Back in June, I wrote a reflection entitled “Finding Inspiration,” where I shared with you some author names and book titles that you might find inspirational. This time I’d like to focus on the inspirational power of music. Music has an amazing way of speaking to our hearts, offering a rhythm and beat that can lift our spirits and bring us comfort. Music has a motivational quality that gets us up and moving as we embrace the lyrics in song and dance and, when shared with others, can build community. Of course, everyone’s musical interests vary by genre, from classical to rap, from jazz to country music, from easy listening to rock, and other musical varieties.
In Scripture we find music to be an important aspect of worship. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, we hear stories of God’s people being invited and encouraged to sing words of joy, especially throughout the Psalms. (If you search for “music and Scripture” in Google, you can find listings of many biblical verses about music in worship and daily praise.) Many of our Psalms have become liturgical songs. For example, in Psalm 98:1, we read the words, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds for us” and we hear this biblical verse in the song “Sing a New Song” by Dan Schutte. Another Psalm that we hear sung is Psalm 23, Shepherd Me, O God, which is performed in this YouTube video.
So, who are the musicians whose songs and lyrics have inspired you and touched a deep place in your heart? Are you ready to sing a new song unto the Lord? Perhaps the song you are hearing is “Here, I Am, Lord.” If so, contact one of our Vocation Ministers to learn more about discerning religious life with the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
I had prepared a different blog this month, ready to hit the send button, but the events in Charlottesville, VA, this past weekend made me rethink it.
The death and injuries in Charlottesville were a direct result of white supremacists, a.k.a. domestic terrorists. No mistaking it as anything else. The legal protest was called because of the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a hero to the supremacists, and an open threat and reminder of brutality to so many others. The march was clearly a conspicuous display of white supremacy aimed at demonstrating unfettered racism and an in-your-face attack on blacks, Jews, and other minorities.
The person who drove a car that pushed another car through a crowd of counter protesters was no accident; it was a deliberate act of murder. At least 34 people were hurt, Heather D. Heyer, 32, was killed and two Virginia State Troopers, H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke Bates, 40, died in a helicopter crash while on duty that day.
So much of the race problem in America was laid bare in Charlottesville. It may be legal to publicly express your views in this country, but as so many political leaders and commentators expressed it, it is unacceptable to be a white supremacist, Neo-nazi in America. This could not be more clear and I could not agree more. You should too.
Under the banner of free speech, hate speech is nothing more than hate and it not American. It is against everything we value as Americans, whether Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist and President Trump should be saying just that, clearly, and unequivocally. He is not.
White supremacy is white privilege on steroids. We need to call it for what it is and recognize that different forms of white supremacy have led to a perpetuation of inequality economically, socially, politically, in education, in health care, and under the law for African Americans since 1619.
White supremacy, a perceived entitlement, led to the violence in Charlottesville, a supremacy that the KKK uses to perpetrate violence against blacks. Fueled by an irrational fear of being overwhelmed by people who do not look like them, the KKK has been emboldened by the rise of the Alt-right, empowered by the silence of the Republican Party and by the flaccid leadership of Mr. Trump, who has said nothing to disavow the actions of the Klan in Charlottesville. These are the people who helped get Mr. Trump elected.
As people who embrace nonviolence and the pursuit of peace, we must find ways to disempower and defeat thugs who are clearly engaging in domestic terrorism. We have to treat it as a threat to national security and an assault on the fundamental values we hold of human dignity, freedom, and security.
Secondly, speak up. Call, write, email your elected leaders to publicly condemn white supremacy as a hate crime and thank them if they have already made a public statement. It is time to call it like it is and prosecute the KKK and other hate groups as domestic terrorists. Urge your representatives to push for prosecution.
Being people of peace, we espouse non-violence. But nonviolence is not weakness. It takes great courage to denounce hate and the rise of hate demands a strong clear voice that stands up for everyone who lives here no matter how they came here.
Can you sense that I am angry? Yes, I am. Today I contacted my congressional representatives and governor’s offices to thank them for speaking out against this violence (which they all have done clearly and without hesitation). I encourage you to do the same wherever you live and make the voices of peace and nonviolence heard.
Nonviolent responses to evil are not easy or swift, and we need to be in this for the long haul to disempower hate.
A wise writer once said “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Perhaps Charles Dickens was forecasting what the year 2017 might feel like when he wrote A Tale of Two Cities in 1859.
Many can resonate with the “worst of times” feeling with the frustrating battle over healthcare, overt acts of racism and bigotry, degradation and disregard for our Earth, incidents of violence, and an unwelcoming America to our immigrant sisters and brothers; it seems we are quickly sliding into a bleak season of darkness.
Yet, there is always hope waiting to be discovered. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with the Girls for Peace Summer Camp that took place in July at the Martin de Porres Center here in Columbus. I spoke to the girls about my work as the Justice Promoter, and we talked about issues that are important to our Sisters and Associates.
I was amazed by how articulate and passionate this group was. The girls were between 8-12 years old, yet despite their young age, they clearly cared about critical subjects. They shared with me some of their passions and issues of concern: animal cruelty, immigration, sexual abuse and harassment, equality, water security, poverty, and human trafficking, among many others.
Many of them shared their experiences traveling across the country and to Central and South America. They spoke about volunteer work they’ve participated in. They seemed to grasp the connection of service and social justice and were excited when we spoke about ways to take action such as identifying and learning about issues they are passionate about, donating to organizations and volunteering their time, writing letters to those in charge, and advocating and talking to others about the importance of their issue.
It was obvious the girls learned a lot during this camp and connected to the Sisters in a very impactful, meaningful, and beautiful way. After visiting with these young girls, I found hope in their energy, their passion, and their imagination. We may feel that we are dealing with the “worst of times,” but these young girls are working to ensure the “best of times” are right around the corner.
Attached photo – the girls created a month of actions.
When I was invited to share some reflections with you tonight, I struggled with whether to accept this inaugural preaching moment. Having wrestled with what it means to be a Dominican and an Associate, I questioned what salient words I could offer you. How could I encourage you to continue your journey to walk humbly with God when I struggled to carry out the four Dominican pillars of prayer, ministry, study, and community. Preaching, especially, is the least likely activity that I envisioned myself engaging in. Yet, here I am – called to be the Holy Preaching. May we all be open to those moments when God calls us to be a voice of hope, healing, and compassion to each other.
As we heard in tonight’s opening song, we are invited to be companions on the journey, boldy responding to God’s call to break bread with each other and to share with each other, in true Dominican fashion, the fruits of our contemplation. As companions on the journey, who seek to live a life grounded in truth and faith, let us listen to how God wants to speak to us in this moment.
As I read over the selected Scripture reading for tonight from the Gospel of John, I was immediately comforted about preaching to you by the first words in this reading, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God.” So I am entrusting my reflections to God and trusting that the Spirit will work through me to speak to you, to your heart, and to your circumstance wherever you are on your life’s journey.
Immediately, we hear the words “Trust in God” in this first verse in John’s Gospel reading. These words can elicit many different thoughts and feelings in us, depending on our personal relationship with God and our experiences with others. For some, trust may not come easily because our personal experiences with others may have led to disappointment, humiliation, or regret in entrusting our heartfelt feelings to another person. Or, our trust in God, when in the throes of a crisis, may have left us wondering why suffering happens and wondering why waiting for God’s response seems to take forever. On the other hand, trust may come easily for you because time has taught you that God is always present in our lives and that God can bring about good from difficult situations.
Trust can be a difficult virtue to nurture. It requires letting go and giving over our fears and concerns to a God who asks us to faithfully believe that our prayers and our hopes will be fulfilled. We know though from experience, from living a life of faith, that trust can ask much of us. Trust may call us to be patient with God’s ways, to be open to new possibilities, to accept our limitations and to let God enfold God’s plan in God’s time and to trust in the truth of God’s promise to be with us always in life, in death, and eternally thereafter.
As you reflect on the difficult moments and positive memories from your own life’s experiences, I hope you can see God’s footprints imprinted on your path. We must hold onto this memory of God’s abiding presence in our lives when we hit the inevitable bumps in the road and find it difficult to trust or to believe that God is with us. And, we must be beacons of hope to others, whose trust in God or in others may be clouded by darkness and despair. By sharing the fruits of our prayer and our study with a broken world, we, as Dominican Sisters and Associates, can bring healing and light to others. We need only to trust in God to provide what we need for the ministry we are about and we can find strength for the journey from being in community with each other as we go forth in our call to be disciples of Christ.
In the next verse from the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus declare to his disciples that there are many places where they can live in his Father’s house and that Jesus is preparing a place in his Father’s house for his disciples. Being invited to someone’s dwelling place is a loving gesture that says I want to be with you, to share my life with you. So, we hear in this verse Jesus’ desire to be with his disciples, to be with us, to get to know us and for us to get to know Him. We are invited into a personal relationship with Jesus and told that he is preparing a welcoming place for us in God’s kingdom. Knowing that Jesus is preparing and has prepared a place for us with God should offer us comfort and reassurance that God provides for us. What I hear also in this verse is the voice of hospitality, of being welcome to enter God’s kingdom as we are and no matter who we are. This message of being a welcoming community is certainly one our world needs to hear and where our advocacy for the marginalized is essential. We are all welcome into God’s kingdom; there are no walls, no stipulations or conditions that we must satisfy to live in God’s dwelling place as Jesus tells us there are many places we can live in God’s kingdom. We are blessed again, as Dominican Sisters and Associates of Peace to have a statement in the 2015 Chapter Commitments about “creating welcoming communities, inviting others to join us as vowed members, associates, volunteers, and partners in our mission to be the Holy Preaching.”
The final verse that I want to reflect on briefly is Thomas’ question to Jesus when he asks “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus responds by assuring Thomas that he can always be found by saying, “I am the Way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” We are reminded that when we are struggling to find our way or the truth in life that we can turn to Jesus and through understanding Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that we can know God.
As I end my reflections, I invite you to consider how each of us can continue our journey through the words of this poem from St. Teresa of Avila, entitled Christ Has No Body.
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
As Dominican Sisters and Associates of Peace and as followers of Jesus’ teachings, we are called to be Christ’s hands and feet as we pray, study, minister, and live in community. We are here tonight to affirm our commitment or recommitment to preach a message of hope through our words and actions. We are here to proclaim that we are willing to be Christ’s hands and feet, so that all of God’s people may come to know and trust in God’s love for each person and to create a better world for everyone. May God bless our paths as we continue our journey and may we trust in God’s providence to work in and through us for the greater good of all God’s people.
How can a Dominican Sister of Peace find space in her daily life to BE PEACE, BUILD PEACE, and PREACH PEACE? There are many ways to live out this call. The story below is one example.
A sunny morning blessed with a gentle breeze beckoned me to take a short walk. Passing an apple tree, I felt something gently dropped onto my head.
“Oh, no! Is it poop from a bird?” While scrubbing my hair to check, I looked around, up, and down. I saw apple pieces on the ground, and a squirrel in the apple tree biting an apple into small pieces and dropping them down.
“What a wasteful act! That’s why people don’t like you,” I said to the squirrel. However, I also paused to watch the squirrel enjoy its treat. From my perspective, what the squirrel had been doing was wasteful; however, under the web of relationship in this small ecosphere, it might be an act of charity. Many other creatures could not reach that apple – the squirrel was sharing the wealth with his less-agile neighbors.
Letting go of my prejudice towards his seemingly wasteful action, I felt freer to watch the squirrel enjoying the apple. I went on to work with a peaceful spirit and a deep appreciation of the web of relationships between all parts of nature, and toward God who creates this web.
Now, every time I pass this apple tree or see a squirrel, the memory above comes back, reminding me of the relationship that we are meant to share with those around us, just like my generous squirrel.
“Peace I give to you. My peace I have given to you.” God’s peace is overly abundant and comes in many forms, like in the story above. Our responsibilities are to recognize that peace, appreciate that peace, and share that peace with everyone we meet on a daily basis.
If you feel called to be God’s peace to the world or want to explore more about the life and mission of Dominican Sisters of Peace (oppeace.org), please contact our Vocation Ministers.