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Full of the unexpected, Easter makes love real and concrete. Perhaps no place are the lessons of love more tangibly present than in the Easter events.

After the Resurrection, those gathered in the Upper Room—the Cenacle—locked themselves into the room in which they had shared the Last Supper with Jesus. They did not expect him to walk through those locked doors and give them the gift of peace. They did not expect that, but they did experience it. Neither did any of them anticipate that when they did not know what else to do—and so did what they knew, i.e., go fishing—Jesus would walk over water, join them and cook their breakfast with the fish they caught.

Jesus taught Peter, who had denied Jesus, to recognize and claim his love and forgiveness. Indeed he taught Peter to say, “You (Jesus) know I love you.” Easter invites us too to realize the power of his love and learn to receive it. May we also recognize and receive his very personal love for each of us, and hear the call to share it.

Easter also teaches us to rejoice. It is a feast that celebrates life and joy. Imagine, for example, what Mary Magdalene must have felt when Jesus called her by name. In the recognition she experienced she knew the kind of freedom that does not need to hang on (see John 20). Freed from any clinging, then, she was freed to do as he asked. Joy awakens the inner freedom that loves because of the other’s joy.
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At the Foot of the Cross

Holy, mighty One,
have mercy on us.

Unnameable Other,
One with us,
Have mercy on us.

Unshakable Compassion,
Infinite Goodness,
have mercy on us.

Loving Silence,
Beauty, source of all loveliness,
All-Desirable One,
have mercy on us.

O Crucified One,
have mercy on us.

 

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"The Cross of Christ is the penetration of God into that unholy area where we would least expect him and, if the truth be known, where we least want him.  God has entered into the loneliness of our suffering and the self-hatred of our sin.  And he has not come as judgment but as acceptance.  The Cross is the communication of God’s care but it is not a message from the outside.  God loves us by receiving our lives into himself as we experience them — torn and broken.  The Cross is God loving us from the inside."

- John Shea, Stories of God  (Chicago: Thomas More Press, 1978), 222.

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Image: Christ on the Cross, by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1516

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Questions Worth Pondering

As young children who felt Lent needed to be made interesting – and not just like a punishment— my classmates:

• went to the priest who gave the biggest, darkest cross of ashes;

• did not eat candy but did save every bite that came their way;

• went to the Stations ceremony during school rather than after;

• and competed to win the “I gave the most” alms contest.

 
The Church still calls us to Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — but not to win contests or prove how good we are.

So we ask ourselves:
Why then are we invited to these practices? What do they give us? How do they make us more aware of the Christ who redeems us and whose love is shot through our lives?

These are indeed questions for pondering.

 

I will sprinkle clean water upon you,
and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you;
and I will remove from your body the heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put my spirit within you…
(Ezekiel 36:25-27a)

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God Revealed in Mercy

God’s being God is revealed in his mercy. Mercy is the expression of his divine essence.
Walter Kasper,
Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life

 

Eugène Burnand, 1900

Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, as we human beings tend to think.  God, we learn, expresses divine power not by getting even with us when we do wrong, but by forgiving us: “[You] manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy” (Collect, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time).

What about us? How do we live out of the divine mercy poured out on us? How do we witness to the divine life dwelling in us?

Do you not know
that you are God’s temple
and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
(1 Cor 3:16).

One of the most important ways is to show mercy — to live out of the merciful love which we cannot claim to merit.  And we remind ourselves — in our weakness, in our reluctance to forgive — that we are always wrapped in the tender and merciful love of God.

Oh, Mercy! … Wherever I turn my thoughts, I find nothing but mercy.
(Catherine of Siena, Dialogues, 30)

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Art by Eugène Burnand, "Heimgefunden" (Home Found), 1900

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For more reflections on mercy, go to "Caught Up in God."

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Blessings in the New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

– Minnie Louise Haskins, 1908

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    On the Mystery of the Incarnation

    It's when we face for a moment
    the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
    the taint in our own selves, that awe
    cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart:
    not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
    to no innocent form
    but to this creature vainly sure
    it and no other is god-like, God
    (out of compassion for our ugly
    failure to evolve) entrusts,
    as guest, as brother,
    the Word.

    — Denise Levertov, The Stream and the Sapphire


Nassau Book of Hours, circa 1467-80, BrugesWhat a mystery the Incarnation offers us. We are so wonderfully loved that God longs never to be separated from us, in spite of the worst we can do – and too often choose to do. Unworthy though we are, yet God becomes one of us.

And so, because God becomes and remains human, “all theology,” as Karl Rahner says, “is eternally anthropology.” And a corollary to this is that we must not devalue ourselves or other people, because we “would then be thinking little of God” (Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith).

The incarnation also reveals to us our call and our hope as human beings. “By the mystery of this water and wine,” prays the priest during the Preparation of the Gifts at Mass, “may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

God becomes one of us, so that we “may become participants of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).  The gift of the Incarnation is the gift beyond all gifts.

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The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.
    Lamentations 3:24

    But as for me, I watch in hope, I wait for God my savior;
    my God will hear me.
Micah 7:7

Waiting can be tedious, a dreary time, a time in which we grow impatient. Preoccupied with ourselves doing the waiting, we do not expect much to come out of our waiting.



Waiting can be an invitation born of awareness that we are are called and promised God’s presence. Do we need more reason to hope – really hope – not with just a desire for what makes us feel good but a hope born of courage and profound trust?

The first Sunday of Advent readings remind us  that we do not know when the appointed time will come….  So we are to:

“Be watchful! Be alert!” (Mark 13:33)

Stay awake?

What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'” (Mark 13: 37)

As Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., says: “Advent … warns us; hopes can be dangerous but for that reason we are not to suppress nor compromise them. The Lord will come suddenly, beyond our dreams and control. Advent, therefore, advises us: wait, pray, be patient and persevering. The Lord will surely come.”

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Storm Season

Sometimes, when we are battered by literal storms such as Harvey or Irma or the figurative storms of life, we feel like praying with Job:

    I cry to you and you do not answer me;
    I stand, and you merely look at me.

    You have turned cruel to me;
    with the might of your hand you persecute me.

    You lift me up on the wind, you make me ride on it,
    and you toss me about in the roar of the storm.

    (Job 30:20-22)

Other times, while still suffering, we may find it easier to trust in the fidelity of God:

    Be merciful to me, O God,
    be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;

    in the shadow of your wings
    I will take refuge,
    until the destroying storms pass by.

    (Psalm 57:1)

We can be confident that both prayers are treasured in the heart of God.

 

[Photo is my own.]

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Rejoice with us! The Cenacle is celebrating 125 years since our arrival in North America.

This is a picture of the first four Religious of the Cenacle to arrive in New York from France in 1892.

"It was not without emotion," wrote Mother Bachelard, "that we saw the shores of France fade from our view, but we bore within our hearts One, Who being All things and everywhere, annihilates distance and bestows the necessary strength for every sacrifice. Henceforth all our thoughts and efforts were to be turned toward that American land where He was awaiting us."

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Ordinary Time

What does it mean to be Ordinary?

Routine? Usual? Typical? The same as what has gone before? Is it dull, boring, without surprise? Does being ordinary make something labeled ordinary plain? Full or overly full of "the same old same old"?

But is that what the church means when it numbers weeks between Trinity Sunday and the First Sunday of Advent weeks in "Ordinary Time"?

During these weeks we listen to the Word of God found in the Sunday Gospels. Rooted in them we hear the call to make visible the Gospel path we hear and pray each Sunday. There is nothing dull, boring, or even routine about that.

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