Christianity, being a religion of peace, its disciples were necessarily preachers of peace, hence the first effort in any country was to reconcile quarrels, to compose differences, and to avert wars. The peaceful arts came to be cultivated when they came to be honored; and war, except for a just cause, to be looked upon as evil, and not as glory. ~M.F. Cusack, History of City and County of Cork, 1875
we engage in human labor
as a means of service and sustenance.
We recognize the value of leisure
as contributing to restoration and wholeness.
In these ways we come to share
in the creative power of God." (54)
|View at North Lake house.|
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
(and its events)
comes in a variety of moods.
Humorous, playful, daunting,
from time to time,
in a more bizarre yet beautiful format
that only God understands,
that only God creates.
All of it is life.
To live life fully is the call.
In the mix.
In the midst.
Community. Family. Friends.
Most Fridays I'm going to share a quote from the founder of my religious community, Margaret Anna Cusack, known in religion as Mother Francis Clare.
"The nations are involved in misery, their countries are desolated, their families are ruined, their blood is poured forth on every side. And why? Because the teachings of the All-merciful are condemned, are neglected, are forgotten, and men who have boasted of their advancement in science are at fault, are unable to maintain the common rights of man, because they have not cared to learn the sublime lessons of political economy taught them by the Creator and Savior of the world."
~MF Cusack, Book of the Blessed Ones, 1874
Recognizing that the $100 in question was purely hypothetical, my first thought was that the price of the thoughts of strangers has gone up faster than inflation! But he looked like a nice gentleman, and so I paused and told him that in fact I was deep in thought about an invitation to consider taking on a new role and doing something new. He actually seemed quite surprised that I responded, but he wished me luck on new endeavors.
What I didn't tell him is that I'm headed to New Jersey tomorrow to spend some time in prayer and conversation with my CSJP Sisters about the possibility of leaving my name in for elected leadership of my Congregation. Fourteen of us will be attending a discernment retreat at our retreat house on the Jersey shore this weekend. Our Chapter (when the new team will be elected) is not until September. This weekend is a time to get away and ponder whether the Spirit might be calling us to share our gifts in this particular time and in this particular way. I haven't mentioned this on the blog before specifically, but regular readers might have been attuned to an uptick in posts of a discerning nature. This would be why.
I feel the love, support, and prayers of the entire Congregation and a deep peace at keeping my name in the mix for the discernment process. The 14 women who I will spend the next few days with are prayerful, faithful, women of peace with a deep love of the congregation and a commitment to God's people. It will be a privilege to enter this sacred time and space with them.
Tonight I'm headed out for an early birthday dinner with my father and then head to the airport early tomorrow. Most likely I won't be posting for a few days until after the retreat.
Until we "meet" again, please pray for the Sisters attending the discernment weekend. In the words of our Congregation Chapter prayer:
Come Holy Spirit, refresh and renew us,
draw us deeply into your love,
soften our hearts, rouse our spirits,
open us to all that the Congregation Chapter may entail.
St. Joseph, dreamer and practical one,
help us live our dreams into reality.
May the whole of creation
rejoice in God’s justice and live in God’s peace.
We pray with confidence and faith. Amen
As I wrote in the first post on this blog almost 10 years ago in the early days of my vocation discernment:
"The following scripture passage has been very present to me the past few months...
'You have been told, O people, what is good, and what Yahweh asks of you: Only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God'. - Michah 6:8
Is it possible that it's really that simple? ... The invitation to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with God is just too good not to at least check out .... and so I am."
And so I continue each day. As it happens, my congregation's vow formula is also inspired by this Scripture passage. These are the words I said when I professed my perpetual vows:
In response to God's call to seek justice, to love tenderly, and to talk in the way of peace, I, Susan Rose Francois, in the presence of our Congregation Leader, and in the presence of the community gathered here, vow to God, poverty, celibacy, and obedience, for life, according to the Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace..... each and every day.
Joyful hope is the hallmark of genuine discipleship. We look forward to a future full of hope, in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Hope makes us attentive to signs of the inbreaking of the Reign of God. Jesus describes that coming reign in the parable of the mustard seed.
Let us consider for a moment what we know about mustard. Though it can also be cultivated, mustard is an invasive plant, essentially a weed. The image you see is a variety of mustard that grows in the Midwest. Some exegetes tell us that when Jesus talks about the tiny mustard seed growing into a tree so large that the birds of the air come and build their nest in it, he is probably joking. To imagine birds building nests in the floppy little mustard plant is laughable. It is likely that Jesus’ real meaning is something like Look, don’t imagine that in following me you’re going to look like some lofty tree. Don’t expect to be Cedars of Lebanon or anything that looks like a large and respectable empire. But even the floppy little mustard plant can support life. Mustard, more often than not, is a weed. Granted, it’s a beautiful and medicinal weed. Mustard is flavorful and has wonderful healing properties. It can be harvested for healing, and its greatest value is in that. But mustard is usually a weed. It crops up anywhere, without permission. And most notably of all, it is uncontainable. It spreads prolifically and can
take over whole fields of cultivated crops. You could even say that this little nuisance of a weed was illegal in the time of Jesus. There were laws about where to plant it in an effort to keep it under control.
Now, what does it say to us that Jesus uses this image to describe the Reign of God? Think about it. We can, indeed, live in joyful hope because there is no political or ecclesiastical herbicide that can wipe out the movement of God’s Spirit. Our hope is in the absolutely uncontainable power of God. We who pledge our lives to a radical following of Jesus can expect to be seen as pesty weeds that need to be fenced in. If the weeds of God’s Reign are stomped out in one place they will crop up in another. I can hear, in that, the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero “If I am killed, I will arise in the Salvadoran people.”
And so, we live in joyful hope, willing to be weeds one and all. We stand in the power of the dying and rising of Jesus. I hold forever in my heart an expression of that from the days of the dictatorship in Chile: “Pueden aplastar algunas flores, pero no pueden detener la primavera.” “They can crush a few flowers but they can’t hold back the springtime.”
From the prophet Micah, we hear:
Woe to those who plan iniquity,and work out evil on their couches; In the morning light they accomplish it when it lies within their power. They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and they take them; They cheat an owner of his house, a man of his inheritance.The Psalmist writes:
Why, O LORD, do you stand aloof? Why hide in times of distress? Proudly the wicked harass the afflicted,who are caught in the devices the wicked have contrived.And then in Matthew's Gospel:
For the wicked man glories in his greed, and the covetous blasphemes, sets the LORD at nought.The wicked man boasts, “He will not avenge it”;“There is no God,” sums up his thoughts.
The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesusto put him to death. When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place. Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known.Our present news cycle is filled with the consequences of evil planned on couches. Peoples are plotting against other peoples or closing their hearts and doors to compassion and our common humanity. There are good news stories to be sure as well, but those do not get the air time. Instead, we are submerged in woe.
Jesus could have been submerged in woe. People were literally planning his death. And what does he do? He withdraws from the place ... he was a man of deep prayer. Yet when people followed him, he did not ignore them or push them away, but ministered to them.
At our last CSJP Congregation Chapter, we wrote these words in our Chapter Act: "We live in a society marked strongly by the violence of war, violence to people through poverty and a sense of powerlessness and alienation, violence to earth, sea, and sky--violence that is truly cosmic." Those words would also fit our present news cycle! As a community pursuing justice and seeking God's peace, how did we respond in our Chapter Act? "In response we commit ourselves to grow more deeply toward a nonviolent way of being and acting as peacemakers." Like Jesus, our call is to withdraw (resist) and to respond in hope.
A few months ago I read something by the great liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez regarding hope. I'd like to end this Saturday morning reflection with his words:
Hope is, in the first place, a gift from God. Accepting this gift opens followers of Jesus to the future and to trust … God’s gift is not an easy hope. But as fragile as it may seem, it is capable of planting roots in the world of social insignificance, in the world of the poor, and of breaking out and remaining creative and alive even in the midst of difficult situations. Nonetheless, hope is not waiting; rather it should lead us actively to resolve to forge reasons for hope.No matter what the news, let us resolve to forge reasons for hope.
The trouble is that poverty in the aggregate touches no one’s heart; it is no one’s business; the consideration of the matter is put off as too much of an outside question to need personal, prompt, and practical action.-The Question of Today: Anti-Poverty and Progress, Labor and Capital, M.F. Cusack, 1887