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AUTHOR
Bob  »

See, I am doing a new thing!

                                    Isaiah 43:19

 

Some have described this time we are going through as an apocalypse.  In common parlance, apocalypse signifies cataclysmic end times, but in its original meaning, apocalypse denotes an uncovering or unveiling.  In that root sense of the word, we clearly are in an apocalypse.  The disunity, racial inequities and economic injustices present in our society have seldom been more exposed.  At the same time, the response to the pandemic has revealed the often unnoticed heroism of ordinary people and awakened the consciences of many.

The prophet Isaiah delivered God’s message, “See, I am doing a new thing!”  Likewise, prophetic voices today urge us to break from old ways and to not return to an old normality if it means a society that continues to advantage the few (even if the few are us!) at the expense of the many, and that threatens the survival of the planet.

Religious leaders are urging us to think new thoughts when envisioning how we will eventually come out of the current crisis.  Early in the pandemic, Pope Francis sized up the situation:

Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity.  Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. This is the opportunity for conversion. Yes, I see early signs of an economy that is less liquid, more human. But let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were.

Similarly, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, exhorted:

There are ways forward we never imagined – at huge cost, with great suffering – but there are possibilities and I’m immensely hopeful … Once this epidemic is conquered we cannot be content to go back to what was before as if all was normal. There needs to be a resurrection of our common life, a new normal, something that links to the old but is different and more beautiful.

Let’s pray for the grace to join with God in “doing a new thing!”

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Do you not perceive it?
AUTHOR
Mark  »

See, I am doing something new!

Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

In the wilderness I make a way,

in the wasteland, rivers.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/isaiah/43?13= (Isaiah 43:19)

 

In ruminating on Isaiah 43:19, a relatively “famous” passage of the Old Testament – especially the ‘I’m doing something new,’ line – I am sitting with two thoughts.

First, the word, perceive. One of the characteristics I inherited from my father is not being able to find what is in plain sight, especially in the refrigerator. The butter is there, perhaps even unobstructed from view but after four seconds I call out to my wife, “Where’s the butter?” and she responds, “On the second shelf.” I quickly retort, “No it is n—oh, there it is. You’re right.” I hardly can see what is in front of me, add another layer of perception or understanding, and, no, usually I do not perceive what is being done.  

Second, the last nine months in particular seem rather antithetical to this passage. The year 2020, and really our perception of the pandemic in March, seemed to turn the life-giving rivers of our beings into socially distant wastelands; the paths of our lives which had much greenery turned into a wilderness with hardly away forward. And yet, here’s God saying he’s doing something new. In fact there was a wilderness but now in this pandemic there are now new paths, where I only thought there was wasteland, there are now rivers – if only I can perceive it.

Yes, there has been much loss and discombobulation, but indeed in this new or next normal there will be paths and there will be rivers which hopefully will soon turn our various wastelands into lush and verdant pastures where one day soon we can safely gather, in person, and perhaps also without masks! I may not perceive that day just yet, but if my personal history and inability to see what is in front of my nose is any indication, I trust that these things are happening and I have hope that what I do not see others can point out for me along the way.

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Little by Little
AUTHOR
Bob  »

Growth in our spiritual life largely depends upon a lot of little decisions.  That is why we talk about practicing our faith.  It takes a lifetime of practice to become the person God intends us to be – fully alive, generous of spirit, open to life and caring of others.  The person in process is what matters; the end product takes care of itself.  More and more I am struck by how important our little choices are.  Spiritual growth seldom happens in dramatic leaps, but rather in little steps along the way. 

Years ago an old priest gave me some good guidance.  He said it’s all about habits.  Be careful to develop good habits, he advised.  When you are moved to do the right thing – standing up for the underdog, speaking out in the presence of injustice, or simply making a phone call to a lonely elderly uncle or sending a card to a grieving friend – always try to act on it.  Now.  Even if imperfectly.  Try to make virtue in little things habitual.  Exercise those virtuous muscles every day to make you spiritually healthy and stronger for when you need that strength.

He was a person who emanated kindness and compassion.  I see how he got that way.

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Cenacle Spirituality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

To surrender to God is not to give up; to trust in Jesus is not an abdication of responsibility; to be vulnerable is not to be confused with self-pity or certitude of pain; to go on retreat is not an escape from reality but is rather an entering into the real presence of the Good God.

The spiritual gift of Mother Therese Couderc lives on within the Cenacle family: Sisters, Auxiliaries and Affiliates, staff and co-ministers, retreatants and friends. Her earthly life ended in 1885, but her influence and insights live-on. She gave retreats, gardened, taught religion, dealt with demotion and illness. Most importantly, I think, she provided welcome – hospitality – because in prayer and simple service she saw that goodness was written all around and in every person. She did not give up or give in to set backs, accusations, or illness. She surrendered to God.

I’m not sure which is more difficult today: seeing Goodness around us or surrendering to God? Which is more difficult is a moot point. Thanks to Mother Therese and her example in post-Revolution France, no matter what is most difficult we know that the yolk of Jesus is light and hospitality and simple service suffice.

 

“Not my will be done, but [God’s]. That is my favorite prayer which I mean to pray every day as long as there is breath left in me, because it is the one which gives me and leaves me with the greatest peace of soul.” – Letter to Mother Marie Aimee Lautier, October 16, 1881

 

“Surrender myself, that is all I did during this retreat – the good God did all the rest.” – Letter to Mother de Larochenegly, February 13, 1864

 

“I abandon myself sincerely to God’s will and good pleasure, and when I have sincerely made this act of abandonment, I am calm and I experience a great peace.” – Letter to Mother de Larochenegly, November 25, 1875

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Strength by Faith
AUTHOR
Joan  »
This quote comes to mind as I look about me and see each person, old and young, making their way through these strange and challenging times.  We can often believe that if we are strong enough, resilient enough and have a strong will we will make life the way we feel it should be.  Then something like a virus comes along and we are stunned into disbelief.  Holding onto what I expected of this summer, this school year or job search or retirement will only wear me out and possibly make me bitter and discouraged.  Letting go of those expectations allows me to be strong in the present moment – to be loving, kind, compassionate and wise because all my inner strength is not going towards the fool’s errand of changing reality.  I pray to be given the true wisdom of letting go.  I pray that I will be strong in my faith that God is present in these challenging times and my future is in God’s hand.  That God holds that future with a gentleness beyond my imagining.  I am not asked to be strong in will but strong in faith. Strong is my releasing of my will and my ability to let go and most definitely let God.  
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The Meek Mentality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Strength. Two passages of Scripture populate when I hear the word strength.

Scripture passage number one, “I can do all things, through Christ, who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13); Scripture passage number two, from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the meek…” (Matthew 5:5).

Strength is a fickle word to define. A good leader, especially in politics, like a good lineman in football is thought to be “strong,” but certainly the strength of the lineman and the strength of the politician are not the same, or are they? I think strength is born of will or desire, determination or practice. I think also strength should not be thought of as entirely synonymous with the word “might” or relegated only for the concept of physical strength. A better synonym for strength, on a football field or in a hall of power might be the word resolve. Strength as resolve is the reason, I think of those two Scripture passages. And I think those two passages are very much interrelated.

Blessed are the meek, I do not think means blessed the weak. Rather, the meek are those who are gentle, those who have the power, the strength to overwhelm, strike-down, to hurt or annihilate, but have also the strength to not react in that manner. The meek keep their swords sheathed, they do not react or over-react with their might. And, I think, that that is hard. I think it’s Christ who strengthens our resolve not to respond with might but rather with meekness. Many times, a show of force or lashing out is easier, perhaps automatic, compared to walking away, being meek. Because meekness is hard, perhaps unattainable on our own, we need Christ to strengthen us in meekness, to choose peace, or quiet, or gentleness, or compassion, or empathy, over “I’ll show you,” or “what about me!” actions and mentalities.  We do not have to up the ante, we do not have to view life as a zero-some game, but it takes strength, or rather meekness to choose a better way.

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Patient Practice
AUTHOR
Jill  »

Traffic, long lines, end of a work day it’s these little things I miss most of all (just kidding). The daily practice of patience is not for the faint of heart. Actually patience takes much heart; in 1 Corinthians 13:4 we learn love is patient. In the past the watching of a clock or the jitter of a limb gave our angst a “free pass” to steer us emotionally onto the road of intolerance. Learning to take a deep breath and trust in God when you feel you have lost all control; exercises an even more substantial virtue…LOVE.

 Practice does not always make perfect, but the practice of patience during these enduring times will steady our focus on the journey ahead of us.  So easily we may forget, and become short tempered or anxious; but it only fuels ignorance and fear. We must remember we are all in this together, so keep practicing!

How are you exercising patience in the world around you?


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AUTHOR
Joan  »

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
(Romans 12:12)

At first, this quote from Romans is easier to read in “normal” times.  But, without a doubt, these are not in any way normal times to most, if not all, of us.  However, I find a surprising sense of calm emerges when I reflect about the circumstances in which these words were written.  The people this admonition was directed at were having some pretty rough times.  They probably often felt besieged and unsteady in their daily lives.  The uncertainty of the future was very real and they had little to depend on BUT hope, patience and prayer.

I remind myself of this passage often as I move along in these challenging times.  To be “patient in (my) troubles” often seems too high a bar but when I pray I find it is possible not only to be patient but to be joyful.

What simple phrase can help you sustain a sense of patience, hope and joy during these days of uncertainty?

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AUTHOR
Mark  »

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I'll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged--though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
-- Robert Frost


April showers bring May flowers. And as we are in May the poem above seems both apt and timely; for flowers and for each of us. We have bent low or laid lodged, but we have also two reasons for hope.

First, knowing that every storm we’ve experienced eventually ends and because this rain has fallen so hard and for so long, we have reason to believe that we are progressing, in time, towards a break in the storm or even this rain’s end.

Second, we have the capacity, like flower stems, for flexibility, for bending without breaking. We also have trust that with God’s grace our roots that can keep us in place even as the previously solid ground around us morphs into messy mud.

Now knowing how the flowers felt, we need not feel stuck in sorrow, but planted in empathy and solidarity. We know we can pray just as hard as the wind can push or the rain pelt.

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Unknown Faith
AUTHOR
Jill  »

During this time of uncertainty, we must remember to keep the faith. Our days right now are being strung together with news broadcast and media, that continue to alter our daily existence. It feels like a “tall order” some days to have faith in the unknown of tomorrow, but we must remain vigilant in the encouragement of one another. As we safety connect from a far via our phones, computers and through our prayers. We must keep our faith in God our redeemer; He has brought humanity through the wilderness and will do it again. For all the uncertain things, have faith we will overcome together.

Share your faith, and think of ways to encourage someone today?

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