Weekly Word

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


 

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

Inauguration Day: Where Do Dominicans Go From Here?

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

INAUGURATION DAY, January 20, 2021– On this Inauguration Day, I pray President Biden and Vice-President Harris have great success, and with their coming to office, that we, as a nation, will hear a new call of commitment to create brave space where we can listen to each other, to see each other as members of one American people, one human family with all its faults and woundedness.

We are passing through a very difficult time, a time of civic illness, where deeply held pain and division and indeed, hate, has been allowed to poison our soul. We remain in a physical illness, where the hope of a Covid-19 vaccine is slowly becoming reality, even while thousands more people still suffer and die. No matter where you stand in the Church, in your family, community or neighborhood, hate has been as much a pandemic as COVID-19 on us all.

Healing and recovery in both our national soul and physical body will take a long time, and one day, Inauguration Day, is no cure. This brings me to share a  piece from Sojourner Magazine about a new book: Art and Faith: A Theology of Making, by Julie Polter. The book looks at the work of Makoto Fujimura, a ceramic artist who explores the connection between beauty and the pain and brokenness of our world. He is a master at kintsugi, the art of making something beautiful out of broken and fragmented pieces. (I would say more but read the article!)

To quote the story: “…We are invited to look with compassion and love on broken lives and broken systems as the starting point of repair, reform or healing, Fujimura said. “Western culture tends to emphasize tossing out broken things and replacing them with something new, or hiding the damage…A western path of ‘fixing’ assumes that fractures are no longer seen and the object looks as if nothing has happened.”

So where do Dominicans go from here? What is our part and pathway?

Dominicans for 800 years have claimed a special relationship with the pursuit of truth. Is this not what we must be about with even more intention? Hate has been around longer than this pandemic, but we will not heal from it with a vaccine in the arm. The false belief that the election was rigged has “entered our bloodstream,” and its poison will continue to fuel hate. Hate is the underlying condition that is manifest in the disease of post-truth society.

Who among us, as Dominicans, has not bristled at this term post-truth? What an awkward and jolting phrase.  How can any society survive when it cannot rely on telling the truth? Lies are lies. Pursuing the truth means asking questions, looking at sources, and not simply smirking at false statements, but calling them out in a way that is not reactionary but invitational. When we pursue the truth, we reject name-calling (e.g. “loser”), or minimizing, or keeping low our expectations of leaders.

Post-truth is an attack on our capacity to think critically and a temptation to settle for unsupported evidence, and easy distortions. Post-truth uses exaggeration, repetitive deception, and blaming to make us believe something false, like a rigged election, or that political candidates who do not share my values are evil. This is especially true of abortion.

Post-truth is lying, plain and simple. It is not of God. The Truth will set us free. But post-truth has made us miserable.

The remedy for lies is truth-telling.  This is not about the pursuit of the philosophical truth, of the absolute Truth, with a capital T, but the persistent insistence on getting to facts. Dominicans should pursue facts as much as we pursue a philosophical understanding of truth. If my conviction about anything is so absolute that I cannot be open to a question about my assumptions, or I am dug in so deep that I don’t even see you, then we truly are in a post-truth, pre-fascist society. In a fascist state, critical thinking is prohibited. Questions are prohibited, “as if nothing has happened.”

How might we renew our commitment and inaugurate today a refocusing on listening, on empathy, and the truly brave act of seeing the brokenness of the “other” as part of the brokenness of “us?” What form will the pursuit of truth take for you? Does our tradition ring in you a desire to not only ask questions and explore meaning, but also to speak with a desire for what is right –out of a heart that truly seeks?

In the scripture for last Sunday, we read the call of Samuel, a familiar tale of a sleepless night and a call to be a servant of the Lord. The last line is the one that struck me the most: “Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” (I Samuel 3:19).

To be sure our words do have an effect. Note Fr. James Martin’s article in America magazine where he lays out the role some church leaders and pastors played to incite the violence at the US Capitol on January 6. “The level of our alienation from one another is at a heartbreaking and dangerous place for our church and for our country. This woundedness is deep and serious.  Ironically a group of people who espouse a pro-life stance holds some responsibility for the insurrection.” We cannot act as if nothing has happened.

How might our words have an effect?  Might we truly pursue the truth, which is our living tradition, our capacity to not be satisfied with pat answers to complex questions? May this be an Inauguration Day for us too. Can we pursue truth by creating brave spaces intent on bridging the hate, the poison, and distrust we have witnessed?


Invitation to Brave Space

By Micky Scott Bey Jones

Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
But It will be our brave space together, and We will work on it side by side.


I highly recommend further reading:

The American Abyss by Timothy Snyder, an essay in the New York Times Magazine, in which he asserts “post-truth is pre-fascism”.

Art and Faith: God is in the Making by Julie Polter, on the work of Makoto Fujimura. Sojourner Magazine, February 2021 on how art and faith open us the recovery of our brokenness.

Fascism, a Warning” by Madeleine Albright,  available at Amazon.com

How Catholic Leaders Helped Give Rise to Violence at the U.S. Capitol” by James Martin, SJ, America Magazine, January 21, 2021.

Posted in Weekly Word

The Hopes and Fears of All the Years

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

This phrase from “O Little town of Bethlehem” has stayed with me through the Advent-Christmas season, and was “writ large” you might say, in the violence at the Capitol on January 6.   The phrase “are met in thee tonight” in the context of the Christmas carol doesn’t suggest violence, a crashing together of hopes and fears from all sides, but has always had a sort of poignance, a tribute to human suffering and human dreams, and God’s answer to our disparate, desperate, dissonant ways of life, hopes and dreams for peace and happiness.

“How still we see thee lie….”A classic Christmas card: dark blue velvet sky, the twinkling of stars, and a ray of light shining down on the silhouette of a rough structure with a father and mother and baby under its roof.

Perhaps you and I are beyond the “sweet baby Jesus” approach to Christmas. We aren’t so much taken with the birth as such, we’re not visitors at the stable, we are farther along in the story, watching and  listening for  the Christ in history, the meaning of our nearer past and present.

Tragedy is too much with us, and with the vast unfiltered instancy of the internet we know more than our hearts can take, and fear is not so much of the unknown as the partially known. We have  seen unprecedented joblessness and hunger, fires and floods. We have argued over true and and alternative facts and who and what can really be trusted. The pillars of democracy are shaking, our proud view of our nation as defender of freedom in the world has taken a pounding. Assumptions of patriotic unity and Christian values, the guarantee of success as the product of hard work, the potential for good through more sophisticated technology cannot be counted on. The hopes and fears of all the years have taken on considerably more weight  and peril.

The Christmas season is spent, and we’re taking down ornaments and lights, wreaths and creches, and have begun Ordinary Time.  But these times are far from ordinary. This new year has already brought rates of pandemic that are exhausting our resources and our health providers.    A mob assault on the Capitol shakes our national stability, stokes fears of democracy coming apart at the seams.  We don’t see an end to these perils, only more contagion.

In our liturgical year, there is always a return to the beginnings, and the assurance of God’s dynamic presence as we remember and are made present again to the mystery of salvation.

So we begin again. The birth, the epiphany, the flight, the return, the baptism and revelation of God’s naming: Beloved.  This man, this curiously ordinary Beloved comes and bids us follow.,  a step at a time, day at a time, a short parable, a quiet cure, a believer here and a resister there, a fear quenched, a boundary crossed, a sin forgiven, a meal with followers. None of it shouts “Miracle! Spotlight!”   And then comes betrayal and death.  The hopes and fears of all the years swallowed in darkness. But Jesus is the Christ, and more than a promise—a Presence in the breath of the Spirit,  Word made flesh and with us always.

The Mystery of Incarnation  is manifest yet hidden, present and absent, moments of heightened appearance followed by a fading into everydayness.  Emmanuel is the name of divine creativity woven into our flesh; loving accompaniment through it all, despite our fears, failures and inattention, our casual cruelties to each other and the earth our home.

T.S. Eliot wrote of hints and guesses. “The hint half guessed, the gift half-understood, is Incarnation.”* The rocks and stones are singing and the Spirit groaning with us in one great act of giving birth that encompasses Bethlehem and Galilee and Jerusalem and Calvary and the Garden, that crosses every border, speaks every language and holds all the hopes and fears of all the years and our constant plea: O come to us, abide with us, our God, Emmanuel.

*The Dry Salvages

Posted in Weekly Word