Where was God in Charlottesville?

This was a very ugly weekend for our country. I can’t write about it, I have no words. Taylor Ott does it for me. Thank you for this reminder of where God lives. .

Daily Theology

By: Taylor Ott

The response that Mr. Trump gave to the events in Charlottesville ignited fury as it was rightly criticized for equivocation and being a pitiful, lukewarm response to racial injustice and hatred.  But as much as there was backlash, I’m guessing that the white nationalists themselves were not the only ones comforted by such a statement, because it sounded very much like statements that were made after the death of Michael Brown: some variation of “If it turns out it was wrong, his death was tragic; but the looting and rioting is unacceptable,” usually with much more emotion behind the latter half.

We seem to find it more comfortable to spread blame around equally than to acknowledge that violence and death are the product of systemic injustice.  It’s more comfortable to think that all opinions are equal, and that the conflict proceeding from a clash of opinion…

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Dividing Roots

The other day I watched my dad transplant a rhubarb plant. The day before, my husband carefully dug that plant out of the raised bed behind our soon to be sold home; I was so proud of his effort when I saw Rhuby’s long beautiful tap root and felt confident about her survival, despite the less than optimal conditions and timing for transplanting.

This was a plant which we moved from our garden in Illinois just four summers ago, a plant that came out of our neighbor Edna’s abundant garden three years before that. I love rhubarb; it’s easy to cook and truly delicious in a pie or compote or even pickled. But what I appreciate most of all is its grand reappearance every spring, its red “eggs” that pop out of the soil and give birth to showy red stalks and enormous leaves.

When I transplanted Rhuby in New Jersey I did it quickly: I dug a hole and stuck her in it thinking I’d move her again once we were settled. But she thrived in that place. Today we are relocating to a climate that is too warm for plants like rhubarb, plants that need to die back to the ground and rest before they spring back to life.

My father moves slowly, deliberately and quietly. He’s a gentle farmer. He selected a spot along the fenced edge of an established bed where potatoes and raspberries and rhubarb, and other vigorous growers were living large and enjoying life. To me the soil looked hard but my dad turned it easily with a long handled spade. Getting down on his hands and knees he worked the soil with his hands, rubbing out the clumps and lumps and moving the earth, digging five holes.

With a narrow hand spade he divided the woody root, and then tore it apart with his hands. I thought my dad was going to just dig one hole and drop the plant into it like I did; I did not realize he was going to divide it and make five new plants out of one, although it made perfect sense to do so.

If a plant can feel pain I think a little of it transferred to me as I watched my dad work. It got me thinking about raising a family, about how parents and children and their children and their children’s children divide like a root sometimes, and about the move my husband and I were undertaking. After I asked my dad how he knew how to locate the best place to divide the root and he admitted it was often an inexact science we agreed that in the end rhubarb is pretty resilient; it wants to grow. Like us.

Once he had five good pieces of root, each sprouting one or two small leaves and a perhaps a straggly stalk of rhubarb, my dad placed them in the prepared holes and with his hands began to sweep the soil he had removed back into the holes, starting with coarse soil and ending with the fine soil he had rubbed free of lumps and stones.

I noted how my dad buried those roots far enough apart so the plants would have the space to thrive, but close enough so that in the height of the growing season their stalks and leaves might touch and even provide a bit of shade for one another. I watched him, his opposing thumbs and forefingers forming the shape of a heart around each stem as he pressed down a dressing of earth, and tucking each new plant in like parent does a child at bedtime.

 

Still Here

I really am. Although, “still” is the exact opposite of what I am.

I’m inside a wave: in the midst of a hefty relocation, and while it is true that people move all the time and somehow still manage to carve out time to create meaningful prose, I have not been able to secure the quiet contemplative space that I need to write.

Oh, I can write. It’s just not fit for anyone’s eyes but mine.

I haven’t written a reflection on the Sunday readings for several weeks and this weekend is no different. I had hoped to publish a reflection for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary time. I also wanted to have tidy thematic outlines at the ready that I could use for the next six weeks. It’s not happening. All I have are exegetical notes and the questions I pose to the texts that invariably inform my writing. So, I’m taking the pressure off from writing new reflections until summer’s end.

What you might see over the next few months on The Good Disciple are snippets and musings inspired (maybe) by change, (maybe) related to Scripture, (maybe) related to prayer, (maybe) related to the world’s unintentional duplication of the socio/political situation that gave rise to the prophesy of Isaiah (please do pick it up and read it). I may also republish (with permission) other writers’ work.

Just wanted to let you know. I’m still here and I hope you will stick around.

The Root of War is Fear

Except for an endnote and disclaimer, I offer without commentary these thoughts on war written in 1961 by Thomas Merton.

“At the root of all war is fear: not so much the fear humans have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill they, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God. “ [112]

“When the whole word is in moral confusion, when no one knows any longer what to think, and when, in fact, everybody is running away from the responsibility of thinking, when humans[i] make rational thought about moral issues absurd by exiling themselves entirely from realities into the realm of fictions, and (more…)

Really Listen

2nd Sunday of Lent (A)

A symphony of collected works from mystics, theologians, biblical scholars and spiritual writers fill the shelves of our home library.

At times like these I long to hear the first notes of those who have done the work of listening and who have transcribed the delicate tones of their spiritual experiences into timeless classics. People like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, John O’Donohue, C.S. Lewis, Kathleen Norris, Thomas Merton, Carlo Carretto, Rainer Maria Rilke,  (just to name a few—honestly too many to list) of the diverse living and deceased writers whose books inspire me to listen, to block out the current cacophony and attune myself to the sometimes silent voice of God.

This Lent in particular, I find myself reaching for (more…)

Fear Not the Broken Heart

detail-treasured-heart-black-bordershellypenko

Image: “Treasured Heart” by Shelly Penko

While we are on the topic of “rending” our hearts this Lent, (or “rend+er-ing” or “sur+rend+er-ing” it, or the many beautiful words we can use to describe those gestures which make us more vulnerable to God’s grace, or open to receive it), I thought once again[1] to share Katherine Mahon’s wonderful essay, Rend Your Hearts: How to Break Your Heart This Lent, which she published on Ash Wednesday 2016 on the always enriching Daily Theology website.

Being a visual person, I tend to draw images, metaphors, analogies—anything that sparks a deeper understanding from whatever it is that I seek to know better.   (more…)

Give to The One Who Asks of You

7th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Yesterday, while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, I overheard the tsk tsk’ing of the couple ahead of me. It was wrong, I heard them say to each other, that ‘some people’ used their government benefits to buy expensive food. They turned to me, hoping for an affirmation to their audible grumbling about low-income people who “eat like kings”

Standing in front of them was a young mom with one toddler on her hip and another child by her side. She bought two half-gallons of organic whole milk, a container of organic yogurt, and a whole chicken, and she used food stamps to pay for them.

I mumbled something about her healthy food choices.

Two weeks ago we heard the words of the prophet Isaiah, who speaking for the Lord, made it clear that it is God’s will that we share what we have with one another. That we feed the hungry—not from our surplus or with our leftovers—but from the same table we share with our families.

“If you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday;” [IS 58:10]

Lavish” and “satisfy.” To go beyond the letter of the law. And then your gloom will lift. Now that is really something.

Today, on the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A), we hear Jesus continue his teaching on doing more than the law prescribes.

“Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. [MT 5:41]

The suggestion that we go the extra mile, that we do more than what is expected,  was met with the same resistance in Jesus’ day it is today.

The kind of stinginess expressed by the couple in the grocery store shrinks and darkens our world. Indeed it is a lack of mercy which emerges from a sense of entitlement and a fear of scarcity.

Conversely, it is when we give of ourselves freely and without resentment that we experience the miracle of God’s abundance  over and over again; the light rises, we feel restored, not depleted.

Jesus told his disciples, “give to the one who asks of you.” [MT 5:42]

I recently came across the following vignette from Leontius’ Life of St. John the Almsgiver, the biography of the Saint who was a widower, a father, and later the patriarch of Alexandra (c. 560-619). It is striking for its contemporary resonance and is worthy of our prayerful contemplation.

“While there was a crowd of refugees in the city, one of the strangers, noticing John’s remarkable sympathy, determined to test the blessed man. So he put on old clothes and approached him as he was on his way to visit the sick in the hospitals (for he did this two or three times a week) and said to him, “Have mercy on me for I have been a prisoner of war.”

John said to his purse-bearer, “Give him six nomismata.”

After the man had received these he went off, changed his clothes, met John again in another street, and falling at his feet said, “Have pity on me for I am in want.” The Patriarch again said to his purse-bearer, “Give him six nomismata.”

As he went away the purse-bearer whispered in the Patriarch’s ear, “By your prayers, master, this same man has had alms from you twice over!” But the Patriarch pretended not to understand.

Soon the man came again for the third time to ask for money and the attendant, carrying the gold, nudged the Patriarch to let him know that it was the same man, whereupon the truly merciful and beloved of God said, “Give him twelve nomismata, for perchance it is my Christ and He is here to test me.”

The season of Lent is around the corner. Ash Wednesday is March 1. Traditionally, during Lent our attention is drawn to serving the poor. God’s abundance, however, is not seasonal and like the example set by St. John the Almsgiver, we are expected share it freely at all times.

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [MT 5:48]

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Readings for the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time, (A)

1st Reading: LV 19:1-2, 17-18
Responsorial Psalm:
PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
2nd Reading: 1 COR 3:16-23
Gospel: 
MT 5:38-48

Comic courtesy of www.agnusday.org, the Lectionary comic strip, where each week Rick and Ted discuss one of the assigned readings from the Common Lectionary.

Click here to learn more about St. John the Almsgiver.