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da me medesimo
Monday, September 30, 2019
“God Is with Us” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)
Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men of every nationality, speaking different tongues, shall take hold, yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."
On the way, they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village. (Luke 9:52-56)
I do not well see what more I shall have in Heaven than now. … I shall see the good God, it is true; but as to being with Him, I am wholly with Him already upon earth. (Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul)
My favorite St. Therese story comes before she went to Carmel, before she named her philosophy The Little Way, and long before anyone beyond her family gave much thought to the girl with the sad eyes.
Therese was spoiled, which is understandable. She was the youngest of the five Martin sisters, and her mother had died of cancer before Therese was five.
At Christmas 1886, she was almost fourteen, well past the age when most French children had stopped putting out their shoes for gifts. But Therese was, well, Therese. She liked presents, the household in many ways marched to her tune, and so out the shoes went.
Therese was upstairs when she heard her father say he hoped this would finally be the last year for this custom. She was ready to default to drama, but one of her sisters advised her to wait a minute. And in that minute, Therese’s heart and soul were changed.
When she went downstairs, she gave no indication she had heard the comment. She was kind, pleasant, playful, and grateful. Within two years, Therese would be a Carmelite postulant.
The opportunity for conversion always lies within us. The Lord holds out His hand again and again and again, regardless of the number of times we reject it. He never tires of gently asking us to grow closer to Him. And I think if a willful, pampered child can say yes to resisting her kneejerk reaction to a challenging situation… so can I.
Wait a minute today before reacting to a thoughtless comment. Later, pray for the person who made it.
Sunday, September 29, 2019
Thus, says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women, each with staff in hand because of old age, shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem. The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus, says the LORD of hosts: Even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people, shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also, says the LORD of hosts? Zechariah 8:4-6B
"Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest." Luke 9:48
Turning back the clock is a hard concept for us to understand even with our science-fiction/Star Wars/Star Trek fascination. Imagine how hard the concept would be for people in ancient Palestine.
Today, Zechariah asks people to imagine that old men and women, walking with their canes, turn into children playing in the streets. Huh? You mean like Benjamin Buttons? Jesus got a similar reaction when he told Nicodemus that he had to be born again of the spirit. Nicodemus was as incredulous as the people with Zechariah. Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely, he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” (John 3:4)
Jesus is talking of a different kind of “turning back.” He wants us to reject things that pull us away from Him and turn back to Him. He knows such change may be beyond our capability so Jesus is here to assist. Today, in the Good News, we are reminded of the promise he will fulfill:
Lo, I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun, and from the land of the setting sun. I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem. They shall be my people, and I will be their God, with faithfulness and justice. Zechariah 8:7-8
No matter what has pulled us away, the Lord promises to rescue us.
As you contemplate being born again and children running in the street where their elders struggle to walk, consider the Gospel. The Lord does not promise redemption to the experienced. He promises it to THE CHILDREN! The least powerful. The least influential. The least wealthy. The least likely.
The longer our lives go on, the more stuff we accumulate. The more baggage we have, the harder it is to drop everything and fully rely upon God.
What can you throw out, pass out, or give out to lighten your load and make your “re-birth” easier?
Saturday, September 28, 2019
From Your Side To Ours” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)
Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall! Amos 6:1a, 4
But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12
Abraham replied, “My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.” Luke 16:25-26
A spiritual master said, “I used to be deaf. I would see people stand up and go through strange movements in a whirling motion. They called it dancing. To me it looked absurd—until one day I heard the music!”
The moral of the story: I fail to understand why saints behave the way they do. So I’m waiting for my heart to come alive.
The tragic flaw in the parable of today’s Gospel is that the rich man and those mentioned in our First Reading by the Prophet Amos suffer from a deep spiritual deafness, unable to hear and listen to the call for mercy and justice.
Pope Francis said that when the rich man went about town, we might imagine his car with tinted windows so as not to be seen, and yes, the eyes of his soul were darkened.
The meaning of the parable is that the having a Lazarus at anyone’s gate is a sign of a broken covenant, and broken humanity that must be remedied.
The rich man evidently believed that there was only one life to live and having Lazarus around was just a nuisance.
The Hades in this parable, like the netherworld described in 1 Enoch 22, has a deep chasm and separate accommodations for the souls of the wicked and the righteous. [The book of Enoch is an Apocryphal book of the Old Testament, written in Hebrew about a century before Christ.]
When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham in Luke 16:22, which literally describes a pocket-like fold in a garment, like reclining at a meal term; denoting intimacy; gathered up by an affectionate parent with many good things stored up and waiting for a beloved son like Lazarus.
The main problem is not wealth itself, but the lifestyle of excessive partying that makes one indifferent to the needs of the suffering and poor, which is described in our First Reading with the beds of inlaid ivory, and the opulent food and drink. Their sin was a complacent, self-indulgent attitude and allowing violence to go unchecked, as we hear in Amos 6:3 “yet they are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph!”
The Seventh Commandment, “Thou shall not steal,” includes regulating one’s good and prevents the hoarding of resources so to also share some with the needy.
Tobit was also a rich man, but faithful to God. He owned many different fruit orchards and cattle, and in Chapter 2, verse 3, of the Book of Tobit, it says “and filled with an abundance of food,” Tobit sends out his son to invite a “poor man” to them for dinner (2:3).
St. Augustine noted centuries ago, Lazarus was welcomed into heaven by another man who was also very rich but faithful to God too, Abraham!
The rich man said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to [my five brothers] to warn them, they will repent.'
Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"
The imperative is clear, "Let them hear them."
And someone has risen from the dead, Jesus Christ.
We have the Gospel of the Good News that Jesus suffered and died for us, and rose from the dead. And we have Moses and the prophets—which we hear regularly at Sunday Mass.
Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said: “Every moment comes to you pregnant with a divine purpose; time being so precious that God deals it out only second by second. Once it leaves your hands and your power to do with it as you please, it plunges into eternity, to remain forever whatever you made it.”
Friday, September 27, 2019
Pope Francis greets 16-year-old Swedish climate activist
Greta Thunberg during his general audience in
St. Peter's Square April 17 at the Vatican. (CNS/Yara Nardi, Reuters)
And take courage, all you people of the land says the LORD, and work! For I am with you, says the LORD of hosts. This is the pact that I made with you when you came out of Egypt, and my spirit continues in your midst; do not fear! Haggai 2:4B-5
Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said in reply, "The Christ of God." He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised." Luke 9:20-22
Jesus puts Peter to the test. The first level exam is just an oral comprehensive. Jesus grills him with the question, “Who do YOU say that I am?” But soon enough, the review shall be one of the practical following and physical trials that will end as badly for Peter as it does for Jesus. The end is the same: imprisonment and execution.
Through the exam and trials that he will endure, Jesus prepares Peter (and us) for what lies ahead.
In our first reading Friday, the verses emphasize that God keeps his word. The total fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel is on the horizon. When God intervenes, it is not always good news. God does not promise a rose garden. He doesn’t guarantee us that things will be easy. But, as one Cursillo team member says in his talk, only that the trials with be worth it.
When Jesus warns the disciples about the trials that he will suffer, he also is teaching us that we must follow (imitate) him. Therefore, we, too, may be asked to endure the challenges we face on behalf of the Gospel.
Pay attention to what Jesus is telling and fear not because the trials that he will suffer lead to redemption as do the tests that we will experience when we pick up our cross and follow his path.
Lately, it seems that young people are trying to lead the adults onto the right path. In his homily for last Sunday, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton points out two key issues where young adults are at the forefront:
This year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, this very summer, there were 26 mass shootings in our country. In three months — 26 mass shootings. Violence seems to be overwhelming us. There were 126 people killed, including a 3-year-old girl and a 90-year-old man. Hundreds of others were wounded during these 26 mass acts of violence.[i]
Leadership comes, according to Gumbleton, from those young people who, a couple of years ago, had a mass killing in their high school in Parkland, Florida. They are still working to change our laws to prohibit the kind of assault weapons used in these killings.
Millions of young people, again, were involved demanding that we make international treaties to stop what's happening to our planet. We're destroying this world that Jesus taught us to love. Do you remember how he spoke so fervently about the flowers of the field and the birds of the air? God takes care of them, Jesus says, because God loves them. We destroy them.[ii]
According to Bishop Gumbleton, Pope Francis has written a beautiful encyclical letter, “Laudato Si,’ (praise God for this earth), that’s built on a canticle of St. Francis of Assisi. He urges us to become sober, become children of light. He asks us to follow the leadership of children throughout the world — all of those who took time off recently to make public statements and take action on every continent.
“We need to listen; we need to follow that lead. Jesus urges us to love the world God gave us, just as God loves this world and provides for the birds of the air and the animals on the planet.” It will take work on all our parts (even if we do not want to contribute to gridlock in Washington, DC).
Thursday, September 26, 2019
“See Him” by Beth DeCristofaro
Now thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways! You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied; You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated; have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed; And whoever earned wages earned them for a bag with holes in it. (Haggai 1:5-6)
But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him. (Luke 9:9)
Holy Spirit, guide me to see God in my every day. Guide me to see Jesus in my neighbor. Guide me to accept your direction in all I do. In gratitude, I pray.
Even when we “keep trying to see” sometimes we are confounded. Herod was fascinated first with John the Baptist whose message was a direct challenge not only to Herod as a man but Herod as a leader. Now Herod is perplexed and fascinated with Jesus. Their appeal did not stop him from murder and collaboration in murder. Their request did not quicken the heart response required to “hear” the Word.
The notes of the NAB give an interesting context to this passage in Luke’s Gospel: “ [9:7–56] The section in which Luke gathers together incidents that focus on the identity of Jesus is introduced by a question that Herod is made to ask in this gospel: “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”(Lk 9:9) In subsequent episodes, Luke reveals to the reader various answers to Herod’s question: Jesus is one in whom God’s power is present and who provides for the needs of God’s people (Lk 9:10–17); Peter declares Jesus to be “the Messiah of God” (Lk 9:18–21); Jesus says he is the suffering Son of Man (Lk 9:22, 43–45); Jesus is the Master to be followed, even to death (Lk 9:23–27); Jesus is God’s son, his Chosen One (Lk 9:28–36).”[i]
People who met Jesus in Luke’s Gospel kept trying to see him too. Many of the people most likely went home without the Good News stirring their hearts. But we know that Jesus awakened many. Of the many examples that Herod did not – could not – hear in these passages is in Luke 9:23 Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily* and follow me. Herod does not deny self and would not imagine accepting a cross. Herod dispenses death instead of choosing life in spite of having the message of eternal life delivered personally by two separate holy men.
In the book of Haggai, the chosen people are too preoccupied to make a place for God within their midst. Our ability to know God’s presence and accept the Good News is a grace from God. Am I “trying to see” my preoccupations rather than allowing God’s invitation to see and follow him every day even unto death?
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
“Remorse and God’s Mercy” by Colleen O’Sullivan
At the time of the evening sacrifice, I, Ezra, rose in my wretchedness, and with cloak and mantle torn I fell on my knees, stretching out my hands to the LORD, my God. I said: "My God, I am too ashamed and confounded to raise my face to you, O my God, for our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven... "And now, but a short time ago, mercy came to us from the LORD, our God, who left us a remnant and gave us a stake in his holy place; thus our God has brightened our eyes and given us relief in our servitude. (Ezra 9:5-6, 8)
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me.
- from “Let Us Break Bread Together,” African American spiritual
The people of God are beginning to return from Exile in our first reading today, a seeming occasion for joy. However, Ezra, the priest, finds the joy short-lived. While God’s people are trickling back and meeting up with the tiny remnant who’d never been seized and forced to live in a faraway land, he discovers that they have not lived out those years faithfully. They have intermarried with people to whom the God of Israel means nothing. The children of these unions cannot be considered racially pure. Foreign influences tainted their faith practices.
So, we find Ezra on his knees, unable to raise his eyes to God, confessing his shame to the Lord. At the same time, the priest acknowledges the mercy of God. Even amid all this sin and deceit, God shows mercy and compassion.
I can’t imagine living in Exile, far from everything I know and hold dear. Neither can I fathom getting so upset about people marrying spouses who don’t share their beliefs, because that is what I’ve grown up with and what surrounds us everywhere we look in our culture. We are a melting pot of the good, the bad, and the indifferent. But I have no trouble whatsoever believing that God lets us experience the consequences of our sins. I’ve seen it happen. Ezra knows that his people didn’t listen to God. They turned their backs on their Creator. God did not need to cast them into Exile. Through their actions, they were already far down that path by the time the Babylonians ever came to get them. It’s the same with us. Actions, including sin, have consequences. Just look back over your life and remember the times you’ve turned away from the Lord. Our sinfulness sets off a cascade of events.
There are two things I’d like to hold onto from this Scripture passage. One is Ezra’s remorse for the sins of his people. This priest kneels before God, unable to look up, so great is his sorrow for the sin that has caused this separation between Creator and creature. How many of us experience such profound regret for our sins? Or are we more likely to attempt to brush them off, telling ourselves they’re not that big a deal in the long run?
If we take nothing else away from this story, remember that Ezra realizes no matter how far we stray (and we all do), God is merciful and compassionate, pursuing us, ever ready to forgive us our transgressions. All we have to do is show remorse.
(Editor’s note: Welcome back, Colleen! Life goes on in endless ways. “Your Daily Tripod” welcomes back Colleen O’Sullivan who was on a “sabbatical” from writing reflections in the early summer while attending Creighton University’s spiritual direction program. Shortly after her return from Omaha, Nebraska, she then was out for a few weeks recovering from surgery. Now she is back and ready. How can she keep from singing and writing reflections?)
Monday, September 23, 2019
“The House of the Lord” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)
|Gustave Doré [Public domain]|
“Let the governor and the elders of the Jews continue the work on that house of God; they are to rebuild it on its former site.”
“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it”. (Luke 8:21)
Solomon’s temple was destroyed. It was about 588 BC, and it is difficult to even imagine the sorrow and anger of the people of the kingdom of Judah. Life as they had known it came crashing down. All they had was their faith.
It took decades, almost fifty years in fact, for deliverance to come in the form of the Persian conquest of Babylon, which resulted in the people’s return to Jerusalem. It would be about 515 BC when the new temple, on the same site, was completed. Did it look exactly the same? We don’t know, but probably not. What was important was that worship was again available in the spot that meant so much.
Construction, destruction, rebuilding. It’s a cycle, and not just of physical structures. For us, it’s about continual conversion. We make progress in our spiritual life, but there’s always room for some tweaking, some destruction of pride perhaps, or of fear or greed or lust. And when those walls that separate us from God come down, we can feel we’re in a desert of our own, even though we know he is always there. Faith is about the trust that after our temples are destroyed, they can be rebuilt. Our souls may not look or feel the same as they did before, but they are all the more pleasing to God for our willingness to wipe away those comfortable, familiar habits that distance us from Him.
Identify a temple for destruction.
Sunday, September 22, 2019
“See the Light” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)
Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites–everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so–prepared to go up to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. All their neighbors gave them help in every way, with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, and with many precious gifts besides all their free-will offerings. Ezra 1:5-6
Jesus said to the crowd: “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” Luke 8:16-18
Yesterday, on the Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the unjust steward who finds out he's been caught squandering his master's property, and goes out and makes deals to make friends for the future. Jesus acknowledges the steward's prudence and calls us to have, at the very least, prudence about our future. “If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?”
The dishonest steward probably said to himself, “My commission checks are getting so big I had to hire an accountant.”
Some say the steward or manager was giving away his commission. Back then, the invoice had the commission embedded into the costs of a job. Another interpretation is the manager was helping the poor by cutting out cruelly high interest charged by his boss. Or maybe the manager asked the landowner to lighten the debt because of a shortfall in that season’s crops.
Regardless, the steward is still called dishonest, and he made a mess of his life and knew that he was responsible for his misery.
We are all dishonest stewards.
And we’ll make ourselves miserable by sin.
But, there is Good News! Imagine the judgment: The books were about to be opened up, and the verdict was clear—guilty. Then, Jesus comes and is willing to forgive our sins, and we accept the offer. Jesus on the Cross says to us, “How much do you owe God? Sit down and write, “None!”
The parable is a story about redemption. Although Jesus called the subject of the parable a “dishonest manager,” it is not his last description. The owner overlooked or ignored any personal loss and then, in effect, describes him as “Commended,” “Prudent,” “Clever,” “Resourceful.”
The manager had a growth-mindset in his employee.
Parents, teachers, and coaches shape the mindsets of their students through their actions and words as well as in how they teach students to think about themselves.
It can be a fixed-mindset message that says: You have permanent traits and I’m judging them. Or it can be a growth-mindset message that says: You are a developing person and I am interested in your development — [source: Mindset, by a Ph.D. and professor psychology at Stanford University, Carol Dweck].
Following up on this redemption story, the first reading this week comes from the Book of Ezra, one of the first chroniclers of the post-exile period of Judaism. He is responsible for helping hold the restored people together. The readings pair it with Luke’s Gospel when Jesus urges us to use our gifts: “No one lights a lamp and hides it under a bushel basket.”
When his family comes looking for him, Jesus uses the occasion to tell us that we are family to him, if we hear his Word and act on it. Herod is wondering who Jesus really is. He encourages his Apostles to freedom, sending them out to teach and heal, taking nothing with them. Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is. Peter replies for them all, “The Christ of God.” Jesus doesn't want them to announce he’s the type of Messiah they were looking for. Instead, he tells them of his upcoming passion and death.[i]
For us: Ask yourself like the manager, “What shall I do?” in Luke 16:3. He did not blame or get resentful for getting fired.
Put on your slippers!
Illustration: To a disciple who was forever complaining about others, the Master said, “If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers than to carpet the whole of the earth.”
Given the steward’s ability to speak to his real interests and act before the final reckoning is our situation right now: there is a period of grace. At the same time, the outcome of the reckoning is clear to him. Even though there is some leeway, a sense of urgency governs his actions. When we die, the owner’s words are to us, too: “Prepare a full account of your stewardship.”
Sooner or later, the time will come when possessing money will cease and unless they have previously been converted to higher values of a durable kind, one is left stranded in poverty. That time, of course, is the moment of death. The steward survived the crisis.
Calling wealth “dishonest” reflects the danger of vainly trusting it and not using it for your eternal dwelling.
Jesus asks us, “Why is it that the worldly people plan, manipulate and strategize with respect to money, yet you hardly pay attention to the crisis that you are in—and fail to show a plan or purpose, and act creatively with your life and resources when the time is ticking away in your life?”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. John Chrysostom: What we have does not ultimately belong to us. We are administrators - stewards of God’s gifts. Like the dishonest steward, when we give to the poor, we are assuring that someone will welcome us into eternal life. Make friends by almsgiving to be received into everlasting habitations.
Saturday, September 21, 2019
“Two Masters” by Phil Russell
“The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget what they have done.” Amos 8:7
“BELOVED: First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2
[Jesus said to his disciples,] “No servant can serve two masters.” Luke 16:13A
These are some hard sayings. So, where do they speak to me today? As a Catholic Christian in 2019, we have seen the world change and the way “things” operate.
“Cafeteria Christianity/Catholicism” is rampant. Discuss with just about anyone you know, practicing or not practicing, and you will see how the “seeds of change” have come to grow in the garden.
But then, maybe we aren’t so very different from the “religious” observers of Amos days. “When will the festival (holy day) be over so we can cheat, lie, deceive.
Biblical scholars often refer to Amos as the “Prophet of Justice.” Amos saw the harsh treatment of the poor of the land bytes the wealthy - including by kings, priests, and religious. When you read Amos, you can’t help but see a world, not unlike our days and times.
In the letter of Saint Paul to Timothy, he speaks of prayers to be made for (Presidents, Congress, State, and Local officials) “so that it might go well for you, in your life, times, living!”
My practice is a daily prayer for those mentioned above, even if I didn’t or don’t agree with them, and even if I did not vote for them. It’s part of the mandate of good Christian citizenship. I have voted for candidates of both political parties. I am not a “party” member. I have spoken with both liberal and conservative, left-wing and right-wing, (Jesus would have!). So many people on either side of the sitting politician say; “Well, I’d never pray for them.” Surprising and at the same time appalling behavior.
Does that adage “my way or the highway” apply here?
Try it have a conversation with someone, but try to do it from the side of Jesus.
See if you aren’t the one who might have to “love thy neighbor.”
The Republican, the Democrat, the Libertarian. The immigrant. The poor or homeless.
Then do we even go near to “loving” the Muslim, the Protestant, the person of another race, creed or color?
Cafeteria Christianity/Catholicism doesn’t line up with “discipleship” followers of Jesus “in faith and truth.”
What say you? Are you caught up in the balance? How do the scales weight for you?
Maybe our prayer “Lord Have Mercy; Christ Have Mercy” has never been so needed as in this “Ordinary Time.”
Who is your Master?
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
“Forgiveness and Peace at the Feet of the Lord” by Beth DeCristofaro
Beloved: Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. (Luke 7:37-38)
All that God wills, I will.
With wings of good intention,
I fly the dome of the sky
to accomplish the will of God in all.
With wings of good intention,
I fly the dome of the sky
to accomplish the will of God in all.
(Hildegard of Bingen)[i]
Probably most of us who are parents harbor regrets. We know that we have let our children down because we were selfish, misguided, overly strict or neglectful, just plain tired or cranky. Probably most of us who are employed are frustrated at times whether we feel we aren’t doing the best job we can. Or we are injuring our families by over-working. Or we have compromised our ethics to keep employment which affords us the lifestyle we desire. Are we worried that we aren’t good Catholics because we have missed Mass? Or let our children opt out of religious education? Or have we not been an active parish member? Or are angry at clergy and refuse to compromise. It’s helpful to be at least aware of what causes our inner turmoil because if we are willing to allow, God can help us untangle it.
The sinful woman was very aware of her sin. She was publicly a sinner; however, Luke did not report her given name, so she becomes EveryWoman/Man for us. In this Gospel, she braved further public humiliation by her actions – entering the house of an upright man who judges her. The sinful woman approached the rabbi with an intimate, scandalous act and used expensive oils. Through her awareness – and rejection - of her sin and her great need for forgiveness, she put her damaged identity and false desires aside. She knelt before Jesus, recognizing in him the spirit of God’s overwhelming mercy.
Buddhism identifies that life is “dukkha,” translated as suffering yet with the characteristics of restlessness, due to awareness of potential loss or pain. St. Ignatius recognized further that our spirits are restless until they rest in God. When my mind games of “dukkha” trap me, I and those around me are often miserable. Hildegard’s prayer-poem is so relevant. How often I have lofty ideals which are not met and then I beat myself up for the failure – or take it out on others in my life. The sinful woman entered Simon’s house “with wings of good intention,” not sure of the outcome but wanting surcease of her pain and cleansing of her soul. Jesus embraced her.
Why do I, like Simeon, see sin in others so much quicker than seeing my own sin? What keeps me from braving humiliation or rejection and laying my own impermanent desires at God’s feet, and asking for mercy? Jesus said to the sinful woman and he says to me: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:50)
Image credit: Mary Washing Jesus’ Feet, by Soichi Watanabe, is from For the Least of These: The Art of Soichi Watanabe(New Haven, Conn.: OMSC Publications, 2010), 75; oil on canvas, 7 × 9 in., 2006