who he is, not because of who they are. He lives in me and loves through me. By learning to love with his love I could do my part in healing divisions.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
I ate breakfast for the first time this year on the side deck. Everything was still and beautiful. I had potted some plants yesterday and put them and others outside and left them out overnight. The first hummingbird came by to check out the fuschia. The tree swallows have moved into the bluebird house. Yesterday morning I heard the cry of a loon, but I couldn't see it. Grass is green and dandelions bright yellow. Most of the trees are still in bud, so they have that subtle variety of color that is a faint mirror of autumn. It was about 75 yesterday and is to be about the same today. All of it invites me to be still.