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From “The Naked Now” by Richard Rohr, OFM
You must seek to be a blank slate.
You must desire to be written on.
No choosing of this or that.
Not, “I am good because.”
Nor “I am not good because”
Neither excitement nor boredom.
An unchosen virgin,
And unchoosing too, just empty.
No story line by which to start the day.
No identity enhancers nor losses
To make yourself valuable or not.
Nothing interesting , nothing uninteresting.
Neither against, nor for something.
Nothing to recall from yesterday.
Nothing to look forward to today.
Just me, naked, exposed,
No self to fix, change or find,
Nothing to judge right or wrong,
Important or unimportant,
Worthy or unworthy,
I stand and wait,
Neither powerful nor powerless,
For You to name me,
For You to look upon my face,
For You to write my script,
For You to give the kiss,
In Your time and in Your way.
You always do.
And it is always so much better.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn” (Luke 2:7) who was and is the Christ.
Some of the people in my life give me a hard time about being tidy. I have to admit that one of the first things I did when I arrived at St. Mary’s was to begin cleaning & tidying up. In the parish hall I recall an upright piano with a broken leg, a Wurlitzer organ in the coat room area of the hall, a plastic mattress with a crack running down the center of it in the nursery, and much more. In my zeal, I may have gone overboard in my cleaning/tidying frenzy (although I don’t think so!), but here’s what I was thinking: this place, and these grounds, are a statement about who we are as a community of faith, what we value, and the common life we share. If we want to encourage visitors to join us, then we need to be ready for company! It can be easy to overlook all kinds of things about our physical facilities when we get used to them. Maybe my “fresh eyes” were a blessing at that time, allowing us to do a good thorough house-cleaning.
So you can imagine my joy when I recently read a passage from Jean Vanier. Vanier was born in France in 1928 and is the founder and spiritual leader of the L’Arche movement. What is L’Arche? It’s a network of homes across the world where people with developmental disabilities live in community with people who help to care for them and share their lives. I was recently reading a reflection by Vanier and was struck by a passage wherein he was reflecting on something near and dear to my heart.
Read on: “One of the signs that a community is alive can be found in material things. Cleanliness, furnishings, the way flowers are arranged and meals prepared are among the things which reflect the quality of peoples’ hearts. Some people may find material chores irksome; they would prefer to use their time to talk with and be with others. They haven’t yet realized that the thousand and one small things that have to be done each day, th4e cycle of dirtying and cleaning, were give by God to enable us to communicate through matter. Cooking and washing floors can become a way of showing our love for others. If we see the humblest task in this light, everything can become communion and so celebration- because it is a celebration to be able to give… The house [and by extension the church, chapel, parish hall and grounds] is the nest; it is like an extension of the body. Sometimes we forget the role of the environment in liberation and inner growth.”
This passage really resonated with me. And it doesn’t hurt that Vanier is a well-known holy guy and deep thinker. And he values tidiness! If everything else today goes terribly, it’s okay – this passage from Vanier made getting up this morning worthwhile.
So here’s the challenge: look around you.
For St. Mary’s parishioners: we have a great cleaning service that comes once per week. Other than that, everything here is cared for and maintained by parish members. Is there a cleaning project you’d like to take on? Is there something that seems messy or out of place? Do our buildings and grounds communicate a vibrant, caring community of faith? Try looking around you with the eyes of a visitor. What might we have gotten used to that could be better organized, cleaned, maintained or care for? We are all the stewards of St. Mary’s and her land, buildings and resources at this time in history. Let’s seek to continue to lovingly care for God’s vineyard on this little corner in Dousman!
For all of us: we may want to examine our living space, and the land and all the resources that we are entrusted with; how are our homes, the meals we prepare, and the way in which our lives unfold in relation to the many details of life all reflections of our inner life and our connection with our Creator?
While not an end in itself and arguably not the most important thing, the truth is tidiness, cleanliness and organization are among the ways we demonstrate something of our spirit, our inner life and what’s important to us.
My bulletin column for Sunday April 10. The two readings I cite are Acts 9:1-20 and John 21:1-19
Today is Tuesday, November 5 – the day that we in Wisconsin are voting for a variety of elected offices as well as the presidential primary election. It has been a primary season like no other I’ve witnessed. At any rate, as we recover from the robo-calls, TV ads, heated rhetoric, news coverage, opinions, etc., we might do well to recall that God can and does work in and through all kinds of circumstances and situations, sometimes in ways that we can’t dream or imagine.
In our first reading, we have the example of Saul, a man who was vehement in his zeal for destroying Christianity and persecuting Christians. And in the midst of his rage and fury, something happens: he encounters Jesus! God’s plan? To use this guy to spread the gospel! In fact, when a saintly follower of Christ is urged by the Holy Spirit to baptize Saul, he says to God, in essence, “Um, are you sure?” Saul, as we know, becomes Paul, and it is in and through his witness, ministry and single-minded dedication that Christianity is spread and shared, in some of pretty interesting places and it is embraced by some pretty interesting people.
In our gospel reading, we see St. Peter, “the rock”, the one who swore that, although everyone else may fall away, he would not, meeting the risen Christ. You may recall that during the “trial” of Jesus, Peter denied even knowing our Lord three times. In today’s, gospel that same Christ, now raised in glory, asks St. Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Peter has returned, has sought forgiveness, and three times professes his love. Like St. Paul, he would go on to be central in preaching and sharing the gospel of Christ.
Think about it: a zealous persecutor and one who in fear crumbled and said, “Jesus who?” become foundational in spreading the Easter message. God looked at them both and decided He could work with them, through them and at times in spite of them. God worked that way then, and so often God works that way now.
Peter and Paul are not on the ballot and they would not have run if they could have – they’d be too busy talking to people about Jesus. I am suggesting that nothing and no one is beyond the grasp of God’s love and that we would do well not to give in to despair as we have a way greater, more loving and real leader in Jesus Christ. Yes, we should make good decisions at the polls, based on our faith and our conscience, but in the end this is God’s world, we are God’s children, and we are called to love God and our neighbor.
So, I can’t say I’ve been real impressed with our national life during this primary season. There is much that simply evokes within me sadness and anger. At the same time, I am constantly buoyed in hope by the many, many examples all around me of faithful love, service and people seeking to live their faith in so many wonderful and creative ways. And that’s how God works and that’s what God does. There is no place for cynicism – let us live in the hope of our Lord.
Compared to Good Friday and the gift of new life and redemption that is ours through the miracle of Easter, this primary season is pretty small potatoes.
God’s peace to you amidst it all!
“The first thing I wish to discuss, as far as my limited understanding will allow, is the nature of the essence of perfect prayer. For I have come across some people who believe that the whole thing consists in thought; and thus, if they are able to think a great deal about God, however much the effort may cost them, they immediately imagine they are spiritually minded; while, if they become distracted, and their efforts to think of good things fail, they at once become greatly discouraged and suppose themselves to be lost….But it must be realized that not everyone has by nature an imagination capable of meditating, whereas all souls are capable of love.” -St. Teresa of Avila
At least in my experience, distractions & random thoughts are pretty common when I am seeking to quietly be in the presence of God. Often times, these fade away as I find myself becoming more still. However, there are times when it seems like what I am really doing is just sitting down with a whole lot of racket in my mind! I find meditative prayer and quiet to be life-giving, liberating and at times, elusive. However, I always know if my words, actions and motivations are grounded in love. It is within my ability to know this. This, too, is prayer – loving God in and through loving our neighbor.
Here’s the text:
A Word from the Episcopal Bishops of the United States, gathered in retreat at Camp Allen Conference Center in Navasota, TX March 11-15:
On Good Friday the ruling political forces of the day tortured and executed an innocent man. They sacrificed the weak and the blameless to protect their own status and power. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead, revealing not only their injustice but also unmasking the lie that might makes right.
In a country still living under the shadow of the lynching tree, we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric. Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society. They seek to secure their own safety and security at the expense of others. There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us.
In this moment, we resemble God’s children wandering in the wilderness. We, like they, are struggling to find our way. They turned from following God and worshiped a golden calf constructed from their own wealth. The current rhetoric is leading us to construct a modern false idol out of power and privilege. We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.
We call for prayer for our country that a spirit of reconciliation will prevail and we will not betray our true selves.