Just Reflecting

“Just Reflecting” features a variety of blogs and bloggers discussing various social justice topics that we encounter in our daily lives, whether it be within our communities or own families.


 

Reflection by Patricia Herrick, OPA

In the gospel, John 16:16-20 Jesus tells his disciples, “A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.” The disciples look at each other, struggling to understand exactly what Jesus means by this statement.

I can just see Jesus, studying their raised eyebrows, their pursed lips, their silence, reluctant to ask him for an explanation.  Jesus says to them, “You will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices, you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

Trying to place myself in this setting, I believe I would have reacted similarly to the disciples. As soon as I encounter something I cannot grasp, I immediately begin searching the internet, reading articles, asking questions to the point of annoyance.

Despite having the benefit of age, time and religious education, I assume I might have understood Jesus more than the disciples.

What I admire, though, is the disciple’s acceptance of the bigger picture and a willingness to delay their understanding of the details.

This is what I believe faith is, believing without seeing, hearing without understanding and placing our faith in Jesus.

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“A time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing.” so sayeth Qoheleth

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

We’re all in this together.”  You’ve perhaps heard this from Ohio governor Mike DeWine in his daily conferences, and seen in a variety of nicely composed reminders on TV.

People are living up to that exhortation., and  have shown in marvelous ways their reaching out in care for each other: comforting, cooking and distributing food, looking in on the isolated,  phoning and zooming  and when we physically cannot touch or serve others—so many needing reassuring and hope—we must trust in God’s embrace of a world in confusion and division. Do you, along with me, still wonder what we can do, how we can help while safely tucked away in our homes and convents? We turn to prayer with a certain urgency.  After all, our prayer, our dwelling in the Word of God calls Dominicans to share the fruits of contemplation…

We are in Eastertide, with earth-life blooming with vivacity around us, yet to me it feels more like Advent—or the Babylonian captivity. All around us people are in mourning, in worry, in sadness, in financial peril, in fear, anger and sadness, and here we are waiting, sharing the uncertainty, safe for the present, but anxious to know what a future for us, the U.S., the world, is going to look like, how we will come back together whenever the virus is under control. And perhaps we are even more anxious because it seems to many of us that we are not essential, we are not out there on the front lines, doing the works of mercy, and we wonder how we are living our Dominican mission—sharing the fruits of our prayer and contemplation, which is such a strong part of our heritage..

We are needed and we will be needed, because the other Dominican “pillar” we have right now, the one to which we daily witness in oh so ordinary ways, is community, our common life.  At present, we hear a good deal of “we’re in this together,” being good neighbors, supporting our brothers and sisters by staying distant.  But as we know, along with the true goodness of the many shown in this time, we also notice the great fissures in our human society. As we form a “New Normal” our charism of common life gives us the graced duty of sharing our gift of Peace which is able to collapse the physical distance or social distance we maintain.

When we  see a ministry assignment to “prayer and presence” we know that the word “Presence” is a multi-layered word with  a range of possibilities for loving and caring and tending to sorrow and pain, offering kindness and cheer, taking time to listen to a person in distress. We are connected.  We participate in the loving-kindness of a God who desires not only presence but Embrace in the now of Eastertide, celebrating the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, opened to us in the spaciousness of the Holy Spirit. This is truly an other-centered way of living, the Good News which those newborn Christians shared with such joy in those first communities of Christians, as Acts has been recounting.

“We are in this together.”  We have two precious gifts to offer in helping to mend and to heal and to reconcile– our rootedness in contemplation, and witness through common life, our sisterhood.  And a title that reveals the power of our prayer and presence: Dominican Sisters of Peace.

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A Reflection by Sr. Ellen Dunn, OP

In these precious hours of time on our hands, day after day, there is a unique opportunity at our individual doorsteps. I’m just now waking up to it in a new way. Mindful of our scriptural preparation for pre-chapter and Chapter 2021, I have been reading about Ruth and Naomi, about Mary and Elizabeth. Since I feel that I can understand the Visitation story better than Ruth, I recently decided to think about my time here in Mingo Junction as time spent in companionship with Mary and Elizabeth. The biblical account is pretty straightforward with few details—just the facts. But I noted the simple verse: Mary remained with her about three months and then she returned to her home. It was the ‘about three months’ part that grabbed me—hearing daily news reports of scenarios about the immediate future.

As I continue to reflect on the days Mary spent in the hill country with Elizabeth, attending to her needs, helping with household chores, the more I realize that it’s really Elizabeth I am aware of. I am clearly Elizabeth in this duo, and as I begin to meditate on this truth, I recall the many ‘Marys’ who have been doing kind things for me over these odd weeks in my home cloister—my next door neighbor, Deana, who gets me groceries & sometimes dinner, then there is Karen (a former student of mine) who calls nightly, and still another Karen who brought Easter dinner & additional cooked meals. So Mary has been quite present to me in these strange days of Covid-19. She has not been sitting idle by the well or by the kitchen fire. And when Mary wasn’t assisting Elizabeth in some way, there was always Zachary who surely needed attention as well.

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A Reflection by Associate Patricia Herrick, OPA

How many times have you heard these old expressions: Every cloud has a silver lining. When God shuts one door, he opens a window. There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. I am thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon my strength?

What motivates you to find the good in a bad situation? What can we gain from an examination of the pandemic we are now experiencing?

I am amazed by how not being able to attend Mass has contributed to a deeper relationship with my God.

First, I have found myself with plenty of time to pray, no excuses.

I have also found myself with absolutely no distractions while listening to the world of God via YouTube. It has increased my listening ability drastically. I almost feel as if the priest (or God) is speaking directly to me.

I find myself trying new things, listening to biographies of saints, finding new ways to pray, reading the oppeace.org website, exploring Christian blogs, etc. One link leads to another, putting me on a more expansive and exciting fact-finding spiritual journey.

Being sequestered in my home has been the ultimate challenge. There’s only myself, my husband and our youngest daughter. We are finding it hard to avoid each other’s nerve endings, yet good things have resulted.

We have become involved in good family activities — reading, watching movies, playing cards, working puzzles, watching church services and praying more together than ever before. The time that we are spending together is enriched and has more depth and meaning. It is helping us expand and deepen our relationships with each other.

I am flabbergasted by the response of the common person to this global crisis.

I see and hear about people who are feverishly sewing masks, gowns, or caps for medical personnel. I am amazed at the medical personnel who have the courage to expose themselves and their families to the virus so that others may benefit. I am impressed by all the stories that I am hearing about how communities are coming together to provide food for the poor, the unemployed, and the homeless.

I’m astounded at the number of businesses who have provided supplies for masks and gowns; schools that are staying in touch with their students; and magazines that are offering free entrance to websites so parents can find activities for keeping their children busy and engaged. It’s truly fulfilling to witness the number of people who have stopped to ask themselves the question, “What can I do to help?”

The coronavirus is frightening and devastating. When we look back on this time period 10 years from now, we will not only recall the negative aspects of a deadly disease and the number of people who succumbed to the illness. We will also recall all the good that came from the global and individual effort to sustain ourselves during the crisis.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

A Reflection on Lockdown

Reading: John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “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 answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Reflection by Anita Davidson, OPA

How familiar does this scene feel to us right now?!  “The doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear…”  And then, “…a week later his disciples were again inside…the doors were locked…” I’ve lost track of how many days of sheltering in place we’ve completed now, but it seems like a very long time.  I hope that it isn’t just fear that’s keeping us inside as it was for the disciples.  I hope that there is also a large portion of love, care and compassion for each other that is holding us within the safety of our homes.  We who are healthy (and I pray you all are) are staying home to protect not just ourselves but most especially those who are most vulnerable among us – the elderly, the sick, those whose immune systems are compromised. Our sheltering in place is the most powerful communal act of love that the world has seen, certainly in my lifetime and perhaps in recorded history. And that alone is a Lent and Easter miracle that none of us could ever have imagined or asked for!

For the disciples, Jesus showed up in spite of the lockdown and wished them peace.  And breathed the Holy Spirit into them.  What a miracle!  We hope that if we’d been there, we’d have received that gift with open hearts and much joy.  It seems, though, that the disciples didn’t respond that way.  After all, a week later they were still frozen in fear behind locked doors!  Is it any wonder that Thomas didn’t believe what they said about Jesus’ visit?  They were lousy witnesses!  It wasn’t Jesus that Thomas didn’t believe in. Thomas doubted those fearful, stuck disciples who didn’t seem the least bit transformed by Jesus’ arrival. And it was only Thomas who responded to Jesus’ second visit with the most powerful and heartfelt profession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” Yes, Thomas believed because he had seen, but the other disciples had seen, too, and it wasn’t enough to move them beyond their fear into the work for which Jesus had tried to prepare them for three years. Thomas didn’t just see their beloved rabbi whom they thought dead and now had come to life. He saw the deeper reality of Jesus, the Christ. And spoke it out loud.  I’ve long thought that poor Thomas has gotten a bad rap for all these thousands of years being called “Doubting.”

So here we are, in 2020, on lockdown just as were the disciples. Are we able to see through and beyond our fear and impatience to the greater Divine Reality in whose presence we are basking, even now? If we aren’t, how can we open our eyes and our hearts and move from doubt to faith?  If we are able, are we allowing ourselves to be transformed by it? Are we credible and persuasive witnesses who can help others to believe even when they aren’t able to see?  Can people believe by our lives that they are forgiven, and loved, and filled with God’s Spirit?  It might seem a bit challenging to respond to the call to be witnesses when we are quarantined. However, our presence goes well beyond the physical.  Think about what you choose to post on Facebook or Instagram; what kind of emails and text messages you send on to others; the content of your conversations in phone or video calls.  Consider how you are praying in these times.  Each of our actions and attitudes have ripple effects we’ll never know about, but they are part of the legacy we leave in our wake.

This very strange and surreal time that we’re living in feels quite a bit like the world of Jesus’ disciples after his death and resurrection. Let’s learn from Thomas and open our eyes and see and recognize Jesus’ presence with us in the midst of it all. Let’s have the courage to be open to the transformation that is surely being offered and let’s speak it out loud however we can to encourage one another and ourselves as we move through our fears and into a brand new future filled with hope.

Posted in Just Reflecting