Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spy Wednesday

Artist: Giotto di Bondone

This is something I didn't know:
In Western Christianity, the Wednesday before Easter is sometimes known as "Spy Wednesday", indicating that it is the day that Judas Iscariot first conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty silver coins.
I found it on The Deacon's Bench blog over at Beliefnet.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A terrible clarity

"Ecce Homo" by Jan Provoost

The following passage is so very appropriate for Holy Week:

Romantic love is blind to everything except what is lovable and lovely, but Christ's love sees us with terrible clarity and sees us whole. Christ's love so wishes our joy that it is ruthless against everything in us that diminishes our joy. The worst sentence Love can pass is that we behold the suffering that Love has endured for our sake, and that is also our acquittal. The justice and mercy of the judge are ultimately one.

- Frederick Buechner

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday


The "ways of the world" can be so very, very disheartening at times. I'm powerfully struck here by the point being made that, as we enter this week, only in the mind of God is Jesus a success:

Palm Sunday ... reminds us that at the moment of what seems to be the height of Jesus' public acceptance also begins the process of His public betrayal, His public failure, His public abandonment. Only in the mind of God is Jesus any longer a success, it seems ... Here in the Passion narrative we trace the struggle, one scene at a time, between the Word of God and the ways of the world.

- Joan Chittister

I remember, quite some years ago, complaining to a nun friend of mine that I was feeling like a failure. She replied, "Jesus was a failure. So what's your problem?"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How our beliefs affect what we see

I really like the entire passage posted below. The point that a belief is a considerably more than an idea is so true and it is also very powerful. I'm also struck by the observation that our experiences of judgment and shame have a lot to do with our beliefs:

What we believe about ourselves can hold us hostage. Over the years I have come to respect the power of people's beliefs. The thing that has amazed me is that a belief is more than just an idea--it seems to shift the way in which we actually experience ourselves and our lives. According to Talmudic teaching, "We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are." A belief is like a pair of sunglasses. When we wear a belief and look at life through it, it is difficult to convince ourselves that what we see is not real. . . . Sometimes because of our beliefs we may have never seen ourselves or life whole before. No matter. We can recognize life anyway. Our life force may not require us to strengthen it. We often just need to free it where it has gotten trapped in beliefs, attitudes, judgment, and shame.

-- Rachel Naomi Remen

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lady Day

End of 10th century image

The Archangel was not foretelling the future by saying “The Lord is with thee,” but was declaring what he saw happening invisibly at that time. Perceiving that divine and human gifts of grace were to be found in Mary, and that she was adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he truly proclaimed her full of grace. He saw that she had already received to dwell within her the One in whom are all these treasures of grace….Even if other women may be extolled, no other can be magnified with the surpassing glory of the Virgin Mother of God.

-- Gregory Palamas (1296-1359)

Let's just be happy. Really happy. Happy that Mary's "yes" made the Incarnation possible.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Turning everything upside down

Artist: Fra Angelico

Oscar Romero was one of my heroes and his courage and fidelity to vocation had a huge influence on me during the time I was working to discern my own vocation to the religious life. The following quotation was sent out in an email from the Sojourners organization today:
Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists and all the epithets they put on us, we know we only preach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down.
- Archbishop Oscar Romero, an advocate for the poor and marginalized, was assassinated thirty years ago today while offering Mass in El Salvador.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Artist: Walentin Alexandrowitsch Serow

Just imagine what it would be like to have this window of the soul be always open:

Those to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, have not yet visited the house of their souls whose windows are open from dawn to dawn.

--Khalil Gibran

Sunday, March 21, 2010

That vexing saying about the poor

It was only quite recently, really, that I came across a "right-wing" interpretation of the statement by Jesus that "the poor we have always with us" as meaning that we don't have to help the poor!

Needless to say, I was appalled.

Here's part of a reflection on this morning's gospel reading that is more in line with the true character of Our Lord:
Lent is a time when we think about giving things up, not living extravagantly. If we pay attention to Jesus’ teaching, we know that money is a gift to be shared.

But then there is this story in John 12:1-9. Mary, the sister of Lazarus (the man Jesus raised from the dead), brings an exorbitantly priced perfume and pours it out on Jesus’ feet. Judas complains. This should have been spent on the poor, he said. We sort of agree with him. Jesus’ response? “You always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me.” What? That doesn’t really sound like Jesus.

He’s quoting from Deuteronomy 15. “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you: Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” Not exactly a condemnation of helping the poor, is it?
It's by Melissa Bane Sevier and I found it on her blog post entitled "The Spiritual Practice of Extravagance". I'm going to explore her blog more fully, I think. I really like her style!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The major question of discernment

Artist: Carl Larsson

I have spent a lot of time over the years with people who torment themselves with a craving to make just exactly the right decision on what to do. I think that is most unfortunate because it matters not so much what we do but, rather, how we do it. And so I was pleased to find the following:

The differences in human life depend, for the most part, not on what people do, but upon the meaning and purpose of their acts. All are born, all die, all lose their loved ones, nearly all marry and nearly all work, but the significance of these acts may vary enormously. The same physical act may be in one situation vulgar and in another holy. The same work may be elevating or degrading. The major question is not "What act do I perform?" but "In what frame do I put it?" Wisdom about life consists in taking the inevitable ventures which are the very stuff of common existence, and glorifying them.

-- Elton Trueblood

By the way, today is the feast day of St. Joseph of the House of David who is patron of workers. The Trueblood passage, therefore, seems rather appropriate.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Choosing, committing, loving

Artist: Emile Claus

Choosing a path meant having to miss out on others. She had a whole life to live, and she was always thinking that, in the future, she might regret the choices she made now. “I’m afraid of committing myself,” she thought to herself. She wanted to follow all possible paths and so ended up following none. Even in that most important area of her life, love, she had failed to commit herself. After her first romantic disappointment, she had never again given herself entirely. She feared pain, loss, and separation. These things were inevitable on the path to love, and the only way of avoiding them was by deciding not to take that path at all. In order not to suffer, you had to renounce love. It was like putting out your own eyes not to see the bad things in life.

-- Paulo Coelho

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Three in One, One in Three

Here is a lovely Celtic prayer:

God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.

God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my hands,
God in my heart.

God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber
God in mine ever living soul,
God in mine eternity.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Voice of the day

The following was sent out in an email this morning by Sojourners:

If you are in class, recognize one another; if you are in the store, recognize one another; if you are in the housing estate, recognize one another; if you are in the parish, recognize one another: you are members of one another if you are members of Christ. This is the most revolutionary sentence that can be expressed: "you are members of one another." ... And this recognizing one another ... is witness to Christ. This is the first expression of our yearning for Christ.
- Luigi Giussani, Italian Catholic priest and founder of the Communion and Liberation movement of the Catholic Church

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lent 4C

Artist: Pompeo Batoni

Here's something I found on Sermon Nuggets by Lindy Black:

The parable of a prodigal Father, the wandering and repentance of a younger son, and a resentful firstborn brother. (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32)

-We seldom hear the word prodigal used outside the context of this parable, and people often mistakenly assume that it means "bad." Instead, prodigal means generous, abundant, or wasteful, so prodigality is not necessarily bad. God created species and resources prodigally (abundantly), and it was good (Genesis 1:31). A philanthropist can give money prodigally (generously) to a good cause. In this parable, prodigal takes on a negative tone because the younger son "squandered his property in dissolute living" (v. 13), spending his money prodigally (wastefully).

I do think we need to remember that the Father was also a prodigal in this story!

Friday, March 12, 2010

More about ordinary things

Artist: Émile Schuffenecker

Many people believe that they ought to put a lot of thought and effort into the so-called big decisions of life: which university to attend, what kind of job to take, where to live, whether or not to marry or enter religious life. And, sadly, they often don't give much attention to the apparently "little" decisions: the tone of voice they use in greeting someone, making eye contact, whether or not to take frustration out on their children or companion animals, how much time and money to donate to church or charity.

I would assert that the "little things" are not little and the "big things" are not big:

Do not forget that the nature and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things as to do ordinary things with a perception of their enormous value.

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Thursday, March 11, 2010

No matter what...

Artist: Carl Larsson

I came across the following quotation today and it gave me a much needed lift. May it do so for you as well:

No matter what looms ahead, if you can eat today, enjoy the sunlight today, mix good cheer with friends today, enjoy it and bless God for it. Do not look back on happiness -- or dream of it in the future. You are only sure of today; do not let yourself be cheated out of it.

-- Author Unknown

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Something about how we learn

"Praying in a Greek church"

You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; and just so you learn to love God and man by loving. Begin as a mere aprentice and the very power of love will lead you on to become a master of the art.

-- St. Francis De Sales

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thirsting for God

Moses striking the rock in the desert

Today and last Sunday gave me two of my favorite psalms in a row, to my very great joy. This morning's was Psalm 63 which I was taught to recite upon awakening every morning while I was in the convent.
Oh God, you are my God; egerly I seek you;
My soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you
As in a barren and dry land
Where there is no water.
What a wonderful prayer for beginning the day. Truly.

Here's another part I particularly like:
For your loving-indness is better than life itself;
And this one:
My soul clings to you;
Your right hand holds me fast.
I was taught many years ago in Sunday School that every prayer I would ever need could be found in the Psalter. It's so true.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Let's not "divide the world"

Artist: Margret Hofheinz-Döring

Here's the problem, really, with unforgiveness. When we refuse to forgive, when we cling to resentment, we are really "dividing the world" - or, at least, our world:

Don't waste any time dividing the world into good guys and the bad guys. Hold them both together in your own soul — where they are anyway — and you will have held together the whole world.

Richard Rohr in Hope Against Darkness

Jesus really did say that we are to love our enemies and to pray for and do good to those who persecute us. Yes, it's hard. Yes, we fail over and over. And, still, as Christians, we are called to love them no matter how many times we try and fail. Perhaps even that repeated failure will bring us to the humility needed to hold both "the good guys and the bad guys" together in our souls.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The mystery of grace

Artist: Angelika Kauffmann

I have very probably posted this quotation before because I like it very much. But it just came to my attention again today and is definitely worth a repeat:

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.

- Anne Lamott, from Traveling Mercies

An illuminating Lenten exercise could well be that of reflecting on various occasions of grace throughout our lives and how we were not, indeed, left as we had been when that grace found us.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

God, grief and tears

Artist: Margret Hofheinz-Döring

God is a shower to the heart burned up with grief; God is a sun to the face deluged with tears.

-- Joseph Roux, Meditations of a Parish Priest