Wednesday’s Word

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


 

Everybody Lies

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, I happen to be shopping in a Kohl’s Department Store and was standing within ear shot of a woman whose cell phone was ringing. She rummaged through her purse, found the phone, and said: “I’m in the doctor’s office.”

George W. Bush lied when he claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bill Clinton lied when he said he did not have “sexual relations with that woman”. Then there was Bernie Madoff who hoodwinked billions of dollars from innocent believers in a Ponzi scheme. (Come to think of it —Ponzi was a liar too.)

The 1919 Chicago White Sox deliberately threw the World Series for money.  If you ever watched the TV series “House”, you know that “everybody lies” is the protagonist’s modus operandi. The apostle Peter lied when he told the woman in the courtyard he did not know Jesus. So lying goes way back.

The June 2017 issue of National Geographic did a cover story on “Why We Lie.” Although I wondered why National Geographic would write this kind of story, I found the research fascinating. It explored the landscape of human motivations for lying.

We lie for many reasons: to cover up a personal transgression, to avoid people, to gain financially or for personal advantage, to give someone a positive impression, to make people laugh. But there is nothing funny about our lying —we get good at it by the time we are eight years old.  It’s a complicated aspect of being human.

Robert Feldman, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, said, “People are not expecting lies, people are not searching for lies and a lot of the time people want to hear what they are hearing.” We tend to accept lies that affirm our world view. Until something strong enough comes around to convince you otherwise, it’s really hard to change your mind once it’s made up.

According to the National Geographic story, we do not recognize lies when we hear them for the simple reason that we expect people to tell the truth.For example, the article notes, if someone claiming to be from the IRS called you on the phone, you would likely believe that the person on the phone was from the IRS if your Caller ID said it was the IRS. This is true, even though Caller ID can be manipulated.

If information does not fit your worldview you tend to ignore it or avoid exploring it. Add social media to the mix and we arrive at the notion of alternative facts, fake news. This is what makes today’s world so challenging. Much of the reason for alternative facts and fake news is money. People may not realize it, but if you click on that sensational headline, someone out there is getting paid.

So what are we to do? We Dominicans, who profess to pursue the Truth, preach the Truth, are particularly sensitive to this issue of what is Truth. Ahh, that’s the kicker, big Truth and little truth, big Lies and little lies. The Truth, the absolutes we all depend on, are being buried under an avalanche of fake facts, schemes and ulterior motives.

Matthew 7:20 “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” This text seems to offer some light to me.  Does the story or statement you hear lead you to a greater good? Or are you left confused by the information?  We should be able to trust our instinctive judgments about the truth or falsehood of an idea.  But today, that’s getting harder to do. I did feel quite confident that I was not in the doctor’s office when that woman in Kohl’s answered the phone.

Sometimes a lie is obvious. At other times, we have to work harder to distinguish a lie from a falsehood. This makes all the more necessary our pursuit of the truth on so many levels.

(Please note: On the July 27, 2017 Leadership Webcast we will use zoom technology to interact with each other on the topic of fake news. Be sure to tune in at 7:00pm and read the suggested “Seven Tips to Spot Fake News”.)

Here’s a prayer that might help:

Dear God, Source of Truth, help me to be discerning in all that I read and hear and please remind me to listen for the deeper truth, one that elevates the common good,  the greater good. Remind me to ask questions of my sources, and not simply accept ideas that confirm what I already believe. Stretch my willingness to evaluate what I read and recognize when it leads to deeper truth in me and a greater good for the world.   Amen.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Making Do.

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting, OP

Our ancestors: almost all immigrants to the U.S. at some time in our family history. Refugees from wars, persecuted for their faith, fleeing famine, carrying dreams of a better life or a desire for adventure. Our ancestors in faith: called by name, given a mission and the promise “I will be with you,” proceeding without detailed instructions or full understanding. Our Dominican ancestors and founders: from Germany, from Cabra, from Slovakia, from the hills of Kentucky, the plains of Kansas, the bayous of Louisiana.

Wherever they originated, wherever they settled, whatever their conception of their opportunity or mission, we know this for certain: beginnings were not easy. They knew privation, discomfort, lack of housing, unfamiliarity with English, dissension in the ranks, illness, problems with pastors and bishops, the mistrust of the people among whom they settled. And they never quite settled, either. They moved on. Communities grew, expanded to new houses, new cities and towns. They founded schools and hospitals and orphanages, served the poor and immigrants, and all this in and from their own poverty.

They made do. In New York, they lived in a rectory basement. In New Orleans they made their first habits out of sheets. In Detroit postulants pulled weeds on the greens of the adjacent golf course to provide additional income. In Kentucky they began in a cramped cabin, and later, lost everything when their first motherhouse burned down. In Akron, there were months of oatmeal and applesauce. In most founding groups they didn’t have the education adequate for the ministries they took on. They begged for what they needed.They prayed urgently. They studied as they could. They made do. They made do for God’s sake.

Maya Angelou tells the story of her grandmother, who in times of crisis or need in the family would say, “I will step out on the word of God. I will step out on the word of God.”

This is the pattern of the scripture readings of this week, both the Hebrew scriptures and the Gospels: the story of God reaching out, naming, calling, sending; the story of humans, none of them a whit more virtuous than we are at our best or worst; none of them sure of the journey or the mission. The Word was “Go.”  And they stepped out in faith.  They stepped out on the Word with essentially nothing but the promise that God was and would be with them. Were they ready? No. Fearless? Probably not.

And here’s the twist, equally applicable to us now with all the unrest that surrounds and unsettles us, and a future we so much want to fathom and prepare for. The Gospel has been entrusted to us. In other words, God is Making Do with us. In Catherine’s words, God is mad, drunk with love, Creator having fallen in love with Creature, a loving so wide and deep that God has become and continues in Christ to become Incarnate in and shine through our limited humanity. And our preaching of the Gospel goes on, amazingly, improbably, because God Makes Do with us, as the letter to the Ephesians assures, with power “infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.“

 

Posted in Wednesday's Word

Children Playing

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

For the past few weeks, we’ve been reading the story of Abraham and Sarah. Today’s reading involves the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael.  Ishmael and Issac are playing together when Sarah’s jealousy and fear for Isaac’s inheritance causes her to demand that Abraham cast them out to the desert to die. We know that when Hagar and Ishmael are exiled, God does protect them and tells Abraham that God “will make a great nation of [Ishmael] also since he too is your offspring.” (Gen 21:13) This great nation will become the nation of Islam.

Two innocent children playing, there’s no mention of animosity between them. But because of jealousy, they can no longer play together. Who knows what relationship could have developed had they not been separated. I wonder if that’s not happening today when we separate children by neighborhoods or walls… when we fear someone who is different from us. What kinds of relationships could they develop?  Would there be peace rather than violence?

Because of Sarah’s fear of Isaac losing his inheritance, these boys will not grow up together. They will not learn how to cooperate and share resources.  Do we let fear of losing what we have separate us from others?  What more could we do to protect our common possession, the earth, if we collaborated rather than isolated ourselves?

I do know that at our core, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, are all related. We have a common ancestor, Abraham.  We share the Golden Rule, a foundational principal of the moral life.  And most, importantly, we were created by God to have dignity. If we can emphasize our common roots, let our children plan together, and not allow ourselves to be separated, anything, especially peace, is possible.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Mind the Gap

Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

Anybody reading this who is familiar with train travel on the East coast will recognize this phrase. When the commuter trains come to station stops, there is always a gap between the train car and the platform, and the disembodied voice is heard “Mind the Gap” or “Watch the Gap” so no one will put a foot down the wrong way. It has happened, and often with dire consequences. No matter how many times you ride the trains, the voice will be heard until you want to say “OK. OK. I get it”, but it is relentless. Yet, no matter how many times it is said, people have still tripped or put a foot down too soon. Not good.

We have lots of gaps in our world. There is the wage gap, the gender gap, the age gap, the achievement gap, and even the gap analysis. We can look all of these up online, google or whatever to try to understand them better.

But how are we mindful of the gaps in our lives? Maybe they are gaps in communications with a friend or loved one. We need to call someone and know it will be a difficult conversation and that gap grows wider the longer we put it off. Can we ever bridge it? What is holding us back?

Is there a gap between us and God for some reason? We may say we want to get closer to God, to know God better, and what do we do about that? Most of the time, we fill that gap with words piled on words piled on words. We go to adoration with our rosaries, devotional books, wonderful prayers that we have said since we were children; that is all good, we know it. But, how do we get to know someone better if we are filling the conversation with our words? How many times have we just sat down in a quiet place at home, in a church, in a park, on the shore, in the forest,  and just it let it be us and God? Sometimes that little knocking we hear inside is God trying to fill the gap. Be mindful.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Tears We Cannot Stop

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

At the moment I am reading a very disturbing essay by Michael Eric Dyson: “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America”. In it, Dyson speaks as a black Baptist minister to white folks about what it really means to be black in America. It is personal, angry, and there is little comfort in his pages.  I have never read such a straightforward and troubling piece, exposing me to the realities faced by our black brothers and sisters in this country. I am disturbed by it because I see my own whiteness contributing to the systemic indifference to black experience that has kept racism (and violence as an acceptable norm) alive for 400 years.

Dyson’s sermon is difficult reading, not because it is intellectually challenging. I simply can’t go too quickly, because every word of it feels like an indictment, a pointed, loving slap of cold water on my face. It is an assault on my assumptions to read his words, yet the tone and credibility of his preaching keep me on the page. He speaks with respect toward white folk, calling us “beloved”, telling us like it is and at the same time, he does not let us off the hook. The Presidency of Barack Obama, the ascendency of Donald Trump’s unapologetic bigotry, the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick, the sad story of Levi Pettit, and numerous examples of black folk victimized by errant police without accountability – all are laid bare and given a new context, a new perspective.

His essay calls to mind the famous songwriters Simon and Garfunkel and their emotionally stirring song: Bridge Over Troubled Water.  There really is a great deal of troubled water under the bridge, much of it is our own making.

His encouragement to white folks comes in an exhortation to empathy.

“Beloved, all of what I have said should lead you to empathy. It sounds simple, but its benefits are profound. Whiteness must shed its posture of competence, its will to omniscience, its belief in its goodness and purity, and then walk a mile or two in the boots of blackness.  The siege of hate will not end until white folk imagine themselves as black folk – vulnerable despite our virtues. If enough of you, one by one, exercise your civic imagination and puts yourself in the shoes of your black brothers and sisters, you might develop a democratic impatience for injustice, for the cruel disregard of black life, for the careless indifference to our plight…

Do not tell us how we should act if we were you; imagine how you would act if you were us. Imagine living in a society where your white skin marks you for disgust, hate, and fear. Imagine that for many moments. Only when you see black folk as we are, and imagine yourselves as we have to live our lives, only then will the suffering stop, the hurt cease, the pain go away.”

In reading this essay, I realize white folk need not fear Dyson’s words. His indignation is genuine, his anger righteous, his hope born from deep faith. I urge everyone to read it.  The bridge over troubled waters is us.
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America is available from Amazon.com and other sources in several formats.

Michael Eric Dyson is an award-winning author, a widely celebrated Georgetown University sociology professor, a prominent public intellectual and a noted political analyst. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Dyson is the winner of the American Book Award for Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. His book The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America was a Kirkus Prize finalist. Dyson has written 19 books.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word