Weekly Word

Be inspired and encouraged with a weekly reflection on God’s Word and every day life.


 

Where is the Hope?

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

Everyone seems to be looking for signs of hope in this crazy world we call home. Some find it in the face a cat that sits outside the front door every morning in the hope of some food. Some find it during a Mardi Gras parade even when it is raining. Some find it in hearing that Drew Brees will stay with the Saints! Some find  it in the last two minutes of NBC Nightly News broadcasts. Some find it in “cake”. Some find it in the rising of the sun each day so that there might be more possibilities of finding something to hope in.

The believing community knows hope is within each and every one of us, and it is our gift from God to share with others. We are the hope every time we volunteer our time and talents in soup kitchens, donate money to charitable organizations, write letters and make phone calls to encourage our elected men and women to do more so that hope can be a part of everyone’s life. We find hope in prayer because that gives us the energy to go on and be the face of hope for those who believe they have none and there is none.

Wear the ashes, OK. Eat less, OK. But more importantly be a sign of the hope that comes from being believers who cannot despair because we believe God is good and passes that goodness through us to all we meet.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

The Kindness of Strangers, the Meanness of Others

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

An interesting story came my way this weekend that holds up for us the dichotomy of human experience in a fragile balance.  The story as I heard it, in shorthand:

A group of our sisters went to a play here in town and met for dinner at a nearby restaurant ahead of time. Parking was tight and time was short, so the two carloads of theater-goers parked under a NO PARKING SIGN, which said violators will be towed. Well…. It was Saturday night, the establishment that owned the parking spaces was closed, the restaurant was right there. It should be okay.  They went to the restaurant, ordered their meal, enjoyed each other’s company and along comes a waitress with bad news. Your cars are being towed. OH NO! the drivers rushed out, too late to stop the tow trucks. NOW WHAT? Can you imagine?

Here is where the kindness of strangers comes in. Some restaurant patrons heard the fuss and offered to take the sisters to the theater, about a mile away. Yes! There are thoughtful, generous people in the world. Later that night, other generous sisters came to take the drivers to the tow-away location to retrieve the cars and go home. A happy ending to the story. It was noted, in all the fuss, that the shop owner who also owned the parking places was notorious for watching out the window for violators and calling the tow company. Snaring a $168.00 fee each. Just plain mean.

So what are we to make of this story, and what would Jesus say?  The story of the weeds and the wheat in Matthew 13 comes to mind.

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.  The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Let them grow together…  so Jesus is asking us to abide the ill will or evil of others in such a way that God will make a proper judgement, not us. Our place in the kingdom is to do good, to extend a kindness to a stranger, even to the business owner whose actions seemed so mean. To be the balance of good in a world with such a capacity for meanness. Small things and large.

Most of us can only add good when we see and hear of evil, we have little power to change the vastness of the world’s problems. We grow up with the weeds, and it may be that we cannot always tell one from the other. So my prayer today is that we would act in the moment when it is right to extend good to the stranger, to the neighbor, the shop owner, our family, our friends, to the world we inhabit.

Lord, help me see the kindness of strangers as a sign of hope and open my heart to be grateful that the balance of weeds and wheat is up to you.   Amen.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

THOM X 2: Formula for Encouragement in a Chaotic World

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Preparing to preach on the feast of Thomas Aquinas, I did some background reading, while in the midst of exploring writings of Thomas Merton. Two Thomasses who did  a huge corpus of writing—one, the Summa Theologica and countless other writings and preaching, and the other, a great many articles, books, and major correspondence. One Thomas who dialogued thoughtfully and deeply with the realities of his changing culture, while living and teaching and writing in the midst of growing cities, universities, points of view. The other Thomas, who left the world behind to become a Cistercian, then a hermit, but who never disengaged from the culture and thought calling from outside the walls of Gethsemane.  Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas Merton, both scholars and communicators with the world of ideas, deeply absorbed in an obedience that stretched the boundaries of their thought and the conventions of the time, an obedience to the One who could not be known, but called them nevertheless to wrestle language into insight—or insight into language—in changing and confusing times for church and society.

Thomas Aquinas, Dominican Friar, he of giant intellect and systematic thinking, Master at the University of Paris, popular teacher and preacher, was willing to forego the heady joys of conversation and disputation in his university culture, to place his considerable gifts humbly at the service of the student brethren who needed a program of study to ground them in the theology they would need to preach the gospel in a church and in disparate places where understandings and interpretations of the Christian life were pulling at the edges of traditions and systems. But he was no slave to pride nor sought recognition. Grace was at the center of the mystery. The purpose of study had only one end; union with God whose faithful presence and promise always overtook the human tendency to bend or misstate the truth and fail in charity.

Thomas Merton, Brother Louis, with a restless spirit and a deep need to engage with the great thinkers and movements of the post-World War II era, always pushing at the strict rules of the cloister and the mediocrity of the community while knowing in truth it was his home;  a life-choice which pulled him deeper into the Mystery he always experienced as the pull and strain of contradictions he termed his True Self and his False Self,  thirsting for both knowledge and communication, the emptying of himself and the darkness of God’s silence.

Both were deeply aware of the beauty and witness of creation to its creator, the extraordinary brightness of all being, given God’s “sheen” (TA) and people “shining like the sun” (TM), reflections of divine radiance, beauty and joy. For each one, life was a great gift.

I’m not attempting biography here, or spiritual analysis of any merit. It is what both Thomasses speak to me now, today—this difficult time engulfing the whole of the globe, the chaos and confusion, the agony of need, the division and cruelty vastly enlarged and clouded by our instantaneous communication, the widening rifts in humanity—the cry everywhere for love and truth and peace. This is a “too-muchness” before which I quail, with that sense of dimming zeal and ineffective discipleship and wavering hope.

Here’s the lesson for me. They toiled steadily, daily. And by God’s grace, each brother’s work of probing and communicating went way beyond great achievement, if that ever was a concern. Communication found its heart in communion, the contagious enflaming of hearts and minds, a gracious freedom in letting go, as if each heard God say, “Thanks just the same, Tom, but I’ll be running the universe today.”

We know of Aquinas, in the last year of his life, dismissing his work as “all straw” in light of God’s ineffable love. Herbert McCabe OP has written that Thomas dedicated his life to asking the questions “What is God? Who is God?”  McCabe continues, “His great virtue lay in the fact that he let the questions defeat him.”

And one finds in Merton that recurrent theme of self-emptying, death to the False Self in order to be possessed by God; an impossibility if left to himself, through any rational and human way. “The only One who can teach me to find God is God himself.”  One of his most memorable reflections is about the call to the “General Dance:”  “…the Lord plays and diverts himself in the garden of his creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear his call and follow him in his mysterious, cosmic dance…..the more we analyze (life) out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the common dance….Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds, and join the general dance.” (New Seeds of Contemplation 296-297)

Posted in News, Weekly Word

What Are You Hiding?

“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?”

Blog by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

We often think of the lamp hidden under the bed as a talent that we have never developed. It could be something else. Maybe it is something that we stowed away for a future time and then promptly forgot about. Or maybe it is something that a person is trying to hide and doesn’t want to deal with.

Usually, the something a person has hidden and doesn’t want to deal with is an issue that periodically gnaws at him/her. It could be a fault that the person is trying to ignore or an issue with another person. The truth is it won’t go away if it is ignored. Instead, it will continue to fester in the back of our mind until it is brought into the light. There it can be faced, dealt with, and put to rest.

Pulling that issue out and facing it head-on isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it can be very hard. Yet, dealing with difficult personal issues can ease that gnawing feeling. It may also develop into a talent that a person didn’t think she/he had. It may help the person accept themselves with all their foibles. Or in facing the issue with another person, it may develop into a relationship that has meaning.

All sorts of good may come from pulling out that something hidden under the bed and bringing it to light. Even if we choose not to deal with that issue now. It will probably haunt us later. After all, today’s gospel also says:

“For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible;
nothing is secret except to come to light.”

Posted in Weekly Word

Unexpected Gifts

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

The Burren is one of the most desolate looking places in the otherwise lush green landscape of Ireland. Located on the northwest corner of County Clare, the Burren is a limestone (called karst) field, gray and craggy and on the edge of the sea.

The silence is one of the first things you can notice without much coaxing; not too many birds calling or trees rustling from the offshore breezes. Flat as far as the eye can see, there is not much to draw the eyes upward, but downward, well, that is another story.

Obviously one must look down as she walks because of the cracks in the rocks but then…. Looking down also means being surprised. Down between the cracks and the gray stones, something unexpected hits the eye, for growing between the cracks are tiny, beautiful wildflowers of magnificent hues with tender green leaves. They are so small they have to be pointed out to folks or they would just walk over them so as not to trip on the uneven rocks.

The amazement does not stop there. These lovely flowers are harvested, and just down the road and around the bend is a quaint farm place where the flowers are processed and become lovely Irish perfumes. Who would have known? What an unexpected gift from an unlikely looking location.

As the new year of 2020 has begun, what are the unexpected gifts that might come your way? Will they be welcomed or spurned? Will they be fanciful or useful?

God is a God of so many surprises….just keep the eyes of your mind and heart and soul open!

Posted in Weekly Word