Learning to Fly

Posted on May 24, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: Learning to FlyFor Sunday, May 28, 2017
The Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11
Ephesians 1:17-23
Matthew 28:16-20

In the world of nature, the eagle evokes powerful images of freedom, dignity, and courage along with a Native American connection to the divine. Eagles nest in mountain cliffs or large, tall trees, sometimes as high as 150 feet. Conservationists indicate that eagles build their nests with sticks and line them with pine branches, grass, moss, and feathers to make it soft. The nest provides the place for the eagle to lay and incubate her eggs. When her eaglets hatch and are strong enough to begin to fly, the eagle starts to take the nest apart with her fledglings in it. One branch goes, then some grass, then the pine needles while the chicks begin to scurry around the large nest wondering, “What is happening here?” Their security being whittled away, the eaglets’ mother takes each one up on her back to the sky and allows them to feel the wind. As the eaglet finds its balance in the wind, she drops down to allow the bird to find its way. When the bird drops she flies beneath him to hold him secure once again. This goes on until the bird flies on its own. It will never again return to its nest!

The entire image becomes for me a model of transition, moving from one state of life, one season of life, to another. For most of us, when change rings our doorbells we are not eager to answer. Change requires we move from our comfort zone. It means letting go! (more…)

The Loneliness of Suffering

Posted on April 4, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, April 09, 2017, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-7
Philippians 2:6-11
Matthew 26:14—27:66

Human suffering cascades into our homes with the consistency of spilled oil. We can never seem to clean it up and the frustration leaves us sad and, most the time, feeling helpless. Beyond writing congressional representatives, contributing to charitable outreach and praying, we can’t escape the menacing cloud of knowing that half our brothers and sisters in the world are struggling with starvation, war, disease, or homelessness. I pray that we do not become immune to it all, but realize that those big starving eyes affect all of us and the entire world.

There is an incredible loneliness attached to suffering. In my last year of undergraduate work at a small Midwest Catholic women’s college, the Franciscan leadership reached out to Dr. Sterling Stuckey, now a professor of history at the University of California–Riverside, to teach a class in Black History. It was in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement and we were enthusiastic to find out more about the surge of justice that called us forth. Dr. Stuckey, facing an audience of well-mannered young white women, held back nothing. He taught black history with a passion and a fury that brought the reality of the slaves right to our study niches where we poured over the material. (more…)

A Challenge for Us All

Posted on February 14, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, February 19, 2017, 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time

There has been a surge of attention given to the WWII vets who are fast dying off. The remnant who are healthy enough are being taken in Honor Flights to the Washington DC WWII National War Memorial where their buses deposit their frail bodies. These gentlemen and women either walk or are wheeled to the negative pool where they can remember their contribution to America’s freedom. The large pavilion pillars marking the battle sites where many watched their buddies die, rise high into an open sky. It is all so surreal. Usually a state senator meets the vets to offer the gratitude of the country. After a lunch down in the district, they are flown back to their home state with awakened memories of harder days when the skies were blackened by grenades and gunfire. (more…)

The Most Powerful Woman in the World

Posted on December 27, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, January 1, 2017, Mary, the Holy Mother of God

It is wisdom that the Church begins the New Year with Mary, the Holy Mother of God as its portal. For Mary is clothed in the wonder of history. She is the iconic feminine figure who has been shaped with maternal care from the most sketchy of Scriptures. Of her we know so little from the text. Even Paul only mentions her once in all his works and that is minimal. Mary would have it that way, self-effacing as she seemed. Paul’s words are in the context of her magnum opus: birthing the Savior. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption” (Galatians 4:4-5).

For Paul, Mary is nameless. (more…)

Jesus Is the Face of the Father’s Mercy

Posted on November 15, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, November 20, 2016, Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

“Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis writes, “is the face of the Father’s mercy… Merciful like the Father, therefore, is the ‘motto’ of this Holy Year. In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return. He comes to our aid whenever we call upon him… Day after day, touched by his compassion, we also can become compassionate towards others (Misericordiae Vultus, #1, 14).

The night of our American presidential election I took a walk as the sun was setting. A pink ribbon cast across the full horizon of the western sky wove itself around the falling night clouds. The beauty of it lifted my angst set in motion by an agonizing political year. Shakespeare came to mind. (more…)

The Vision of Faith

Posted on September 27, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, October 2, 2016, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our city there have been seventy deaths attributed to heroin and drug overdoses over the past seven weeks. That number included a sixty-three-year-old man and a one-year-old child. To add more sorrow to the already tragic, one of the young men who died was the medical examiner’s son. The weight of senseless loss looms heavily in our city and indeed in our hearts because, like me, so many wonder what our culture has done to contribute to such dire escapism, such ominous darkness as to lead folks to mainline prescription drugs, risking death.

Like the prophet who laments the social upheaval of his people, my heart shouts: “How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?” My outcry goes further, asking has the world proved so fatalistic to our young folks, has the future become so grim, that nothing gives way to hope anymore? Is the drug culture only endemic to a greater agony of our national soul?

What do I expect? Myriads of angels to meet every addict in the bar or in the alleyways of despair? That would be nice, yet in the midst of crisis, the most important thing is to stop and reflect, to seek a new vision. It is exactly what the Lord does in Habakkuk’s situation. He does not give him a solution, but a vision.

God calls upon the soul of this good man to climb the mountain of faith and to see beyond the bodies lying limp to a new day when the vision of God would come to pass. It is like reading at a funeral liturgy the beautiful passage from Revelation where John sees “a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rv 21:1-2). The challenge of the prophet is to wait for the vision of the Lord to come to fulfillment.

The apostles are faced with a similar challenge. They have chosen to follow Jesus Christ and walk with him through the labyrinthine pathways of human frailty and darkness. They have watched him set the demonic free. They have witnessed bread broken and multiplied. They have been with him when he raised the widow’s son and healed women and children.

They, too, want to be equipped for the task and therefore realize they need more faith. Bucketsful of faith! Jesus responds to their request for an increase of faith by exhorting them: if their faith were the size of a mustard seed (smaller than a poppy seed), they could speak to a mulberry tree to be uprooted and cast into the sea. The irony is that the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds and the mulberry tree kept a deep, entanglement of roots beneath the soil leaving it impossible to uproot (Bergant, Dianne, CSA. Preaching the New Lectionary, Year C. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2000, p. 382).

Yet Jesus says even cultivating the smallest faith can do the impossible. The story that follows speaks to the reality that faith cannot be quantified or measured. Faith is about relationship, a relationship to Christ, the source of all love and mercy. If a servant worked hard all day in the fields, he must not expect special privilege excusing him from his work at home. No, the nature of service is to serve and one serves in love. Does a mother with a sick child take a break at night? Or does she hold the child until the fever breaks? Does a nurse put his feet up during his watch hoping someone else picks up the slack? Or does he continue to go to his patients with compassion and mercy? Does the breadwinner in the family not show up to work or does she weigh out the measure of responsibility it takes to provide for the family?

Here is where faith abides: the steadfast, persevering efforts to keep love alive, to serve those we are committed to. That is the vision of faith. Write it down!

Does the Lord ask for anything less? Jesus says faith is not measured. It is lived. It is lived through serving God and God’s people, not looking back but looking ahead where we might one day see mulberry trees floating in the sea.

Mary K. Matestic, MTS

PRAYER

O Lord,
you walked upon this earth long before we arrived.
You gave us your vision of hope;
and though we walk in the shadow of death,
it is good to know that you are always at our side,
with your kindness and mercy
leading us to places we never dreamed we would go.

Indeed, give us the patience and perseverance
to continue your work here in this, our time,
trusting you to bring about your vision.
Watch over those who flounder and give up.
Meet them in the kindness of family and friends.
Deliver us all from despair,
and help us keep our eyes upon you who give us faith.
Enough to uproot trees,
enough to write down what is still to come,
enough to wait for your vision fulfilled.
Amen.

Download PDF