GOD 101: Forgiveness, Grace, And Mercy

January 13, 2019

I have a new little wooden box that is sectioned off.  It allows me to put small bottles in each section. I relate to that box.  My mind likes to put its ideas in little sections, and organize and reorganize the sections to see how things line up. Like a kaleidoscope.  Each piece standing in its own place, but changeable in its relationship to the other pieces. There’s a lot in theology and even in our liturgy that I find sloppy.  Or is done in such a way that causes a person’s sloppy thinking. I would like to say, Well, we don’t have to always be exact about things in the church, and mean it.  But, well. That’s just not me. Yes, I know.  People are good-hearted.  And they mean well. But let’s talk [...]

CHRISTMAS STORY: The Burglar’s Christmas by Elizabeth L. Seymour

December 27, 2018

Note: Elizabeth L. Seymour is a pseudonym of Willa Cather Two very shabby looking young men stood at the corner of Prairie avenue and Eightieth street, looking despondently at the carriages that whirled by. It was Christmas Eve, and the streets were full of vehicles; florists’ wagons, grocers’ carts and carriages. The streets were in that half-liquid, half-congealed condition peculiar to the streets of Chicago at that season of the year. The swift wheels that spun by sometimes threw the slush of mud and snow over the two young men who were talking on the corner. “Well,” remarked the elder of the two, “I guess we are at our rope’s end, sure enough. How do you feel?” “Pretty shaky. The [...]

POETRY: Things To Think by Robert Bly

October 12, 2018

Think in ways you’ve never thought before If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message Larger than anything you’ve ever heard. Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats. Think that someone may bring a bear to your door, Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose Has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers A child of your own whom you’ve never seen. When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven. Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s Been decided that if you lie down no one will [...]

FORGIVENESS: Turning The Tables—Do We Forgive the Father of the Prodigal?

August 27, 2017

Let’s face it, the Father of the Prodigal Son comes off as some kind of superhuman hero. God the Father, to be specific. I like to spend time in that low, quiet quarter of my soul that sort of rumbles about looking for meaning and connection with the rest of the world. And it interests me when I feel the wind with the same kind of whisper on it blowing by me. A mumble here, a shrug there. It is there in the world: the grumbling against the mighty spirituality of God. I know it’s in me.  Grumbling about the vast difference between the absolute that is God and my hunger pangs which are relative. Relative to me. They relate to me.  And my stomach. And in those moments, I really don’t care about God’s absolute need to [...]

ART: Window Nine — Maundy Thursday by Michael Sullivan

April 13, 2017

From: Windows Into the Light Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer) Christ, you gently reach down and cleanse us, as a mother washes a child’s hands coated with dirt from the playground.  But many times, we turn and run away, seeking not your face nor your love in those around us.  Help us to see our place with all your children, and knowing your grace, to gather together in feast and [...]

POETRY: I Have Stood At The Center Of The World by Catherine McNiel

March 14, 2017

I have stood at the center of the world The primordial Tree, the innocent Beginning I have been rejected there, exiled So I wander Homeless, yet seeking Home Marked, yet seeking I have traveled so far in my wanderings That I have changed, the distance became a chasm And yet I have stayed so closely tied Lingering near with hope for Healing Longing I stand in the place of Anger and Accusation Watching the last box of bitterness carried out the door Alone now with the vast emptiness in its place There’s nothing left to do but this endless Wandering and lingering I have forgiven But you have forgotten Even a child casts her own shadow The past has built itself into my body and soul And there it is: The bruised and fallen apple is its [...]

POETRY: E Tenebris by Oscar Wilde

March 8, 2017

Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy hand, For I am drowning in a stormier sea Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee: The wine of life is spilt upon the sand, My heart is as some famine-murdered land, Whence all good things have perished utterly, And well I know my soul in Hell must lie If I this night before God’s throne should stand. “He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase, Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.” Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night, The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame, The wounded hands, the weary human [...]

FORGIVENESS: The Nine Lepers

February 23, 2017

The wounding and healing of a person is an interesting process. The truth about the priest on whom I am focusing my forgiveness process – a stand-in for the line of priests in my life who have shunned me – is that what he did to me, at that time, bothered me no more than a mosquito bite.  Because the rest of my life was complete chaos. That day, and for so many thereafter, I didn’t have the time, the energy, or the interest to even think about what that priest said. Or did. So the pain was efficiently stored away. It was a shock to me, then, when God said at the beginning of this last Advent, It’s time to heal your priest-wounds. My first reaction was, What priest-wounds? And then, there they were. Spread out, like [...]

FORGIVENESS: Humility, or The Tale of Two Shawls

February 18, 2017

I have been studying what I thought was a “new” form of evil.  New to me, that is. Turns out, though, I studied it for years when I was half my age. Because it was only a study back then, and because the study was very intense, it left some terror in my soul. I’m very efficient about my emotions: if I don’t need them right here, right now for whatever it is I am doing, then they get stowed away. This terror had been stowed away – very much out of sight, out of mind – until the door was flung open and there it was. And here this study is again now. But what I realized was that when I had studied this particular form of evil, I had never come up with the understanding of what kind of spiritual weapon would be [...]

FORGIVENESS: Role Reversal At Tables—Jesus, a Pharisee, and a Sinful Woman by John T. Carroll

January 26, 2017

From Luke: A Commentary Jesus, the man with the well-earned reputation of enjoying a good meal and befriending sinners, finds himself in a banquet setting where he can befriend the righteous.  At the home of a Pharisee, however, the unexpected appearance of a woman with her own reputation in the town – as a sinner – turns the occasion into another display of feasting and embracing, and being embraced by, a sinner.  The twin themes of inside-out role reversal and divergent responses to Jesus continue, bound up with differing views of his identity.  Jesus defends the uninvited guest who honors him and criticizes the righteous host who finds fault with him.  Within the realm of God, honor and virtue are not what, in polite company, [...]

FORGIVENESS: Reconciliation by Todd Flowerday

January 26, 2017

The Lord asks, “Do you see this woman?” Is he speaking only to Simon the Pharisee? Or to us as well? In considering Luke 7:36-50, may we ask if this is an illustration of a sinner who comes to Jesus as an act of metanoia and of love? Or is this a prick of our consciences not to be like the Pharisee? Or is this a theological lesson how God forgives us, and what that mercy might look like in real life? One thing is certain: this is a rich reading that operates on many levels for the participants as well as us modern readers. Luke is a master dramatist, and no passage in his Gospel surpasses this for his skill as a storyteller: A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. [...]

FORGIVENESS: Forgiving Others

January 24, 2017

Gleanings From Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers Assembled by Fr. Seraphim Holland of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church …he who would be reconciled to God and have peace with God must first be reconciled with his neighbor. (Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk) …to forgive our enemies and to do good to them is true magnanimity – one of the greatest traits of likeness to God. (Lorenzo Scupoli) Abba Poemen also said this about Abba Isidore that whenever he addressed the brothers in church he said only one thing, “Forgive your brother, so that you also may be forgiven.” (The Desert Fathers) Abba Zeno said, “If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he [...]

PRAYER: Prayer, The Treasure Of Our Lives

January 23, 2017

From The Word Among Us The lifting up of our whole being in prayer is so pleasing to God!   And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that [...]

FORGIVENESS: Forgiveness In Luke-Acts, by Anthony Bash

September 15, 2016

From Forgiveness: A Theology In his commentary on Luke’s gospel, Christopher Evans sets the writing of the gospel between 75-130 CE.  The gospel is therefore almost certainly written after Mark’s gospel, though we cannot be sure whether it was written before or after Matthew’s gospel. Most likely, the same person is the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  The author is usually referred to as “Luke,” and the two books as “Luke-Acts.”  When I refer to the gospel alone, I call it “Luke,” or “the Gospel of Luke.” A quick read of the Gospel of Luke discloses that Luke incorporated into his gospel much of the Gospel of Mark, as well as having some [...]

HEALING: Here Is Good News, by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

April 12, 2016

From The God Who Heals Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.  News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24) There are two sides to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is a message of forgiveness of sins, of everlasting life, but also a message of opposition to human misery.  Not only is an end to sin proclaimed, but also an end to suffering and death.  All suffering shall cease!  Just as sin is overcome through the blood of Christ, [...]

FORGIVENESS: Surviving The Quicksand Of The Soul

April 8, 2016

It is no wonder that people are so confounded by forgiveness. It is either treated so lightly that it is given like a blessing to someone after they sneeze. Or the challenge of 70 times seven feels too great a summit to reach. But I have discovered something recently. When we forgive, we forgive an act. You (name act)ed me. I understand why you (name act)ed me. I have come to terms with why you (name act)ed me. I forgive you for (the act). So why is it so hard to let go?  Why do shades of the act come back and haunt us? Does forgiving an act have to be done in layers? What are we missing? What we are missing is what is under the act.  The violation. Kathleen Norris, in her book, describes at great length the idea of acedia.  She calls [...]

POETRY: At The Round Earth’s Imagined Corners, by John Donne

March 16, 2016

Divine Meditations: VII At the round earth’s imagined corners, blow Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise From death, you numberless infinities Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go, All whom the flood did, and fire shall o’erthrow, All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies, Despair, law, chance, hath slain, and you whose eyes, Shall behold God, and never taste death’s woe. But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space, For, if above all these, my sins abound, ‘Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace, When we are there; here on this lowly ground, Teach me how to repent; for that’s as good As if thou hadst sealed my pardon, with thy [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Tasting The Blood

March 10, 2016

Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God. (Henri J. M. Nouwen / In The Name of Jesus) I am here at my 30th day of Lent. Thirty out of 40. Or 47, depending how long you make your Lenten disciplines. Plunging around in my imagination to find blessings from people I’ve only always associated with a grunt and a shrug is like having to go to the dentist every day and having a root canal. Being scraped and scraped and scraped.  Down to the nerve.  And then scraping the nerve. And, then, every day after the procedure, having [...]

POETRY: Solar Ice by Paul Mariani

March 9, 2016

The sudden shock of what you really are. Early March. The tentative return of afternoons. Saturday, and Mass again. The four. All about swelling buds on beech & ash & maples. Crocuses & snowdrops trilling. Four months impacted ice at last receding from the north side of the house, and bobbing robins back & soon, soon, red- winged blackbirds strutting on the lawn. Soon too the sweet familiar groundswell of peepers in the marshes. Reasons enough to melt the frozen heart. Father lifted the host above his head & prayed: a small white sun around which everything seemed to coalesce, cohere & choir. But as I raised my head, the thought of some old insult likewise reared its head, and in that instant the arctic hatred [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — God, the Rumpelstiltskin

March 3, 2016

Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, Whose mouth speaks lying words, And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood— That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; That our barns may be full, Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands And ten thousands in our fields; That our oxen may be well laden; That there be no breaking in or going out; That there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Psalm 144:11-15) I never expected this from God, to be honest. And I’m not sure there would be many who would either.  Unless they [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Playing The Hand The Fool Dealt

February 18, 2016

There is a saying, Only a fool plays the hand he’s dealt. But sometimes, I’ve found, it is The Fool, himself, who deals the hand. I have learned a lot about forgiveness this week. A whole lot. One thing I have learned is that we all lie to ourselves about the nature of forgiveness. We want it to be all about resolution. About peace-making. About love. But what it is really about – what it is about when we are alone with ourselves in the darkness – is justice. We want justice for the pain. For the inconvenience. For the disruption to our lives that the injury caused. And we use forgiveness as payback. I know this now because what I saw before me this week, working hard to find something to be grateful for for some people [...]

SERMON: Returning Good For Evil, by John Chrysostom

February 14, 2016

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32) If we are to attain to the kingdom of Heaven, it is not enough to abandon wickedness, but there must be abundant practice of that which is good also. To be delivered indeed from hell we must abstain from wickedness; but to attain to the kingdom we must cleave fast to virtue. Know ye not that even in the tribunals of the heathen, when examination is made of men’s deeds, and the whole city is assembled, this is the case Nay, there was an ancient custom amongst the heathen, to crown with a golden crown, – [...]

FORGIVENESS: Lent 2016 — Turn Around

February 11, 2016

Where to begin? I think of people lost on the moors.  Lost in swamps.  Lost in endless stretches of forest.  Or desert. Direction becoming a matter of wishful thinking.  Of good intentions.  Of wondering where it will all end. So this particular beginning begins with Lent. The usual organizational push.  What to do.  How to structure it. Pieces.  Like a child sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Building. One at a time. Watching for an imbalance that will bring it down. Only to be pieced together again. Lent. Stillness. But with a different hush than the one that belongs to Advent. Instead of the glow of ahead-ness, there is the slow choking, the tightening of the heart and mind and soul and body. It Is Coming. That which we [...]

PRAYER: Novena To Saint Josemaría Escriva For Forgiveness

February 8, 2016

First Day: For Peace of Heart Reflection: In the words of Saint Josemaría What takes away your peace of soul cannot come from God. A clear mark of the man of God, of the woman of God, is the peace in their souls: they have peace and they give peace to the people they have dealings with. We must bring people together, we must understand others, we must make allowances. Never put up a cross just to keep alive the memory that some people have killed others. Such a cross would betoken the devil. Christ’s cross is to keep silent, to forgive and to pray for those on both sides, so that all may attain peace. Just as Christ “went about doing good” throughout Palestine, so must you also spread peace in your family circle, in civil society, [...]

FORGIVENESS: Pre-Lent 2016 — A Matter Of Dust

February 4, 2016

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. (Matthew 10:14) I am planning to write one of these days my thoughts about the difference between spiritual growth and healing.  It’s pacing there in the back of my mind somewhere, but other matters seem to be more eager to be played with. So it seems that my life is all about dust these days, and the kicking-off thereof. It all began with some writing.  Two responses to the promptings of poetry.  Followed by a challenge thrown down: Now Write About This!  The challenge accepted.  Mulled over. I have not found the process of writing in response to someone else’s words “fun.” [...]

MARTYRDOM: Memory, Communion, Hope by Robert Royal

October 23, 2015

From The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century “Convert, or die like Christ.”  Those words from the most flagrant religious oppression in the world at the dawn of a new millennium might serve as an epitaph for all the hundreds of thousands who suffered persecution and death in the twentieth century – or, for that matter, since the very beginnings of Christianity.  Christ made a point of telling his followers: “They have persecuted me and they will persecute you.”  And the Gospel of John, after noting that Jesus knew what was in human hearts, records that the master said, “The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”  It has [...]

FORGIVENESS: Finding Our Voice, Finding Our Time

June 9, 2015

More and more, it strikes me that we make healing much more difficult than it has to be. We get it into our heads how something should look in action.  We try to understand God’s intentions in our own best intentions, only to find that we’ve gummed up the process in the process. OK. Fine. I do these things. You, on the other hand, may get everything right. I can’t imagine how old I will have to be to be able to get to that point of getting anything right with God. I have one redeeming feature, though.  At least I know when I’m wrong. That’s kind of easy for me.  I am wrong all the time. All.  The.  Time. Let’s just take my most recent “study”: forgiveness. I remember in the good, [...]

POETRY: Healing Harvest, by Matthew and Dennis Linn

June 3, 2015

O memory of a painful time, are you seed or stone? A dark and deadly tomb, Or seed with life to bloom? Only if I say, “I want you,” Will I really know. O sprouting seed, are you angry At the dark and choking dirt? What grates your tender shoot And blocks your chosen route? Only if I say, “I forgive you,” Will I really know. O tender shoot, are you bargaining, Demanding sun before you grow? Or would you rather as the sun Pour warm love on everyone? Only if I say, “I forgive you first,” Will I really know. O roots, do you wander depressed Searching in drought for tears? Or do you need more sun To dry the tears that run? Only if I say, “Forgive me,” Will I really know. O golden wheat, can you [...]

FORGIVENESS: The Prodigal Son Comes Home

April 30, 2015

I could see him from the path.  Up there, on the hill.  Waving at me as though I were old Aunt Bertha coming back from attending some childbirth or something. How did he know that I was coming back?  Who tipped him off? Of course, he may have thought I was someone else. Someone he would be glad to see. Not me. Surely. I can’t believe how he treated me. He cried all over my tunic.  As though on top of everything else I’ve been through – and in – I needed that on my clothes too. What a wimp. Crying over me like I’d just come back from the dead, or something. And there was my brother, Joseph, waddling around, nodding and nodding that fat head of his.  I wonder when the last time he could poke himself and find a [...]

FORGIVENESS: Finding The Room To Forgive

April 16, 2015

Ash Wednesday, February 10 That long ago. An assignment in forgiveness.  Except, for me, the assignment was narrowed.  I was to focus on my unforgiveness, my refusal to forgive. And I initially thought, this is good.  This is healthy.  Like fasting for the body.  A deep cleansing. That’s because I thought that this was just going to be an expansion of those aspects of forgiveness that I’ve worked with nearly all my life.  What I know.  Just more.  Bigger. Improved. Huh. It turns out that forgiveness for those big things that have happened to us in our lives isn’t the worst expression of letting go.  Because, I have discovered, big things give you room to move around.  They give you memories that you can finger. [...]