What grace there is in eating together! After months in D.C. we finally reached out and invited a couple over for dinner. We told stories, laughed, reminisced, and ate. It was a sharing far beyond the food. We shared ourselves.
I’m sure that was the grace that Jesus shared with his disciples the night before his death. He shared himself. Having given them everything they would need for the journey – he then gave them the gift of himself – in a shared meal. I’m sure that meal was complete with story telling, laughter, and remembering when.
The challenge for us, after such a meal, is remembering the life and love we have been given in the nourishment that was shared. The food goes through us and nourishes our bodies, but the storytelling and laughter, the remembering and the feelings of love and acceptance stay with us and becomes a part of us.
I think it was St. Augustine who said: “When we eat real food it becomes part of us. When we eat spiritual food, we become part of it.” And so, no meal shared together becomes insignificant. It is grace and growth and nourishment for our deepening relationship with others and with God.
Jesus knew that. In a final meal with his friends he left them with tangible nourishment, yes, but also with intangibles. Those intangibles of love and laughter, memories and challenge, and an indelible part of himself were key elements of that meal as well. Then he asked each of them to incorporate these elements into themselves so that they could become one with him and with each other.
Every Eucharist since has invited us to do the same. It nourishes us, yes, but it invites us to become more. That more is to become part of the Giver of Life and Love, and not only to become “a part” but to follow his example and to do as he did – offering that life and love to others.
As this holiest of weeks begins, I see so much construction going on in our nation’s capital. The Washington Monument is being fitted with scaffolding for repairs from the earthquake that rocked the city the month after we arrived two years ago. Streets are being resurfaced, neighbors are refurbishing a bathroom, and in so many places homeowners are renewing landscaping in their yards with thoughts of spring arriving – soon, we hope!
All of this busyness has caused me to review the past six weeks to see how my repairs have gone in my Lenten commitment to renew my relationship with Christ. How have our practices this Lent helped us to re-establish or deepen our love, our commitment, our compassion, our concern for our neighbors and for our planet? Have any of our repairs over the past six weeks helped to fashion us more and more into the likeness of Christ?
This time has certainly helped me to put some plaster in the cracks of my resolve. Have we tried to hold someone’s hand more often; to offer a comforting touch more readily; to forgive without demands? Have we struggled to be honest with ourselves and with others about the work that has been going on in our soul? Have the foundations of our faith been strengthened? Have the walls of justice and love, compassion and forgiveness been adequately supported? Have we put a fresh coat of paint on our intentions?
And, we must remember, these six weeks of challenge and resolve are to make us more like Christ. These habits we have begun during this Lent are to be continued and carried through the years, day by day, hour by hour. We no longer have the choice to return to what life and our relationship was like before we began our building project of Lent. This is now the New Us – the new face of the compassion of Christ in our day, willing to walk the difficult road of love and suffering all the way to the resurrection. Grace will be our scaffolding. And, our work continues . . .
In one week so much can happen. Francis has been Pope for one week and already there seems to be a gentle breeze blowing through the Church! I’ve read and heard and seen that he loves being with people – even getting out of his car to walk among the people, to kiss babies and bless a person with disabilities. It’s been reported that he was in favor of a same sex marriage rule when Argentina was voting for it – but was negated by his fellow Bishops. And, today we hear he might be open to discussing the possibility of married priests.
Over the week I have heard many words describe Francis. It is well understood he has a “love for the poor.” “Confidently humble” and “ecclesiastically conservative while socially liberal” are two descriptions I’ve heard that seem to hit the mark in my observations. There are so many ways we can be poor – economically, yes, but also spiritually and socially. These reports of Pope Francis show that he has a love for all those in poverty – of any kind. At least it shows that his love for people includes a concern for people and the issues they must deal with. I pray this first week is only a taste of what’s to come! The days ahead will be exciting.
And while I was watching and listening to reports of Pope Francis’ election and the following days, we were in Delaware and New Jersey looking for historic sites and museums. We had a lovely day, although cold, taking the ferry from Lewes, DE to Cape May, NJ and exploring the town and beaches of Cape May. We found a beautiful state park at Ft. Mott, NJ and walked along the trails by the Delaware River thinking about history and all the people who had walked these paths before us.
Coming home, we spent Sunday offering our services as tour guides to a friend of a friend who was interviewing for a job in D.C. She and her daughter were somewhat overwhelmed with the possibility of a move from Seattle to D.C. Having done it and survived, we spent the day with them talking, driving, orienting to neighborhoods, eating and looking at apartments. At the end of the day we were friends and truly sorry that she would arrive in D.C. just as we are leaving!
A full week of news and views and adventures. All of it grace!
Where were you when the historic news hit the streets? We had decided to take advantage of the sunny (although cold weather) and head to Delaware and New Jersey for a couple of days of exploring.
I was watching the news – but not closely, for any developments in the election of a new Pope, but it was more difficult when we were on the road. So, I will never forget how I first heard the news. We were in Dover, Delaware at the Air Mobility Command Museum and having a great time walking through the exhibits and learning about history.
One of my growing collections is a commemorative pin and/or patch to mark my visit to any given place. So, while in the small gift shop at the museum I heard one of the docents come in and tell the clerk “Well, I guess his name is Francis.”
Immediately I knew we had a new Pope. I walked over and asked if my assumption was correct and she answered “Yeah, some guy from Argentina.” We spoke for a few minutes about our hopes and dreams for the Church and this new Pope and then I purchased my pin and patch and went on my way.
What amazed me was how events can make brothers and sisters of us all – or they can tear us apart and cause division – whether we want them to or not. This event, I think, by the grace of God, did some stitching together. Perhaps because of the movement of the Holy Spirit, we can all come together anew as children of God and follow in the example of Jesus, St. Francis and our new Pope Francis . . . by caring for the poor; paying our own bills; taking only what we need and sharing what we have; being conscious of the earth by re-using and recycling; and by smiling – certainly smiling – as we pick ourselves up as a Church and try again. What grace! Where were you when you heard the news?
Rarely have I taken the time to just observe the day.
So, it was with delight that my husband and I planned for just such a day of pure observation. We charted the weather maps and made sure conditions would be agreeable and all the information said that yesterday would be a good choice.
We awoke in the darkness and without preamble, packed ourselves into the car and drove to one of the highest spots over the city. It was easy driving so early on a Sunday morning! Arriving, we walked to a spot where we could see our capital city and watch the sunrise and the breaking of day.
There are not words that convey the beauty of the morning sun finding its way above the landscape of the city. As we stayed in one spot for the entire event we observed flocks of birds emerging from their nests; joggers beginning their morning run; another photographer with his tripod picking a select spot; the slow increase of light to distinguish the landmarks; and the sun gloriously rising over the cityscape.
It was a bit cold, but nothing less than breathtaking! When light finally dawned and the sun was fully above the horizon, we departed to I Hop for breakfast and to celebrate the possibilities of another day.
To complete our day of observation, we returned to the same spot overlooking the city for sunset. Again, it was magnificent. Standing in the same spot where we had watched the morning arrive, we sat to watch the night fall. While waiting we saw many walkers and joggers; lovers sitting entwined on the grass; photographers taking advantage of the location; and visitors exploring the monuments and chatting merrily with one another. The carillon bells rang out the time as we silently observed. Night fell and in the sacred silence of the moment we said our prayer of gratitude for the grace of another day and journeyed home.
Observing the day was prayer. It was grace. It was holy. And, it made us think we should do the same more often!
The weather has been so violent of late that we sit inside and listen to the windows rattle and the feel the fickle changes through rain and thunder; sleet and ice rain; snow and now today, some sun. While it looks beautiful outside today the high winds and low temperatures belie the cold and sting that awaits anyone who might emerge from their shelter.
And, how is the Lenten climate in our souls these days? Do we show a calm and sun shinning forecast on the exterior while the winds blow and the temperatures of our interior lives are icy cold?
During this Lenten time we should be taking care to examine the interiors of our thoughts, our ambitions, our souls – our true selves – and putting things in alignment with the exterior view we show to the world.
But we also need to be gentle with ourselves. Our struggles to be competent; accomplished; successful; or compassionate should not leave us wasted when we think we cannot do all that needs to be done to attain such a state. We are also human and part of being human is that we have conflicting emotions and are graced with the options to see ourselves as we think we really are – or to see ourselves as God sees us.
We will never be able to accomplish all that our hearts desire – all that is within us – because some things necessarily must be left to God. Yet, we can still bring our interior desires in sync with our exterior actions and show our true face to the world. Our inner storms will blow, but let us not ever let them destroy us or prevent us from the work we can accomplish when we put our hands in the hands of God and work in tandem for a better future. Let us never let our inner storms so overshadow the reality of our days that we cannot still see the true nature of our graced souls and let what God sees shine forth to the world.
Lent can help us to purge our doubts, confront our demons, and challenge ourselves to carry on, in spite of them all, no matter the weather. There is grace, even in the storms. And there are calmer days to come.
These Lenten days our minds are turning to packing for our return trip home. And, I cannot help it, but I think as I pack my material things, what things I should be packing up during this season of Lent so I might be able to arrive at Easter as a person made new in Christ.
This reminds me of the old game that we used so many times on retreats. It went something like this: If you were going to spend the rest of your life on a desert island and could only take one suitcase with you – what would you pack?
This packing and moving and making cuts in our possessions forces me to think about what is really necessary and what is entirely a choice. Perhaps we should also be packing up some things we have accumulated in our spiritual lives as well?
Perhaps in this move toward Easter we could leave behind our snap judgments and flaring anger at little things; our impatience and upset with things we have no control over – like the weather or irritating habits of a family member. And while we are packing, I don’t want to forget a freshly laundered suit of patience; my collection of optimisms; and my new-found gift of leisure time.
What is necessary for a healthy spiritual life? And, what do we gather and accumulate simply because we have the choice? What needs to be packed for our journey to Easter and what can we leave behind to lighten our load?
Just thinking about this creatively as I pack my books is a grace. Ah, my books! I must have them – both for my spiritual health and for my creativity, entertainment and intellectual stimulation.
What are the things you need to pack? And, how will you carry the grace in your life?
In these days without a Pope, before the Holy Spirit moves through the College of Cardinals to elect another to sit on the Chair of Peter, my thoughts turn to many things.
I continue to hear the bells ring over St. Peter’s and remember when I stood there and received the Pope’s blessing – then by Pope John Paul II. Yesterday’s television images of masses of people wishing Benedict well and saying their farewells reminds me of the many churches throughout the world where I have sat with hundred’s of strangers, yet joined in worship and prayer as children of God. And the commentators speculating on what will come next and what will happen in our Church reminds me of a class I took once.
While a student, I sat at the feet of Fr. Jim Dunning, one of the architects of the current RCIA rituals in the Church, as he taught his last class before his death. He shared with us his recent experiences in Africa and how the cultural mind-set is so different there. In Africa, he explained, a person would express who they are by saying: “I am because we are.” He was describing a community mind-set, very different from our own. We tend to have a very individualistic view of ourselves .
His point was – our Church could learn some things from the African mind-set. Our Church could benefit from realizing that together we are the Church. No one of us individually, mind you, but all of us together, represent the Pneumatic Body of Christ on Earth. We are the Church!
The building is not the Church. The Curia is not the Church. The College of Cardinals are not the Church. Not even the Pope is the Church. But, all of us together are the Church. And what we look to and need in a Pope is a guiding Shepherd, in the image of the simple carpenter who walked through Galilee so many years ago.
And so, in these days without a Pope I remember, WE are the Church and I pray for a gentle, spiritual soul who will accept the Holy Spirit’s prompting. I pray for someone who will guide us lovingly on our spiritual journey and not be afraid to take us into the future with promise, openness, justice and hope.
May the Holy Spirit grant us such a grace.