Wednesday’s Word

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


 

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

The Holy Spirit, and All that Jazz

 

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting, OP

“What makes the lady of eighty go out on the loose? What makes the gander meander in search of the goose? What puts the kick in the chicken, the magic in June?”  That’s Elmer’s tune!

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing (doo wab-di wah-doo-wab-di-wah…)” That’s Duke Ellington, speaking in tongues?

I never know, when I begin putting thoughts together, where the scriptures and the Spirit might lead. Today, it seems to be jazz! We’ve just celebrated the Big Flare of Pentecost Sunday, ending a liturgical season of great rejoicing. The wind, the flame, the fire. The punch, the spark, the drenching, the preaching of Jesus Risen to all the nations. And then it’s Monday, and the daily office returns us to week one, ordinary time. Does it feel a bit flat to you? Time again to settle in for the long haul?

God’s truth is that Ordinary does not mean “Humdrum.” We have entered into the season of the Spirit, the time after Pentecost, when all  Christian disciples get our marching orders. “Go forth.” And the Spirit goes to work. The Word of grace becomes flesh in and through us. In the Spirit’s domain, we are taught—again—the effort and the delight of discipleship, the power that blossoms from our powerlessness.

The Spirit labors in our dailyness, a source of strength for the long haul, hope when optimism can carry us no farther, the joy in community. And there is the unexpected moment, a new lightness, a bit of a kick, the surprising turn when any conversation can become a revelation, where any road can suddenly become a dance floor, where any ordinary you or me can become a Word or Work of mercy and compassion. A whisper, a breeze, a spark—there is the untamed Spirit who keeps the tune going, who tickles our toes, who tends the fire and enlivens the air we breathe.

Listen, listen, there’s a lot you’re liable to be missin’…Sing it, swing it…”

The Spirit comes to continue the explosion of Christ-energy, the never-ending Easter event—both in the yearly rhythm of the liturgy and for all of time stretching between the First Pentecost and the Last Advent. Breezing, flowing, glowing among us to ensure that we Christians never let Ordinary Time get too predictable, too heavy, to let the message grow stale, to let the tunes go flat….to collapse in frustration, to be overwhelmed by the weight, the enormity, the complexity of human woe.

“Don’t hold back the work of the Holy Spirit,” Paul writes to the Thessalonians. He knew. At any given moment, we will be yanked to our feet, shaken awake, swung around, fired up, and taught to whistle. The only thing to be taken for granted is the surprise of grace.

Is it any wonder that there are Dominican “ladies of eighty”, or seventy, or sixty, out on the loose? That they are preaching the Gospel in all manner of ways and places to all manner of folk? That the tunes and the lyrics of Dominic, our joyful brother, our preacher of grace, continue to soar and swing through the ages and into our midst?

Ordinary time? It “don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”….so catch the Spirit, the kick, the magic in June, and let loose (“doo-wab-di-wah”) a bit of Divine Jazz for the life of the world.

 

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word