Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Crocus' Message ~ Cheer up!




There is a scene in Downton Abbey where Mr. Carson, has just fired unlucky Mr. Molesley, a valet. Carson has gone off to ring the gong, leaving Molesley alone in his office. Mrs. Patmore, the cook, walks by and seeing poor Molesley, head down, demoralized and thoughtful, calls in, "Cheer up, Mr. Molesley, it may not happen." Molesley replies, "It already has." 

Flowers are a language. And the crocus, which can bloom as early as February, is symbolic of cheerfulness. That must be because crocuses make their snow-defying appearance when folks are most weary of winter and need some cheering up.

But I think there's more. St. John's Gospel chapters 11 through  16, begins a long movement towards the death of Jesus. 

  • There is the foreshadowing raising up of Lazarus
  • The religious leaders decide on the death of Jesus
  • Jesus is anointed by the woman at Bethany
  • Jesus is acclaimed as he enters Jerusalem on the donkey
  • Jesus makes predictions about his rejection and death
  • Jesus assumes the role of a servant, washing the apostles' feet 
  • Jesus foretells the betrayal of Judas 
  • The long meditative monologue and prayer of Jesus, 
  • Jesus' farewell and promise of the Paraclete (the heavenly helper). 

We can imagine how overwhelmed and grieved the apostles were. But then, at the very end of it all, Jesus said:

I have told you all this
so that you may find peace in me.
In the world you will have hardship,
but be courageous: 
I have conquered the world. John 16:33

The usual translation of this last verse says, "Be courageous" or "Be of good heart." But there are other versions which have Jesus say, "Cheer up!" Isn't that hopeful? 

Just days ago, Ash Wednesday, seventeen high school students and staff were massacred in a Florida High School - in Parkland, called Florida's safest city. An emotionally sick young man passed a background check and bought this militarized weapon that terrorized, wounded and killed.

Now, only the biggest and the worst of these frequent school attacks are reported. Lock downs, swat teams and even tanks in school yards are now called the new normal. We are numb to it and within minutes are talking about "moving on." It's hard to feel cheer. 

Still, Jesus has said it, and he knew the awful, abusive power of empire. And he knew how religion could be corrupted. And he knew what having enemies, detractors and a betrayer felt like. He knew menace and killer-violence. Maybe I could at least for today feel some "cheer up" about myself - a lot of us hold bad (even awful) stuff against ourselves. 

  • maybe especially about the mistakes of our youth
  • the failure in relationships
  • the wrong judgments and
  • accusations
  • petty (or not so petty) crimes
  • getting snagged in exploitation,
  • a time of hard hearted or
  • mean-spiritedness
  • the poor treatment of someone else
  • entitlement
  • foolishness or
  • any way in which I may have caused fear.

Jesus doesn't want us holding onto this stuff from long ago. Maybe this Lent, Jesus is saying cheer up to each of us about the past. Nothing good comes of holding onto any of it. God isn't served well or pleased for it. We can cheer up because Jesus is the champion over all of it.

And you know, crocus corms naturalize, which means they spread and can take over a whole lawn. Maybe cheerfulness is like that.



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

In the Spring, may we pray for the melting of hearts.



American artist, Amy Pollein, who lives off the coast of Maine, has created this insightful painting titled, Peggy Rockerfeller Farm,  Bar Harbor "March Thaw". Think of Spring's melting and perhaps dripping icicles or the breaking-up of pond ice first comes to mind. But this artist has shown us a deeply rutted, mud road thawing out in March. The snow, which had been plowed to the roadsides, is receding; the soft ruts of saturated ground are puddled with water.

Lent is the Church's Springtime. Might we pray for the melting of national hearts in a world that fails children. The sins against children are perhaps the most grievous of all.*

O God, melt the hearts of those
who abduct young girls for the sex trade,
who abduct young boys for soldiering,
who call the children of wars, collateral damage,
who turn young people into suicide bombs.
Melt these hearts, O God.

O God, thaw the hearts of those 
who blame, lie, obstruct and divide, leaving children vulnerable,
who sneer and mock the world's attempts at justice for children,
whose repugnant money-grab plunders the world; despoiling the future,
who minimize the societal problems which affect children.
Thaw these hearts, O God.

O God, soften the hearts of those
whose votes leave children less safe,
who deny children the health care and education they deserve,
who trap children in the bitterness of family dysfunction, divorce and addiction,
who throw children away.
Soften these hearts, O God.

O God, defrost the hearts of those
who think the death of children solves problems,
whose pandering to power leaves young people exposed to dangers,
who ignore the hunger, thirst, nakedness, homelessness of children,
who exclude children from their hearts, all of whom are God's children; our children. 
Defrost these hearts, O God.


*Do I think this prayer, or any other prayer, is going to eliminate these patterns of sin against children? Do I think even one heart will be melted, thawed, softened, defrosted? That's not why I pray this way. All that matters is that when God looks into me and sees my heart, God sees a heart alive with compassion. Compassion-ated. Compassion is deep feeling with the suffering of all life. 




Monday, February 19, 2018

Spring is the water-gift



This still-life photograph of a glass of water on a mossy rock suggests that water is a wonder. Coming from above, we might say water is of God. It sparkles. It's transparent. It's adaptable and necessary for all life.

Jesus understood the mystical meaning of water. He stepped down into water to join the ailing and dry world of humanity (Matthew 3:13). He used it to make a copious and amazing gift for the newly weds and their happy guests (John 2:1-11) He sat at the village well with the Samaritan woman to present his life-giving message (John 4:1-42). Like a spring, water streamed from his side at Calvary - opening his heart to us (John 19:34). He told us (and some people might have a hard time accepting this because they want religion to be strenuous) that we find salvation in giving a cup of cold water to the thirsty (Matthew 10:42 & Matthew 25).

Early on in Lent (the Church's Springtime) we might pay close attention to water as life-gift.The first thing the gardener does after transplanting seedling tomatoes out of the plastic six pack is to give them a drink of water - a kind of blessing or good wish. 

Before my Mass each morning I have a little ritual of my own that wakes me up and helps me to feel very alive and gifted by God. I sit on a small bench with a cup of water and slowly take three big sips, big enough that I can feel the water go down. I sit quietly between each sip. I say: Blessed are you, Lord God of all Creation, through your goodness there is water to drink, which the heavens give and the earth receives. May I consciously accept the gift of life this day. 

Blessed means: to extol God, to glorify God - best of all - to celebrate God. God's first gift each day - the encounter with water which keeps us going. We can play with our ideas about water. May we take nothing for granted. 

Sit with the water-gift. Feel it. Perhaps identify the deeper "thirst" I ask God to satisfy. Speak a word or no word at all. No need to sit for a long stretch of time - just a few minutes really. The goodness of God!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Synaxsis of Archangels at the Start of Lent



The word synaxsis means a gathering for worship. I suppose then we could call Sunday Mass a synaxsis. But here's a synaxsis of Archangels. The tradition says there are seven archangels but the bible mentions only Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel. The other names, which vary widely and wildly, come from extra-biblical or apocryphal Jewish and Christian sources. We might invoke their help as we set out along the Lenten Way.

Michael this day, may we find our way off the dark road of hate.
Michael this day, might we think something previously unthinkable.
Michael this day, that I would know why I was born.
Michael this day, that mercy would trounce fear.

Gabriel this day, may I allow God to disturb me.
Gabriel this day, might I be blessed with the gift of right communicating.
Gabriel this day, I pray the vision needed to love rightly.
Gabriel this day, strength, as I might be thrown off course today.

Raphael this day, truth enough to stop labeling people.
Raphael this day, heal the suffering of my fretting.
Raphael this day, was it you who stirred the Bethsaida waters? Stir up new consciousness in 
me.
Raphael this day, may I see the beauty that lies beyond my eyes.

Uriel this day, wisdom to solve some problem.
Uriel this day, illumination in my darkened mind.
Uriel this day, may my religion be transformative.
Uriel this day, is there some forgiveness I've yet to extend?

Raquel this day, friend of God, draw me in.
Raquel this day, angel of justice, teach me.
Raquel this day, elevate our national conversation.
Raquel this day, less talking, more listening for us.

Zerachiel this day, God's command, love born of insight.
Zerachiel this day, not to fear God, but to love him.
Zerachiel this day, that the nation not lose compassion.
Zerachiel this day, that the nation not lose humility.

Remiel this day, keep us from giving way to panic and despair.
Remiel this day, teach us solidarity.
Remiel this day, may we know we are spiritual beings.
Remiel this day, may my prayer be a cry of the heart.