Friday, March 31, 2017

Made a Home

This up and down winter has had an effect on my houseplants.  The miniature tangerines are looking good.  Just under them an impatience plant still blooming from last summer.  In the foreground a "Christmas" cactus that has never bloomed this time of year.
The readings for this weekend reinforce the theme of resurrection and new life.  Through Ezekiel (37:12-14) God promises, "I will put my breath into you and you shall live again."  Breath and Spirit translate the same Hebrew word.  In Romans 8:8-11, St. Paul says, "The Spirit of God has made a home in you."

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Holy and Infinite Mystery

The Christian of the future will be a mystic
or he will be nothing at all.

I have often used this quote from Karl Rahner who died on this date in 1984.  He did more than any other theologian to bridge the gulf between Catholic theology and the modern world.  Rahner believed that all human existence is rooted in the holy and infinite mystery of God.  By nature, we are created with an openness to God.  Deep within ourselves we can meet the Divine.

(Robert Ellsberg, from his book Blessed Among Us, from which excerpts are used in Give Us This Day: Daily Prayer for Today's Catholic)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Resurrection and Life

Today it's forsythia's turn to help us think about the new life that the Risen Jesus shares with us.  Before Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44) he tells us the point of the story:
I AM the resurrection and the life:
whoever believes in me,
even if he dies, will come to life.
And everyone who is alive and believes in me,
shall never die at all.

Friday, March 24, 2017

"The Jews"

8 degrees yesterday morning, so I put off my walk until afternoon when it was 42 and sunny.  And there they were, shy and sticking close to the ground, the first sign of spring in our neighborhood:  colt's foot. 
In his Gospel John often uses the term "the Jews" as shorthand to refer to the enemies of Jesus.  John himself is a Jew and most of the community for whom he is writing are Jews.  So he's not condemning the Jewish people.  He's saying in effect, "They think they're the real Jews!" the way we might say of someone whose politics we disagree with, "They think they're the real Americans."  John's usage in no way supports the anti-Semitism of Christians in the past or the present.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Catching Sunrise

This was intended as a picture of the little ducks called "buffleheads."  They are barely visible, but what I like is the unintended sliver of the rising sun along the point.
St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians 5:8-14 helps us to reflect further on the light theme in the Gospel about the man born blind.  "Christ will shine on you....Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."  Even it's just a little sliver.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

God looks within

A window high up in the northwest is the first to catch this morning's 7:20 sunrise from the east.
David is out tending sheep when the prophet Samuel comes to anoint the next king.  Samuel thinks that the eldest son looks like king material, but God says no.  "God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)"

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

...but now I see!

The wind had sculpted the snow on the lawn, but it took the setting sun to bring out the wave patterns that were already there.  Jesus brings the man born blind in John's Gospel (9:1-41) to full sight physically, but only by brushes with neighbors and religious authorities does the man come to deeper and deeper spiritual insight into who Jesus is.  We can never sit back and think we know Jesus completely.  Recuperating from an illness or surgery or reading a book or watching the most unlikely movie can open our inner eyes to see the face of Jesus more clearly.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy Spring

It was 33 degrees and sunny when I went for my first morning of Spring walk.  It felt great.  I haven't been able to go out many mornings this month because of cold and slick roads. 
Back when we had one of our winter springtimes this striped sparrow took up housekeeping with his mate in a neighbor's blue spruce.  Here he is perched on my rhododendron during the heaviest of the recent snows.  I noticed them diving into the bush.  I guess they were finding something to eat.  I put out feed a few times, but the fierce wind blew it away.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

From St. Patrick himself in the mid-fifth century we have two writings.  The Confession is a kind of  autobiography.  He tells us that when he was 16 he was kidnapped from his father's villa in Briton and sold as a slave in Ireland.  Solitude became the occasion for prayer:
"After I came to Ireland--every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed--the love of God and His awe came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened.  And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in me--as I now see, because the Spirit within me was then fervent"

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Snowed In

Being snowed in is as appropriate for Lent as days in the desert.  We find out that the world can go on without us, that whatever we go out to do every day can be left undone for a day or two or three.  We are able to step away from our everyday lives and determine what is essential.  If we live alone, snow days invite us to settle in with God.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

God's Patience

Through Moses God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  Not far into their desert journey the people complain bitterly to Moses and to God because they have no water (Exodus 17:1-7.)  Moses takes some of the elders and goes off to Mount Horeb (Sinai) where he strikes a rock with his staff and out comes water.  Presumably the water then flowed in a wadi (a dry stream bed) back to where the people had been grumbling, a place which gets the name "Testing" and "Dispute."
It's possible to be so annoyed at the people's griping that we fail to notice God's patient, constant care for them.  God is just as patient and caring with us as individuals and as a nation when we complain about God's not giving us what we want.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Living Water

Heavy mid-March snow this morning!
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, he offered her "living water." (John 4:5-42)  At a time when many wells were simply cisterns of flat water drained from the surface, a well with fresh, flowing water was much prized.  Jesus meets the woman at a well of "living water."  The living water that Jesus offers her and us is his own life within us constantly bubbling up like a fountain.  A genuine prize!

Friday, March 10, 2017

As We Forgive

A break in today's snow.
What a terrifying prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  Just how terrible was underlined for me today in a passage from the Book of Sirach (28:2-5) quoted in Give Us This Day: Daily Prayer for Today's Catholic:
Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. 
Does anyone nourish anger against another,
and expect healing from the Lord? 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Leaving Home

Recently a writer in a nationally known newspaper opined that the answer to poverty in Appalachia was for the people to go and live in a city where they could get work!  In a country where the majority of the population is so mobile, it's hard for a stranger to understand that we have deep roots in these hills.
Abraham and his family, in a time when travel was extremely difficult and rare, were even more rooted to their own land.  How terrible, then, was God's call to him: "Go forth from your land and your birthplace and your father's house to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1 in Robert Alter's fine translation)"  Yet Abraham left.  We ask him to pray for the refugees of our time who have left their homeland forever. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Divinity Is Always There

Divinity was always there, but---
now they saw It shining out of their Beloved
then I saw It shining in rising sun's rays
across high mountain meadow
 suddenly I saw It shining in her descent of post office steps
this day I saw It shining through early morning fog
 another I saw It shining in crystal ice on bare tree limbs
quick I saw It shining as I swam into the sun
 that day I saw It shining on an aged peace-filled face

Friday, March 3, 2017


God's breath in man returning to his birth
Heart in pilgrimage
Reversed thunder
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss
Heaven in ordinary
The milky way
Church-bells beyond the stars heard
The land of spices; something understood

In his poem "Prayer," George Herbert simply piles us images of prayer.  These are some that helped me pray this morning.  I especially like the first which helped me think of the Holy Spirit in us returning us to God. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Desert Contemplation

Except for the power line, this is what the desert may have looked like that Jesus went to after his baptism by John in the Jordan.  This scene is just up the mountain from the Jordan River.  The temptations get all the attention, but surely Jesus didn't go there to be tempted.  In the desert he could be totally alone with God in preparation for his life's work.
We can create our own desert during Lent, a place and a time, where we can be alone with God.