What three words best describe who you are? What words would others use to describe you? Take a moment to reflect on these questions to see what words bubble up for you.
In preparation for writing a eulogy for my Mom’s recent memorial service, my nephew, Andy, asked my seven siblings what three words we would use to describe Mom. The three most meaningful words given were family, sacrifice, and faith. Andy spoke about how Mom embodied and gave meaning to these traits in her life by telling stories he collected from us siblings about her. He invited all of the mourners present to “take up the baton of faith, sacrifice, and family,” asking us to answer these questions:
Who will serve their families well, even when it’s hard?
Who will sacrifice for others as [Mom] did for everyone around her?
Who will keep a long prayer list, pleading to God on behalf of family and others who desperately need those prayers?
After noting the family significance of the “wooden spoon” that Mom used only to scare us little ones when we needed to change our behavior, Andy suggested thinking of it now “as a baton that’s being passed to each of us“ to carry on Mom’s legacy of family, sacrifice, and faith. In his closing remarks, he noted these two Scripture passages in marking the end of Mom’s earthly life and in inviting us to persevere in finishing our own race: “In 2 Timothy 4:7, St. Paul says to his spiritual son: ‘I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…’ In Hebrews 12:1, it says, ‘And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…’”
We each then received a “wooden spoon” with a purple ribbon (Mom’s favorite color that we were all dressed in) containing the inscription, “Finish the Race. Keep the Faith.”
How do you want to be remembered? How will others remember you and what you stood for? What will be your legacy to pass on to others? We know in Christ Jesus the fulfillment of God’s legacy of love for us and so I invite you to embrace the words of the song, All I Ask of You, as sung by Gregory Norbet, OSB, of the Monks of Weston Priory. Let yourself hear and hold onto God’s loving words in the refrain: All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.
God calls each of us for a specific purpose in life. Perhaps you are being called to respond to the words, “Come, follow me” by becoming a religious sister. Discerning what these words mean in your life is part of what our Vocation Ministers are here to help you with. You can find Sr. June, Sr. Mai-Dung, or Sr. Bea’s contact information here. They look forward to helping you discover God’s path for you.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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?