Tag Archives: Lent

Good Friday in a wounded world

Somehow it is already Good Friday, with the promise of Easter just days away.

 Today we remember the power of love.

Love as modeled by Jesus is not rational, it is not self serving, it is not romantic, it is not saccharine or weak or pointless.

Because love is the point of it all. Love is the way to wholeness and healing and harmony and peace.

These of course are things our wounded world needs so deeply and dearly, even as in our name, some of our elected leaders threaten lifelines, tear open holes in our social safety net, drop death dealing super weapons and exploit our common home for short term profit.

And so this Good Friday I pray for wholeness and healing, for harmony and peace. For me and you and the entire human community.

Jesus, one with us, you who humbled yourself and suffered death on a cross, be with us in our cross carrying moments today. Inspire us to journey with one another, to remain at the foot of the cross, to bear witness and to create openings for hope even in the darkest of days. Teach us to love one another, always.

Holy Saturday Moments

holy20saturdayLife is filled with many Holy Saturday moments. Time upon time we must let go of what was before we can even begin to be open to what will come.  I think of the way the first Holy Week after my own mother’s death was different than any other before or since. I felt it in my bones. I think of friends who have lost their job and struggled to find their feet again, or friends who have lost a child far too soon, or seen the end of their marriage.  There is always that messy middle space of witnessing the love lived and lost before something new emerges to call us forth to witness to love and life in new ways.

Theologian Shelly Rambo identifies Holy Saturday as the “middle day, as the site of witness to a more complex relationship between death and life” (Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, pg. 46.). And what is at the core of this complex relationship? Love of course. “Between death and life, there is a testimony to Spirit, to a love that survives not in victory but in weariness” (pgs. 79-80).

This weariness is real and of the Spirit. It attests to the depth of love that has been lived. But it also can keep us from seeing the new life that is before our eyes. Think of Mary Magdalene at the tomb, mistaking Jesus for the gardener!

I can’t help but ponder the shifting landscape and transformations taking place in religious life through the lens of Holy Saturday. As I wrote in a Global Sisters Report column last year, “Middle space represents this time as an almost Holy Saturday moment. Much is breaking down, we know something new is emerging, but this is a moment pregnant with not yet.”

On this Holy Saturday morning, I found myself reading an article featuring some younger Catholic sisters I know who are members the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer. It is a great article that focuses on the new life that is present and emerging, even as the sisters are letting go of the structures of the past. “Now they are crafting a brave future in which the sisterhood may be minuscule, but its work will go on.”

We are indeed living in a Holy Saturday moment. “We can say, ‘Oh, isn’t it sad, our sisters are aging, nobody is coming, we’re dying out’ – and that’s real,” said Sister Anne Marie Haas, provincial supervisor of the community’s Montgomery County headquarters. “But we have a choice.”

And that choice is love, even in its weariest and messiest forms. As we say in our CSJP Constitutions, “Confident of God’s faithful love, and collaborating with others who work for justice and peace, we face the future with gratitude and hope.”

Lent – That’s What’s Happening

73830c79eb33ab07b328d8a4bdb71f8d-650x422x1During my childhood in the 1970s & 80s, Saturday mornings were a special and almost sacred time, in large part because of Saturday morning cartoons and the bit I looked most forward to–Schoolhouse Rock.

For those who are not in the know, and I am always surprised when folks cannot sing the preamble to the Constitution or know that zero is my hero, Schoolhouse Rock was a series of catchy songs set to animated cartoons. The series helped a generation of children understand complicated concepts such as how a bill becomes a law, the values of immigration for society, or the function of a conjunction in a sentence. Music is a great way to learn, and there have been many times in my adult life when I have returned to what I learned via song and cartoon  all those decades ago on Saturday morning.

This Lent, for example, I’ve been playing around in my head and heart with some of what I learned from Schoolhouse Rock about grammar.

Think about it … Lent itself is a funny word.  The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Lent as the “40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter observed by the Roman Catholic, Eastern, and some Protestant churches as a period of penitence and fasting,” with the origin coming from the Middle English word for springtime. Living on the East Coast as I am these days, where there is still frost in the mornings and the possibility of snow, it is easy to understand why this season of anticipation took its name from the hope for spring!

Of course, the word lent has other meanings as well.  In French the letters l-e-n-t  become and an adjective meaning slow, which is entirely appropriate for the Lenten Season. Adjectives, as the “Unpack Your Adjectives” Schoolhouse rock video taught me as a child, “are words you use to really describe things, handy words to carry around.”

I carry lots of things around these days, mainly a growing list of urgent things that need to be done. Yet the wisdom of the Lenten season is that, as a church, we set aside a time each year which carries with it the higher priorities of slowing down through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The French adjective lent is a good word to carry around in my heart as I slow down during these 40 days.

Lent also has other meanings in English. For example, it can be the past simple tense or past participle of the irregular verb to lend. Verbs, as the Schoolhouse Rock video “Verb, That’s What’s Happenin’” reminds me, put “my heart in action … to work, to live, to play, to love.”   This is both a lovely and very challenging concept, especially when I consider the ways my heart is lent in action.

Who puts my heart into action? Who am I lent by?  Where do I lend my energy?

Lent, that’s what’s happening.

Lent: Never ending Lessons in Paradox

jesus_disciples_iconThe Lenten Scripture readings can sometimes be hard to wrap your head around, and yet, on another level, they are so very simple. Trust in God. Serve. Forgive. Love. Be merciful just as God is merciful.

I find consolation in that the disciples also seemed to have a hard time wrapping their head around the message of Jesus.

Two cases in point …

In Sunday’s Gospel from Mark (9:2-10) we have Peter wanting to set up tents and stay on the mountaintop with Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, almost missing the point that this was a new moment. In the end it required a voice from the heavens to snap him out of it!

Today we have the story of the mother of James and John (Matthew 20:  17-28) asking that “these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” The sons also did not get it, thinking they were up for what was ahead without stopping to think of the level of sacrifice following Jesus might entail.

I imagine that Jesus must have been just a little bit frustrated when, once again, his friends just did not get it.  But he rolled up his sleeves, sat down, and tried another way of teaching lessons in paradox.  His way was not business as usual, but something new centered on God’s way of love, justice, and mercy.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It shall not be so among you ….

What are the ways that we are called to live the paradox of the Gospels today? In our families? Communities? Ministry?

What is is that I just don’t get? My prayer this morning is for my heart and mind to be opened to Jesus’ never ending lessons in paradox this Lent.

Lent: Journey of the Heart

Image by Pat Farrel, OP

You know you run in certain nerdy church circles when your Facebook feed fills up with creative ways to observe the liturgical season of Lent. One meme that is making the rounds is a “Reverse Lent Challenge,” with the message that rather than giving something up (like the proverbial chocolate) you might consider taking something on, such as making a commitment to helping a family member or friend, writing notes to lonely folks, etc… It’s a nice idea to be sure.

As for me, I gave up giving up a long time ago. Well, that’s not actually exactly true. I do still take the opportunity of this season to look at my life and see what is getting in the way of a healthy relationship with God, others, and even self, and commit to making adjustments. The focus that helps me is not on what is given up, but rather what is gained.  I also find this to be a very personal practice, and so I’ll be keeping to myself what I’ve chosen as my own personal Lenten practice(s).

We don’t have to go far to see what kind of fast it is that God seeks.  This morning’s reading from Isaiah is one of my all time favorites, and makes it pretty clear:

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

This time of Lent is such a gift. It is a time set aside to reorder our priorities and to prepare our hearts, lives, and world for the joy of the resurrection.

If you are still sorting out your own Lenten practice, I highly recommend reading the Lenten message from Pope Francis.  I’ve adopted his closing lines as my own Lenten prayer:

During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.

Blessings of peace as we ease into this Lenten season. May your heart (and my heart) be opened by God’s love to what is really important.