Wednesday’s Word

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


 

Hurting Jesus?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Every Friday during Lent in my grade school years, we endured the Stations of the Cross.  We knelt for what seemed like hours, and as Father and the altar boys moved from station to station, we dutifully read from a little red-covered book imprinted on the front with a crown of thorns. At each station, there was a prayer to be read aloud by all, with slashes indicated for pauses, which detailed Jesus’ suffering at each stage of his Way of the Cross.

And so we read of Jesus’ physical agony, and ended each meditation with a sentence that went something like this, “Teach me to understand that when I sin, it hurts you more than (name suffering, such as “the nails pounded into your hands and feet.”)  I don’t know if this ever sunk in, or I ever believed my responsibility for this was concrete. Jesus wasn’t all that real in my everyday world, but something stuck–the rhythm of the common reading comes back to me, and a faint sense of the physical sufferings of Jesus in my own wiggly discomfort kneeling through the stations and then Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

An Offended God?

This attitude toward the effect of my sins on Jesus or on God still lurks around today. Parents and teachers still tell children that they are “hurting Jesus” when they do wrong, and often we feel a sort of residual guilt hearing  prophetic passages of the Hebrew Scriptures and even some of the sayings of Jesus in a “I have offended God and I will be punished—or am being punished” way. Perhaps we will never quite overcome that, for the Redemption and the Resurrection of Jesus and the vastness of God’s  energy as Love are beyond our comprehension, and we tend to ascribe our human responses to wrongdoing, and our demand for justice, as being founded in God.

The Risen Body and A New Humanity

I’m pondering two mysteries of God-in-Christ that should help us make peace with this nagging tendency. First, Jesus is Risen from the Dead and not only cannot ever die again, but suffers no more. We simply cannot “hurt” Christ Risen, although we trust his presence to us in our own trials. And the second, perhaps the deeper and more difficult mystery is this: Jesus left us his Spirit, that Divine Dynamism who is our bonding with one another, in what we call, as did Paul, the Body of Christ.

So we can and do “hurt” and neglect Jesus who dwells in and among the humans that form his Body. Incarnate among us, with a presence that transcends time and place but is also firmly rooted in the here and now, Christ continues to “home in” and offer the hope of salvation graciously and expansively through us, stretching his life and his mercy and that constant connection in the Spirit to all our brothers and sisters, and the vastness of the whole of creation.

Insofar as the Incarnation, sealed by the Resurrection, is the bond that holds us together, here and now, it is right to ponder our capacity to hurt, neglect, resent, belittle. But by grace, we are also Other Christs: Healers and Intercessors, Voices for Peace and Justice, Servants and Lights for the world. Holy Mystery.

And Holy Clarity, as Jesus firmly states in Matthew 25, ”Whatever you do to/for them, you do for me.”

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Three Reasons Why Giving Something Up for Lent is Still a Good Idea

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

For years and years, the common practice for Lent was giving up or fasting from something that you liked – coffee, smoking, chocolate. In recent years, the emphasis has been more on doing something positive like volunteering at a soup kitchen. It’s a real bonus if you can do a twofer like giving up some sleep in the morning to attend Mass. We are now in the third week of Lent and I suggest it’s not to late to give something up and this is why you should.

Giving up something that you really like such as chocolate or coffee is tough especially if you depend on it each day.  You are constantly reminded of your desire for it.  When this happens, channel your thoughts to people have nothing to eat because of famine or war.  Consider the children in Syria, Yemen, or Somalia. When you are tempted to eat or do what you gave up, offer a prayer for them.

It’s not unusual to slip and break our fast but it’s also possible to get right back on tract and continue.  It’s like when you fall off a bike. You should get up, dust yourself off, and keep riding.  When we break our fasting and then start up again we are practicing a skill of persistence. Some sins like gossiping can be difficult to stop.  But if we practice persistence, we can break those pesky habits. It’s a reminder that God forgives us when we sin but wants us to keep working at doing good. “Your sins are forgiven. Go, and sin no more.”

Finally, we really can use our Lenten fasts for our own good.  Loving and caring for our bodies recognize that God created something ‘very good’.  For a long time, the common understanding was that one could break a habit in 21 days but more recent research suggests its around 66 days. With 26 more days until Easter, there’s time to get a good start on caring for yourself a little more.

So, while building new more positive habits by doing good is an excellent Lenten practice, it’s also a positive to give up something. It can remind us of others who are suffering, build the strength to continue when we have fallen, and improve our health. Keep fasting!

 

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young

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

“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young”
1 Timothy 4:12

Of all the despicable responses to the kids of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the one that ranks pretty high on my list goes to those who wanted to convince everyone that the news reports used actors to portray those kids. For those folks to believe that high school students don’t have enough brain matter, courage and desire to put words together in sentences that show how much they care is horrendous to me. These young people are somehow discovering they have voices that could be used for something more than pep rally cheers and classroom recitation. I listened to “leaders”, business owners, older people who question how pep rally cheerleading and classroom recitation can amount to much and want us to believe that whatever these kids are saying had to have been quoted to them by the “liberal” side of things. The kids could not ever have an original thought about anything so serious. I kind of think we rely on that old phrase “children should be seen and not heard” just so we will always know who is in charge.

On many social levels, those among the 18- to 40-year-old generation are among the missing from traditional ways to respond to life. There have been way too many times when they have been belittled because they have a different perspective on life and do not want to do it “our way”. Thus their absence is becoming even more noticeable. Yes, they reject the tried and true which a lot of us hold so dear. But consider—-how well is all that working for us?

The brain of an adolescent is still forming and impulse control is often the last to develop, but we older folks have the experience and understanding and can be strong guides for that formation to go in all the right ways. Helping them to see how violent acts truly solve very little or how important mutual respect can be in life are lessons they will not forget. We have responsibilities to them every day.

The Dominican Sisters of Peace have developed strategies for our Catholic high schools that will create environments where students and teachers can grow in peace. Let us pray for our young people every day.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

What is Ours to Do

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

What is ours to do is sometimes a lifelong task, what we came into this world to do, our mission, our personal calling, our vocation.  We are wired to belong, to pay attention to each other. We all want to be part of something greater than ourselves. It is what makes us join clubs or engage in social media. It is part of being human. Actually, more to the point, it is the Divine spark within us that draws us to each other and through which we become more human.  We cannot miss the moment that is ours to do when it is staring us in the face.

We are at an incredibly important moment in this country. The recent murder of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Florida, has enflamed my sense of outrage over what is ours to do as a country. Too many times we end up simply making public statements about thoughts and prayers and calling for action from elected officials.

What really stays with me is the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, where 20 first graders (5 year olds) along with 6 adults were shot to death.  FIRST GRADERS. And we have done nothing to change our national civil discourse on gun control. Children are being slaughtered.. We allowed babies to be murdered and we could not find what was ours to do in that situation. This is as much a pro-life issue as abortion

What is ours to do now? Can we change the discussion on gun control to something more meaningful, more fruitful? It is ours to do to protect our children from harm and to respect the Second Amendment right to bear arms. These do not have to be conflicting values.

Gun owners themselves, although they have a right to own guns, need to join the effort to protect society, especially our children, from gun violence. Can they reach across this chasm?  Those who work for  gun control need to reach across the chasm as well, to find a common solution to the death of children. Can they have civil conversations with gun owners? Will it lead to anything?

We, the Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, are working to encourage all of our schools, and Dominican schools across the country to participate actively in the planned marches that call for walk out and a call for Congress and our society to do some meaningful to work together to control guns.

In the US, we will advocate for common sense gun control laws such as requiring universal background checks before purchasing arms; banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines; promoting strategies to prevent gun violence; and providing adequate financial resources to establish mental health programs for victims and perpetrators and prevention programs for at risk people.”

 No matter what your position is on owning guns, we need to find a way to keep people who should not have them from killing our children.

This is ours to do.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Musings on Ash Wednesday as Valentine’s Day

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

I once had a cat named Ollie. Consider him a “comfort service animal” as we say these days, who accompanied me through the years of my study at Aquinas Institute. He was a tuxedo cat, always elegantly attired, but actually quite easy-going, pursuing his comfort, just hanging out. For a cat his size, though, he had a rather limited voice range, just a high pitched “mew” which pertained largely to food and going out.

After Aquinas graduation, work brought us to Cleveland, and life in an apartment where the door to “out” was three flights down. A small “mew” uttered at the door would no longer suffice.  So he developed a new voice, widened his range to dramatic melismas reaching from tenor to soprano, expanding his lungs and larynx to turn “Mew” into “Miai-owwww-wooow—aioooow.” And it served him well, bringing his person hurrying down the stairs.

A cat “will do/ as he do do/and there’s no doing anything about it,” T.S. Eliot observes in his “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” True to his feline nature, Ollie saw life as a project of bending humans to his will. He knew his real name: Number One. If DNA could exist as a single spiral, it would be found in the genome of a cat.

Today is Valentine’s Day. And today is Ash Wednesday. The convergence of these two, the interaction of popular culture and liturgical observance, imagining gritty gray crosses and blooming red hearts together, suggests to me a different approach to Lent. To wit: Human DNA is a double helix, and there is always The Other. We are bonded to each other before our birth in mutual need. We grow up in the give and take of relationship and as Christians understand it, despite our differences, we are born and sustained by the immensity of God’s ever-creative love, and find mercy and salvation in the cross and resurrection of Christ Jesus. We are called and sent to love and be loved, living with the very real challenges of imaging Christ, the One For Others, our source of unity and peace. For God so loved the world.  I AM became incarnate as I AM for OTHERS. Lent is a purposeful reinvestment in loving as he did.

In the Gospel passage today, Jesus is not establishing Lenten practice. We know that his companions did not fast and weren’t particularly observant Jews. His point was the  attitude which underlies our relating to God and others, a warning about human temptations to the “selfies”–self-absorption, self-centeredness, self-enhancement, self-promotion, even self-discipline—all ways in which the most virtuous of human efforts can be subtly turned into All-About-Me.

As I contemplate today’s pairing of hearts and ashes, I see the romance brought up against the grit of loving. Most often, the practice of loving doesn’t come shaped like a valentine, or a purring kitty warm on one’s lap. It can be demanding, costly, confusing, unfulfilling, exhausting, and with no return guaranteed. The cross of ashes is written on the heart. Lent reminds us that underneath our first name, “ Beloved,” God has inscribed a second name, the same that Jesus bore, “I Am For Others.” Lent opens the heart and bears the cross.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word