Pray Always

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

I once saw the movie Secondhand Lions, from 2003; don’t know if any of you ever did. It is an intergenerational movie, pretty-male centered and parts of it are tough to watch, but the quote below is from it. A friend of mine posted it recently, and I gave it some reflection.

“Sometimes things that may or may not be true are the things that a (person) needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good, that honor and courage and virtue mean everything. That power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this: that Love, true Love never dies. Doesn’t matter if any of this is true or not. You see, a person should believe in these things, because these are the things worth believing in.”

The old guys in the movie are trying to impart some wisdom to their new young ward, and they do it in some eccentric ways, but this quote seems to fit into all that we have going on today. The rise in violence, physical and emotional, against people who are not white or straight or male or Christian is growing more and deeper. So, I guess those perpetrating the violence do not believe that people are basically good but that maybe only some people are good and the rest, well they just get what they deserve.

Our country and our church have some heavy responsibilities these days and the citizens and members of each one look to leaders to give guidance and direction for the choices we make. We do not have to follow the direction we are given, but true believers want to do just that to stay in the good graces of the leaders. Some of us are beginning to question which leaders to follow, and everybody has his/her favorite and will defend them to the death (slight exaggeration, but only slight).

We may or may not have needed this year of pandemic or the protests over the shootings of so many people of color, but it is what has exposed some deep and bloody wounds in our “great America” that we have tried to butterfly stitch, cover with gauze or just ignore and hope they would heal on their own. That remedy does not seem to be working very well at all, so where do we turn?

Prayer, faith, prayer, faith, prayer! We can all say that we have been praying and keeping the faith and look where we are. I can say, keep praying and be faithful, persistent and trusting! Reflection will reveal where God has been working in spite of us. It is hard, and I am tired, but God never tires and will hold me when I need it.

Posted in Weekly Word

Homily for the First Week of Lent

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Irascible. Unfathomable. Unpredictable. Maddening. Enigmatic. Endlessly. Elusive.

This is our God….and Jesus is clearly in cahoots with him, her or it.

This is the God of the liturgy of the first week of Lent.

God, we plead: Make up your mind!

Wednesday we were supposed to blow the trumpets and fast publicly–and–Jesus tells us to do it in secret…..

Thursday Deuteronomy told us we were supposed to choose life—and Jesus tells us to choose death– the cross….

And today…..

the God of Isaiah tells us we’ve got this fasting thing all wrong

and Jesus doesn’t give a feather or a fig for it–

he’s into wedding banquets.

So– what is it, God?  Are we fasting or feasting? What exactly do you want of us?

So I do what every introductory homiletics student is warned against.”DO NOT BEGIN BY QUOTING THE DICTIONARY.” I go to the dictionary anyway. This is God’s fault, not mine. Surprise. I  have walked right into  the midst of a crowd of words all spelled and sounding the same, but used as varied parts of speech, each having its own singular meaning. This is a hermeneutic of homonyms!

FAST: (I read):

v.i.:  to abstain from food; to eat sparingly or abstain from some foods

adj: characterized by quick motion; moving or able to move rapidly

n: the practice of or the time of fasting.

adj.  firmly fixed; adhering firmly; not easily freed; firmly loyal

That’s it, of course.  The word is right, but we have the wrong definition!  Or the wrong part of speech!  It’s not “fast” the noun that we observe–and it’s not “fast” the verb that we do–

It’s all in the adjective–it’s about holding fast, firmly fixed, loyal:  connected.

WHAT GOD wants–what Jesus is most interested in–is FASTENING: relatedness; inseparability; stuckness.

“You shall love the Lord your God….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So who cares says God, how pinched, pallid and prune-faced you get if you don’t care about the homeless and hungry, the victims of injustice, the refugees, the ones with no clothes to cover them, the ones with no voice?

And how long has it been since you called your lonely Aunt Ethel?

If your heart is not fastened on them, your heart is not fastened on me.

And besides, adds Jesus, isn’t the bridegroom with you?  Are you fastened on me–Have you “put me on”–?  Are you throwing banquets daily–are you rehearsing the feast of the reign of God….do you have, to steal a thought from preacher Fred Craddock–an endless paschal party going on in the back of your mind?

Fast if you want. But make it a fast of connection. A Fastening – fast.

Who do you fast with?  Whose burdens, fears, sorrows and hungers do you share? For whom do you make this a prayer?  For whom do you intercede?

Feast if you want.  Easter is real, now, we haven’t erased it–even in the liturgical     churches!

But feasting makes no sense without connection to celebrate. A fastening-feast. So, who will be your guests? Which highways and byways will you comb? Who will you reach out to share the feast with?

Then, says God ( Is. 58: 10b,11): Then light shall rise for you out of darkness…the Lord will be your guide always and will give you plenty even in the parched land…will renew your strength, and you will be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

Here I am….eternally, irascibly, unfathomably, maddeningly and madly…..fastened: on you.

Posted in Weekly Word

LENT? Huh! What Is It Good For?

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

I hate driving behind someone who is lost. You know the one: the driver that goes so slowly you don’t know if you can pass or not; the driver that swerves into your lane so suddenly you almost don’t hit the brake and then they slow down to look at the street names; the driver that doesn’t use the turn signal but turns anyway because the street they are looking for (you have no  idea which one) suddenly looms on the left or the right but not from the lane they are in at the moment.

You probably have other descriptions of their actions, but you get the picture, clearly the driver is lost.

What do we do—HONK,of course, ‘cause that always works, right? Makes us feel better. Or we yell at them, from the safety of our own car. Or we pray that this won’t become a road rage situation; oh not through you but through those other drivers also being inconvenienced by this lost traveler. It sort of seems like a no win situation for anyone until that driver finds what they are looking for on the same road you are traveling.

There are lots of ways of feel lost. Today, people are lost because their routines have been turned upside down. People seem lost because their friends are dying or are sick, and they can’t help them. They are lost because the places that usually held answers for them seem just as confused as they are.

When we are with people who say they are lost what happens? Do we “honk” at them, say we know how they feel, give them a hug and say it will get better? Do we ask if they want to pray or if you can pray for them? Do we just sit and listen, because we are just as lost as they are.

The only guide we have to help us try to stay in the best direction is something called faith. Most of us have faith in God; some call it a higher power; some call it the universe. Whatever it might be, it is something that takes us out of ourselves and shows us possibilities we might never have considered.

Why do we need Lent? What is it good for? We are all lost in some ways. Lent is a time to look at the roads we travel and ask how ready we are to change course if necessary. Are we just going to swerve and inconvenience others, or will we be able to find the guides we need to make hope filled decisions? That’s why we need Lent.

Posted in Weekly Word

Ash Wednesday: The Art of Rending, Tending, and Mending a Broken Heart

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, I came upon a speech by Meryl Streep given at the 2017 Golden Globe awards that captured a painful moment we should not forget. I invite you to view Meryl Streep’s speech here.  In a way, this is all we need to know during Lent: that our broken hearts need mending. Healing is a slow and grace-filled process that requires our courage, not just on a cosmetic surface level, but in a deep way that gets to the roots of our pain.

Matthew’s Gospel for Ash Wednesday would have us rend our hearts, not our garments. To open up our broken hearts and seek healing, to tend to our hearts, seek compassion, receive the forgiveness and acceptance we long for.  This year, this very strange and challenging year, Lent may be an invitation to tend to our own broken hearts, in the places where we have lost sisters and family members without the ritual, the visits, the gatherings that help us remember. In the absence of touch, the embrace, the close physical encounters that help heal our hearts, how might we mend our hearts and the hearts of others?

Streep talked about the art of empathy. She asks: Isn’t that what actors do, offer a glimpse into the experience of someone else?  Reaching into that sacred space of another’s heart. The art of mending the broken heart, is this what we might be called to this Lent?

Last month, I mentioned an article in Sojourners magazine about this very topic. In God is in the Making, Makoto Fujimura talks about the art of kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics using gold, or silver to restore a cup or bowl. It is the act of repairing, but not masking the fractures. In fact, in kintsugi, the breaks still show, so that we can appreciate the beauty in the brokenness. I’m suggesting that in these days, the Gospel call to rend our hearts, not our garments, is calling us to open our broken hearts to the suffering of those– near and far –who are in pain. To again recognize that all of us have known disappointment, sadness, loss, and brokenness.

This is how Jesus healed. He met people where they were, not denying pain or suffering, but facing it, (rending open his own heart). He acknowledged the pain of the other (tending to the wound in the other). And He brought forgiveness, healing, and wholeness to the other.  (mending the other person)

The art of empathy is about presence to the suffering or disappointment of another person, with whatever circumstances we find ourselves: the sister down the hall, the children home from school, the spouse who goes out to work every day.  Could this be our call at this time as we look at one another with new eyes? Is the art of empathy what Lent is offering us this year?

Empathy demands deep listening to the experience of the other, even if we feel like we have heard the same story over and over again. The same complaint, the same whine, the same grumbling.  Empathy is an act and an art. It is an acknowledgment of a fracture, a wound, even a chronic condition. And we may not even know that our open hearts have begun to heal another person because we met them where they were, listening for a time and held their pain. We are all artists, all of us can rend, tend and mend.

As Princess Leia said, “Take your broken heart and make it art.”

 

For more Lenten resources from the Dominican Sisters of Peace, click here. 

Posted in Weekly Word

The Beloved Community

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. often wrote and spoke about the Beloved Community. It referred to the notion that we live in a global community in which all people can share in the human and natural resources of the earth. It is a community of inclusion on all levels of society. He said that poverty, hunger and homelessness would never be tolerated, and all would share equally in the earth’s bounty.

I think I have heard words like these before and found them again in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2:

“… all who shared the faith owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed…. They praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.”

The Beloved Community in the year 2020 has had unprecedented experiences so far. We have lived through a presidential election that rivals all the chads that were ever stuck on a ballot; are living through a global pandemic, and have stood together to demonstrate the need for racial justice. Yet not all the members of the Beloved Community have achieved the desired results as members of the community. Does this mean the Beloved Community does not exist? Is it just “pie in the sky”?

The inauguration, though a much more subdued experience than we have known in the past, gives us glimpses of what could be. The poetry of Amanda Gorman is a wonderful example of preaching for hope, and phrases like “we are striving to form a union with purpose” or “ … even as we grieved , we grew; even as we hurt, we hoped; even as we tired, we tried” give us the possibility of possibilities unexplored.

Now as we begin the year 2021, look around you; check out your neighborhood; listen to your local news. There are so many possibilities to create that community every day.

Signs of the possibility of a Beloved Community exist; we can perfect them; we can continue to build the Beloved Community as best we can. The times may be insane; the needs may be great, but we are the people of Peace in the Beloved Community.

Posted in Weekly Word