Today I’m reflecting on the interplay of two scripture readings from last week:
Hebrews 12: 15-16: “Strive for peace with everyone/ and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord…See to it that no one will be deprived of the grace of God.”
Mark 6:1-6: ”Where did this man get all this…and they took offense at him.”
Holiness is a word which eludes precise definition. It’s definitely an attribute of God. “Be holy as the Lord your God is holy,” and it is about awe. (“Take off your shoes”) and Otherness, what we think might be unattainable perfection. As applied to human beings it could be wholehearted commitment to living the Christ-Life, sanctity or blessedness as in the Beatitudes. I like the translation of the word Shaman: “God-invaded person.” We are called and chosen to be a holy people.
The association of these two passages suggests that holy people are “SEE-ers.” The author of the letter to the Hebrews insists that seeing is and will be the result of holiness. And that Christians are to “see to it.”
Jesus is the one whom the people think they know, to the point of disdain, the local boy from Nazareth. He is UNSEEN by the townspeople he grew up among. The people he preaches to won’t see him as anything but ordinary, and find his speaking and acting “uppity.” “Can anything good…?”
It’s a question of imagination, with its simplest definition “seeing as.” There is the conventional imagination, in which the present is seen through the lens of the past, the time-tested, what we’ve always done and who we’ve always been. (Keep the peace. And don’t rock the boat.)
But there is a broader and deeper way of seeing-as, the inSpirited imagination, which is able to go beyond the surfaces and the predictable, to view things in the present moment with God’s eyes, God’s tender care, and God’s dream of what might be possible for any human being; that call coming from the future, the call from the One who makes everything new.
Holiness is eye-opening…
…Seeing each other and oneself and the whole of creation groaning in coming to birth as good, as held in God, as treasured by God, as suffused by God–
…and then “Seeing to it” by identifying grace at work in one another, by having hope in and for each other, by staying open to surprise and to change and to ongoing conversion. And to never say or sigh, “It’s not gonna happen; it’s way over the top, impossible, she’s chasing rainbows, he’ll never amount to anything, there’s no use pursuing something or someone any further.”
So here we are, today’s Christians as the Holiness of God incarnate, defined in and by that holy mystery of Jesus, the Passion-Death-Resurrection, formed by the Saving Word, living in the Spirit’s power, imagining with God’s Sight the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of love. So, our call? See, and see to it.
Sisters Joye Gros and Norah Guy and Associate Joanna Magee are ministering to refugees in El Paso, TX. Thanks to Sr. Joye for her “word picture” of what this mission is like.
Because Norah and I worked so long and hard on February 10, Sue, our site coordinator, told us only to work 8 hours on February 11.
You see, we had learned at 10:30 PM on February 9 that we were to prepare a noon meal for 150 the very next day, February 10. We did not know what food we had in stock in the kitchen, so we had to go early to pick up keys, take an inventory, go shopping and begin the meal. Since we cooked in one location and needed to transport everything across town, we had to do some other time-consuming things, such as turn on the gas for the stove (which frightened both of us), line the trunk of the car to protect it from pasta sauce, etc.
We put the water on to boil. You know what they say about a watched pot! We chopped veggies by the dozens, made five huge containers of salad, mixed garlic butter and grilled buns, and made five huge containers of pasta with sauce. Since the pans we had were aluminum, we had to double stack them to protect from heat and spilling. It served as little protection. We wondered – will it be enough? Will everyone like it?? When we first arrived I had wished I could speak Spanish. Now, I wished I could cook massive amounts of Italian food!
We made it to the serving location by 12:30 and created an assembly line in a very tight space. Most of our guests had to eat on the floor in the hall, but the looks of anticipation and the expressions of gratitude eased our concerns.
After the meal, Norah and I took all the pans and utensils back to the kitchen across town to clean. Now, we’re talking 10 pans for pasta, five pans for salad, three pans for garlic buns – not to mention the grill, cooking pots, cutting boards… and then we had the stove, counter, trash and floor to clean up.!
Those aluminum serving pans have those corner ridges that are hard to clean and harder to dry.
With one meal done, we sat down to make dozens of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the ‘go bags’. Each family gets a bag with food for the journey when they depart to travel to their sponsor. They are filled according to the means of transportation (bus or plane), the number of people in the family and the length of the journey. If there is a child in the family, we also pack a toy and a soft lap blanket.
But I digress… that was February 10. As I mentioned, Sue, aware how long we had worked, said we were only to work 8 hours on February 11. And by the way, would we prepare another lunch for 150?
So on February 11, we gave a repeat performance of food preparation, with a little more confidence this time. But confidence doesn’t boil the water any faster.
Once everyone was fed, we decided we’d clean up and go home, knowing it’d take longer than Sue suggested.
Joanna had been sick earlier in the week, but she was back to her nursing detail on this day. She asked if she could check out one sick child and return to help us clean up and go home. Clean up help – that sounded great!
But the sick child needed to go to the doctor with dad. Joanna went too – after dropping Norah and me at the center to clean up. We knew the drill – seeing a doctor with no appointment and no money means a LONG wait!!
Norah and I were left at the Center to clean up, make more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, empty HUGE bags of garbage (it took both of us to hoist them in the dumpster – what a sight!) and clean the refrigerator. Finally we were ready to go home – but wait! Joanna had the car.
When Joanna texted she was on her way back to drop of the dad and child and would take us home, we were relieved. (Did I mention how cold the center where Norah and I were cooking was?)
Dad and daughter were delivered. Only Joanna, acting as nurse, had to wait in line be checked out!!
I got a text from a volunteer asking if we had any peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – they were out and needed some. We did, but we had no car to bring them. She also needed jackets, stored near the kitchen. Norah and I went to the clothing store and pushed, pulled and shoved two large cartons of jackets to a space near the front door so we could load them when the car arrived. Again, we were a sight to behold!
And we’re still waiting…
Since they were desperate for our sandwiches, another volunteer came to pick them up. I asked if she would take us home, as it was 7:30 with no end in sight. She was happy to do so.
Wait – it gets better. POTUS was speaking at the Coliseum so traffic was diverted. All the familiar routes were blocked, and all other cars were gridlocked trying the same intuitive options. The volunteer driver kept saying, “I hope my car doesn’t stop” and “I hope I don’t run out of gas!”
Of course, I offered to fill her gas tank, but would the car start up again?
We discovered that GPS is wonderful IF the expressways are open – no matter how we tried, the GPS kept sending us to Interstate 10, with considering Secret Service road closures, was definitely not an option.
Home at last… 12-hour shift. Our clothing wears pasta sauce and peanut butter. But we came to serve. We came to be useful.
These days have been a rollercoaster of emotions. We’ve been frantic. We’ve been hysterical with laughter. We’ve been tired. We’ve been tearful when we heard “Muchas Gracias” and when we saw parents’ tenderness toward their children, their care for one another, and the looks of relief, hope, and gratitude.
As Norah and I struggled to make do with so little, I recalled the story of the Loaves and Fishes; as we bemoaned the inadequacy of our skills, the instruction to Put Out Deeper… and as the dishes piled high, the commission to Feed My Sheep, if only peanut butter!
Hope inspires the good to reveal itself. Attributed to Emily Dickenson.
I just got back from a DART Clergy Conference in sunny, warm Orlando. DART, the Direct Action and Research Training Center, is the umbrella organization for a network of 21 grassroots, nonprofit, congregation-based community organizations including BREAD in Columbus and CLOUT in Louisville. Ministers from all over the United States gathered to pray together, share best practices, and celebrate achievements from the past year. They represented diverse faith traditions, worship styles, and races and were all committed to improving the lives of the people in their communities. The preaching was tremendous!
There are many common problems in our cities including homelessness, the school-to-prison pipeline, the lack of affordable housing, out-of-school suspensions, and mental illness. Members of DART affiliates raise up issues and solutions that address problems specific to their communities. They meet with city/school officials to present their concerns and hopefully, work with them on research based solutions. Sometimes officials are not interested in these issues and so DART affiliates bring their members to a NEHIMIAH Action. Hundreds, sometimes thousands (BREAD turned out over 2500 last May and are looking for 3,000 this May) individuals who believe in justice show officials their support for solutions and demand their participation. It’s peaceful and powerful.
As your justice promoter, I’m often the bearer of bad news but participating in this conference helped me see much good news. The DART affiliates do grassroots advocacy at its finest. The clergy conference demonstrated to me how seriously many leaders of faith take the justice message of Jesus and of their own faith traditions seriously. It was an experience of great HOPE and much good was revealed.
There are other interfaith grassroots organizations around the country. Together people of faith can work for the common good and bring hope to their communities.
The Columbus Nehemiah Action is Monday, May 6, at the Celeste Center. If you would like to be a part of this action or of BREAD, please contact me at email@example.com. You can be a part of the good that our city needs now.
I saw a comic strip of Charlie Brown and Snoopy a few days ago that got my thinking.
Charlie Brown: “You only live once.”
Snoopy: “False. You live every day. You only die once.”
Ain’t that the truth, Snoopy!
YOLO – You Only Live Once – is typically a call to live life to its fullest extent, even embracing behavior which carries inherent risk. I know some people find that to be encouraging and perhaps exhilarating; but I find Snoopy’s take to be more inspiring because it urges us to make the most of the time we are given.
Snoopy seems to understand that we should not take life for granted; that we should do good in the world while we are here; that we should make a positive difference while we can; that we should show people that we love them every chance that we get.
Snoopy seems to be calling us to embrace our “right now”, to lead by example, to appreciate what we have, to show love to those who are in need of it, to make every moment count so that when that one day comes, we will have lived a fulfilled life.
If you knew that you wouldn’t wake up tomorrow, how would you live your life differently today?
“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” Job 12:12
The Dominican Sisters of Peace can answer these questions from Job with a resounding “Yes.” Four of our Sisters reached the grand age of 100 this year, while two others celebrated 104 and 107 years. Each of these women of God has a special piece of wisdom that we can use in our own lives.
“Honor God with all of your heart and all of your strength.” Sister Vincent de Paul Hutton served as an educator and administrator for more than 50 years, shaping young hearts and minds in Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, and West Virginia. Today, at 107 years old, she serves in a ministry of prayer and presence at the Sansbury Care Center in St. Catharine, KY. While her hearing and eyesight may have waned, St. Vincent is still able to genuflect as she comes to the Chapel for Mass, honoring the God that she has served for more than 65 years
“Remember the past, but plan for the future.”
If you have a question about the Dominican Sisters in Kentucky, Sr. Paschala Noonan can probably give you the answer. She served as a teacher, a medical professional, and Director of Catholic Charities in Brooklyn, NY, and is also the author of Signadou, a history of Dominican Sisters in Kentucky, the first congregation of Dominican Sisters in the United States. Sr. Paschala was also instrumental in the planning of Sansbury Care Center, a nursing home for religious and lay persons located adjacent to the St. Catharine Motherhouse.
“Life is about those that we love.” When Sr. Columba Casey joined the Dominican Sisters of Peace in Kentucky, she was far from her family in Nebraska. She says she used to cry when they came to visit – not because she wanted to leave, but because she wanted them to stay. Sr. Columba served as a teacher and principal in New York, Kentucky, Illinois, and Nebraska before she retired in 1989. After leaving education, she ministered to the sick and to grieving families at the Veteran’s Home and at hospitals and funeral homes in Grand Island, NE. Today she leads a life of prayer and service in St. Catharine, still with her longtime friend, Sister Paschala.
“I never worry – I just trust in the Lord.”
Sr. Edwina Devlin was cared for by the Sisters of Charity when her mother died at a young age. As a result, Sr. Edwina learned to place her trust in God and in God’s people – and gave her life to them when she entered the Dominican Sisters of Peace in 1932. She served as a teacher in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York, and as a missionary in Peru. She celebrated her 104th birthday at the Mohun Health Care Center in Columbus, OH.
“No prayer is more powerful than a mother’s.” Sr. Alvina Miller’s mother prayed for her soon-to-be-born child to be “someone special.” “I always wanted to be a Sister,” Sister Alvina says. “I attribute my vocation to her prayers.”
Sister Alvina spent many years teaching in Kansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma. She also served as a librarian and as a pastoral minister. Today, at 100 years old, Sr. Alvina lives in the Great Bend Motherhouse, where she serves as the Convent’s librarian.
“Life is an adventure!”
Sr. Teresita Huse joined the Dominican Sisters of Peace when she was just 15, and her life has been one of satisfying work, community and world travel. She ministered as an educator in Kansas and Oklahoma, as a librarian, and in parish ministry. She caught the travel bug in 1969 when she visited New Zealand, Australia and Alaska. She has also visited the Holy Land, taught English in Japan, and traveled to Korea and India. Travel is more difficult at 100 years old, so Sr. Teresita stays busy working to raise support for the Sisters’ missions in Nigeria.