On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared freedom for all slaves in the United States. On June 19, 1865, this great news finally made its way to the Black men and women being kept as slaves in the great state of Texas. Two years after the proclamation? We know news traveled slowly in those days, but did it really take two years? Yes, it did.
Was the messenger murdered on the way? Was the news deliberately withheld by the slave owners to maintain the labor force? Did the federal troops actually wait for the slave owners to reap the benefits of the last cotton harvest before they spread the news? History has not recorded why the delay, but a delay there was.
So June 19 has become known as the date for the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery. It is known as Juneteenth, and it is a day when people come together to pray for peace and liberty for all; a day when we can all take one step closer together, to better use the energy that many of us waste on racism.
OFFICAL JUNETEENTH POEM
KRISTINA KAY 1996
From Africa’s hurt we rose, already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,
I recently read a piece with the above title in the New York Times, written by Roxanne Gay, who offers an overview of worrisome situations in the government, international issues, immigration, wars, hunger, the climate crisis, and so on. She ponders what advice she would offer this year’s graduates if she were giving the address about their potential and their futures. One thing is sure: “I don’t traffic in hope. Realism is more my ministry than unbridled optimism. Hope allows us to leave what is possible in the hands of others.” She continues, aligning hope with apathy, complacency, and indecisiveness.
I think she actually is referring to optimism, a state which can be a bit thin and ethereal, and easily lost. I do not think she is describing the Hope we Christians share, which is far more a roll-up-the-sleeves and get-down to business venture. We call it a theological virtue, which means it is both gift and practice, shared with us by God and by us with each other; in the service of God’s future, the gathering of all creation, all peoples, into One—a future for which we have a shared longing but cannot fully embrace. Nonetheless, God has placed us, fired by the Spirit of Christ Jesus, in a world in which he himself suffered amid the trials of human life in an unfinished universe.
Encouraging each other, taking on the burdens as we can and forging on, struggling to remain open to God’s presence among us and God’s design revealed a little at a time to us and through us; praying, singing, preaching, listening, consoling those who are burdened and those who cannot see or feel at this moment, we are buoyed by Hope– not crushed by defeats, bemoaning our helplessness, or yielding to fears that keep us stopped or stuck or hiding.
A huge amount of work is involved in loving and serving God’s people, God’s creation. And here Hope helps us to discern our place in this divine-human entanglement. We are not in charge and we should not take ourselves so seriously. Our lives are a miniscule part of the thousand energies involved over the eons of the Trinitarian adventure; we will not finish the mission. We are weak, and have our faults, we anger and grieve one another, and will never perform to our own satisfaction.
In hoping, we welcome God as the energy, the source and the goal, who is ever gracious and merciful and knows and loves us deeply. Hope keeps us attentive to our limits, as well as to the special call we have, the specific Word we speak, each of us given unique purpose, a labor to love.
Emily Dickinson writes a tribute to hope that begins, “Hope is the thing with feathers/ that perches in the soul/ and sings the tune without the words/and never stops at all.”
Her poem charms me, and has its own truth. But I’m tempted to start with “Hope is the thing with muscles.”
“I am grateful for the opportunity to share these reflections with you each month and have already learned something quite valuable: The order of science and then reflection was daunting and made the blog too long. This month the blog starts with the reflection and at the end simply has a link to the science information. I hope this makes it more engaging!” -Sr. Pat Connick
(This guided meditation invites you to create an image of an ecosystem in your mind and heart. You may wish to have someone read it to you, or record it so you can listen without reading it at the same time.)
Picture a stage from the most marvelous theatre you’ve ever visited, on which a great performance will be held continuously. Imagine on this stage, a place in nature you have visited, that has made already a deep impression on you. A place perhaps from your childhood; a place in which you’ve spent precious moments with a good friend, partner, or spouse; or a place you like to escape to find peace and harmony.
Note it has boundaries, yes, but also points of entry to and exit from the stage. Also, take notice that it contains not only props and sets, non-living members of the stage which set the scene and provide context, but also characters, living members who move among the props and sets.
Now place yourself on the stage:
Feel the earth under your feet.
If there is water, listen to its gentle motion and/or watch its great serenity.
Enjoy the air you breathe in and the exhale that follows.
Experience the breeze if there is one, or rain if you would enjoy that.
Soak in the green of nature: the grass, the plants and the trees with their leaves. These are the part of the ecosystem capable of connecting and embracing energy from our sun by the process of photosynthesis to make oxygen and food for the rest of the ecosystem. Note their beautiful variation in green color and the ones whose fruit perhaps you might enjoy when it are ready. My favorite are black raspberries associated with childhood memories of picking them during August in Ohio.
Perhaps there are animals, maybe even human beings, who rely on the green things of nature or other animals for their food. Is there peacefulness about the acquisition of food or competition for it? Both are natural. Notice that life is sustained by how each animal not only accepts the gift of life in the community, but how each brings a gift to the ecosystem as well. Take note of this pattern in as many animals as you wish before moving on.
Yes, among the creatures are many interactions. Some benefit both parties; some benefit even if the other is unaffected. And in some cases, one benefits and the other suffers or even dies! Each is part of the rhythm of life in the ecosystem, the stage of life. Take a good, long look all around your ecosystem, noticing its patterns of life. How would you describe its story?
But, where do all the used up and deceased things go? Thank God for the effects of macro- and micro-organisms that feed on what we would consider “gross” or unattractive, because one would not long want to ponder the effect of their absence on the place!
There is a beautiful story unfolding on the stage, one filled with peace and harmony, yes…and one where interdependence is the key to its vibrancy. The system has a point of balance, and when stress is present, and it always will be, this tests the ability of the system to return to the previous balance or to find a new one. Yet, an ecosystem that has been stretched by stress to build its resilience may be more robust that one that has never experienced stress in the first place!
Now say good-bye to the ecosystem. In your imagination, when you have seen the curtain come down on the stage, did it signal only the end of its story to you today, or was it the ecosystem’s end itself?
It does raise the possibility that ecosystems have a finite lifetime as do the organisms of which it is comprised. If it did end, my questions to you are these:
Did the end arise out of a natural disturbance as part of a wider sense of nature itself such as through a forest fire, an earthquake, a volcanic eruption or tsunami, a tornado or hurricane, an ice storm or heat wave?
Or was the end because of choices made by a singular species (humanity) because of our urban or farming developments; air, water or land pollution; the clear-cutting of forests; or the removal of mountaintops to mine minerals for ourselves?
If it is the latter, I raise the same question as our Dominican brother Montesino about the abuse of the native peoples of the Americas in the early 16th century by their Spanish conquerors, “¿con que derecho y con que justicia?” (By what right and by what justice is this done?)
Bless the Lord, all you ecosystems, All you producers, bless the Lord, All you consumers, bless the Lord, All you who decompose, bless the Lord Praise and exult God forever!
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Do I periodically reflect upon the rhythm of life in my ecosystem?
What gifts from my ecosystem support my life? What gifts do I bring to my ecosystem?
Did you notice that except for human beings each animal takes only what it needs to survive and thrive? How does this make you feel?
When stressed, how do I return to a point of balance, or find a new one in my life?
Please click here for the science behind this blog.
During the Easter Season we hear from the discourses of Jesus from the gospel of John.
As ambiguous as they may seem at times, they can challenge us to ponder more deeply the mystery of all that Jesus was attempting to teach.
Today’s reading is from the Last Supper discourse. Jesus tells his disciples: “But when he comes, The Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” “He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears” He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
The truth the Spirit reveals is grounded in the teachings of Jesus. We know those teachings from all the other gospels. Sometimes a particular teaching of Jesus will hit us head on. We might think, “Oh, that’s what Jesus was trying to say. I get it now.” Or “I think I’m beginning to understand it better.” At those times it is the Spirit guiding us to fuller understanding. At the same time the Spirit challenges us to live the message in a deeper way.
The beatitudes can contain such a message. Beatitudes – attitudes of being – ways of living our lives. The beatitudes sound simple enough on first reading. But when we take them seriously, they can be a force to change the way we act.
One beatitude that seems especially appropriate today is:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.”
We need justice so badly today. We see evidence of the need for justice every time we turn on the news or see someone begging on the corner. Our Tuesday Peace and Justice Updates keep reminding us of the many justice issues in our world today. Sometimes it feels overwhelming to read about all the needs and figure out what to do. But when we read the details of these needs with an open heart, the Spirit has a way of touching us. Something will stand out as the justice issue that needs our attending this week.
May the Spirit spur us on to do the work needed to make our country and our world a more just place to live.
During the Easter season, our Gospels have almost all been taken from the Gospel of John. One of John’s most powerful metaphors conveys the notion that we are children of Light not Darkness. So, be honest, as you see the news every day, no matter what time, no matter on what media, does it seem to be getting way too dark?
OK, so consider these items that hardly ever make the news: A parish in New Orleans that provides 600 Blessings Bags every month to be given out to the “panhandlers” and homeless men and women who stand on our street corners; and this parish takes about 500 more to share with the Muslim congregation down the street for them to pass out also. A group of “Grannies” who stand and wait at the New Orleans train and bus station and distribute toiletries, water, snacks, towels, etc. to refugees traveling to their next place whether they can call it home or not. The groups of men and women who give their weekends to work in community gardens and to teach children how important the gardens are or who go down into the marsh lands and pick up all the trash so many of us just drop on the ground without a care about where it will end up—like maybe into a drainage canal or tiny rill on our property that drains into a stream into a river into, maybe the Gulf or the Atlantic or Pacific, but that might be far away so we won’t see the damage it causes. Or how about the folks who have been telling us over so many years that our environment is dying; the last news was that extinction threatens about one million species of animals and plants, but as we read the articles we see that it won’t be happening real soon, maybe 100 years from now. Why should we care?
We are children of light and caring is in our blood. Sometimes it gets sluggish and maybe clots form because we find the darkness easier and maybe to difficult to dispel, but eventually, we get a wake up call we just can’t ignore. Have you had yours yet? Be careful! It is just waiting for you.