Weekly Word

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


 

Saving the world—One Gourd plant at a time?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

We’ve been hearing the story of Jonah, the pouty prophet, having accomplished a great work for God, yet complaining about a withered gourd plant, sounding like a 4-year-old, “angry enough to die.”

We also have heard the disciples ask Jesus how to pray. Jesus calls God “Father.” It is a name for the love they have for each other, and for the unity they share. It is about God’s daily care, Gods everyday attentiveness to the needs of human beings and God’s goodness on and in the earth. It is about mercy, forgiveness. It is about protection, and hope.

Interestingly, Jonah knows more about God than we initially think. He doesn’t want to deal with God, or be God’s messenger—and why?  Because Jonah already knows–not at the depth of Jesus, exactly– that God (not Father, but Big Boss) is merciful and forgiving, and cares about Nineveh enough to offer a warning to its people  and a chance to repent.

 But Jonah does not want to save Nineveh.  He would like to see Nineveh, that pagan den of vice, be crushed. And he wants that more than God does. So why should he be the prophet to save them? So he runs away—sort of a triathlon of avoidance, running, sailing, swimming–causing all manner of trouble for others, and goes overboard so that God will quell that storm. An even more extreme form of draft-dodging. And then there’s the huge fish, and his three day stay in its guest-room.

Finally unable to run or swim or hide, Jonah becomes the prophet he does not want to be, and travels to and through that city. And much to hs disgust, in one day of walking  and proclaiming destruction, the ruler and the people ( and the cattle) put on sackcloth and observe a fast, and thereby call down God’s mercy..

Jonah is peeved. He pouts. He tells God he’s angry enough to die. Why? Because he’s done God’s work !?  Yes, he’s done God’s work—a mammoth conversion–and it is he who is unconverted. Probably Job’s name for God is “The Big Boss.”

But for Jesus, God is Father, Abba, deeply in love, dwelling as One, working together in bringing the holiness, the bounty, the daily bread of life, forgiveness and hope for a world reborn.  .

My guess is that you and I are somewhere between. God we say, is gracious and merciful, sweet energy, beauty, goodness, Truth. We’re half-converted, anyway. Our,  naming and our imaging have evolved over time, as we grow deeper into Gospel understanding, though on occasion we’re not entirely sure God should expend so much effort in saving the world through our labors.There are plenty of Ninevehs out there we hardly approve of, although maybe we’d settle for being assigned a gourd plant. We  butt heads with what we suspect God is asking, and we often follow our own wills and desires, sure that they are God’s, in agreement with us.

Hearing and responding to God’s voice, God’s Spirit,  often involves a name-change, an image-adjustment, a surrender. We are quite aware that saving the world is much more than God is asking us in our weakness and our hesitancy.   It’s all so enormous. So God asks from us our todays, our small acts of faithfulness, our belief in a mercy far greater than ours.And maybe a name-change or an image-alteration. Of God and of ourselves.

So from all eternity God is not the Boss, or the Judge.  He  is Love and Mercy and is calling our name. :Jesus repeats it to us in human flesh, Beloved; and the Spirit is busy bringing it from our heart to our lips. Beloved.  And we learn—over time– that our name is the same.

Posted in Weekly Word

FEAST OF SAINTS MICHAEL, GABRIEL, RAPHAEL               

Preaching by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

Today’s feast is about three archangels – Michael, Gabriel and Raphael – who the church calls saints.

Michael means “who is like God” and this angel is seen as a protector. Michael is named in the Book of Revelation. Here Michael defeats Satan with the other fallen angels. We often think of Michael as fighting the devil and winning.

Gabriel means “hero of God” and this angel is known as one who announces. We usually associate Gabriel as the angel who appeared to Mary and to Zechariah foretelling the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.

Raphael means “God has healed” and this angel is depicted as a guide. In the Book of Tobit Raphael is the guide on Tobias’ journey and eventually instructs Tobias what to do to heal Tobit’s blindness.

Which of these appeals or touches you in your life? Which angel should we call upon to guide us in our world today? I propose all three.

Raphael is needed in our world to help us heal the ills we confront daily. Yes, we need to heal the physical disease of the Covid virus. There are also so many other ills in our world, – racism, discrimination, care for the poor and so many other evils.

We can use the good news that Gabriel can announce. We certainly can use some good news today. Sometimes the good news can seem perplexing like the way Mary felt as a young unmarried pregnant teen. Like Mary it takes courage to be faithful and trusting in the Word, the good news, that God sends us.

Michael is the least attractive to me. It makes me think of war and violence. Yet we do need to wage war against the violence in our cities and towns. Sometimes waging war can happen by standing tall for peace; other times it can mean to step out of the crowd to confront the situation right in front of us.

The gospel for the feast of the Angels is about the call of Nathanael. Jesus tells Nathanael: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man”. May we call upon God to send Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael to our world to help us find ways to bring about more peaceful, life-giving good news to heal our bodies, spirits, and our earth.

 

Posted in Weekly Word

FEAST OF SAINTS MICHAEL, GABRIEL, RAPHAEL

Reflection by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

Today’s feast is about three archangels – Michael, Gabriel and Raphael – who the church calls saints.

Michael means “who is like God” and this angel is seen as a protector. Michael is named in the Book of Revelation. Here Michael defeats Satan with the other fallen angels. We often think of Michael as fighting the devil and winning.

Gabriel means “hero of God” and this angel is known as one who announces. We usually associate Gabriel as the angel who appeared to Mary and to Zechariah foretelling the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.

Raphael means “God has healed” and this angel is depicted as a guide. In the Book of Tobit Raphael is the guide on Tobias’ journey and eventually instructs Tobias what to do to heal Tobit’s blindness.

Which of these appeals or touches you in your life? Which angel should we call upon to guide us in our world today? I propose all three.

Raphael is needed in our world to help us heal the ills we confront daily. Yes, we need to heal the physical disease of the Coronavirus. There are also so many other ills in our world, – racism, discrimination, care for the poor and so many other evils.

We can use the good news that Gabriel can announce. We certainly can use some good news today. Sometimes the good news can seem perplexing like the way Mary felt as a young unmarried pregnant teen. Like Mary it takes courage to be faithful and trusting in the Word, the good news, that God sends us.

Michael is the least attractive to me. It makes me think of war and violence. Yet we do need to wage war against the violence in our cities and towns. Sometimes waging war can happen by standing tall for peace; other times it can mean to step out of the crowd to confront the situation right in front of us.

The gospel for the feast of the Angels is about the call of Nathanael. Jesus tells Nathanael: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man”. May we call upon God to send Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael to our world to help us find ways bring about more peaceful, life giving good news to heal our bodies, spirits and our earth.

Posted in Weekly Word

One Sunday Morning

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

Sunday morning, August 29, the storm really was coming; not a direct hit but worse than we wanted it to be. Just as we thought we really should leave, the mayor makes the announcement that “if you are gone, stay away; if you are still here, do not leave your house.” Thus we stayed. About 1:00 PM or so, we were watching TV to get the latest updates, and then we weren’t. All power went out and stayed out for four days.

The curses? No air conditioning with a heat index sometimes around 108 degrees; charging the phones in the car and hoping there was enough gas; seeing lines for a good mile around the one gas station that could open; lines, lines and more lines, at the few grocery stores  and the ice machine stores open; cleaning out refrigerators and freezers into garbage bags which then sat for almost three weeks before any trucks came into the neighborhood to take them away, and in some areas still have not been picked up at all; seeing the debris, not just tree limbs and roof shingles but refrigerators and furniture.

The blessings? Being with people who cared and wanted all of us to be safe; wandering around the neighborhood to check on neighbors who did not evacuate; receiving a phone call from the 97 year old matriarch in the neighborhood who had evacuated with her daughter and just wanted to check on us; having a car with gas in it so the phones could be charged; being physically able to stand in lines to wait for grocery stores to open and enjoy the air conditioned interior while shopping; waiting in lines for boxes of food that we would deliver to the neighbors still here.

In the midst of it all, we all felt the hand of God each time some church or organization was able to reach out in any way with food or gift cards or donations of cleaning items. But we also felt the hand of God in the mere fact that we saw each other and could share stories and know that we were so blessed! Did not see an actual rainbow in the sky, didn’t have to. They were all around us.

Posted in Weekly Word

Ida Recovery from the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center

Of the 11 staff members of the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center, none of us had electricity or internet for some time during IDA.  Some evacuated. They are returning to NO gradually to assess damage and begin repairs. The ASC had no electricity or internet until Friday. Our office is opening on Monday – not all staff are able to return because they are in recovery mode.

Here are some stories from the hearts of spiritual directors.

  • One religious woman sits with a dying member of her community who was in leadership ministry with Jeanne, Dot and Sue
  • One directee looks at the home of her parents – a religious article hanging on an inside door frame is all that is left of the home
  • Watching the water over roads in Grand Isle, other parts of the Houma Diocese is heart rending for those of us who ministered in those small bayou dwellings
  • Listening to the story of a priest who ministers in one of the River Parishes is OH so very sad.
  • A Jesuit from New Orleans drives to Baton Rouge until students can return to Loyola – they have been bussed to Springhill College and other colleges
  • An elderly directee evacuated to stay with her children In Baton Rouge, her husband has dementia and kept asking when are we going home and when they returned home he was still asking when we are going home; her house was intact inside but her beautiful prayer garden was destroyed. At the same time, she received news that her son was at MD Anderson and his cancer was not improving and his home in Laplace took in water. She continues to pray and stay strong through it all.
  • A younger married directee now has to relocate from her Metairie apartment because it took in water and is growing mold which, she is severely allergic to, a ministry she has grown attached to and has been an instructor for has now gone totally virtual and she will no longer be needed. She is putting their things in storage and are thinking where to live and start over. Yet her faith is strong.
  • Reconciliation, an evacuation to her brother’s house in Texas allowed for healing of their fractured relationship while staying with him.
  • A few days prior to the storm my directee had a major surgery, while recovering from home she had to evacuate to Lafayette to her sister’s home, thankfully she returned to Kenner yesterday, her home is intact and she has power. She is the most resilient 72-year-old.
  • A widow directee broke down on the phone with me when she was trying to file a claim and her computer would not work, she never had to handle these things, she feels alone. A tree fell on her property and learns because it is in her yard she must handle it, water came in one bedroom, together we prayed and cried. Then her generator went out, for a while and she needed help from neighbors to get it going. She is alone in her home. She took valium just to calm herself this week from all the stress. She is missing her routine of morning prayer, mass and adoration.
  • A religious sister went without power for almost 2 weeks but yet when we talked on the phone she was very optimistic, she stayed strong through support of the sister’s living with her and the rosary. Thankfully, power has been restored and the cleanup continues of many trees down on the property.
  • A Pastor’s own residence was damaged but he continued to be there for his parishioners, and the community. But he has limits too.
  • The gift of being a Director during this time is the gift of listening to others, it takes us out of our own worries, and expands our vision of things. It makes prayer fruitful because we can pray for them, and even when it is dry it becomes purposeful.
  • Another directee has damage to her home and rental properties, but shares I am grateful on one hand and my heart broken on the other, trying to find the peace, I have my moments both ways.
  • As a Director myself, lots of thanksgiving for how much has been accomplished in two weeks, and accepting going home eventually to a town that looks like a bomb went off, sadness for the many neighbors and friends that are hurting. I pray we can come back from this, many are leaving the area permanently. It was always our plan to do so, but for many it was not, Laplace was their home. I pray for the businesses who will be affected for a long time, our church community which has taken a heavy hit, our archdiocese of New Orleans too. I pray I can find a little light in each day, so I can provide a glimmer of hope to my directees who are suffering from this storm in their lives.
  • Many directees shared stories of the statues of Mary standing tall through the storm when everything around her was damaged.
  • Listening to a Directee talk about how bad he felt for those who experienced so much storm damage, while he did not.  He knew what they were experiencing because he lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.  He knew what they are going through, so he could relate to their feelings.  However, this time he only lost power for a few days; but even then, had a generator, so, as he put it, he and his family were only “slightly inconvenienced”.  As we talked, he began to realize, that because of the “survivors’ guilt” he was experiencing, he forgot to be thankful for his experience this time of being only slightly inconvenienced.
  • I have heard from directees and I hear it inside myself, “Somewhere inside me, Katrina and IDA live together and clamor for attention.”
  • An intern in spiritual direction training said that after she and her son weathered the storm together in one of their halls knowing the roof would be lifted off their house, spent the day after the storm clearing their yard and the yards of two neighbors. When they could no longer take the humid heat, they went to a motel only to find that their VISA card had been compromised and their cards were now frozen.
  • From a directee,“I do not know if I can go through this another time.”
  • Being with our Assisted Living Sisters during the two days when the generator didn’t work, was the most painful moment for me. Such a blessed time in our lives yet how delicate and fragile we become.  As the second day without power, water, etc. was coming to and end and not expecting the propane delivery until the next day, God’s promise, “..that God always hears the cry of the poor…” was fulfilled.  The propane arrived and you could hear our joyful thanksgiving through the entire property. Sr. Gloria Murillo, STJ  (staff member)
Posted in Weekly Word