Reflection for the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6, 2020)

Blog by Associate Theresa Kempker, OPA

Why do I love the Feast of the Transfiguration?  On this day, we celebrate that Peter, John, and Jesus got to experience the real Jesus briefly.  Haven’t we had those treasured moments, when we experience God, whether through seeing something, hearing something, or feeling His presence?

Do those moments inspire something in you – your truest self – to rise up and meet that Divine Essence?  Don’t we need to express ourselves better so that our true self is ready to meet Jesus at all times?

On this day, then, let us celebrate our transgender brothers and sisters who have spent a great deal of time and energy discerning the expression of their truest self.  In the face of difficulty and sometimes hostility, they claim their truth.

When I think of being in the presence of Jesus as Peter and John were at the Transfiguration, I see my family as our true selves, singing our praises to God.  Our foster daughter is happy and carefree, the scars from her biological family’s abuse gone.  And my trans daughter is relaxed, not on guard.  My spouse and I no longer need to worry about them.  We can all be God’s beloved children, with whom He is well pleased.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

Introducing…A Song

Blog by Rev. Ron Kurzawa
I want to introduce you to a song. Some of you will already recognize this song but I strongly suspect for many this is a first. I am providing the words of this song, the full lyrics of its three verses. I ask that you read them slowly, carefully. Reflect on the content, what is being said. When you have done that, you will be ready for my comments below. And at the very end of this blog, I am also providing a link to enable you to actually listen to this song.

OK – here goes:

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land. 

So, what do you think? Good song? Strong lyrics? Expressive of the American Dream? Filled with the acknowledgement of God as the true Source of our strength? Yes, I believe all that and more.

And for those who do not know this song, it’s title is Lift Every Voice and Sing, originally a poem dating back to the early 1800’s and eventually transformed into song. And today it is often referred to as the Black National Anthem!

Truth be told, there is no one “Black National Anthem.” Can’t be. Technically, every national anthem across the great continent of Africa and across the island nations of the Caribbean would be a “Black”  national anthem. But this song has given voice to the longings, hopes and dreams of Black citizens of the United States. And as I contemplate the content of this song, these are rich and beautiful longings that capture the reality of history, words that make proper tribute to the Power and Presence of God. And now this song, probably unknown, unheard, unrecognized by so many is also upsetting so many.

The National Football League has decided that, if there is a season this year, it will begin with inclusion of this song. So, what’s the problem with adding another song to the beginning of a game? Well, some would suggest, we have only one national anthem. True — but — We are many people with diverse histories, background and traditions. That’s the beauty of America.

As a youngster, in a Slovak Parish and school, our public events were known to begin with the Slovak National Anthem in addition to the American. As a student in a mostly Polish college, the same held true for singing the Polish National Anthem.

When the Toronto sports teams or those from Montreal play games on our soil, we stand, include and even sing the Canadian National Anthem and when our teams are across the boarder, they afford us the same courtesy.

Bottom line – this is a good song, a beautiful song, a song of our brothers and sisters and now they want to share it with us. We can stand strong and tall and unified. We can and should stand together. And Lift Every Voice and Sing!
Meantime,
keep praying
and stay safe.
Posted in Just Reflecting, News

REFLECTION FOR VESPERS — Sunday July 12, 2020

Reflection by Sr. Rosemary Hoppe, OP

This is my second attempt at a reflection based on the Gospel passage for this Sunday – in the light of the racial tensions in our country.
The seed falls into the darkness of the earth – into the soil—and if the soil is good the seed will sprout forth – the plant will either blossom or bear things good to eat.

The other image that keeps coming to me over these weeks and months is a little different. Small children are seen as having a fear of the dark – not wanting to sleep in a dark room, being afraid of the dark. I keep thinking of this as a very deep rooted fear – perhaps rooted in primitive humanity. I remember walking with one of our sisters who was legally blind. She had recently returned from a workshop where she learned to use a white cane and also to read brail. Where we were walking was wooded and uneven ground – it was dusk so I asked her to lead the way with her cane because she could “see” better than I could.

As we have reflected on racism and the terrible events, the killings of dark skinned people I keep thinking that white privilege and the hatred white people show of people of color – I keep wondering — is it rooted in our primitive fear of the dark? Even our images of Jesus and Mary have been of white skinned humans. Only in more recent times have artists depicted Jesus as a member of other ethnic groups – Black, Native American, etc. This was brought home to me for the first time in the 1950’s. D.H.Holmes department store on Canal St. in New Orleans would sometimes sponsor art exhibits. One I will never forget was of paintings of Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles – all as Jewish people – neither black or white – more like a blending of the two. Of course you may think of the appearances of Mary in the various places as a native of that place. She appeared as one of the people.

Returning again to the fear of the dark — and fear turned to hatred of dark skinned humans. Our Liturgy – our Liturgical life is built on symbols. What if all who are pale skinned could begin to see dark skinned people as symbols of good soil? As that without which good cannot come to be rather than darkness to be feared and hated.

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God Waits for Us

I have been thinking about the gospel for the second Sunday of Easter for quite some time now.

I know it has been a while, but I keep going over this reading repeatedly in my mind.  The reading is from John 20:19-31 – which just  happens to be one of my favorite gospel passages.

In this gospel, John tells the story of Thomas. When Jesus first appears to the disciples after his Resurrection, Thomas was not present.  In their excitement, the disciples told Thomas about Jesus’ appearance, perhaps silently thinking you should have been here.

Thomas is not only doubtful, but wants proof. He says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

I can just hear the other apostles gasping! I, myself, would be thinking: I want proof too.

We all know what comes next.  Jesus appears a week later and calls out to his disciples, “Peace be with you.” He very pointedly turns to Thomas and says, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas devoutly replies, “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus then says, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Jesus’ words pierce my heart, knowing what I hold deeply in my heart.  Blind faith is a struggle for me.  Jesus knows this but I can’t help thinking I wish I had been there. Logically, I know that wishing something were so doesn’t make it happen.

What does bring me hope are the beliefs I hold about God.  I know that God loves me. I know that God is patient, forgiving and merciful.  Jesus gently chastises Thomas for his lack of faith and allows him time to come to grips with his Resurrection. I know, too, that God waits for us.

-Associate Patti Herrick

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Reflecting on Jeremiah 20:10-13

Reflection by Pat Schnee, OPA

In this scripture, we find Jeremiah in deep weeds.  He is being persecuted because of his message. Seems not everybody wanted to hear it, wanted to change their ways.

In the gospel, Jesus is giving instructions to his disciples on their mission going forward.  Interesting words: “Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body…”  Not what you want to hear when you set out on a mission! That doesn’t seem to bode well. Again, it seems like sharing the message might be dangerous…especially if the message asks hearers to change their ways.

Change is hard. And we especially fight change if what we have is working for us.

Our country is finding itself in deep weeds these days. What has been true for a long time is that our way of life is not working equally well for all people. And a significant factor in how well the American way of life is working for a particular person is the color of his or her skin.

Now that is hard for me to hear. It is hard for me to hear because I try at all times to treat everyone with respect. It is hard for me to hear because I have never used a racial slur and would be horrified to hear one.

And it is hard for me to hear…because my skin color is working for me.

Really…hard to hear.

Like everyone else, I’ve had challenges and sorrows and losses, things I wanted very much but did not get. But none of that happened to me because of my skin color. No options were unavailable to me, no suspicions have been directed at me, solely because of my skin color.

Living the gospel…

Jeremiah and the disciples were entrusted with a message: The Lord hears the cry of the poor.  God considers each and every life valuable, even a sparrow’s.  It is the message I am entrusted to live, to share, to facilitate, not only in my personal life but in society, with all that implies for  health care, housing, employment, education…every facet of public life. None of us can do it all; but each of us entrusted with that mission can do something.  And do it we must, just like Jeremiah, just like those first disciples.  Even if it put us in deep weeds.

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