I’m sometimes curious about the details that evangelists choose to include. There are two details that intrigue and amuse me a bit in this reading. The evangelist says, “They took Jesus with them in the boat JUST AS HE WAS.” What is being left unsaid? Was Jesus half-asleep, half dressed, still talking to the crowd? They took him JUST AS HE WAS. If only we could be that accepting of others? Take them just as they are. Not merely tolerating them, their behaviors and their attitudes – their differences – but really, full-heartedly accepting them and their individuality.
We hear and read studies on generational differences and expectations. Our community’s median age hovers around 75. Candidates will come to community with their own, well-defined personalities. Most often they will come having been raised or worked in a society far different from the environment most of us were raised in. For the first time in our country, four generations are working side by side. I heard the comment on TV the other day that today’s young adults are not interested in perfecting existing athletic records. They want to try new – even risky – endeavors. Always striving to set new records. The 18-year-old who won first place on the U.S. Women’s Swim Team exceeded the previously set speed record for the 100-meter race. This desire to try something new does not necessarily condemn the past nor belittle its achievements although sometimes the drive to make “my mark” can give that impression.
Different values, experiences, styles, and activities can create misunderstandings and frustrations, tis true. Or, it can serve to enrich our lives. The interpretation of key elements of our life may differ … Consider, for example: balance of life, work ethic, fair share division of chores. It doesn’t mean the living out of values will fight with each other. There need not be a right-wrong conflict – there are shades of gray and more than one way to be “right.” The bottom line is: it’s up to each and all of us whether we accept, fight, deny or, as they say: “roll with the punches.” By the event of the past week (we lost two family members of S. Elizabeth to drowning), we’ve been made keenly aware of the power of rip tide currents. You can’t right it, you must lean into it, let it toss you about until it calms down and release its hold on you. Change is in the air!
Generational change does require awareness, sensitivity and a genuine effort to develop mutual trust and respect. Awareness is the first step. A true attitude of open-handed and open-heartedness is needed not simply to bridge the generations but rather to blend the generations. Goodwill can cover a multitude of situations but it takes education and a sincere personal effort to make us ONE community in mind, heart and spirit. Remember what the evangelist says: “They took Jesus just as he was.”
The other detail in his Gospel that I find curious is the passing remark that Jesus was asleep on a cushion. Why was it so important to point out He had a cushion? Makes it sound like not everyone had a cushion – cushions must not have lined the hull of the boat like water-proof safety floats might be seen today. Having a cushion implies comfort, doesn’t it? Jesus was sleeping like a baby unaware of the turmoil around him. Or was He? Was he peeking at them through a half-open eye? Was his ear attentive to the murmuring about him and his seemingly uncaring attitude?
I assume they were all guys … women would have grabbed anything nearby to cover and protect Jesus from the sloshing waves. When the storm increased and the boat rocked, Jesus’ friends roused him, with telling words. They are familiar enough to dare to wake him with words of reproach, questioning his care for them. They are hurt by His non-responsiveness to their needs. Reminds me of the Martha – Mary incident … and maybe sometimes ours “Why doesn’t she get up off her duff and help me … can’t she see I could use some help?!”
We are in the boat, the storms of life are raging around us, and like the disciples, we may believe that Jesus is unconcerned, or “sleeping.” We hope that we will be as familiar with Jesus as his disciples. If we feel that Jesus is sleeping, are we comfortable, are we as familiar with Jesus as the disciples, to rouse him and present him our needs? Jesus did not chide his disciples for waking him. Rather he chided them for their lack of faith. Storms don’t worry Jesus. He’s right there in the boat with us, perfectly calm, not impatient, in no hurry for a solution or relief. He has one ready to hand us but how often do we tell God how to do things and then fret that God is doing nothing because it isn’t happening as we proposed?
Our lived experience should teach us that we need to relax and take heart, remain strong in faith that believes that Jesus isn’t scared of the storm, he isn’t depressed. He might be asleep, or he might not be, but either way, like the song says, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” In the words of the Responsorial psalm: “He hushes the storm to a gentle breeze, and stills the billows of the sea.” Even if Jesus doesn’t wake up at our first call, we are safe with Him. He’s going to wake up and say what you heard in the Gospel to us: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
First Reading: Job 38:1,8-11 Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Gospel Reading: Mark 4:35-41
On this third Sunday of Easter, we continue to hear accounts of Jesus’ appearances following his Resurrection. The first lines of this Gospel refer to the Emmaus story. Two disciples were taking a Sunday stroll – well, a seven-mile walk – chatting about the events of the last several days. Suddenly a stranger unceremoniously slipped into their company. In today’s account, the two disciples hurry back to Jerusalem to report the glad news of how they recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread. To their surprise, they discovered that the apostles, still hiding in the Upper Room, were already convinced of the resurrection of Jesus. Mary of Magdala had told them and Simon also had seen Him.
Consistent with all the reports of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances, He greets the assembled disciples with the words, “Peace be with you.” They have witnessed the death of someone they loved, and they fear for their own lives. Peace is what they need more than anything else. But, at Jesus’ sudden appearance they are startled and terrified. They are uncertain about what to make of the figure before them. Quite understandably, they mistake Jesus for a ghost. Yet the figure before them is not a ghost; Jesus invites them to experience his resurrected body with their senses, to look and to touch. They can’t forget his sufferings but peace begins to take root in their hearts, as their fears turn to joy and amazement.
This is Jesus: real and alive as he had been over the past three years. He asks for something to eat – a sign they recognize and cannot deny. It convinces them that they are not dreaming or having a mere vision or hallucination. He goes on to explain to them how the prophecies are being fulfilled in him. The evangelist says Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” A lectio experience – one we ask for as we enter into a period of lectio or centering prayer or active contemplation. Sounds like a contradiction: active contemplation? But often it takes concerted effort to “quiet down” to let the Spirit come into our presence. We actively say NO to all the distractions that may tempt us to do almost anything: read, do an act of charity, visit the sick, talk to the lonely, do a puzzle, clean a room, catch up on the news, – the devil calls us to do anything rather than center ourselves to give Jesus prime space and allow the Spirit to “open our minds, our ears, our hearts.” As one author puts it: “contemplation is the gift given simply because we showed up.” Like the disciples, we gather in mutual support. We pray, we eat and Jesus steps into our midst saying: “Peace! See, it is I.”
This gospel, and all the appearances of the resurrected Jesus, show us not only how Jesus convinced his disciples of his resurrection, but this same Jesus prepares us to come together to listen to God’s words and offer ourselves along with our gifts of bread and wine. And don’t minimize the parting message at Mass: “Go forth to share the message you have received.” We can’t share what we do not have – so listen up, attune your mind and your heart, read the Scriptures ahead of time, let the message begin to steep like tea in the warmness of your heart.
The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once told a story about a circus that caught fire. The flames spread to the fields surrounding the circus grounds and began to burn toward the village below. The circus master, convinced that the village would be destroyed and the people killed unless they were warned, asked if there was anybody who could go to the village and warn the people. The clown, dressed in full costume, jumped on a bicycle and sped down the hill to the village below. “Run for your lives! Run for your lives! “A fire is coming and the village is going to burn!” he shouted as he rode up and down the streets. Curious, the villagers came out of their houses and shops and stood along the sidewalks. They shouted back to the clown, laughing and applauding his performance. The more desperately the clown shouted, the more the villagers cheered. The village burned to the ground and the loss of life was great because no one took the clown seriously. After all, he was just a clown.
When Jesus comes in our door, do we recognize Him? Maybe he’s not dressed as a clown or shouting and waving. How will we recognize Him? Have we met Him often enough in our everyday lives that we immediately recognize Him? Have we met Him in the wounds of the poor? Or in the broken hearts of the bereaved? In the victims of violence? In people who live in dire poverty – maybe with ragged, smelly clothing because they have no place to wash up? Maybe there are times when it is easier to see Jesus in the face of the stranger or the guest than it is in the face of the Sister (spouse, person) across from us at the dinner table or the chapel aisle or walking the hallways. Jesus says: “Look at my hands and my feet (we can add: look at my face); see that it is I, your Lord.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
First Reading: Acts 3:13-15,17-19 Second Reading: 1 John 2:1-5a
Gospel: Luke 24:35-48Continue Reading
Today we get a different, maybe a little amusing image of Jesus – Jesus the housekeeper. How do you know when it’s time to clean house, to clean your space? Maybe you’ve become aware that the cup supply in the dining room is getting low and you come to the realization that YOU know where the missing cups are. Or you’ve had that library book on your desk for a year or more. Or what about the stack of valuable handouts from 2014? Or your laundry hamper won’t hold one more sock. Or there are enough dust bunnies under your bed to help God create another person from dust. And, what about your Lenten resolutions? Are they the same ones you’ve recycled year after year or do you discern the signs of the times and sweep with Jesus’ “whip of cords”?
This story from John’s Gospel is about a day when Jesus did some housecleaning in the temple. It’s a pretty famous story, they say, of Jesus’ anger yet none of the gospel writers actually use the word “anger.” The word used translates closer to “consumed with zeal.” And have you noticed when the evangelists speak of this and similar occasions nobody else seems to be upset. Jesus is the only one who’s acting out. And when the crowd, his naysayers are riled up, Jesus remains unruffled. John really doesn’t say Jesus was angry. He says his disciples recalled the scripture verse: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
What can we learn from this? First, we have to understand that anger is an automatic response that rises up in us. Rightly directed anger can serve a good purpose; it’s a call for change. If we stuff our anger, and blow up later at someone who has no clue what set us off, who’d want to be our friend? You won’t find a proverb in Scripture; and nowhere in the Rule of Benedict does it say: “Don’t get angry.” One of Benedict’s Tools of Good Works tells us: “do not act in anger” and in the Prologue he cautions: Keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit … let peace be your quest and aim.”
To understand Jesus’ action that day in the temple, it helps to have an understanding of how important motivation is. It was not wrong for the merchandisers to sell animals and doves. Nor was it wrong to change money. That was helpful to the people who came unprepared to the temple. They’d grown to depend on the availability of such services. Much like people today have come to expect businesses to take credit/debit, on-line payments. Sit up and take notice: no one stopped Jesus when he used his whip of cords: not the temple guards, not the priests, not the sellers, not the buyers, not anyone. And the Gospel writer doesn’t say Jesus did bodily harm to anyone. He overturns tables, He spills the money and He swings the whip of cords and scatters THINGS.
Everyone present, except maybe the disciples, seem to overlook the display. They’re like a child who has witnessed the fury of a disappointed parent. Then reaches out to take mom’s hand, looks up calmly and asks: “So, Mom, are we still going to McDonald’s?” The Jews do ask, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” The disciples must have shaken their heads in amazement. What does that have to do with what just happened???” They’d remember later, when Jesus was raised from the dead, what he had said on this occasion. But for today, all the Jews wanted to know was by what authority Jesus interrupted the activity in the temple. They didn’t ask why Jesus cleansed the temple because they knew they were guilty of wrong-doing.
John tells us in the days after Jesus display of authority, many began to believe in his name. But still he did not trust Himself to them. It is to us that He entrusts Himself, in Word and Sacrament. He trusts us to act in moral outrage against injustice, abuse and violence. To pay attention to the needs around us, of God’s people. To be aware when are we asked for action beyond a petition at Mass. When He asks, will we be ready for action? Will He find cause to do some clearing and cleaning?
In one of the Narnia chronicles by CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the story reminds us that the divine-human struggle is neither tidy nor tame, but it is nonetheless one that we can live with in confidence. The story’s characters, Susan and Lucy, ask Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to describe Aslan (Lewis’ representation of Jesus). They ask if Aslan is a man. Mr. Beaver replies, “Aslan a man? Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion — the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
After the cleansing of the temple entryway Jesus disappeared for a few hours. The witnesses might have lost some sleep trying to figure out the meaning of it, but they set out once again looking for him – asking for more signs and looking for miraculous bread. Jesus tells them there will be no more signs. It’s time to wake up and “read the signs.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
March 8th – 12th is Catholic Sisters Week.
Kindly remember us in your thoughts and prayers.
First Reading Exodus 20:1-17 Second Reading 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
Gospel Reading John 2:13-25Continue Reading
Daily Noon Prayer for Peace
Pax Christi Florida invites all members and friends to join in a prayer at noon, from inauguration week through Easter.
We pray for the healing of our nation.
Peace Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
~Article from Pax Christi, Florida which is a regional section of Pax Christi USAContinue Reading
Advent is Upon Us!
Today, this year, Advent has already dawned, the sun is up in the east. It arrived in a world in the midst of a pandemic in a way that reminds me of Carl Sandburg’s poem “Fog.”
Here, in our country, it seems, more so than usual, that Advent is being eclipsed to begin celebrating Christmas…. TV ads, house and yard light displays, Christmas music (What happened to the plaintive Advent songs?). Others are experiencing anticipatory dread of a holiday separated from loved ones. Thousands of heavy hearts daily grieve the loss of family members, neighbors and friends. Circumstances have left many without work, no dependable source of income or the means of providing food and life’s necessities. A pale of depression and loneliness hangs over people aching for a human touch, a phone call … any sign that someone is aware of their pain.
Every Advent we have to delve into the Scriptures in order to feel the sense of the messages of hope, peace, love, and joy. Our nighttime darkness will continue to lengthen until December 21 and the winter solstice moving us ever closer towards the celebration of Jesus’ birth. The advent hymns we’ll sing – and the antiphons used at Morning and Evening Praise – keep impressing upon us the need to pray for “comfort for those who sit in darkness” and those whose “hearts yearn for the light of Christ.” We must announce to a “world that waits in silence” that “our souls in stillness wait.” We believe the words of the prophet Habakkuk: The message I give you waits for the time I have appointed. It speaks about what is going to happen. And all of it will come true. It might take a while. But wait for it. You can be sure it will come. It will happen when I want it to.
While Advent is certainly a time of waiting it is also a time of anticipation and celebration in its own rite. It is the between-time that Karl Barth speaks of: “Unfulfilled and fulfilled promises are related to each other, as are dawn and sunrise. Both are promise and in fact the same promise. If anywhere at all, then it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith, the expectation of future revelation. But faith knows for whom and for what it is waiting. It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise. This is the essence of Advent.”
We’ve all had experiences of waiting … that’s part of all our lives. The season of Advent reminds us that waiting is often the cost of love. In waiting for someone, our own everyday business becomes almost meaningless as we anticipate, worry, and prepare for a loved one’s return, or an estranged family member or the unknown visitor who becomes the friend we had just never before met and now recognize as Christ personified. In waiting, we realize our own powerlessness; we realize our deepest hopes, and needs and yearnings. People and events we didn’t know we missed until we encounter them.
More than ever, this year, in the midst of the pandemic, I suspect the spirit of Advent will pale in the face of the hurry to put up decorations and play some Christmas music. People can’t wait for Christmas to come with the promised vaccine.
May our waiting for the coming of the Holy One this Christmas help us understand and carry on the mystery of compassionate and generous waiting. Don’t expect a dramatic vision but do try to become more conscious of the Christ coming through our doors, in one another as each enters our community room or are seated to “break bread” at mealtime. In our corporate commitment we pledge to be the embodiment of the compassion of Christ. And it is obvious from our visitors’ comments that this is one of our signature ministries. Our guests, and we who live here, know that our companions care for us … the question at times may be: “do we care about each other?” One litmus test: “Until you know what hurts me, you cannot truly love me.”
In his 2020 Advent letter, Pope Francis reminds us: “Advent, a time of grace, tells us that it is not enough to believe in God: it is necessary to purify our faith every day.” We pray: “O Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with Advent hope so that we may learn to cope with the delays and disappointments we encounter with patience and wisdom. May a spirit of gratitude and humility guide us on our journey to your dwelling place, enabling us to endure, with joy, the costs of waiting for love, reconciliation, and peace.”
Ask yourself as you turn off the light each night…
+ To whom did I offer a word of hope, affirmation or comfort today?
+ How was I a ray of light to someone who felt the darkness of loneliness?
+ Tomorrow, how will I prepare for Christ to be born anew in my heart?
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
First Reading Isaiah 63:16b-17,19b;64:2-7 Second Reading 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Gospel Mark 13:33-37