A Reflection for Epiphany

JANUARY 3, 2021, MATTHEW 2:1-12

Preaching by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

The story of the magi is the story of a journey. Astrologers followed a star and came from the east to give homage to the newborn king of the Jews. They studied the skies. When they found something new they looked for its meaning. What this particular star meant, they weren’t quite sure. So they came seeking, looking for some sort of sign of what that star could tell them.

Along the way they must have pondered what this journey might offer them. Would it give them new knowledge? Would they find some hidden wisdom? They didn’t know. They only knew that they were on the journey and if they were open then the journey would show them the way. In time they would learn more about the star and the purpose of their journey.

The Magi found that in the course of their journey that they were changed. Things were different than they thought they would be. They couldn’t go back the way they came. That wouldn’t work anymore. They had changed in the process. They needed to find a new way.

We too are on a journey – we call it life. This journey has taken us to the place where we are now. It has made us the persons we have become. We have so often thought that we know the road ahead. For example, it was usually easy to plan Christmas because it would be like it was last year. But this year, this covid-19 has thrown a wrench into our plans, into our life. This Christmas has been so different. There are times we wish that we could get back to the way things were before.

Like the Magi, we too are being changed by our journey, by this pandemic. Life isn’t, and probably never will be, the way it used to be. How have we changed in the process? What new have we learned about ourselves? What have we experienced in the process of “staying in place”? Have we grown? Or have we just complained about what we aren’t able to do anymore?

The year 2020 is over. With the beginning of a new year we can, like the Magi, “depart (or begin) by a new way”. We can take advantage of the time of covid-19 to see what God might be asking of us. Is this a time to grow more deeply in our spiritual life? Is it a time to simplify, maybe to let go of some of the frivolous activities that used to take up our spare time?  Is it a time to reach out to others to let them know of our love, or to tend to their needs? Is it a time to…?

 

Posted in Weekly Word

What Does God Want for Christmas?

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

For the last few years now, I have used my December blog space to consider what I want for Christmas. And every year, I start off with the same problem: why would I ask for anything when I have so much? It feels oddly uncomfortable to say I want this or I want that for Christmas.

This year — being like no other year– gives me pause to ask the question in a different way. What might God want for Christmas? (hint: its not gold, frankincense or myrrh).

First, I think God would want more patience with the pandemic. It’s been a long weary year and most of us are tired of having to wear a mask and distance socially, agitated at times for not be able to do the normal things of human life (like hugs).  Especially over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Will we remember how to hug again?  I think so, it’s a natural thing, a normal thing, and all we will need do is practice.   God knows that this pandemic will end. We will return to something like what used to be normal. We just don’t know when. So maybe God might want patience for us and with us as we bear down now into a new phase of isolation over the holidays and winter’s cold nights.

Second, I think God would want more money.  More money to pass around to shop owners, restauranteurs, grocery clerks, delivery people, those whose livelihoods have been so deeply wounded by the economic catastrophe of the pandemic. So, I pray that Congress will get its act together and do what needs to be done. Help people who continue to hurt. If God had the money, I know it would be given to the right people.

Third, I think that what God wants for Christmas is a large heaping helping of memory.  Memory of times when family was fun, when snow days were real days off, when we reached into our past and find something joyful to tell a story about or just smile over.  Remember that?  Memory is a healing balm on our souls that helps to smooth over and bring to wholeness the wounded places, the absent friends, the lost loved ones. So, in God’s honor this year, I invite you to tell more stories, tell them like they happened yesterday.  Memories are the best way to lift the blues, the sadness and the weariness of our times.  If revenge is a dish best served cold, then memories are a dish best served warm and plentiful. Don’t just think of your good times alone, tell someone else a story from your childhood. Or better yet, your adolescence, those are the really funny stories.

Most of all, I think what God wants for Christmas is to be God, to be in charge of the universe and of course, God is!  We are not in charge. I certainly am not in charge. We are doing our best to let God be God and God is only asking us to remember better times when we laughed more, sat closer together on the couch, shared food from the same place. God is asking us to be patient, to share what we have with others. To take care of each other as best we can.

Dear God,

All I want for Christmas is you.

Amen.

Posted in Weekly Word

Advent: Attention Must be Paid

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

“Attention must be paid….attention, attention must be paid!”

These words, from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, carry a wife’s torment over the lifetime she has spent with her ever hopeful, never successful Willy Loman, who has died. The urgent pleading of that voice is what I hear this Advent. There’s a drive, an edgy energy that makes the standard “watch and wait” seem anemic. I want to act, protest, give service, and in this time of staying in place, I feel frustration within the bubble of safety I inhabit.

I hear a litany of woes, and the response is always “attention must be paid!”

Black lives matter. Attention must be paid. Loved ones are dying of the coronavirus terrified and alone. Attention must be paid.

Six hundred children, ripped from their parents, who cannot be found. Attention must be paid.

Thousands of workers have lost their jobs, can’t pay their bills, face eviction, wait in miles-long lines of cars for enough food to make it through the week. Attention must be paid.

The discord and rancor in our political situation has been ratcheted up to new and frightening levels. Attention must be paid.

Our earth is being burned and plundered, its future a desperate matter. Attention must be paid.

I know you have more to add. This litany could be so much longer.

Attention must be paid. But how do we see clearly in the darkness and the smoke? How can we hear over the blaring and wailing? How do we bring words of clarity, comfort, hope, and peace when the weight of human tragedy overwhelms and dispirits us–even as we practice social distancing? Shall we turn off the news and expect inner calm? How can we claim to be bringers of peace when we are in flight?  How can we be lights in darkness when we walk in shrouds of sorrow and fear ourselves?

The virus keeps us housebound. But withdrawal will not do. Attention must be paid.  Our frustration builds.  We aspire to respond with the energy and engagement of Dominic, joyful friar, preacher of Grace. So we must observe him as he takes on the world at his feet, and listens to the trouble and the sorrow of Languedoc, its peasants oppressed by poverty and disease and their fields ruined by the clashes of local overlords, vulnerable to prophets of questionable Christian practice.  We must join him in his nights of tears.

His tears rose out of these encounters and his awareness of the little he could offer. He took it all in, suffered it, ached with its burden, and prostrated himself before God, allowing God the freedom to transform his pain for others into Words of Grace.

Contemplative engagement. This is Dominic’s gift to us, the watching and waiting, allowing the “muchness” of it all to enter us, then placing the agonies of our brothers and sisters, our own failings and our helpless hearts before God. And in the darkness granting God the space to transform and send us as Words of Grace and Peace. There is so much more to see and hear and grasp: God active in the past, present and future of humankind. We preach the mystery of Incarnation. Christ has come, is coming, will come–enfleshing God’s passion for entanglement with a groaning creation and a searching humankind. Whatever our limitations we cannot sidestep God’s engagement with us. Attention must be paid! Advent calls us into darkness and out of darkness to witness to the Christening of our world.

Posted in Weekly Word

Hope: A Big Thing Found in Small Ways

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

“Hope is a resource and fundamental to our basic well being.” I know that most people reading this would say that our hope comes from the Lord. Yes, so very true but in the midst of our flawed humanity how do we find that hope, how do we see it in any tangible way? Theresa of Avila has told us that we are the voice, the hands, the feet of Christ therefore people should see that hope in us. That means, friendS, there will be no despairing for you, no despondency, not now and not ever. Seriously? How  can any of us find hope or be hope for any one else while we are in the midst of the craziness of this world as much as everyone else??

There are a myriad of ways, but I will just name one. Could we look to elected leaders for hope? Did someone out there just choke up a little? No doubt. But consider how leaders could be signs of hope. What if they all agreed? What if they ALL did one small thing—-wear a mask! From the smallest town to the halls of Capitol Hill how many people whom we call leaders are seen not wearing masks? How can we even begin to have hope that the life span of this virus can be shortened if a simple thing like a mask becomes the greatest obstacle to our personal freedom?

Leaders stand up, put on a mask when you are with other people and be the examples of hope that we need. I suppose it sounds ludicrous that such an action could be a witness to hope, but who knows????

In the spirit of this Thanksgiving season, I am so grateful for the local leadership in New Orleans who has leaned on science with a good dose of caring for the common good as much as possible. The decisions they have been making are not liked by all, that is expected; but they do not back down in the face of the realities we must accept these days. Thank you to all of them. Are you grateful for the leadership you’re being shown or the leadership you are showing? Keep it up!

Posted in Weekly Word

Blessings for the Thanksgiving Day Table

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, I rediscovered a book, now out of print, 99 Blessings by Br. David Steindl-Rast.  I thought about writing just about one or two of these short poetic gifts, but I realized that the book contains wonderful words of thanksgiving for this time of year. So below is something you can use at your Thanksgiving Day table —whatever form it takes —- and with whomever you spend time. I hope that it helps you express your own gratitude for all that we have, in all the ways we are gifted, and all that we are called to be.

You can also download it here. (Green bold type indicates the work of Steindl-Rast)

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

[READER] Let us pray in gratitude for all that has been placed before: through the work of our hands, the hands of farmers, truck drivers, store clerks and cooks. We begin by remembering the source of all blessings.

SOURCE OF ALL BLESSINGS, you bless us with breath. In and out, in and out, ever-renewing us, ever anew making us one with all who breathe the same air, may this blessing overflow into a shared gratefulness, so that with one breath [we] may praise and celebrate life.

  • As we continue to navigate this season of pandemic, may we know the gift of the breath, of life, of all living creatures with whom we share life.

SOURCE OF ALL BLESSINGS, you bless us with kitchen noises—with the sound of chopping carrots, the rumbling from washing pots and pans, the clinking of silverware, the clang of glass on glass, the whistling of the teakettle, and all the homey rattle and clatter produced by preparing food and washing dishes. May [we] drink deeply from the blessing of being at home that rings in these sounds and make all whom [we] meet today feel a bit more at home in the world.

  • In this circle we share today, may we know the peace and blessings of having a welcoming place, a home, and a shelter from the storms around us.

SOURCE OF ALL BLESSINGS, you bless us with angels— those spirit messengers who come in ever new and surprising forms. To the ancients they were “the Powers,” overawing presences. No image can do justice to their mystery, but when we are alert, we meet them everywhere. May [we] sense them, heed them, and myself become a messenger, for we are all meant to be angels to one another.

  • As we share this meal and time of gratitude, may we be mindful of the angels who surround us, both visible and invisible.

SOURCE OF ALL BLESSINGS, you bless us with friendship— life’s supreme gift, rare, precious, and fragile. May I show myself worthy of my friends by being faithful, patient, and affectionate while I have time to do so, aware that all things are passing, even firm friendships.

[READER: Take a moment to remember friends, those present, and those afar, and those who have passed to eternal life.]

  • All:       On this Thanksgiving Day, may we breathe deeply of all of life, grateful for the gift of breath, grateful for kitchen noises and sounds of home. May we know the angels around us as messengers of a loving God. May we treasure the gift of friendship that nourishes us more than food. And on this Day, we acknowledge and celebrate the meal that is before us, thanking God, the source of all blessings, for all good gifts that surround us.

 

Amen.

All green bold are quotes from 99 Blessings by Br. David Steindl-Rast. Copyright © 2013 by Br. David Steindl-Rast All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Image, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

 

Posted in Weekly Word