Brueggemann, Peace: pp. 51&52 - So we have this gospel of freedom and unity. It occurred to me that these two central dimensions of shalom pull in opposite directions. It is a promise of freedom, but freedom is surely "to do one’s own thing." As we struggle for ourselves and for others, how do we permit persons to do their own thing without disrupting everything else? But unity is having it all together, all of us sharing in and celebrating what we have in common. The hard work of shalom is to keep these in balance and in tension with each other. Freedom without unity tends to be destructive self-seeking with no regard for others. Unity without freedom tends to be conformity that crushes the humanity and imagination of those involved.
I love the Christmas season. The spirit of the season is energizing, with parties galore, neighborhoods enveloped in lights, music that lightens the day, but above all, generosity that touches many lives.
Christmas is the season when we notice the homeless and poor more than any time. Go to any grocery or shopping mall and a Salvation Army volunteer is ringing a bell. Parishes and stores sponsor angel trees, with the opportunity to sponsor a family in need. Even with a generous response to all the requests for donations, nonprofit groups are falling short of reaching goals. The Salvation Army has only reached half of its goal, with three days left until Christmas.
This morning at our Clarissa House Community Morning Prayer we listened and watched Francesca Bettisteli's song "Be Born in Me" on YouTube. It was a powerful reflection on what she imagined to be Mary of Nazareth's feelings and prayer as she realized the impact of saying "Yes" to be mother to the Son of God, the Divine Word Made Flesh through her. In her prayer Mary expresses being both terrified and full of wonder and awe, yet still willing to offer herself to do God's will.
This song brought to my mind Sr. Diana Culbertson's preaching a few weeks ago, which struck a deep chord in me. As I reflected on her words it seemed a very good immediate preparation of our minds and hearts for Christmas. So with her permission I share it with you here:
"Show me your friends, and I'll tell you who you are!" My mother was a treasure trove of such sayings, and while I cannot remember the particular circumstances that prompted her proclaiming this one to me, it obviously made an impression. Kids have a new "best friend" every week to be sure, and parents fear their kids will fall in with the "wrong crowd." Perhaps that's why my mom was exhorting me. I find that my mom's 'sayings' still influence my life and ministry and come back to me when I least expect them. I can’t call them up cold, but they pop into my head at opportune times, and this saying is on my mind today. There is something true in it - our friends do reveal something about us—something about who we are at our core, and about what we value.
Brueggemann, Peace: pp. 50-51—Jesus presented to people the possibility of living free lives—not driven or frantic, but living responsibly where they found themselves. But the end of coercion in their lives also required the end of fragmentation. And he announced that the end of fragmentation was possible as he called people away from idolatries, as his tradition had always done: No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. - Matthew 6:24
"Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Luke 12:33-34
After the United States Select Committee on Intelligence released its report last week, reaction was swift and passionate. The Seattle Times described the 500 page summary report of atrocities as "cringe-worthy sadism, done in the name of national security that ranks among America's most sickening actions."
Fear and anger are natural consequences of the 9/11 attack on the United States. For many citizens the response was one of sacrifice and generosity - our better angels were on display. Political leaders and CIA authorities ignored their better angels and determined to do whatever deemed necessary to punish Al Quaeda and end terrorists' threats. After 9/11 international laws were ignored.
Spiritually Nourished by Associate Marybeth Auletto, OPA Forty-seven Sisters and Associates attended this year's Advent service in Columbus, OH, prepared by new Associates Kathy Kehnast and Rose Deffet. In keeping with the liturgical theme, we prayed, sang, and reflected on readings that spoke of Jesus' coming...and coming again. Each time I attend one of these events, I come away more relaxed and spiritually nourished. I also enjoy meeting and reconnecting with Associates and Sisters. We are blessed to be in a community that values spirituality through small group study and reflection. Thank you again to all who planned and participated in this peaceful event.
"The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique manifestations of the human spirit." - Wade Davis
As I watch the news these days, I am touched by the pain of so many in our country and in our world. Differences in perspectives and differences in realities can often lead to destructive and violent behaviors toward those who do not share the same model of reality. Even in my personal relationships, I can sometimes be less patient with those who share an opinion different from my own.
Brueggemann, Peace: pp. 49 and 50 - The promise of the Gospel is that we may be both free and united. That is the substance of shalom...That is an enormous promise, the one people in our time are waiting to hear. The promise of freedom is powerful to those who live coerced lives and are cut off from joy. The promise of unity is powerful to folks who are cut off from other people and from their own lives, who are frenzied and frantic because of their fragmentation (Reminiscent of what is going on now with the situation of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, et.al.—MA). As one reflects on the promise of freedom and unity and on the problem of coercion and fragmentation, the intersection of the two become clear...It is when we are fragmented in the hopeless effort to serve too many gods and honor too many priorities that we are coerced.
I live on the other side of murder. I have not lost a loved to murder...yet. I do not turn away from the "M" word. I cannot run from the experience of knowing the people behind the stories.
Being part of the Central Ohio Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children/Other Homicide Victims Survivors (POMC) has put me in touch with dimensions of grief that most will never experience: the dreaded phone call and reporters; law enforcement, coroners, prosecutors and defense attorneys; plea bargains and trials, sentences and convictions; appeals and parole blocks; and a judicial system that doesn't always mete out justice—and that's if the killer is apprehended. I continue to learn more than I ever wanted about "murder" issues; but this is the life of a survivor of a homicide victim(s). And I am there to support them.