Weekly Word

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


 

When Peace Seems Impossible

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, shown in her pottery studio

The incursion of Russian forces into Ukraine has been deeply disturbing to me. I feel some days that I am witnessing what it must have been like during World War II. I wonder are we in World War III? How is it that in this time—  in the 21st century— a superpower can simply invade another sovereign nation in a brutal attempt to take it over? I just find that impossible to believe, yet, it is true.   So many innocent people have been displaced as refugees who have lost everything whole villages are without power, water, food, or shelter. They are my sisters and brothers. They could be your family. We all have family in Ukraine.

Peace does not seem possible to me. Yet as a woman of peace I want peace, I seek it. I pray for it. Peace is not simply peace of mind or peace of heart, or peace in my house or neighborhood. This moment calls for the world to put a stop to this war.  We dream of peace that is truly the absence of war, and when war comes it must be stopped. But I feel, as I suspect you feel, that peace seems impossible.  What are we to do? All I can offer is a prayer from someone more eloquent than I can be in this terrible time.

It so happens that in 2016, Sr. Pat Twohill narrated the poem by John O’Donohue, For Peace. I offer the video and the poem to you in the hope that our prayers will bring comfort to those who are suffering, and an end to this war.

 

 

For Peace  

As the fever of day calms towards twilight
May all that is strained in us come to ease.

We pray for all who suffered violence today,
May an unexpected serenity surprise them.

For those who risk their lives each day for peace,
May their hearts glimpse providence at the heart of history.

That those who make riches from violence and war
Might hear in their dreams the cries of the lost.

That we might see through our fear of each other
A new vision to heal our fatal attraction to aggression.

That those who enjoy the privilege of peace
Might not forget their tormented brothers and sisters.

That the wolf might lie down with the lamb,
That our swords be beaten into ploughshares

And no hurt or harm be done
Anywhere along the holy mountain.

John O’Donohue, Irish poet and philosopher

 

And all the people said, “Amen.”

Posted in Weekly Word

A Reflection on the First Week of Lent

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Irascible. Unfathomable. Unpredictable. Maddening. Enigmatic. Endlessly Elusive.

This is our God…and Jesus is clearly in cahoots with him, her, or it. This is the God of the liturgy of the first week of Lent.

God, we plead: Make up your mind!

Wednesday we were supposed to blow the trumpets and fast publicly – and – tells us to do it in secret.

Thursday Deuteronomy told us we were supposed to choose life – and Jesus tells us to choose death – the cross.

And today the God of Isaiah tells us we’ve got this fasting thing all wrong and Jesus doesn’t give a feather or a fig for it – he’s into wedding banquets.

So – what is it, God? Are we fasting or feasting? What exactly do you want of us?

So, I do what every introductory homiletics student is warned against. “DO NOT BEGIN BY QUOTING THE DICTIONARY.” I go to the dictionary anyway. This is God’s fault, not mine. Surprise. I have walked right into the midst of a crowd of words all spelled and sounding the same, but used as varied parts of speech, each having its own singular meaning. This is a hermeneutic of homonyms!

FAST: (I read):

v.i.:  to abstain from food; to eat sparingly or abstain from some foods

adj: characterized by quick motion; moving or able to move rapidly

n: the practice of or the time of fasting.

adj.  firmly fixed; adhering firmly; not easily freed; firmly loyal

That’s it, of course. The word is right, but we have the wrong definition! Or the wrong part of speech! It’s not “fast” the noun that we observe – it’s not “fast” the verb that we do – It’s all in the adjective – it’s about holding fast, firmly fixed, loyal: connected.

WHAT GOD wants, what Jesus is most interested in is FASTENING: relatedness; inseparability; stuckness.

“You shall love the Lord your God….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So, who cares, says God, how pinched, pallid and prune-faced you get if you don’t care about the homeless and hungry, the victims of injustice, the refugees, the ones with no clothes to cover them, the ones with no voice?

And how long has it been since you called your lonely Aunt Ethel?

If your heart is not fastened on them, your heart is not fastened on me.

And besides, adds Jesus, isn’t the bridegroom with you? Are you fastened on? Have you “put me on”? Are you throwing banquets daily? Are you rehearsing the feast of the reign of God? Do you have to steal a thought from preacher Fred Craddock – an endless paschal party going on in the back of your mind?

Fast if you want. But make it a fast of connection. A Fastening – fast. Who do you fast with?  Whose burdens, fears, sorrows and hungers do you share? For whom do you make this a prayer? For whom do you intercede?

Feast if you want. Easter is real, now, we haven’t erased it – even in the liturgical churches! But feasting makes no sense without connection to celebrate. A fastening – feast. So, who will be your guests? Which highways and byways will you comb? Who will you reach out to share the feast with?

Then, says God (Is. 58: 10b,11): Then light shall rise for you out of darkness…the Lord will be your guide always and will give you plenty even in the parched land…will renew your strength, and you will be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

Here I am…eternally, irascibly, unfathomably, maddeningly and madly…fastened: on you.

Posted in Weekly Word

Reflection on the 3rd Sunday in OT

Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10 – Today is holy to the Lord…for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.

1 Corinthians 12:12-30 – You are Christ’s body.

Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21 – Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.

Reflection by Shirley Bodisch, OP

Today is holy to the Lord, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!

I assume most of us if not all of us have taken part in family reunions.  At the ages we are now, we hold on to those memories of the various times we gathered with our families either around holidays, or special events such as graduations, anniversaries or even funerals.  Over a meal we shared joy, humor and memories or we mourned the loss of someone, we even may have been astonished with some family news being shared for the first time.  These reunions strengthened and supported our belonging to an intimate network of loving relatives and even a few cranky ones.  Our readings for today highlight this human experience of a family reunion.  Because, you see, to paraphrase Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: We are Christ’s family.

In our first reading we heard of the restoration of the Jewish community after several generations of living in exile.  The people were then freed to gather in Jerusalem, to rebuild and to re-establish themselves according to the Covenantal prescriptions.  They were told by Nehemiah, don’t be sad.  You must rejoice, prepare banquets, share with your neighbors and be happy, because the Lord has set you free.  And they did just that.  God had fulfilled the promises made from the beginning for the people.  They were gathering in a reunion as God’s family.

Now in Luke’s description of Jesus’ mission, we heard that Jesus traveled about the region of Galilee proclaiming Good News which would restore the community according to God’s original plan: to be the People of God, to live according to the  spirit of the Covenant.  Jesus’ reputation had spread all throughout the region.  So when he arrived in his home town, the people were excited to hear what he had to say to them.  They were delighted and astonished with his speaking and with the stories of his healings.  Jesus was calling for a family reunion; not just with his immediate relatives, but for the whole people of Israel to come together again.  He announced: today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.

But, how and what did people actually hear?  We, in this retirement community, have great examples of how we hear news.  Sometimes we hear only what we expect to hear, other times we hear what we long to hear and there are times when what we hear is no way near what was announced.  Right?

So in our first reading the people responded with the joy of open hearts to the good news of the restoration of the nation.  But that celebration was short lived as later kings chose to live according to their own desires.  And in our Gospel story, Jesus’ relatives, friends and acquaintances were delighted at first.  They heard what they longed to hear while living under Roman occupation, which was brutal.  So when the deeper meaning of the Good News really sunk in, people realized that they would have to make certain changes in how their society was structured.  And they were not ready to do that just yet.  Are we ready, 2,000 years later, to make those changes?

How do we interpret life-changing invitations in relation to our daily lives?  We’ve already experienced a few these past two years.  Our lives certainly are different now.  And there are soon to be more challenges to our daily lives in the near future.  Jesus wanted to show his people and us a better way to live, a more intimate, realistic and loving relationship as the family of God coming together.

So what was Jesus proclaiming that afternoon in the Nazareth synagogue?  Nothing less than that God was speaking God’s Self fully in Jesus.  And what God desires is that we, his children, act godly with each other.   Where there is poverty, we can alleviate it.  Where there is bondage, we can liberate.  Where there is injustice, discrimination, and self-centeredness, we can bring resolution, forgiveness and compassion.  In other words, because we are members of the family of God, Jesus has invited us to a family reunion where we have been given the ability to act godly.  And when we do, the fulfillment of God’s promises occurs.  The biggest mistake we humans make happens when we refuse to recognize the Divine Spirit in the other person.   That Spirit unites us as a Divine Family.  The people in the Nazareth story made this mistake.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son,” they said?  “Who does he think he is?”  For us to internalize the Good News, we have to say, “This Jesus, whom we thought we knew, is more than Mary and Joseph’s son; he is God’s Son and our brother.  And we are sisters and brothers all in this amazing family.”   Then let us alleviate hunger in one another, help those stuck in any addiction to be free, guide those blind and deaf toward truth, and above all, let us be joyful, because our loving God is having a reunion banquet for everyone.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

The Presence of Small Things

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, the sister of a friend of mine died. This was the first loss Jim experienced among his siblings. Mary Ann was 83. So it’s a bit remarkable that he only now experienced this special and difficult loss at a rather advanced time in his own life. The passing of a sibling has its own kind of grief.

He sent me the eulogy he was asked to offer. I wish I could share the whole preaching with you, and yes, it was a preaching, exquisitely written and it illuminated Jim’s own tender and beautiful heart.

A central idea that struck a chord in me still rings a few weeks later. Jim talked about the way his sister was formed, in fact, how all of his siblings were formed by their mother.  Jim writes, “Mom showed Mary the importance of giving attention to every element in a work, whether it be in setting the dining room table for company, researching and authoring an academic thesis, or the care and treatment of every element in a recipe, no matter how humble the dish.

Be present in all things because that is where God is: Present”.

In all things, but especially in the small things, God is. When we look someone in the eye and make a connection. When we take that extra minute to really ask, how are you, and wait for an answer, no matter what the answer is. When attention is paid, God is: Present. I hope I never take that for granted.

As we care for the smallest of things, how our bed is made, the welcoming our spaces seem to others, how we greet someone, in the office, in the hall, on the phone. Paying attention opens us to a moment when love can come in, where God may be with us. God is with us. And isn’t that the heart of what it is to be a preacher of the Word? That our presence reflect God present.

Paying attention to small things asks that we not be rushed or judgmental, superior in station, or too busy to be bothered. Paying attention is full-time employment and sometimes very inconvenient. But it’s an important thing to remember that every day we get to start over, every day the invitation is given.

Be present in all things because that is where God is: Present.  Thanks Jim. I needed that.

Posted in Weekly Word

STUDIOBe

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

“The blueprint for a better tomorrow lives in the collective imagination.”

These are words that greet visitors to STUDIOBe, an art space in New Orleans. Recognizing the importance of art as expression and, for Dominicans, as preaching, STUDIOBe seemed like a perfect field trip for the Peace Center and our neighborhood kids. The founder of STUDIOBe, Brandon Odums, is a local African American street artist, which made our visit, so close to Black History Month, even more appropriate.

While STUDIOBe is a popular tourist spot here in New Orleans, Brandon’s backstory is one that we wanted to share with the students from the Peace Center. Brandon is a NOLA native who graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), where he studied visual arts. He worked as a filmmaker and became interested in spray paint “street art” as a hobby. After Hurricane Katrina, he created a series of murals of Black revolutionaries in abandoned houses in the Ninth Ward. His installation attracted other young creatives to create an underground, guerilla art hub, which Odums named #PROJECTBe.

PROJECTBe was open until the Housing Authority of New Orleans shuttered the Florida Housing Development where it was housed. In the documentary “Strong Light,” Odums asked, “Why is this space still here, eight years after Katrina? Could be it’s a response to neglect… a response to the fact that New Orleans has so many eye sores right next to communities that are trying to rebuild?”

This is an important point to consider. New Orleans has faced so many disasters, and often the poorest, those of color, those who have the most resilience but also the fewest material resources, are left to recover in the shadow and wreckage of tragedy. This speaks to the mission of the Peace Center… where we work to provide a place of peace to strengthen those who want to build a peaceful life.

The larger-than-life images at STUDIOBE capture some fun nostalgia from former days, like a pay phone, a doll house and a Nintendo game system. More important, some of these images  reflect the reality of being Black in a White world, giving us an opportunity to discuss these realities with the kids.

One wall showed a painting of a young Black boy drinking from a water fountain with the sign “WHITE ONLY” pasted on the side. I asked one of our boys what he would do if he found one of those signs on a fountain in his school. His response was immediate, “Tear it down!”

I asked him what he would do if the cops came and he said, “Go down on my knees and raise my hands.” At the age of 12 he had had “The Talk.” He has learned as a young Black man, he needs to be more careful when he “protests,” even when he is in the right.

We are grateful that we had the opportunity to share this amazing exhibit with the kids from the Peace Center. We hope that Odum’s lesson of using art to inspire, to question, and yes, to preach, helps the youth that we serve find a new way to build peace.

Posted in Weekly Word