Thursday, June 20, 2019

“He Knows You” by Beth DeCristofaro

“He Knows You” by Beth DeCristofaro

I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
exquisite in all their delights.
R. Your works, O Lord, are justice and truth.
(Psalm 111:1b-2, 7-8, 7a)

Jesus said to his disciples: "In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  (Matthew 6:7-8)


Communicating across centuries of culture, language shift, and intense beliefs can be difficult hence we often have heated debates about translations of Scripture today.  Language is so foundational to who we are, how we wish to be seen and understood, and how to impart valued knowledge.  In prayer, we balance between rigid formulaic recitation and off the cuff conversations with God.

Last year the revision of a line in The Lord’s Prayer which is oftentimes translated into English as: “and lead us not into temptation” was approved by the Vatican.   Pope Francis, when asked about the recent adoption of French wording: “do not let us enter into temptation” [i] stated “The French have changed the text and their translation says “don't let me fall into temptation, ‘. . . It's me who falls. It's not Him who pushes me into temptation, as if I fell. A father doesn't do that. A father helps you to get up right away. The one who leads to temptation is Satan.’”[ii]  Spanish and Portuguese wording is very similar to this revised phrasing already.

Historically, the beautiful prayer originated in two different versions in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke who, decades after Jesus spoke in Aramaic wrote the words down for particular audiences. The version of the prayer we cite today was originally written in Greek.  Words matter more than mere linguistics.   Bishop Serge Poitras of Timmons, Ontario, clarified "The Our Father prayer builds an image of God. A passage like this ('do not let us enter into temptation') can be an opportunity for reflection for communities or families on its underlying image of God," he said. "Does the image of a God who wants to tempt his children match what the Gospel proclaims? The (translation) issue may seem trivial, but ... it shapes our image of God. The ritual builds the person. The “Our Father” prayer builds our faith and our way of living our faith."[iii]

Words do matter, Jesus knew that!  Yet specific words are part of a certain time and place.  Can they lead me to the inspiration of God’s truth underlying them?  Can we hear these words as ways to put into action the two greatest commandments:  Love God above all and Love your neighbor as yourself?

What does the Lord’s Prayer speak to you?  Today for me I reflect:

Our Father, who art in heaven – God is not only Creator and “first Mover” but also as close as a nurturing, embracing, judging, critiquing, adjudicating, modeling parent.  And He chose us.

Hallowed be thy name – we approach, on bended knee, in meek awe.

Thy kingdom come – Yes!  It comes!  A promise that the Kingdom is heralded despite the mess in which we individually and collectively find ourselves.

Thy will be done – Because I can help the kingdom, it starts with me but not of my own making.  Sometimes I will add in a small voice “by me today” as I pray this phrase.

On Earth, as it is in heaven – We aren’t in this alone!  We are part of a glorious universe with centuries of those who have gone before and eons of spiritual helpers.

Give us this day our daily bread – Remind me to trust in you, Lord, that you will give me what I need and what I need is bread, your nourishment, not necessary a Porsche.

And forgive us our trespasses – Oh, please, yes, my sins and those of my collective neighbors, forgive me.

As we forgive those who trespass against us – Help me in my weaknesses and sinfulness to offer mercy more as you would do that as I would like to do.

And lead us not into temptation – I know that if I followed your lead more closely, you would always steer me to the good.

But deliver us from evil – Evil takes many forms. In spite of evil in my life and in the church, the country, the world I call home, I trust that I can hold fast to you.  I know you are holding fast to me.

Amen – Yes!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

“Repaid in Grace” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Repaid in Grace” by Beth DeCristofaro

…whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-9)

And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matthew 6:4)

God of all that is good, God of every mercy, empty me of worldly acclaim or miserliness so that I have room for your abundance to fill and overflow in order to do your will here on earth as it is in heaven.

“’I wish to be left alone’, said Scrooge.  ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.  I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry.  I help to support the (prisons and Union workhouses) – they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.’” … After Scrooge satisfied himself that no one was hidden within his “gloomy suite of rooms” he “sat down before the fire to take his gruel.  It was a very low fire indeed, nothing on such a bitter night.  He was obliged to sit close to it, and brood over it, before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel.”[i]

Scrooge seems to have missed the message that piety, study, and subsequent actions are founded in the immensity of God’s overflowing love.  He is as stingy with himself as with others, reaping as he sowed. He can’t connect that giving is from the one who gave to him, God-given gifts bestowed on him and on us whether we deserve it or not. What a loser. 

Our U.S. culture loves a winner!  We spend hours in front of sports events, reality shows which pick the best dancer or cut down the rival.  We aren’t accustomed to follow Jesus’ words that when we give alms, pray and fast to go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. (Matt. 6:6).  It’s not about hiding our commitment of walking with our brother, Jesus.  Rather it’s trusting that God’s generosity is all about us, showering upon us and that trophies, cash winnings, media attention – or even the admiration of our parish and Cursillo families -  is not  the Christ within each of us.

It’s hard to give up those Christmas-like treats of public acclaim.    Instead we are asked to be a “cheerful giver” of God’s gifts to us: possessions, talents, time without judgement or the desire to change someone to our benefit.  Instead we are asked to believe that in secret, God will repay each one of us according to God’s merciful judgement not our votes or “likes”.

Of course, Scrooge experienced a conversion.  He “went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses and up to the windows; and found that everything could yield him pleasure.  He had never dreamed that any walk – that anything – could give him so much happiness.”[ii]  Dicken’s story is perhaps over dramatic but his words paint a vivid picture of the internal happiness of God’s presence, God’s “repayment.”  

Moreover, as Paul says in v8 of this reading:   Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

How might I empty myself of worldly acclaim or tight-fisted meanness so that I have room for God’s abundance to fill me and overflow?

[i] A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, The Project Gutenberg EBook, 2007, Pp 32-33, 46)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

“He Makes His Sun on the Bad and the Good” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“He Makes His Sun on the Bad and the Good” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

I say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others. For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:8-9)

Praise the Lord, my soul! (Psalm 146:1b)

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

Lord, thank You for being merciful, not fair.

It’s not fair.

It’s not fair that a wonderful family member who prays, serves, and tithes gets cancer, and the awful person who just got sent off to prison for sexual abuse is healthy as a horse are loved equally by God.

It’s not fair that the evilest political leader in the world (select a name) and Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate for her advocacy of female education in Pakistan, are loved equally by God.

It’s not fair that people like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Koch brothers, and that the woman who quit her lucrative Beltway bandit job to work for the Church are loved equally by God.

But they are.

Sure, actions have consequences, if not here, then when we face the Lord after death. But He delights and hopes for our hearts to be unhardened and open to His love and mercy. His hope for us springs eternal. May we open ourselves to accepting that hope… and believe that with His love, the very worst among us may be redeemed.

Write down two nice things you can say about the person on earth, whether you know him or her personally or not. If you can’t think of any, write down what God might say.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Behold, Now is the Day

Behold, Now is the Day

Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation…We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful; as unrecognized and yet acknowledged; as dying and behold we live; as chastised and yet not put to death; as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things. 2 COR 6:2C, 8B-10

But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Matthew 5:39-40

Last week, St. Paul referred to us as earthen vessels.  Like the chalice or the ciborium, we are a vessel that awaits being filled…filled with Christ for the mission ahead. We are fragile and vulnerable yet still are capable of holding onto the light of Christ within.

Despite holding the light of Christ, now St. Paul remind us that no matter what “good” we do, society treats us as deceivers.  The theme of rejection by the world that we first encountered in Lent and the Acts of the Apostles during Easter Season continues as we stretch into every day, old, familiar green ordinary time. Ordinary people. Ordinary time. Ordinary world. Our extraordinary triune God makes extraordinary demands upon us.

Matthew reminds us that God calls us to the same kind of extraordinary service that he invited Jesus to offer. The Old Testament commandment (“An eye for an eye.”) moderated vengeance. The same injury that one gives is the limit of the punishment inflicted in return. (Leviticus 24:20) There is a sense of proportionality in such justice. Society and Mosaic Law at the time insisted that the punishment must fit the crime. The severity of the sentence should not exceed the injury done.

Jesus again upsets the world order.  Jesus forbids even this proportionate retaliation. When our enemy slaps us on one cheek, don’t slap back.  Turn and allow your enemy to hit the other side, too. Through nonviolence, Jesus teaches us to resist hating and spread love.

Do we think we will have it any easier than the early Christians whom Paul wrote to in Corinth? After all, this is not the best of times, nor the worst of times.  The time in which we live is merely “ordinary” time.

Paul and the early Christians did not offer to the Lord one hour on Sunday.  They offered their whole lives to the Lord and the community. We, on the other hand, are called to keep holy the Lord’s Day – the entire day, every day.  Sometimes, the rest of that Sabbath day and the week is devoted to ourselves.

The Lord tells us what will make our time acceptable.  We are asked to “bring glad tidings to the poor,” “to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”

How can you make this week “acceptable” to the Lord in your piety, study, and action?  What specific plans are you making to turn this week into the best of time for the poor, oppressed, blind and captive?

“Have Peace” by Jim Bayne

“Have Peace” by Jim Bayne

Thus says the wisdom of God: When he established the heavens, there was I, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the springs of the deep; When he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; When he fixed the foundations of earth, then was I beside him as an artisan; I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, Playing over the whole of his earth, having my delight with human beings. (Proverbs 8:27-31)

When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, and stars that you set in place—What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? (Ps 8:4-5)

Brothers and sisters: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God....the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-2,5)

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming." (John 16:11-12)

[to our God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit]
God, we praise you:
Father all-powerful,
Christ Lord and Savior,
Spirit of Love.
You reveal yourself in the depths of our being,
drawing us to share in your life and your love.
One God, three Persons,
be near to the people formed in your image,
close to the world, your love brings to life.
We ask you this, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, true and living, forever and ever. AMEN

Last Sunday was Pentecost. We celebrated the arrival of the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus. Now we celebrate Trinity Sunday. It is the day we celebrate and try to understand more fully, the magnificence of the three-in-one God of love made known to us by Jesus. This triune God, who is forever beyond our comprehension, will always remain a mystery.

Jesus used stories – parables – as a way of explaining great mysteries, including this one. We still use stories to explain deep things.

“The Shack,” a highly acclaimed fictional story written by William P. Young, tells the story of one man’s encounter with the Trinity. I decided to watch the movie version of the book on YouTube to see if this modern-day tale could shed some light on this great mystery. As the movie unfolded, I kept notes to see what I might learn and share with you.

MacKenzie – Mac – the hero and father of a young daughter brutally murdered in an old, dilapidated shack.  Mac finds a note in his mailbox, telling him to “meet me at the shack” and signed “Papa.” Papa is the name his wife Nan uses to address God. Mac thinks it may be a trick and goes to the shack armed with a gun. It’s a cold, snowy day. The first person Mac encounters is the Jesus figure, played by Aviv Alush. Jesus invites Mac to follow him through the snowy woods to a bright green and sunny area along the shore of the same lake where the murderer kidnapped his young daughter. “Jesus” takes Mac to a lovely house on the banks of the lake. Upon entering the house, Jesus introduces Mac to “Papa.”

This scene tells me that Jesus is usually the first member of the Trinity that we encounter. His role is to take us from the desolation and darkness in which we sometimes find ourselves and lead us into the light where we can meet the other members of the Trinity. Later in the film, Mac asks, Jesus how he is different from the Father and the Spirit. Jesus tells Mac that he provides the best way for us to relate to the Father and the Spirit because he is human. It is much easier for us to talk to God through Jesus because he has experienced everything we have experienced and then some. It was easier for Mac to follow Jesus from the darkness of the shack into the light than it might have been for him to follow a more mystical representation of God.

“Papa” is portrayed by Octavia Spencer, an affable, loving African American woman. She is very much the loving, mother figure Mackenzie needed in his life at that time.

Later in the movie, “Papa” is portrayed by Graham Greene, the father figure our hero needs when he is taken to recover the body of his daughter and is asked at the same time to forgive her killer. With the aid of this strong male representation of “Papa,” our hero can deal with the grief of seeing his dead daughter’s body while at the same time forgiving the man who killed her.

What I took away from this portrayal is that God the Father is not static. He is not an old bearded white man pointing a finger at us. He comes to us in the form that can best meet our needs in a given situation.

Next Mac meets the Spirit figure, played by the actress Sumare. The Spirit seems to work in the background, ever present, lightening up the environment. She tends the garden out back growing beautiful flowers and vegetables to provide nourishment and beauty.

At one point, Spirit tells Mac that she has always been with him. Jesus tells him that He is still with him. “Papa” says he will always be with him. God is with us from the beginning to the end and beyond.

Not long after meeting “Papa,” our hero angrily wants to know why God abandoned his Son on the cross. “Papa” says she never left the Son. “We were right there with him.”

“Papa” then shows Mac the nail marks in her hands. Later we see the nail marks in the hands of the Spirit figure as well. A reminder for each of us that God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – never abandons us. The three-in-one accompany us on our journey from beginning to end.

There is much more that this book and movie can teach us about the love of God in the Trinity. I came away from the film with a little more profound understanding of the nature of the Trinity. Just as Jesus’ parables taught us the deeper meaning of so many things, so stories – including fictional ones – remain an excellent way to gain a deeper understanding of even the most profound mysteries.

We, too, are called to take whatever form is necessary to best serve our brothers and sisters. Sometimes we can best help by being a consoling and comforting mother figure. At other times we can best serve by being a father figure, challenging a brother or sister in trouble to take action to remedy their situation. We may need to administer some tough love. On other occasions, we may need to be a spirit figure, bringing inspiration, affirmation, and energy. Always we must be available to listen with empathy and compassion and with tough love when necessary.

We need to walk with each other faithfully from where we are in the moment to where we are going in the future. It is a ministry of presence at all times.

We need to be the kind of person who someone is comfortable calling at 2 AM and saying, "I need you right now." That is how the Trinity works for us. It is how we must work for one another.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

“Fruitful not Veiled” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Fruitful not Veiled” by Beth DeCristofaro

And even though our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled for those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they may not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. …  For God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 6)

But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, 'Raqa,' will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:21-24)

God, grace me to see your light and hear your voice so that my heart might soften, shining solely to point to your glory, to the mercy of Jesus Christ, and to the presence and fire of the Spirit among us.

This passage is troubling.  It feels too difficult to approach the altar of God having no dispute with others.  Jesus talks about the enveloping and obscuring effects on our personhood, our Christian identity when we choose anger over forgiveness and mercy.  We veil our own hearts when falling into anger and separation and, he points out, this can lead to violence or killing if not of the body then of the soul. Jesus’ message is actually pretty simple while the “yes” in action challenges us to look beyond our own hurts, slights, and failings.  The Christian’s “yes” sees Christ in the other from the Christ within ourselves.

St. Anthony of Padua was named Doctor of the Church for his inspired ability to preach so that even the least educated and simple person could understand and be moved by him.  The Apostle Paul might have said that he removed the veil of misunderstanding and shone the light of God for all to hear.  A lovely story is told that when heretics resisted Anthony’s teaching he preached to fish instead “for the glory of God, the delight of the angels, and the easing of his own heart.”[i]  While such a gesture might seem silly, God is pleased when we turn to him always even in the face of confrontation.

How might we best know that we are not blinded by a veil of our own foibles or the “gods of our age?”  but that our life exhibits the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  In what ways am I opening myself to the Spirit, asking for what I lack so that these fruits might blossom?  Who do I most need to practice these fruits upon? 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

“The Simple Truth!” by Wayne Miller

“The Simple Truth!” by Wayne Miller

“…our qualification comes from God, who…qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit brings life.” (Corinthians 3:4-11)

“Teach me your paths, my God, and guide me in your truth.” (Psalm 25:4b, 5a)

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17-19)

Father God, thank you for always being with me.  Give me Your eyes to see, Your ears to hear, Your heart to feel, and Your voice to speak Love to my brothers and sisters.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I reflected on the first “council” of Jerusalem and was somewhat flip about how we are a curious tribe that insists on making up rules (commandments?) to circumscribe our lives and identify the “good” and the “bad”.

Why isn’t it enough just to follow the “Great Commandment”?  Why do we need 613 laws or 2800+ paragraphs or even just 10 commandments, when Jesus said one would do – “Love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself?”

St Paul takes a pretty hard line today:

My favorite theologian, Friar Richard Rohr would call this hard-core dualistic thinking.  Maybe Paul hadn’t gotten Matthew’s text quoting Jesus.  Oh, the conundrum: trust the secure boundaries of rules or trust that God’s Love, living and flowing through us, will never be wrong.

Then, in our Gospel, Jesus validates everything – down to the “smallest part of a letter…” of the law!!  But – He promises to fulfill it!  His Spirit will illuminate every little nook and cranny, making it come alive in our hearts; converting the death of legal transgression into the joy of Jesus’ vision in every situation and creature connection. 

Wow! The Law and the Spirit are living together in complete harmony!  Do you think this was what our Loving Creator had in mind all along???

What are the rules that I bristle against?  Can I stop and ask the Lord to show me His Love and Spirit – exactly in the center of the thing that I want to reject.  I’m pretty sure that my fearful, judgmental humanity is not wise or patient or open enough for the task.

Jesus had an answer for that too: “…for man it is not possible.  But for God, all things are possible.”  If I can just remember to step back and take a deep breath, then ask Jesus what He wants me to learn in this situation and wait in contemplative listening. Amazing things happen in my mind and heart! 

Law and Joy living in beautiful unity – and I discover myself: the secure, innocent, child in their midst, enveloped by a Loving Christ. If the Holy Spirit can live in me, he can live in every person and situation. My call is to claim Christ’s fulfillment and live it.

De Colores!

Monday, June 10, 2019

“The Work to Which I Have Called Them” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“The Work to Which I Have Called Them” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3)

The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power. (Psalm 98:2b)

“Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." (Matthew 5:16)

Lord, help me to remember always that it is You working in me and others. Help me to set aside my feelings of pride, worthlessness, and envy.

The Spirit called them out, Barnabas and Paul, for a special mission. They went to Antioch, Jerusalem, Cyprus, and beyond, preaching and evangelizing and bolstering the faith of the early Christians. A dispute later would separate them, but for miles and miles, they carried out that special mission.

The mission was big, bold, and fraught with significant risk as well as potential rewards. And in the meantime, many early Christians never left their hometowns. They stayed and went about their daily lives, loving their friends and trying to love their enemies, earning a living, keeping their dwellings tidy, growing crops, and all the mundane things people do. They weren’t imprisoned or martyred. We don’t know their names.

Were Barnabas and Paul better Christians, more loved by God, than those anonymous-to-us souls? Of course not. We all have an opportunity to say yes to the work to which we are called. That work is unique, specially designed for us. It is essential to bringing souls to the Kingdom, regardless of whether anyone other than He knows it.

It can be tempting to let some pride and arrogance creep into our souls when we see others going about life and the world tells us we are better spouses, parents, attorneys, writers, painters. Conversely, it can be tempting to be envious of those who seem to be doing the same work better and to greater public acclaim. That, my friends, is the evil one whispering into our souls and trying to take up residence. Don’t listen to him. Listen to the One who called you to the work… and do it for Him, not for the world.

Pray for someone whom you are tempted to regard as superior or inferior to you.

Image Credit is Willem de Poorter [Public domain]

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Standing by The Cross

Standing by The Cross

Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!" The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." The LORD God then asked the woman, "Why did you do such a thing?" The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it." Genesis 3:11-13

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.  John 19:25

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord,
Your Grace into our hearts;
that as we have known the incarnation of Christ,
your Son by the message of an angel,
so, by His passion and cross
we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

For the last 50 days from Easter through yesterday, we celebrated the Church at her most victorious (dare we say “Glorious?”) moments.  The Resurrection.  The Ascension. The Descent of the Holy Spirit.  

On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrated the festival when Christians acclaimed and accepted the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The very name comes from the Greek pentekoste, “fiftieth.” Pentecost marks the birthday of the Christian Church and the start of the Church’s mission to the world.

When we expect the Church to mark Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, instead we get the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church!

Is it an accident of the calendar that, on the very day after Pentecost Sunday when the Lord gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to gird us on our mission, we step back to the foot of the cross and stand with the Mother of the Church? Could this “Good Friday” sorrowful mystery actually be the Church at her most victorious moment?

Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word.

For her whole adult life, Mary knew what had to happen on the cross. From that momentous encounter with Simeon in the temple, Mary sealed what she knew into the silence of her heart.  Now, in the scene related in today’s Gospel, Mother Mary is completing her “duties” as Jesus’ Mother one final time.  Mary stood by Jesus to the end. Mary could not NOT be at the foot of the cross. 

She does not do so with weeping and wailing.  The image we have of Mary on this day is an image filled with kindness, faithfulness, and loyalty as she holds her beloved son one more time physically. Once that is over, she can behold him in her heart forever.  At the prompting of Jesus on the cross, Mary considers the past and contemplates her future. “Woman, behold your son…one final time.”

In this episode that some depict as a scene of utter sadness, devastation, and despair, the stone-carver’s Mary shows a different mood and demeanor. Michelangelo gives us a youth-filled, serene-seeming, resigned Mary – frozen in the silence and fullness of time, enveloped in graceful acceptance as her arms surround her son one last time.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Despite his humiliating death and her abject sadness, there is immense beauty at this moment. This present moment depicts God’s love in human terms – and God’s love is the first love there ever was. God’s love and Mary’s response represent a love that overcomes the sins of Adam and Eve and all of us. 

God drew you into this scene at the foot of the cross.  Now is the time to reflect upon that mystery and hear why God has chosen to insert you into this picture.

If we have an ounce of piety in our blood, we have to take it from the sanctuary to the streets.  We have to define our piety with our action.  Define it and live out the role of the Church in the Modern World -- a church holding her lifeless Son, a Son who has given his everything. A Son who will provide us with a future of eternal hope in three short days.

Today’s Memorial reminds us of our commitment and commission: Encounter Jesus in the present moment -- on the cross or the streets. This requirement is at the foundation of a Christ-centric and other-centric community-building. 

What practices make a difference for you?

Take a new look at La Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti all over again. Take a new look at La Pietà in your life all over again. How will you hold Him up to the world?  What is your reply?