Pray With Us!

Bill Murray and Punxatawney Phil in 1993’s Groundhog Day

Brothers and sisters:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
For this is why Christ died and came to life,
that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

— Paul writing to the Community in Rome    

Brothers and sisters:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
For this is why Christ died and came to life,
that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
— Paul writing to the Community in Rome

    I made myself late for work this morning. And I’m embarrassed to admit why.
   I have a ritual of turning on the tube with a cup of coffee when I wake up. Often, the channel is set where Pete left it in his late night watching. Sometimes baseball. Other times news. Often, classic movies.
   So lo and behold when I clicked the set on this morning, there before me was what I consider not only a comic masterpiece but an amazing spiritual allegory from the last century: The movie Groundhog Day. One of my absolute, forever all-time favorites.
  You may remember it (and if you haven’t seen it, I urge you, pop some popcorn and be ready for a total treat). It was written by the brilliant, late Harold Ramis and starred Bill Murray. The movie is basically about “almost eternal” life. In it, Phil Connors, a cynical TV weatherman, finds himself trapped in an endless loop on February 2, in groundhog-loving Punxsutawney, Penn. Every day at 6 a.m. he wakes up to Sonny and Cher belting out, “I got you Babe” on the clock radio. Every day, it’s the same.
    Phil can’t cope. Some days he’s suicidal, leaping off buildings and driving into quarries. Other days, he’s despairing, mean and resigned. But eventually, Phil starts transforming. He becomes someone who is no longer morbidly self absorbed but present, even of great service, to others. Which leads to his dream outcome, of which I am not going to tell you because you are already digging in the cupboards for the popcorn kernels and olive oil!
    At the heart of the story is the notion that our experience of the world transforms through two things. First, that a lot of how the world occurs for us is in how we meet the day to day ins and outs of our lives. So much depends on our interpretations of our circumstances. And second, the world shifts as we become people who live for others. This Sunday, Paul reminds us of that. It’s good counsel as the weather temperature drops and winter with COVID looms. Are we going to be in a perpetual loop of sameness, with all the hellacious frustration that brings, or are we ready to be people who live our lives looking outside ourselves? That’s a question that I’m personally praying with!
    I hope to see you Sunday! Find logon and worship aids on our website.
Trish
Pastoral Director


    I hope to see you Sunday!
Trish
Pastoral Director

Take Up Your Cross

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
— Matthew 16

I’ve been noticing now that I have the joy and privilege of preaching a lot that I often read the upcoming week’s Gospel and think, “Oh great, I love this one.” I didn’t realize how many favorites I had!

This week’s Gospel isn’t one of them.

All kidding aside, I have often thought when I heard Matthew’s Jesus say, “take up your cross” that this text, in particular, has been misused terribly over the centuries. It was used to minimize and ignore suffering. In the face of poverty and lack, the response would be “you have to carry your cross.” I remember my grandmother saying so to me. And she was a woman who bore a few truly terrible crosses.
Joan Chittister offers some interesting insight into the deeper meaning of this text. “EEvery difficult thing in life is not a cross. A lot of things are difficult in life but that does not make them crosses. A cross is that which we do not choose and do not want. It is outside the normal order of life. It is what confounds our plans or disturbs our dreams. It is anything that wrenches life away from our plans or hopes in a truncated or destructive or pitiable way. It is where we would not go but cannot avoid,” she says.
I can think of a few moments in my life where I was staring straight down a road I wanted nothing to do with. Perhaps you have, too. And so lucky us that the scripture moves on, and it reminds us that at the cross, at moments in which we face nonnegotiable terrible challences, we meet with transformation. And Joan suggests that when we embrace these “I’d rather not” crosses, everything changes.
Joan describes it this way: “There is a great freedom that comes when the cross we refuse to accept becomes the cross we embrace. When we give up the struggle against life, life begins to lighten in us. We become indestructible. Nothing more can hurt us now. We learn to live in ways we never imagined possible and find ourselves made new. Being handicapped is not a death knell anymore. Being alone is not a burden now; it is an opportunity to start over again. Being blocked by one impasse in life, we discover whole new ways of being alive. We find new life in the small deaths of the day. We sink into the ultimate liberation. Now there is nothing in life but the freedom of choosing again.”
More on this challenging Gospel this Sunday.
Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday, at 10 a.m. CT, via Zoom. Visit http://www.charisecc.org for the link. Currently, we are doing an abbreviated Eucharist to take more time breaking open the scriptures together. Our call is a webinar. You can come fully into the call and be seen or you can simply be an attendee and watch. All are welcome.
The worship aid and the day’s readings are posted before liturgy on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’ece
Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

The Canaanite Wom

Nevertheless, She Persisted…

And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”  He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
— Matthew 15

   We have a funny habit in my family (the Sullivans) and it’s this: We like to figure out who the baby looks like. Really. Early on. Like Mom? Grandpa? My spouse thinks this is a hopeless effort, but I always do it, and have to restrain myself from offering my opinion to new parents. When I was young, I would hear my grandparents comment on children with a particular phrase: “S/he looks like his/her people.” And I grew up thinking it was a good thing when you looked like your people. 
   I wonder if that is somehow tied to the human urge to belong. When Justin reached a certain age, my Aunt Peggy sent me my Uncle Patrick’s first communion portrait and yes, the resemblance was uncanny. So looking like your mother’s people, in this case, brought a deep sense of belonging.
  However, we also use that human mechanism to draw lines in the sand: who’s in, and who’s out. Currently, it seems like everywhere we look there’s some delineation about the boundaries of various groups, be they religious, political, ethnic or national. 
  To draw lines like that, simply put, is tribal. They say my people/your people, and the twain, whatever the twain is, ain’t gonna meet. Religions are particularly this way, and it’s genuinely heartbreaking to me to see how thoroughly tribal Christianity is. And I can’t really decry it too credibly, having spent most of my life in an insitution that claimed, and to some degree still does claim, itself to be the “one true church,” outside how whose boundaries salvation ends. 
  This week, we hear from one of my favorite feisty women of the New Testament. In this story, even Jesus is busy patrolling the boundaries. And yet her firm, if humble, and totally demanding ask turns on his lights. Turns out even the son of God can shift.
  Nadia Bolz Weber recounts that someone once told her that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of the line. That’s worth meditating on.  
 More on this amazing and challenging Gospel of inclusiveness this Sunday.
     Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday, at 10 a.m. CT, via Zoom: Click here. Currently, we are doing an abbreviated Eucharist to take more time breaking open the scriptures together. Our call is a webinar. You can come fully into the call and be seen or you can simply be an attendee and watch.  All are welcome. 

Faith and Water Walking

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 
— Matthew 15

  I have a confession. It will not surprise you who know me well. If there is any character in the Gospels who most painfully reminds me of myself, it’s Peter. While on the one hand I find his passion and his never-ending quest for faithfulness inspiring, he also regularly makes me wince.
  This week he’s going to muscle it up and step onto the water i

n faith. But in a moment, taking in other circumstances, he’s going to drop like a stone! 
   The picture, above, touched me deeply the first time I saw it. I like to think Jesus is giving me that same look of good humor and love every time my best efforts and preoccupation with self find me sinking fast. 
There’s something about that beautiful, clear hand reaching down that moves me.
 This Sunday, Brian Ashmankas, who is a deacon candidate in the Good Shepherd Companions and who has been praying with us the past few months will break open the word with us. We are devoting more time to our shared homily, which has been an important part of our prayer.
    Until we gather for Mass, I offer for your reflection, below, a beautiful passage from St. Augustine that references this Gospel. I find that it asks compelling questions for our time.
     Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday, at 10 a.m. CT, via Zoom: Click here.  All are welcome. The worship aid is posted before liturgy on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.  If you would like to meditate for 20 minutes before Mass, please feel free to join Bhakti and others via the BrighPath Zoom link, below. In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis

“And so, brethren, in this life we are pilgrims; we sign in faith for our true country which we are unsure about.
Why do we not know the country whose citizens we are?
Because we have wandered so far away that we have forgotten it.
But the Lord Christ, the king of that land, came down to us, and drove forgetfulness from our heart.
God took to himself our flesh so that he might be our way back.
We go forward through his humanity so that we may be with him forever in his Divinity.
Do not look for any path to him except himself; for if he had not vouchsafed to be the way, we could never have found the path.
I do not tell you to look for the way – the way has come to you: arise and walk.
You are not walking on the lake like Peter, but on another sea, for this world is a sea:
Trials its waves, temptations its storms, and men devouring each other as fishes do.
Don’t be afraid, step out stoutly lest you sink.
Peter said, ‘If it is you, bid me come to you on the water.’
It was, and he heard his cry and raised him as he was sinking.
Gaze in faith at this miracle, and do as Peter did.
When the gale blows and the waves rise, and your weakness makes you fear you will be lost, cry out,
‘Lord, I am sinking,’ and he who bade you walk will not let you perish.”

— St. Augustine

All Who Thirst

All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
— Isaiah 55

It’s a week of that crazy perfect Minnesota weather that sweeps through our brains and wipes out all memories of our -35 wind-chill winter days. Although we are physically isolated, many of us are still heading out to be at the side of any of our 15,000 plus lakes. (Yes, according to the MN DNR, the count is higher than the license plate says, although they many also be counting some bodies of water that are more like ponds!) Whether its through a walk around, a float on top, or a nice dive-in swim, our lakes are an ideal addition to any mental health program in this time of COVID.
     I’m someone who always, always has a need, a downright urge, to be near water. When I was growing up and in my young adulthood on the East Coast, it was the longing to be “down the shore.” We have a family photo of my sisters and me where I am sunburned and scowling on the beach. My mother had the audacity to ask me to get out of the surf for a minute. I found the hour waiting after lunch pure agony.
   Same with lakes. My solace and refuge during turbulance as a youngster was a GS camp with a stunning mountain lake up in the Delaware Water Gap.     
   Today the same is true, when I get to escape up North and watch the water or plunge into it. It’s even been true for decades when every night I plunge into my bathtub for some time alone.
    Given the way water has been healing and refreshment for me, I have not trouble understanding the power and meaning of water for me as it’s described by Isaiah. And no surprise that the ancient Israelites gave us water as the symbol of profound and holy cleansing that became our ritual of Baptism as recapitulated and expanded by Jesus.
   Are you feeling parched? A little dry? Are your leaves wilting a bit? Does your skin feel salty? Come to the water. It waits to refresh. We’ll experience it in the Word this week, but also in the life giving sustenance that comes in the Eucharist and one another.
     Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday, at 10 a.m. CT, via Zoom: Click here.  All are welcome.  Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would enjoy being with us.  The worship aid is posted before liturgy on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.  If you would like to meditate for 20 minutes before Mass, please feel free to join Bhakti and others via the BrighPath Zoom link, below. In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’ece
Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtue

Mary of Magdala, Susanna and Joanna by Janet McKenzie

Reclaiming and Celebrating Women Witnesses
This prayer was crafted this year for the feast of St. Mary of Magdala by our dear friend Fr. Jerry Maynard, who is celebrating his first anniversary of ordination this week! Please join us in prayers of thanksgiving for his ministry.

Good and gracious God, we thank you for the model of discipleship made evident through the life of Mary Magdalene; like her; may we have eyes to see resurrection happening all around us and in sure hope, testify always to the Christ who always shatters the bonds of death, liberates us from the tyranny of pain, and mends our aching spirits.

During these times of upheaval, may your healing fragrance arise among us, so that we who most earnestly desire to see the world made whole, may be catalysts of that wholeness through our acts of compassion, justicemaking, prophetic utterance, and lovingkindness.

Stir up in us, Oh Holy Spirit, the gift of courage so that we may dare to enter into these dark times, equipped with big hearts, the oil of comfort, and the light of freedom. We ask all of this through the intercession of Mary Magdalene who is the Apostle to the Apostles, and Preacher of Preachers. Amen.

     On July 22nd we celebrated the Feast of St. Mary of Magdala. For years, I helped convene a gathering at my former parish to celebrate her life of discipleship and her powerful example to the women followers of Jesus, myself included. Rather than celebrate Mass together, this Sunday we will be focusing our Prayer on Celebrating Mary and other women who have sacrificed to devote their lives to the Gospel. It will be a Word and Worship Service. I hope you can join us!
     Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday, at 10 a.m. CT, via Zoom: Click here.  All are welcome.  Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would enjoy being with us.  The worship aid is posted before liturgy on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.  In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’ece
Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

The Nature of Parables

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.

      This week, we explore a number of Jesus’ stories about the kingdom. In the Gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus himself quotes Psalm 78 (above). I am struck by the strange and paradoxical nature of the psalmist’s comment. The things that have lain hidden from the beginning of time will be announced!  Yes! Wait: They are going to be announced in parables.
     Say what?
     Parable is an ancient and tricky and almost inscrutable form of communication, one that is a deep part of the culture from which Jesus emerged. Parables almost always do not mean what the first appear to mean to contemporary readers. They are designed to turn things on their heads, to force us to read between the lines, to call us up short and make us pause. That’s how we’re going to get the hidden news of the Kingdom?  
     What better time than this, when things appear to be in upheaval, to lean into the promises of God. What does it mean to work for the fulfillment of Jesus’ vision for humankind? I think these parables will provide surprising comfort given all we are facing.
     This Sunday we will unpack what the Kingdom may be all about as we look at the mustard seed, the leaven, and the wheat and weeds. I promise to keep it under six hours. 
     The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday, at 10 a.m. CT, via Zoom: Click here.  All are welcome.  Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would enjoy being with us.  The worship aid is posted before liturgy on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org. 

Fertile Soil and the Right Seed

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.  — The Prophet Isaiah

      Times of challenge bring powerful speaking with them. At least it seems that way to me, in my lifetime. As a youngster, I remember watching the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy on the evening news, and since that time I have had opportunities to read the voices of their era at length. In the wake of 9-11, I was moved by religious and political leaders who exorted us all to reach for our higher selves in the wake of tragedy. I’m moved now by all kinds of speaking out about the challenges of our day, coming from many communities and people of many generations.

The scripture passage from Isaiah this Sunday reminds me that the word of God is ripe with fruitfulness. To be a Christian is not to be living some sort of historical narrative, but a living dance of the divine life engaging us and engaging our world at every moment. God’s divine word flows, and achieves what it was sent for. I remain in hope about the powerful word that flows around us now. A word inviting us to new heights of love, peace, and justice.
       The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday, at 10 a.m. CT, via Zoom: Click here.  All are welcome.  Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would enjoy being with us.  The worship aid is posted before liturgy on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.  

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’ece
Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

For everyone born, a place at the table…

Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

     I adored my Grandma Sullivan. I mean it. Adored is simply not too strong a word. And I learned so many things from her. I learned how to knit, crochet, and sew. How to sing Irish songs and make Irish Soda Bread. I learned that you can laugh at yourself (I’ll demonstrate her “reverse” arm muscles for you sometime). I learned that family was of ultimate importance. I learned that you can survive grief and loss and be a better person for your endurance and faith.
    And I learned that there is always enough.
    From a woman who grew up in a small cottage with 12 other children and her parents, I learned about hospitality and generosity. It didn’t matter that the apartment was small and the table in the kitchen. Everyone was invited. Although my grandmother lived with economic hardship just about her entire life, but I remember her telling me, “there is always enough to add another plate to the table.” It was more important to be welcoming than to be Martha Stewart. 
   The scriptures this week remind me that every now and then, we need to stop and search our hearts about who is welcome and who is not in our own lives. And who is welcome in our praying communities.
   This is Pride month, a reminder that an enormous circle of people and their loved ones have been, and still are in many settings, shoved away from the table of the Lord.  I’m really tired of “welcoming” language regarding churches. It implies that you can come alongside us, and we won’t object. How about “wanted” language? Like we repent that you were so battered away from us, how can we reach out and pull you in, and give you and yor loving family the best imaginable spot? 
     The same can be said for our brothers and sisters in communities of color. Martin Luther King noted that the most segregated hour of the week in this country is 11 a.m. on Sunday. This is still true! What would it look like to actively reach out and embrace people, or place ourselves joyfully alongside them in their settings? To own the ways in which we segregate, and to work to change that?
     I have no answers. Right now, I’m awash with questions. I do think, though, that this week’s readings illuminate the question of hospitality. Who’s here? Who’s not? Who felt welcome? Who didn’t? Maybe the story of Elijah and the woman of influence, along with Jesus’ observation about who gives the cup will illuminate this for us.
     The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday, now at 10 a.m. CT, via Zoom: Click here.  The worship aid is under the “Pray with Us” tab on this website.

Fear not! 

Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
     I’ve always wondered if angels are, in appearance both terrible and wondrous. If not, why are the first words that they have to say when they encounter humans are always, “Fear not!”
    This week, Jesus gives us a similar exhortation: Fear no one. What an important message in this time when events around us almost pull for us to be fearful. What does it mean in this age of global pandemic and the exposure of deadly racism to live without fear? And to be so absent of fear as to be fearless enough to shout from our rooftops? It’s a conversation worth having, I think.
     The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday at 11 a.m. CT via Zoom: Click here.  If you’re new to Zoom, click through early to work out the kinks. Or for that matter just to connect and say hi.  You can also dial in using a phone. All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would enjoy being with us.  The worship aid is posted before liturgy on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.  
In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’ece
Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

Do not forget the LORD, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt… 

that place of slavery; who guided you through the vast and terrible desert with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the desert with manna, a food unknown to your fathers.
     Here and there when I’ve led retreats, I’ve asked people to think and write about their image of God. Last week we were reminded of the mystery of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.  At one point in my life, I really struggled with that construction. In seminary, we read Walter Kasper’s amazing opus, The God of Jesus Christ. More than half of it was devoted to a survey of the understanding of the Trinity over the evolution of the Christian community.
      You can imagine my chagrin when, about 20 pages from the end, he announced something akin to, “Ultimately, it is all a mystery.”
      Still, more and more I embrace that mystery; the God that Creates, the God that enters into human life and experience and creates the transformative path, the God that enspirits and enlivens and empowers. The one God.
      I’m thinking about that for two reasons. First, because the readings this week will affirm the radical innovation of Judaism: That our God is a God engaged with humanity, in history, and that our God is the God of profound love and care. In the midst of a season of saraph serpents of COVID-19 and the scorpions of racism, I grasp that God close.
      It’s also the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Solemnity sounds right, right now. I learned from my Benedictine teachers to ride the rhythms of the liturgical life of the Church, with it’s feasts and fasts and solemnities. It also feels right to embrace the reality of the Body of Christ in all that it means. We have had a wake up call in the dominant culture that the Body of Christ was Mr. George Floyd as he was suffocated, crucified on the streets of Minneapolis. We have also been reminded that the Body of Christ floods into places of grieving and loss, as the place of his death was claimed as sacred space and as protesters spoke and clean up folks arrived, brooms and dustpans in hand.
      A few years back there was a change in the Roman liturgy that was met with irritation by quite a few of us. It was the instruction to bow before receiving the host. I have nothing against a good bow, as all of you know. The embodied actions I learned at St. John’s remind me that we come together in the body to be the body. But I felt like the bow before the Eucharistic minister was a bit much. I felt differently after hearing the perspective of a friend. She said that when the Eucharistic Minister raised the host before her and said, “The Body of Christ,” she saw not only the bread, but the person behind it, the body of Christ right before her eyes.
     That, in her mind, merited a bow.
     
I’d say it merits a Zoom as well.
     The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday at 11 a.m. CT via Zoom: Click here.  If you’re new to Zoom, click through early to work out the kinks. Or for that matter just to connect and say hi.  You can also dial in using a phone. All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would enjoy being with us.  The worship aid is posted before liturgy on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.  

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

The Trinity as depicted in the movie “The Shack.”  From left to right, Jesus, Mack Phillips (the protagonist), Papa (God the Creator), and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit).

Trinity Sunday

There were a number of things I liked about the book and movie,”The Shack,” but what I loved about it was its very disruptive and beautiful depiction of the Holy Trinity (above).  Many churches condemned this depiction. I celebrate it.
 

This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  We will be holding a healing service focused on justice and the recent events in our region. Dale O’Brien, co-chair of our Community Council will be leading us. You’re encouraged to bring a poem, prayer, or reflection. We will also have time in silence to remember Mr. George Floyd.

Personally, often I’ve found myself without words this week. A great deal of my time has been in silent witness. And silent prayer. I’ve been thinking  a philosophical work by Ludvig Wittgenstein called the Tractatus, which I studied in a course called Religious Language. It says, “There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical…

“What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” I’m looking forward to being together Sunday, in speaking and in silence.

The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday at 11 a.m. CT via Zoom: Click here.  If you’re new to Zoom, click through early to work out the kinks. Or for that matter just to connect and say hi.  You can also dial in using a phone. 

All are welcome.   The worship aid is posted before liturgy here. Click on the Worship Aid dropdown under “Pray With Us.”

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish

Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian

Pentecost

“Send down the fire of your justice…”

These words have poignant and powerful meaning this week in our region. Let’s deepen our embrace of the Spirit’s power and our call at our Pentecost mass this Sunda.

Mass will be a hybrid of zoom and physical distancing. To join our zoom call,  Just click here. You will be asked for an email and Mairead will unmute you. You will need to start your camera yourself. If you would like to come to the backyard to pray, join us at 15181 Ridge Road. Please enter outside via either side of the house. Chairs will be set up.

All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would benefit from being with us.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian

Ascension 2

The Ascension

I am with you always; yes, to the end to time  ― The Gospel of Matthew

There is a story told about Leonardo daVinci. He was working on large canvas in his studio. He planned the subject, set the perspective and outlined certain colors. Then he began painting, and of course the work reflected his astonishing artistic genius. At the midpoint, he stopped working on it. Calling one of his students over, he instructed the apprentice to finish the paining. The horrified student protested. How could he ever complete the work of the master? He was totally unworthy. But daVinci would hear none of it. Instead, he asked: “Will not what I’ve done inspire you to do your best?”

Last Sunday, Jesus promised that we would not be left orphans, and we heard of the sending of the paraclete, the advocate. Tune in (literally!) for more on that next Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost. Wear RED!!!  This Sunday, we acknowledge that the disciples first-hand experience of their teacher and Lord came to an end. In some ways, he took a very daVinci exit. “I got the project started,” he seems to be saying. “Now all of you, finish it!

It would be a mistake, I think, to consider the Ascension the “finale.” In some ways, it is but an overture. More on that, more on the deep Jewish roots of this story Sunday. Join us!

This week we will be shifting (successfully!) from a Zoom meeting to a Zoom webinar. Just click here to join the call. You will be asked for an email and Mairead will unmute you. You will need to start your camera yourself.

All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would benefit from being with us.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian

holy-spirit-window-sticker 2

Welcoming the Advocate

I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you. ― The Gospel of John

Pentecost is still a few weeks away, but this Sunday we get a Holy Spirit warm up. Kind of like Spring Training in Fort Myers before we have to hit Target field.

Perhaps we need a jumpstart this year to feeling enspirited. I think I do. As our horizon shifts, and the planning for the future continues to stall along with it, it’s easy to feel depleted. Our council is making some verry thoughtful and important decisions for the community, and I’m grateful for their diligence and prayerfulness. Because we just can’t know! Will we be face to face in August? November? This time next year?!? Holding off being dispirited seems hard some days.

Many years ago, I was introduced to a powerful spiritual concept: Taking life One Day at A Time. Or on tough days, one hour or even five minutes at a time. This was, for a long time, the biggest “aha!” for me. Wow! Just today! Amazing! Brilliant!

It was literally years before something struck me: There is no other possibility.

I can’t live next September 27th. Or January 1, 2021. Or any other date in the future, including tomorrow. Now, that doesn’t mean that my sneaky mind can’t obsess about the future. Or even, in a healthy way, plan for it. But I can’t live it. I can only live right now, right here. I have been given this day, and my task is to live it fully and live it well, no matter the circumstances.

Now, one magnificent aspect of this practice is that it builds up the muscle of surrender. When I accept that there is only this day to live, I am empowerd in all manners of acceptance. I can face the circumstances I’m in with greater equanimity. I can stop resisting aspects of myself or others that are hooking me. I can trust that just as I have gotten through other long/hard/demanding/scary/younameit days, I can get through this one, with God’s help.

That leads me to another thought about “sneaky.” I am a huge admirer of Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, who has spent almost her entire ministry serving people on death row and the families of both victims and perpetrators. Whenever Helen speaks, I wait for her to say my favorite line of her talk in her beautiful Louisiana drawl: “Our God, our God is a SNEAKY God!” Helen says this in relationship to how a simple “yes” to writing a letter to someone incarcerated on death row led to her personal psychic and spiritual transformation, and her activism.

That’s what we get with the Holy Spirit. She’s lingering and lurking in the best possible ways, looking for cracks through which to blow her holy breath. She’s okay with us fretting and hiding in the room upstairs when we can do no better, trusting that the moment we’re willing, she can crash through with wind and fire.

So warmup Sunday this week! We’ll prepare to let her in to our lives and hearts with thunderous glory and goodness. Bring yourself, your hopes, your fears, your COVID brain that’s fretting, forgetting or whatever to liturgy this Sunday and we’ll remember togather the power of the Advocate, who was breathed out on us and against whom nothing will prevail!

This week we will be shifting (successfully!) from a Zoom meeting to a Zoom webinar. Just click here to join the call. You will be asked for an email and Mairead will unmute you. You will need to start your camera yourself.

All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would benefit from being with us.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian

Women deacons

The proposal was acceptable to the whole community…

So they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.  ― The Gospel of John

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. ― The Apostle Paul in his letter to the community in Rome

This Sunday, the first reading will remind us that as the needs of the early Christian communities changed and grew, more help was needed. This led to the choice of seven men who would serve in a special way: Uncovering and addressing the needs of the people, particularly widows and others who were vulnerable. This text is considered the documentation of the installation of the first deacons.

An earlier mention of deacons exists in the Christian canon. The letters from Paul and others (which we have also called the epistles), include a greeting to a deacon. But surprisingly, it’s not one of the seven mentioned in John. It’s Phoebe, who serves the church at Cenchreae.

The question of women’s leadership in the Church has been a topic of discussion for quite a long time. With the social changes that have occured since the 1970s, a period which also includes the wake of the reforms of Vatican II, the topic has been even more in the foreground. Most recently, Pope Francis has convened a second study commission regarding the issue. It appears that this one is made up of mostly naysayers, but we will see what the Holy Spirit does. She tends to the unpredictable!

I am focusing on this first reading for this reflection because it strikes me that the Christian churches are at a particularly “diaconal” moment. Absent our sanctuaries, which in so many context feature exclusively male, ordained leadership, we are thrust into questions of what it means to live our Christian lives as disciples in our every day circumstances. Even as our physical distancing keeps us apart, we feel the urgent need to stay together, and to be consicous of the pulse of all the people in our sphere.

In baptism, we share in the tria munera, the teaching, sanctifying and governing offices of Jesus Christ. Did you know that you participated in being priest, prophet, and king (or queen, as it were?!?) by virtue of your incorporation into his life, death and resurrection? Oh good, you knew that!

Anyway, it strikes me that while there are formally consecrated deacons, just as there are formally consecrated priests, there also a way in which to be a Christian is to be a deacon, a diakonos. A servant Particularly now.

What qualities did the community look for in the diakonos? A good reputation. That makes sense. They would need to be full of spirit. Nobody wants to be served by someone who is scowling and resentful, or full of fear, so that makes sense, too. They were to be people with wisdom. Ah! That’s interesting. Brings to mind any number of our elders, no? But as well, it reminds us who, in the Hebrew scriptures were imbued with wisdom: Artisans, painters, builders. In the Christian scriptures, wisdom is given for administration, giving, and more. That would seem to include everyone!

Finally, they were people who could lead, who could take charge of the responsibiliites that had been delegated to them. This was particularly focused on food, shelter, safety and wellbeing.

All of that said, doesn’t it seem like we are in the new moment of diakonos? A time to check on the elders next door or down the hall. A time to make sure PROP has sufficient stores of healthy food. A time to reach out to those who have become income insecure due to layoffs and job losses.

This week, let’s embrace the diakonia that the tria munera empower.  Watch for both. And silently proclaim them in Greek!  When the early Christians began life like this, we hear that “The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly.” Same may be true for the Churches today, including our community!

The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday at 11 a.m. CT via Zoom: Click here.  If you’re new to Zoom, click through early to work out the kinks. Or for that matter just to connect and say hi.  You can also dial in using a phone.

All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would benefit from being with us.  The worship aid is posted on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian

Good shepherd 3

I am the gate… 

Jesus said:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber…  ― The Gospel of John

When you think about gates, what comes to mind? Maybe a picturesque picket fence? Chain link, with one of those horsehoe shaped clasps? Is your gate a “keep out” or “keep in” sort of gate?

When I think of gates, the first things that pop into my mind are entry points I’ve used. Certainly the turnstiles of the subways of New York, a few of which are stunningly gothic in their interlocking iron bars! And then, as I have new roots, the State Fair entrances! Tons of people, and all looking forward to what awaits. Poised to go in.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, John offers us that beautiful metaphor of Jesus as the Good Shepherd yet again. Here, we encounter him as the one who protects the flock from harm. This rich image of the one who cares, who holds, who finds, who carries now is supplemented with the image of one who protects. How perfect given what we are dealing with right now. Our good friend Fr. John Curran will be with us on Sunday to break open the Word.

Also, a reminder that you are invited to print out and travel with Flat Jesus. Take him with you, or introduce him to your home. Feel free to send pics to me or post on facebook, and we’ll see what he has to reveal to us!

The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday. Mass will be at 11 a.m. CT via Zoom: Click here.   If you’re new to Zoom, click through early to work out the kinks. Or for that matter just to connect and say hi.  You can also dial in using a phone. The full invitation is posted in a box below. Also below are some ideas for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. This  Zoom address is a stable link from week to week.

All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would benefit from being with us.  The worship aid is posted the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian

 

 

road to emmaus

Walking and talking, Easter Style

“What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. ― The Gospel of Luke

I’m walking an awful lot lately. Sometimes with dog, sometimes without. Sometimes with spouse, sometimes without.

It’s really impressive the number of folks here in EP who have taken to the streets. Older couples, moving with the consciousness and deliberation age brings. Young parents hightailing it after children on bikes. Joggers, runners, shufflers, and quick pacers. Girlfriends doing good social distancing, and others not so much. The plugged in and the checked out.

I mostly start walking when the day starts dragging and the isolation feels too long. It’s been touching the number of people I’ve seen that I haven’t run into for ages. Mostly Pax Christi CC folks, whose faces are forever in my heart and mind.

The Gospel this weekend presents us with two downcast walkers, Cleopas and his companion. Very likely his wife. Both are disciples. Both are flattened by the dramatic turn of events. Both are in need of reassurance.

Which, of course, Jesus provides in ways we might expect and ways that surprise us.

I think it’s time for me to begin actively spotting Jesus. I believe he’s present, and that my eyes, like those of the disciples, need to be opened. Our friends at Light of Christ have been sharing pictures of Flat Jesus. Some of you may remember Flat Stanley, who (in the children’s book) goes through the mail on adventures, where he has his picture taken. My children sent Flat to various destinations over the years. He came home from Washington’s Crossing NJ with a copy of the Declaration of Indepence on time. On another, he had his picture take with Governor Chris Christy.

I invite you to go to our website and print out Flat Jesus. Take him with you, or introduce him to your home. Feel free to send pics to me or post on facebook, and we’ll see what he has to reveal to us!

The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday at 11 a.m. CT via Zoom: Click here. If you’re new to Zoom, click through early to work out the kinks. Or for that matter just to connect and say hi. You can also dial in using a phone. The full invitation is posted in a box below. Also below are some ideas for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. This Zoom address is a stable link from week to week.

All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would benefit from being with us. The worship aid is posted the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org
cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

 

 

pentecost window

We’re in it Together… Since the Beginning!

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
― The Acts of the Apostles

I don’t know about you, but I’m learning a lot about the value of community lately. I’m seeing how much I cherish the various circles of my life, and how important it is to connect with them. I’m learning something about listening carefully as I join zoom calls. I’m finding myself picking up the phone and checking on people more. I’m appreciating the world of tech we swim in, as faces and places are accessible via web cameras and microphones.

One of the wonders of the early Church was its egalitarian nature and its emphasis on caring for each other. From the start, to be a Christian wass fundamentally to be in community. Pope Francis even went so far as to say a few years ago that one cannot be a Christian in isolation (I don’t think he meant people in solitary confinement against their will, thought). To be a Christian is to be about others, to be focused on their wellbeing.

This week, we have a guest homilist, Fr. Jerry Maynard. Fr. Jerry has been joining our prayer from his home in Houston. He has become a wonderful colleague over the past few years, and I’m excited to have him share his insights about this Sunday’s readings with us. Learn more about him, below!

The Charis Community comes together virtually every Sunday. Mass will be at 11 a.m. CT via Zoom: Click here. If you’re new to Zoom, click through early to work out the kinks. Or for that matter just to connect and say hi. You can also dial in using a phone. The full invitation is posted in a box below. Also below are some ideas for Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would benefit from being with us. The worship aid is posted the main menu of this website.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org

cháris Χάρις khar’ece Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

Easter email

Easter

“We ask that streams of Easter light might flow into the intimacy and privacy of our hearts, to heal us and encourage us and enable us to make again a new beginning.”
― John O’Donohue, Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World

I find it touching that as we enter into the less novel weeks of sheltering in place and physical (not social!) distancing, we are also celebrating two great feasts of liberation, Passover and Easter. Our Jewish friends are gathering virtually to pray the liturgy of the Seder, which recounts the wonders that God is doing. Not what God has done, what God is doing: the words of the prayer are in the present tense. As the gathered family and their friends speaks of liberation and love, of being slaves and now being free, they are not speaking of their ancestors but of themselves. It is from this Jewish sensibility that Christians inherited the mysterious notion of anamnesis, a Greek word that can be loosely translated as “real memory.”

“Real memory,” in our understanding as Christians is the heart of our liturgy. When we gather at the table, it’s more than a memorial or a commemoration just as the Seder is more than a memorial or commemoration. It’s not a reenactment; it’s a here and now experience of the saving love of God that dwells in us and moves through us, that animates all that is and all that we perceive and don’t perceive. When we come together this Easter Sunday, and every Sunda for that matter, we not only remember what Christ did, but hopefully we are opening ourselves up to an experience of what Christ did — pour out God vast and stunning salvific love.

In some ways, that’s hard as we look at computer screens and feel the seperateness of our different physical locations. On the other hand, this union we affirm is something cosmic from its very start, something beyond the limitations of church sanctuaries and even human logic. It’s a leap of faith, a trust in presence. What better time to break the bonds of whatever tomb we find ourselves in than gathered at the table, each of us resurrected in and with Christ!?!

So I hope that you will join us this Easter. It would be nice to enter a sanctuary for our prayer, but let’s remember that this great feast is not about going in but coming out. Bursting free from the tomb, the grave, into the liberating, transforming light of God’s love.

The Charis Community comes together virtually this Sunday for the high feast of the Church, Easter Sunday. We gather 11 a.m. CT via Zoom: Click here. If you’re new to Zoom, click through early to work out the kinks. Or for that matter just to connect and say hi. You can also dial in using a phone. The worship aid is posted the main menu of this website.

This Zoom address is a stable link from week to week.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org

cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

Christs Entry Palm Sunday Norman Adams

Palm Sunday
Jerusalem, Our Destiny

So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

The passage about Thomas (above) was easy to brush past in last Sunday’s Gospel. It’s almost an aside in the compelling and long story of the raising of Lazarus. I’ve often thought it too bad that this testament to Thomas’ faith and character is lost in the mix. When we hear the name of Thomas the disciple, most of us remember his moniker: Doubting Thomas. What a bum rap. If we made our evaluation based on this text, rather than the post Easter appearances and his skepticism (or was it paralytic grief?) regarding the resurrection, we might call him Bold Thomas or Faithful Thomas or even Hang-on-there-a-minute Thomas.

This Sunday, we enter Holy Week with the celebration of Palm Sunday. Normally, the Church has us read the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, with its shouts of joy and palm branches, at the start of Mass. We then shift in the Liturgy of the Word to one of the Passion stories. Why is that? I’ve wondered if it had to do with an intolerance for joy. We’ll do it for a few minutes, but then on to the profound, deep, even darker stuff. No more cheering. This is serious business.

I think we need more joy, particularly now. So this Sunday we’re staying outside the gates of Jerusalem a bit. We’ll grab our cloaks and wave our branches and focus on welcoming this surprising king, who comes riding on the back of a donkey not a steed and is welcomed not by dignitaries but good old us, the regular folks. Yes, as Thomas so insightfully knew, Jerusalem is Jesus’ destiny, Thomas’ destiny, our destiny (to play with the title of the wonderful song by Rory Cooney). Not an easy journey, but a journey so profoundly worthy that more than 2,000 years later we’re still ready to take it. More on that Sunday!

Mass is via a Zoom membership funded by a generous member. Click here. 11 a.m. CT. If you’re new to Zoom, click through early to work out the kinks. Or for that matter just to connect and say hi. You can also dial in using a phone. The full invitation is posted in a box below.

All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would benefit from being with us. We are suggesting you have bread and a cup at your cup for the consecration. We will leave the arrival of the Spirit to the Spirit’s discretion in these challenging times. The worship aid will be posted by Friday on the main menu of our website: http://www.charisecc.org.

This Zoom address is a stable link from week to week.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org

cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues

Painting is Christ’s Entry Into Jerusalem by Norman Adams (1927-2005)

 

 

Lazarus st. John's bible

“Master, the One You Love Is Ill…”

The Gospel this Sunday, in which we encounter two grieving sisters and their recently deceased brother, Lazarus, feels poignant to me as we continue to move throught this season of pandemic challenge. I can only imagine the thousands of voices around the globe who right now are calling out to God, “Master, the one you love is ill…”

I’ve often rebelled against Gospels like this one, because I have been that person next to the tomb, and I’ve longed to be the person who had Jesus right there to resurrect my loved one. On the other hand, I’ve also been that person who has moved through seasons of grief into new experiences of light, strength and restoration. I guess this resurrection stuff is more complicated than it appears at first glance.

Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest I greatly admire, has noted that we often think of Jesus (and this text) about being some sort of coupon for eternal life that we get to cash in sometime in the future. Another way we might think of about it, she suggests, is that our relationship with Jesus is the ticket to eternal life right in the here and now. “I am the resurrection and the life.” It starts right now, not at some date on the horizon.

Are we willing to embrace that kind of promise as we struggle with fear and anger? Let’s explore the question more together this Sunday at Mass.

This week we start meeting via a Zoom membership funded by a generous member. Click here. Mass is 11 a.m. CT. You can also dial in using a phone. The full invitation is posted in a box below.

All are welcome. Please feel free to share this email if you know someone who would benefit from being with us. The worship aid is on the main menu of this website: http://www.charisecc.org.

This Zoom address is a stable link from week to week.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org

cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues

manbornblind

“He healed the darkness of my mind…”

This Sunday, we experience the story of the man born blind. In this time of uncertainty, with not knowing how the weeks ahead will unfold, we are experiencing our own kind of blindness. Please join the Charis Community for our Sunday Mass, 11 a.m. CT on March 22nd, as we pray and reflect and lift our hearts in love and hope. All are welcome. The worship aid is on the main menu of this website.

https://hangouts.google.com/call/Cgk6SSPD8IwljCHCzX2XAEEE?no_rd or click here to join hangouts for mass. Please mute your mike.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org

cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

 

 

Woman-at-the-Well-600

Woman at the Well by Aleksander Intonyuk

Give Us Living Water (Virus Tests and Toilet Paper)

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

If I thought we lived in an anxious age before the pandemic outbreak last month, I am now even more certain. This past week I have been inundated by Corona virus strategizing. From multiple denominations regarding Sunday worship (one of the benefits of the “ecumenical” in our name is that I’m plugged in in a lot of places!). From the U of M, because my daughter is enrolled as a junior. From St. Kate’s, where I teach as an adjunct. From my professional associations and non-profit circles. And of course, from the nightly news, which inspired my trip to Costco at 10 a.m. yesterday. Yes. Public confession. Just like I stockpiled diapers on the eve of Y2K (Mairead had been born on 10/11/99) I fell prey to the toilet paper paranoia.

Costco was sold out in 20 minutes. Good thing I know you can gather natural toilet paper from cattail fluff. Girl Scouts, I am forever grateful. Do I get some points for only taking one of the two packages I was offered? Maybe that was my sole moment of sanity.

This Sunday, a thirsty Jesus comes to the well of Abraham, and he engages with an unlikely conversation partner. A Woman. A Samaritan. And someone at the well a time one might not expect to expect a woman from the village.

I have heard a lot of misguided preaching on this text over the years, but I will resist travelling down that path for now. Instead, I’d like to use this amazing Gospel as today’s reminder of who our God is for us. Our God is not only the one who provides for our needs (yes, there will be wells filled with water in the midst of deserts). Our God is the one who goes beyond our physical needs to sustain us in ways that are surprising, enlightening, uplifting. The God that gives “living water.” Cosmic. Generous.

The same God who turns scarcity on a hilltop into more food than the community could ever need and who quenches parched throats eternally is the God who is with us now, As we are hit on a daily basis with news related to the pandemic, what will we do? We can live these weeks in terror of scarcity or trust that we are not alone, that we will be given (and give each other) what is needed.

That said, I recognize that there is also a healthy realism that we need to exercise about the way viruses move in populations. Someone I love dearly announce that she is now “officially an elderly shut in.” I support that decision completely. So here are some thoughts about how to stay connected if your travel is becoming more circumscribed.

If you are changing your pattern of living, and want to be with Charis virtually, this week we will begin providing access to Sunday Mass via Google Hangouts. If you click this link at 11 a.m. Sunday, you should move through to the gathering. It’s a big experiment, so if it’s a bust, more trouble shooting until we get it right. Please feel free to forward this connecting point to others who might want to join us in prayer virtually.

Importantly, I also invite those members of the community who are feeling vulnerable during this period due to compromised heath, special needs in their families, who are on a fixed income and face financial strains or food insecurtiy, or feel isolated in any way to please write me at trish.vanni@charisecc.org We have other ways of connecting beyond weekly prayer, and I will be setting up a phone chain to keep in touch with people and to allow the community to stay on top of special needs and support. See the beautiful thoughts from Sojourners, below. We can be there for each other in new and important ways. In particular, it’s very important that noone go hungry or without needed prescriptions due to financial hardship.

If you stay healthy, please keep in mind that there are systems in place in our country that make accessing needed support difficult for key groups. I received an update regarding safety of detained people in the immigration crisis and how we may need to be proactive around items like soap. Please see https://www.communityjusticeexchange.org/ for information about the bond/bail and other issues facing people who have tried to enter this country and have been rounded up. The Red Cross is now in a blood donation crisis. Let’s remember that the life of disciples is inward looking in service of being outward looking and be of service where we can be!

For those of you who are still comfortable gathering together, we’ll be doing some modification of hand holding, etc. at Mass. See below. Hope to see you then. Mass is at 11 a.m. at the Charis Center, our home. 7117 Washington Ave. S., just off Valley View Road exit of 169 on the EP side.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.charisecc.org

cháris Χάρις khar’eceOur name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

 

 

 

 

Transfiguration 6

Seeing Clearly: The Power of Transfiguration

“Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’”

Transfiguration by Malcolm Guite

For that one moment, ‘in and out of time’,
On that one mountain where all moments meet,
The daily veil that covers the sublime
In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.
There were no angels full of eyes and wings
Just living glory full of truth and grace.
The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face
And to that light the light in us leaped up,
We felt it quicken somewhere deep within,
A sudden blaze of long-extinguished hope
Trembled and tingled through the tender skin.
Nor can this blackened sky, this darkened scar
Eclipse that glimpse of how things really are.

Well, that’s what I’ll be exploring Sunday at Mass, perhaps in less poetic form. Hope to see you then. Mass is at 11 a.m. at the Charis Center, our home. 7117 Washington Ave. S., just off Valley View Road exit of 169 on the EP side.
In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

follow-me-satan temptation ilya repin Painting by Russian Artist Ilya Repin (1901) “Follow me, Jesus”

“The safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” the devil Screwtape, in the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis offers us the correspondence between two devils, Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood. In the letters, Screwtape advises Wormwood about how to most effectively tempt his assigned human, “the Patient,” to sin. In this book, God is “the enemy.” Screwtape and Wormwood have different approaches to the challenge, as we read over the course of the letters. While the younger Wormwood wants to offer more extravagant sins, the elder Screwtape suggests a craftier approach, quoted above. Tempting humans appears to be fun; how much more so to tempt the son of the Most High?!?
The temptation of Jesus appears in all three synoptic Gospels, so we can surmise that this story was important to the earliest followers of Jesus. In it, Satan is bold — the temptations invite Jesus into realms of grandiosity. “Oh, you’re hungry I see… Turn these stones into bread. What a fine trick that would be, given the Roman Empire is starving your people.” “Ah, wait, you are God’s son. Let’s see you do something marvelous right at the site of the Temple. A little levitation, perhaps?” “So you’re the son of the living God. How about having power beyond your human ability to comprehend? Just bow down to me…”
In these stories, it strikes me, Satan is quite Wormwood-like. But if like us Jesus is fully human as well as divine, I suspect he also faced (at some point or another) the slippery slope of Screwtape-style temptations. The ones that are slightly more insidious. Disguised under a thin veneer of righteousness. Easily dismissed or rationalized. The ones that have no clear “signposts.”
At Ash Wednesday services, I shared with the community that I am actively trying to shift my focus this Lent away from stereotypic ways of understanding sinfulness and toward an understanding of the season as a time to clear away obstacles to living the life of a follower of Jesus — a life of compassion and love. There are quite a few snarky practices I need to clean up, milestones of mean-spiritedness that I would be better off without. Particularly on facebook (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!). I’m also going to expand my commitment to prayer. And work find new avenues of generosity of spirit.
To succeed will require getting close to Jesus, my teacher. As I think about temptations, I can’t help but remember the popular singing group of my teen years by the same name. Years later, Sister Act, brought an entirely new meaning to one of their biggest hits when the nuns’ choir sang, with verve and joy, My Guy. “Nothing you could do could make me untrue to my guy, (My guy). Nothing you could buy could make me tell a lie to my guy. (My guy) I gave my guy my word of honor to be faithful, and I’m gonna, You best be believing I won’t be deceiving my guy.” Yup. That’s shaping up as the heart of the next 40 days for me.
Hope to see you this Sunday at Mass, 11 a.m., The Charis Center.
In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow, Christians of many types around the globe gather to mark the start of Lent. Today it’s Pączki and pancakes, but tomorrow there’s a seasonal solemnity that will embrace us.

This past Sunday, I shared my thoughts about the fairly crazy notion of loving one’s enemies and praying for those who persecute us. I don’t know about you, but that instruction has moved, for me, to a nice aspiration to a central challenge in my discipleship. As David Lose observes, “Jesus isn’t trying to modify the rules of the world. He’s not, contrary to prosperity preachers, inviting us to figure out how to make the most of this world. And he’s not even inviting us to find a safe space amid the challenges of this world. Rather, he’s starting a revolution by calling the rules of this world into question and, at the very same time, redeeming this world that will put him to death.”

So how does Jesus do that? He calls the powers of the day into question by describing an entirely different way to relate to each other, inviting us into relationships governed not by power but by vulnerability grounded in love. It is his way, and as Mahatma Gandhi would observe almost two thousand years later, “’An eye for an eye’ makes all people blind.”

So here’s what I’m proposing at a Lenten discipline this year. Let’s love one another. Really. With all we’ve got. Even the ones who “don’t deserve it.” Repent of the ways we have sidestepped this. Abstain from the urge to attack or denigrate. And pray, pray, pray that the God of infinite love, our God, will fill us for this journey. More on this, briefly, tomorrow.

I hope many of you will consider praying with us. Particularly those of you who do not feel at home in your current praying community. We are here with open hearts, open minds, and open arms of welcome. Word service with Ashes at 5:30 pm. All are wanted and welcome.

Holiness

“Be Holy, for I, the Lord your God, am Holy…”

“The Holy Spirit writes no more Gospels except in our hearts. All we do from moment to moment is live this new gospel of the Holy Spirit. We, if we are holy, are the paper; our sufferings and our actions are the ink. The workings of the Holy Spirit are his pen, and with it he writes a living gospel.” Jean-Pierre de Caussade, and 18th century Jesuit.
I’m wondering this week about what it means to be holy. I actually think that I’ve been in the presence of holiness — I’ve met a few elders that vaguely blew my mind (and, for whatever reason, they were all elders). Perhaps I’ve met more holy people than I’m inclined to acknowledge. Vatican II affirmed a “universal call to holiness,” recognizing that the quality is not only found in professed, religious, and consecrated persons. Have I been missing it around me?
Robert Ellsberg is an author who has spent a good portion of his professional life writing about saints and holy people. Once, he met Brother Patrick Hart, the former secretary of Thomas Merton at the Abbey of Gethsemane. He had heard that the monks regularly read aloud from All Saints (his wonderful book) while dining in the refectory. Ellsberg asked, “Did the monks have any trouble with the people I included as saints?” he asked Br. Patrick. “Well,” he replied. “There were some eyebrows raised about Thomas Merton!”
Well, if that’s true about Merton, we can all breathe a sigh of relief as we lower the holiness bar just a smidgen.
“The story of Merton or Nouwen or any of God’s faithful servants is not just a chronicle of their activities and accomplishments. It is a story that takes account of their restless search, their stumbling, their moments of doubt, their quirks and personal qualities. And if we ask, ‘Where is God in their story?’ the answer is that God is part of the whole story,” writes Ellsberg.
Ah. So perhaps that’s also true for each of us. I’ve had a sort of stumble-filled, doubt-sparked and quirky week. Maybe you have too. Let’s get together and see if we can find some holiness in there.
Mass is at 11 a.m. Sunday. Come early! Pancakes will be a-flippin’ as we get ready to enter Lent this Wednesday with our Ash Wednesday service.
In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

Getting to the Bottom of It All…
“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about t’expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought I had—but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called ‘Bottom’s Dream’, because it hath no bottom.” Nick Bottom in A Midsummer’s Night Dream
We theatrical types all have them: Memories of roles or shows that we just can’t shake, to the point where lines are suddenly recalled with surprising midlife clarity. One of mine was playing Helena in Midsummer’s when I was a junior at Georgetown. It was a awesomely creative production, one that would land my bestie Rick Lombardo in a fantastic directing program at BU. He’s had an amazing career, and is now chair of Penn State’s monstrous theatre department.
There are lines of Helena I’ll never forget, like “though she be but little, she is fierce!” But one of the most memorable is my friend Joe Banno, who went on to direct at hte Folger Shakespeare library, awakening from Bottom’s sojourn with Titania to quote Jesus convolutedly (if that’s a word). Anyway, as I read the epistle this week, Joe came to mind as I read, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
It’s incumbent upon me to do a little better in recalling the right words than does Bottom. Because what a promise! And that fullness comes how? In the act of loving God.
A few things in recent weeks have me plunging in and out of a scarcity mentality, with the neuralgic fears that seems to bring along. In the Gospel, Jesus will exhort his listeners (including us) to remember that his message is not one of abolishing all that goes before it, but that one that fulfills it. “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live,” says Sirach. Let’s explore that more deeply, remember the promise and find the hope. Mass is at 11 a.m. Sunday.
In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

salt crystals

You are the salt of the earth…

It’s easy to understand what Jesus means when he says “you are the light of the world” (or as easy as it ever gets with our often creative teacher). But what does it mean to be exhorted to be the salt of the earth? There are six different ways the people of his day put salt to use. More on that Sunday.

In our house, there are a number of uses for salt, which is reminding me to tell you all not to attempt to come to our front door, the path to which is quite an ice rink. Be family. Come through the garage.

It hasn’t been an easy week for many people in our community, and for a range of reasons. My mind keeps floating to the power of community in the midst of everything. As I sat with my sweet honorary niece Elizabeth yesterday, she was comforting her beautiful, feverish and unhappy baby, who’s about a year and a half old now. She was exhausted. I remember that so well! But still so gentle and soothing. Lizzy lit up as we were remembering the many people who brought food for her while Jagger was a newborn.

So two things struck me. First, that we need each other now as the human family has always needed each other, for sustenance and support. We are in an age that seems to be moving more and more to physical isolation. And second, that I believe in a mother God who can hold us, and stroke us, and comfort us no less powerfully or beautifully than I saw Lizzy comfort Jagger. And no less patiently or peacefully.

Mass is at 11 a.m. Sunday.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.newcatholiccommunity.com
cháris Χάρις khar’ece

Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

Simeon and Anna

Sunday, February 2nd: The Feast of the Presentation
Who is this King of Glory? It is the Lord!
This week is the Feast of the Presentation. In the Gospel story, the infant Jesus is brought to Jerusalem to be presented to God. He is met by Simeon and Anna. More on that on Sunday.
As I read the week’s other two readings, I found myself singing. The first reading from the prophet Malachi asks, “Who will abide the day of his coming?” Instantly: Two different movements of Handel’s Messiah (and their truly many notes): “Who Will Abide the Day of His Coming” and “For He is Like a Refiner’s Fire.” And when I read the psalm, all I could hear was Stephen Colbert’s unforgettable liturgical dance and sung performance of “The King of Glory Comes.” Talk about a jarring juxtaposition!
Today, I spent some time with a group of women learners studying the history of Sufism. One of the things that makes the mystical stream of Islam unique is the fact that it has, since its founding by Jalalludin Rumi in Persia in the 13th Century, made poetry and music a centerpiece. This is contrasted with more extreme and austere recent movements in Islam that condemn music as sinful. As we listened to and watch performances of Sufi music from numerous countries in the Muslim world, I was yet again taken by the power of music to transport us spiritually to amazing places.
I grew up in the chaotic, creative post-Vatican II liturgical years, where laws had not yet been sorted out, and catechism entries and canons had yet to be codified and promulgated. More than once in my scholarly travels I’ve read or heard conservative observers bashing the practices of that time in the American Church. A recent blog post noted, “Sadly, most Catholics, know little or nothing about the ‘Great Treasury of Sacred Music’ to which they are the rightful heirs and are rarely, if ever, exposed to high quality sacred music and Gregorian Chant that is truly transcendent (i.e. Palestrina, Tallis, Durufle, Holst, Byrd).” (Be advised, if you come to Charis, you’re going to miss your Palestrina, as those who were singing along with John Prine last Sunday will attest.)
The music that we sang in the years I was most impressionable might not have had the elegance of a mass by Thomas Tallis, but it burned a vision of the Christian life into me that I have yet (and hope never) to shake. Recently, my folder with all of the music I played as a youngster surfaced in my mom’s things. Sheila, my sister, and I just had to hear the first line of any one of those songs to be able to sing the entire thing. Were the messages sometimes trite? Yes (I’m still not too keen on the upbeat “eat his body, drink his blood” of “Sons of God”). But how about this for a vision:

Take our bread, we ask you,
Take our hearts, we love you,
Take our lives, oh Father,
We are yours, we are yours.
Yours as we stand at the table you set,
Yours as we eat the bread our hearts can’t forget.
We are the signs of your life with us yet;
We are yours, we are yours.
Take our bread, we ask you,
Take our hearts, we love you,
Take our lives, oh Father,
We are yours, we are yours.
Your holy people stand washed in your blood,
Spirit-filled, yet hungry, we await your food.
We are poor, but we brought ourselves the best we could.
We are yours, we are yours.
Take our bread, we ask you,
Take our hearts, we love you,
Take our lives, oh Father,
We are yours, we are yours.

This week, Richard Rohr’s daily reflections offered an observation from his book about the mystics. “God, it seems, cannot really be known, but only related to. Or, as the mystics would assert, we know God by loving God, by trusting God, by placing our hope in God. It is a non-possessive, non-objectified way of knowing. It is always I-Thou and never I-It, to use Martin Buber’s wonderfully insightful phrases. God allows us to know God only by loving God. God, in that sense, cannot be ‘thought’ at all.”
Hmmm. Maybe all those songs about relationships and love, “take our hearts, we love you… we are yours” were on to something.
More on the power of community, relationship, and love this Sunday as we meet again the amazing Anna and Simeon. Mass is at 11 a.m. Sunday.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.newcatholiccommunity.com
cháris Χάρις khar’ece

Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

“’Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’
At once they left their nets and followed him.”

There are a lot of fisherpeople in MN. Some have real gifts and passion for the sport. Me? I’m a sort of “Honey, I’ll hang here with my novel while you cast” sort of fishergal. But pulling in your meal is such a powerful thing, as one night of endless bass showed me. (If you want a glimmer of the beauties of fishing, go watch Lauren Knapp’s utterly delightful “Fishing in Heaven” here: https://vimeo.com/28992129) Leaves me thinking about fishing for people… We do it because it will, ultimately, feed us and feed the world. Hope to see you on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Charis ECC, 7117 Washington Ave. South.
I look forward to seeing many of you at Mass at 11 a.m. In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,

Trish
Pastoral Director
Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.newcatholiccommunity.com
cháris Χάρις khar’ece

Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Let’s Go Down to the River to Pray

Thus says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching. — The Prophet Isaiah
This Sunday is the last day of the season of Christmas. Am I the only person with the tree still up? Well, it’s not liturgical year correctness, I admit, just a busy life and travel schedule!
It’s fascinating to me that the last day of this season is a huge leap forward from the birth and other narratives set in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and the road to Egypt. We have fast-forwarded from Magi to the banks of the Jordan. People are flocking to John for the Baptism of repentance he is offering.
Our English word baptism is derived from a Greek word, baptizo, which means to plunge, drown or sink. John’s baptism is in synch with the many water rituals of his time, the root of the current practice of mikvah in contemporary Judaism. Archaeologists have uncovered a deep and complex series of interconnected pools at Qumran, and speculate that the monks regularly underwent ritual cleansing by water. We know from the Gospels that ceremonial washing was important to the followers of Jesus, as was ritual handwashing to the Pharisees.
One of the historical records of the time, written by Josephus, the Jewish historian, references peopl;e going to John as a moment of ritually completing their personal conversion.This baptism signified a turning away from sin in preparation for the reign of God that was, hopefully, breaking in.
And, of course, Christians believe that Jesus represents, in a complete and gracious way, that inbreaking of the divine life, revealed for all of us.
The wonderful liturgical theologian Max Johnson describes the baptism of John akin to the crossing of the Jordan made by the people as they entered the promised land. To go into the Jordan with John is to be ready to enter a new age. So it seems particularly powerful that Jesus himself enters into that ritual. And of course, no surprise that we hear the voice of Isaiah on Sunday as well, proclaiming as Judaism makes a critical shift away from violence and internecine conflict that God’s servant will be the one who brings justice by following a path of peace.
As our nation dances with the possibility of escalating violence in Iraq with Iran, and as portions of the world sear under the lash of climate change (please see prayer for Australia, below), we need this reminder of who Jesus is, was and will be. We need the daily renewal of baptismal power and fervor. I say. More on that Sunday!
I look forward to seeing many of you at Mass at 11 a.m. 7117 Washington Ave. South, just off the Valley View Road exit of 169.

In gratitude for your companionship on this journey,
Trish
Pastoral Director

Charis
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
http://www.newcatholiccommunity.com
cháris Χάρις khar’ece
Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

Photo is of a mural in Medjugorje. Thanks to U.S. Catholic for source material for this reflection.

Australian Bush fires

Peter Bierer is a friend of our community. This prayer he wrote just appeared in America Magazine. We join him in praying for Australia.

Prayer of Lament for Australia

How long, O Lord?

Every day, I see images and hear stories of the devastating bushfires in Australia. Raging fires, blackened forests, burned-out homes, ash-filled skies, scarred animals, traumatized children and communities.

I am filled with sorrow, my soul is heavy with grief.
How long will the fires last, O Lord?
How long will the destruction and death continue?
Where are you, God?

I am sad, O God.

I grieve for the loss of human life, of homes, animals, plants and trees, and the scarring of the earth. I am saddened for the original custodians of the land, the First Peoples of Australia, and the poor and marginalized disproportionately affected by the fires. As Jesus wept for Jerusalem and the coming destruction of the temple, I weep for Australia and the destruction of this sacred land.

Turn my sadness into compassion.

I am fearful, O God.

I am afraid because these fires are out of my control. I feel helpless and small. When will this torment end? How many lives will be affected by the fires? There is no end in sight. Will relief ever come?

Turn my fear into hope.

I am angry, O God.

I look for someone to blame. Whose fault is this? Scientists have warned for decades of the dangers of climate change, yet our leaders sit idly by, making promises with little to show in action. I am even angry with you, God. Can’t you stop the fires by some miracle? Are you even listening? I know that pointing fingers will not help, but I am upset.

Turn my anger into resolve.

I am ashamed, O God.

Am I partly to blame for these fires? I hold tightly to my comforts and conveniences which contribute to higher carbon levels in the atmosphere. I am ashamed because I do not know how to help.

Turn my shame into healing.

I am grateful, O God.

I am thankful for the firefighters who work tirelessly to protect your people and all creation; for the volunteers and those who donate money, supplies and their own homes to assist those in need; for the “good news stories” which spark hope. I am grateful for the rain when it comes.

Turn my gratitude into action.

How long, O Lord, how long?

I cry to you in my helplessness as I witness the tragedy unfolding in the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit.

Come, Holy Spirit, Enkindle in us the fire of your love fill the hearts of your people and renew the face of the earth.

Instead of bushfires, come with the fire of your love, Holy Spirit.

Fill us with compassion and mercy to stand with our sisters and brothers affected by the fires. Give us strength to join in their suffering and bear witness to their pain.

Instead of the driving winds that add fuel to the fires, come as a gentle breath.

Bring fresh air to drive away the toxic fumes and ashen skies. Breathe new life into us, inspire us with love to care for one another and the earth.

Come, Holy Spirit, as a refreshing rain.

Open the heavens, quench the flames, heal the parched land and nourish our souls, renew the face of the earth.

Come, Holy Spirit, with the peace of a dove.

Calm our anxieties and fear. Lead us from the temptation to blame one another and become divided. May we be bearers of peace.

Come as a balm, Holy Spirit.

Anoint and soothe the wounds of the victims, seen and unseen. May we be balm to one another.

Be our Advocate, Holy Spirit.

Listen to our inward groaning and give us words to speak in places of power. Speak through us that we may be prophets of love amid the kingdoms of selfishness and greed; that we may speak hope in times of despair.

Veni, Creator Spiritus!

Heal the land. Heal our hearts. Make us new again.

To you, O God, I entrust my sorrow, my fears, my anguish, as well as the people, the flora and fauna, the land of Australia.

Help me to find consolation and be grateful for the many gifts and joys present in the midst of this tragedy.

Reveal to me the path of life.

Fill me with love, guide me in hope, and lead me to act with mercy and compassion.

Amen.