Bawana yu Nawe

Bro Mickey Swahili Mary

Reprinted with permission of the artist, Bro. Mickey O’Neill McGrath, OSFS

“Bawana yu Nawe” is Swahili for ” the Lord is with you.” If we believe in God, if we follow Christ, do we believe that the Lord is with us, but not with others?

Today on Sunday, January 14, 2018, Pope Francis presided at mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Among other things, he said this:

I wish to reaffirm that “our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”

How are we called to do those things in our own lives? The first thing might just be to pray, especially if we feel fearful or challenged, and to ask God to open the door to our hearts. As that door opens, the first migrant enters – it is Christ himself.

That is what is meant by the words “the Lord is with you.” With YOU. With ME. With EVERYONE. That literally means every single person, every single human born unto this earth. Everyone, without exception. What we do with that migrant Christ who presses in need upon the door of our heart is up to us.

The Lord is indeed with us all, but it is up to us to let God in. What will we do? Block the way, or fling wide the gate? Will we cite laws and resources? Will we claim fear of the “other?” Or will we, as Pope Francis asks us to, “welcome, protect, promote, and integrate?” These are all verbs, requiring action. We can sit and fret, or we can get up and do what the apostles did in today’s Gospel – get up and go, follow Christ. To do that means to bring down the barriers of fear, and to spring into movement. It does not mean we will not be afraid as we go, it means that we know the Lord is leading the way, so we will follow. Remember –“Bawana yu Nawe.”

Advertisements

Terror, disillusionment, silence

What kind of title is that for a Thanksgiving post? Let’s step back for a moment so that I can explain.

First of all, I am not a big Alanis Morissette fan. Hey, I don’t dislike her, but her music was never held great pull for me. So what does that have to do with Thanksgiving or this blog? Well, she has one song that I absolutely LOVE. From the first time I ever heard “Thank U” I was turned around. The song came along a time in my life when the lyrics hit me in a particular way. Although my life has changed tremendously since then, the song still means to much to me. And the song is “Thank U” and it is after all…

THANKSGIVING!

When I was on Camino the song was often in my head. I did have it on my phone, so one day I played it for myself, a day near the end of the Camino. Maybe it was even our last day of walking?  Listening to it made me VERY weepy. One of the things that I did when I got home was to rewatch The Way – and imagine my surprise to find the song used in the film. At some level I must have known that, but it was not conscious.

Today on Thanksgiving I am deeply grateful for many things. Like some of what Alanis writes about in the song, I find myself as grateful for the difficult things as much as the good things.

Terror, frailty, insecurity, pain, challenge – what gifts these are! When I was younger I could not see the world that way at all. Life’s elements lined up into two categories, GOOD and BAD. Frequently I believed that the BAD outnumbered the GOOD by far. Poor me. Truth be told, some horrible things happened.

One day I was getting my hair cut and the woman who cut it at the time was listening to my usual litany of complaints about problems in my life, and about past experiences that had been so painful. She stopped what she was doing and glared at me… I could see both of our reflections in the mirror and I felt terrified because she looked so angry. Basically she told me that it might be helpful if I could see my problems in the context of good. The rest of the hair cut time passed in an awkward silence, but her words stayed with me.

Could I be grateful for terrible things, at least things that I perceived as terrible?

The answer, over time, turned into yes. Today I think of all that I am grateful for in my life and I imagine it in the context of what that cost my soul. Instead of seeing that cost as value lost, I see it in the light of what came forth. It is sort of like being buried in a garbage heap and making one’s way to the top. When your head emerges you can see and breathe! Where is the focus? The horror of being buried in the heap or the exquisite joy of making your way out into the air? Bye-bye GOOD and BAD. One cannot exist without the other, can it? A more holistic way of seeing, a more integrative way of living brings forth many gifts, garbage heaps and all.

Enough about terror and disillusionment, allow me to allow a word about silence. In our word of constant noise, chatter, social media, too many tasks, too many things, too much information, silence is a lost gift. For a long time I have tried to preserve ways of keeping silence. Some have worked better than others.

When I was on Camino I had extended periods of silence. Not just the hours spent walking in silence with friends nearby, but not in conversation, but also the silence that came from being removed from the quotidian explosion of noise. And by that I mean externally as well as internally… Real silence.

Maybe as we mull over what we are grateful for we can imagine new ways of being. God knows the world could use some new ways, right? We will all have different  ways of experiencing this. Sometimes our wounds are too fresh and new for us to gather in the horror and pain of life. Sometimes silence is the last thing a person needs because of their life circumstances. We are all on different paths, different “caminos” of life.

May you find some modicum of gratitude and joy today. And if you cannot, know that you are not alone in your circumstances. May change come to all of us, even if it starts with a hair stylist holding a pair of scissors and glaring at you with stink eyes! A little levity, but I am serious. We never know where our joy will come from, do we? Anyway, today I say thank you for many things. And I am very grateful to all of you who read this blog. Wherever you are in the world, know that you are part of my Thanksgiving, and I hold you in the heart of my prayers today. Thank You.

Willing or not, still waiting

Emmanuel-god-with-us(REPOST: This is the text of a reflection that I had offered at St. Edward the Confessor on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 – during Evening Prayer.)
God is with us.

God is with us.

God is with us.

It doesn’t always feel like God-is-with-us, does it? Especially now. Typically we might find ourselves on December 18th, pretty deeply into the “are-we-there-yet?” stage. You know, that feeling where we find our “it’s-almost-Christmas” glee crisscrossing with high anxiety over all the things yet unaccomplished as we race towards December 25.

Anxiety or glee – neither one is especially rooted in our Advent journey of holy waiting, but both are very common things to feel. I don’t know about you, but I am in a state of mind and heart that says, “can-we-leave-now?” rather than “are-we-there-yet?” And the “God-is-with-us” matter might be harder than usual to grasp. This makes me wonder if perhaps “are-we-there-yet?” and “can-we-leave-now?” are the wrong Continue reading

“No one ever loses…”

St Francis de Sales

St Francis de Sales

This morning as I prayed, I reflected on what this day means. Today’s very apt reflection for September 11 in Give Us This Day comes from St. Francis de Sales and begins:

“We find fault with our neighbor very readily for small matters, while we pass over great things in ourselves.”

When you read that on this (or any day) what strikes your heart? Are we a better people – and I am speaking collectively here – after the events of that day? Peering through the ash and smoke of my own wreckage, I can’t be sure that I am. Being critical is hardwired in me in a particular way that I dislike, and I have been working on this for a long, long time. Long as in moving Continue reading

Saturday Lazy Blogger Edition

Can_call_you_back_Im_with_piece_of_string_Cartoon_print_by_Leo_Cullum_Published_in_The_New_Yorker_on_17_2005It hit me this morning… I have neglected you little bloggy blog, and you brilliantly beautiful blog readers. Nothing is wrong, just my typical post Christmas slowdown. In any case, if you are a new reader, welcome. If you have been with me for long or short while, thank you. If you found your way here today due to reading my reflection today in Give Us This Day – I am grateful that you made the journey.

Anyway, the cartoon to the left kind of says where I am. January  is typically my lazy month. In reality, I have been busy here, doing some January-ish things, such as cleaning and organizing. Also, I have some talks/teaching/retreats/travel coming up, not to mention some writing deadlines, so there’s that. In the very near future I will post Continue reading

Making time for prayer #whynot

whynotThe other day I posted about New Year’s Resolutions – or lack of them. If you read the post then you know that they have never been my thing – and that I have been prompted by the Spirit to ask the question #whynot? Why not try something new or different, something that has been long desired – or recently imagined – and see what happens? Most change, as we know, comes slowly. Many times one small change can bring forth more sweeping ones over time.

One thing that seems to come up for a lot of people is the desire to pray; either to begin a regular prayer practice, or to deepen an existing one. Speaking as the world’s most undisciplined person, I can tell you that the only consistent practice in my life is Continue reading

Hungry, Naked, and Sick

10702060_765501393522463_5332331349274774028_nYou heard the Gospel on Sunday, right? Well maybe some of you did, maybe some of you didn’t. Here is a snippet from Matthew 25:

For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’

This is Jesus speaking to us, reminding us of our Christian life and vocation. It is one of the most powerful Gospels, clearly telling us what to do if we want to follow and serve Jesus.

In early 2012 I was invited to contribute a few gospel reflections to a book that was being put together by Deacon Jim Knipper; the book would be sold to benefit others and his working title for his enterprise was “Homilists for the Homeless.” While flattered, and slightly mystified to why I was invited along, I said yes – imagining one of those spiral bound books you can get made up at Staples, sold in Jim’s parish gathering space. Was I ever wrong!

Imagine my shock and surprise when the dawn began to break in my head and I realized that I would be in a book with a number of spiritual and religious giants who were heroes of mine, such as Richard Rohr OFM. Then there was James Martin SJ, whom I had interviewed by phone once, and corresponded with a little – another person who inspired me regularly. These two were the big ones for me, but there were many others. This first volume of Homilists for the Homeless gathered voices that were ordained and lay, Catholic and other Christian, male and female, to break open the Scriptures for each Sunday and Holy Day in the Catholic liturgical year. And the title? Back to today’s Gospel, the book would be called “Hungry, and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C.”

We’ve been busy since then, still hearing that Gospel in our hearts and publishing “Naked, and You Clothed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle A” last year. This November we have released our third volume in the series, “Sick, and You Cared for Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle B.”

This is new for this year - a box set of all three volumes. Available  at this link.

This is new for this year – a box set of all three volumes. Available at this link.

We’ve also been blessed richly, selling many, many books. The result has been that over $30,000 has been distributed to our selected charities for our first two years. We look forward to what the future brings and are grateful for our readers and such wide support.

16392_756880211051248_3157002784781926629_nOur list of contributors has grown since year one, keeping all the originals such as Deacon Greg Kandra, Fr. William Baush, and Michael Leach,  while adding some new voices. For example, last year we added names like Sister Simone Campbell SSS, Jan Richardson, Mary Sperry, Gregory Boyle SJ, Michelle Francl, Daniel Horan OFM, and Rob Bell. This year Deacon William Ditewig, Rev. Martha Sterne, and Margaret Blackie were added, and Joan Chittester OSB wrote our forward! All of our cover and interior art is done by Bro. Mickey McGrath OSFS. There are so many voices, names recognizable and others less so, but all quite gifted and passionate. You can find a comprehensive list of our contributors at this link.

I can’t even begin to express what an honor and privilege it is to be a part of such an august group. And that’s my ego speaking – the real honor and privilege comes from knowing just how many others are served because of these books.

Think the books are not for you because you are not a homilist, think again. We have many readers. Some use the books as homiletic resources for preachers from every tradition. Others use it to study, read, and pray. Groups and individuals use the books for weekly prayer and scripture study. I have heard of people bringing them to nursing homes and other facilities; I’m sure that they would be a welcome addition to prison libraries.

If you have purchased our books – we thank you! And if you are just learning about us, please have a look at our website. We are grateful for your purchase which puts the Gospel into action. Please “like” us at our Facebook page and “follow” us on Twitter. visit our Clear Faith Publishing website, where you will find other items for sale. We are also grateful for any social media sharing that you can offer us. Not for us, but for the sake of those who are hungry, naked, and sick. Which in the end, is all of us – completely dependent on Christ, completely dependent on one another.