Laments for Boston, the peace of Christ and the wisdom of Mr. Rogers

We want answers.

When tragedy and violence shatter our peace we want answers. Why?! How?! Who?! How could God let this happen?! Our laments rise like incense, meeting storm clouds of emotion.

Today, the laments are heavy in the city of Boston. The bombings at the marathon yesterday cause our nation to shudder.

Many are crying in Iraq today too. Waves of bombings there yesterday killed at least 20 people and injured more than 200.  The sorrow knows no borders. What about the people who deal with violence in places like the Central African Republic or Syria without much attention or help from the world community? God help us.

The laments are also thick in Iran where there was an awful earthquake just a few hours ago. Christ hear us.

The laments are constant in hospitals and funeral parlors where intense suffering is often too sudden. God have mercy.

Thanks be to God we are not alone in all this. The good news is that God hears our cries and that God is intimately with us as we suffer.

Thanks be to God that Jesus taught us what to do. This is what Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. – John 14: 27

We can have faith. We get to take care of each other. We need each other. We really can only do this together. In community with Christ we can make peace, pray and help one another. With Christ in community we can offer healing and hope. This compassion is the heart of peacemaking and Gospel living.

Mr. Rogers, with his simple wisdom, understood this well. If we look around within the human community, we can quickly recognize the peace of Christ alive and well. We don’t need to be afraid.

Thanks be to God Christ is alive and well and among us. Christ hears our cries and knows our pain. Christ is with us, helping us and healing us through the arms of our loving neighbors.

mercy, children of the earth

Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  –John 20:19b-20a

Christ is still showing us His wounds.

Christ is the energy of God alive and arisen in our midst. In my life, one of the most profound ways I experience that Christ energy is by communing with creation. The peace of Christ beats with the rhythm of an ancient drum in the depths of the woods and in the heart of the ocean. And earth is hurting. Like our brother Jesus, we have harmed the earth with our violence and sin.

Two examples: As highlighted in this film, the inhabitants of the Carteret Islands just north of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, are running for their lives while their island is overtaken by the rising ocean waters. Climate change is causing the icebergs to melt at rates faster than humans have ever known. Christ is wounded among us.

Here’s a video highlighting what these wounds look like:

The ocean bears many of the earth’s wounds. This example is so unbelievable, it almost seems like a joke. Really, it is no laughing matter. Our pollution and waste have created enormous garbage “islands” in ocean currents, one of which is apparently comparable to the size of Texas. This week the United Nations is going to declare that these garbage masses in the sea have achieved “state status” because of their size. The nation shall be called Garbage Patch, the flag will be all blue and its population shall be 36,939 tons of garbage.

Garbage Patch Picture from LA Times Blog

Let’s have mercy, good people!

When Christ showed his wounds to his disciples he said “Peace be with you.”

As Christ shows his wounds to us, He also says “Peace be with you.”

We are privileged and blessed to be able to nurse the wounds of our earth, our Christ, during this holy sacred time. We can stop can using plastic, we can reduce our carbon footprint, we can teach others the truth and we can clean up the mess we have made. We can share the Christ of peace and be instruments of healing and blessing.

Let’s have mercy, Christ have mercy, peace be with you. Amen!

a regular Easter in broken chains

Happy Easter!

Easter joy is ringing and Alleluias are all over the place. Jesus is alive and we can celebrate! This is the Easter joy I was hoping for, praying for.

I wanted to feel Easter joy because it had been a hard, exhausting Lent. I intensely felt the story of the Triduum this year. Holy Thursday was profound, Good Friday was awful and sad and Holy Saturday was horribly depressing.

Then, on Easter morning, I was giddy with joy. Church bells rang before dawn, at six a.m. I filled candy bowls with jelly beans and danced and sang Alleluias as I got ready to go to church. I was very excited and happy. Jesus is amazing, coming back from the dead and showing how powerful and strong He is! Wow! God is good!

The good news is that Easter is a regular thing, a much more regular thing than we might think.

Holy Thursday sharing is our daily bread. We nourish one another through our sharing in community. Our acts of ministry and daily caring for one another is the living servant-leadership of the foot washing Jesus modeled. Our bodies are holy. Yes, Jesus is the bread of Christ. And, we are the body of Christ. Together, we are Eucharist alive, living the Holy Thursday story on a daily basis.

Good Fridays happen way too much. People are oppressed, hurt, abused and tortured completely unjustly. We turn on each other and look for scapegoats. We force people to carry crosses of persecution they do not deserve. Men and women are killed by death sentences still. Children live in war zones, prisoners are tortured. Violence is found in hearts, homes, neighborhoods and entire nations worldwide. Humanity is cruel and violent. It’s horrid.

The grief of Holy Saturdays are thick too. Worldwide, women weep at graves of those killed unjustly–even their own children. People of faith become clouded by confusion and grief when their visions don’t fit with what God has in mind. We hold vigils and memorials and lean on each other in our sadness. We get frozen in our sorrow and are forced to have a solemn sabbath.

As I am saying, praise be God, Easter is a regular thing! We are fed by our daily bread of Eucharist and times when our bodies are honored as sacred and holy. We cry out for peace and justice when people are oppressed and hurt. We bond in community as we deal with our sorrow and sadness. And then, most importantly, Easter resurrections are regular too. Every day we find our voice, unite, rise up, renew, celebrate freedom from oppression, fear and injustice. God is so good!

Here’s a song- and a movement- all about regular Easters–a song of chains breaking and women gaining freedom and celebration:

“Break the Chain”

Lyrics by Tena Clark
Music by Tena Clark/Tim Heintz

I raise my arms to the sky
On my knees I pray
I’m not afraid anymore
I will walk through that door
Walk, dance, rise
Walk, dance, rise

I can see a world where we all live
Safe and free from all oppression
No more rape or incest, or abuse
Women are not a possession

You’ve never owned me, don’t even know me I’m not invisible, I’m simply wonderful I feel my heart for the first time racing I feel alive, I feel so amazing

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain
Dance, rise
Dance, rise

In the middle of this madness, we will stand I know there is a better world Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand Reach out to every woman & girl

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance Break Inst.

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

 Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

 Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Here’s something really fun that you might get a kick out of. Some sisters in my community and I are dancing to our own little music video for the Break the Chain movement. Talk about the Easter story coming alive at a convent!!

Happy Easter everyone! May we all dance with great freedom! Alleluia!

encounters allowed

It’s really hard that living the Gospel and

following Jesus means that we are willing

to encounter the injustices in

society and experience poverty.

It’s not easy that being Easter people-

living up to the resurrection-

means that we allow ourselves

to encounter the uncomfortable

places in our lives and our world.

Loving Jesus makes a mess.

We get into the ugly, awful

places of our lives and societies.

Layered into tombs and crosses,

beautiful newness and Easter

glory glow.

As we allow ourselves

to encounter the stories

of the Truth,

we open ourselves

to encounters with the mysteries

of God’s goodness.

We are united in the mess.

Together we celebrate

the awesomeness of God’s love.

Amen! Alleluia! Amen!

an Easter economy

It is time for a new economy.

It is time for Christ to be our Cornerstone of all creation, even our economic exchange. It’s Easter, the season of new days and resurrected, restored creations.  The time is now for God’s Way to revive all that makes us broken and weak, especially the structures that create poverty and violence.

They brought them into their presence and questioned them,
“By what power or by what name have you done this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them,
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.
There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”  -Acts 4: 7-12

Our society loves putting our faith in the wrong places. The early Christians understood that nothing would work unless Christ is its cornerstone, its foundation, the center upon which all is grounded. Today we seem to be pretty dense to this. We gamble on economics and politics to be our salvation as if they are the systems that will lead us toward justice and peace.

Today’s political and economic debates are littered with lies.

All over the spectrum, I hear the propaganda of capitalism. One side is blaring out that we need to have few regulations, little taxation and that those with the wealth and power ultimately will- by the nature of the structure- influence justice.  Supposedly, people can rise up by the boot straps and get on their feet if those with wealth and power are able to create more jobs.  On the other hand, I hear a suggestion that we need to redistribute wealth, that if you’re rich it’s because the structure has allowed you to be and so you owe something to the rest of humanity.  Glossy promotions boom out that careful investments, money management and increased shopping is the way to freedom, justice and peace.  How many times do we justify our materialistic habits with a shrug of: “my purchasing is helping the economy”?  We think morality should be guided by ability.  (I was disgusted to hear a story on Science Friday about mining resources in space to maintain our standard of living, without any discussion about whether it is morally OK for us to do so.)  For some reason everyone seems to believe that if we allow capitalism to work its course then things will be fair and everything will be all right.

Today is May Day, an international day of strike and an Occupy movement momentum maker.  These social movements cry out in response to the propaganda of capitalism: the structures we know aren’t working!

What would work instead?  It’s Eastertime.  We need a new economy, an Easter economy.  The only way is Christ, the cornerstone.

With Christ at the cornerstone of the new economy, all shall be gift.  According to God’s designs, we are interdependent with all creation.  We need plants, animals and clean air.  The creatures of God’s planet need us to care for them, too.  With mindfulness, we shall restore earth’s resources and all have enough.  We give and take with gratitude and constantly ask the hard questions about what we should do, not what we can do.

In an economy with Christ as the cornerstone, we can rely on each other.  We’ll know how to help each other and we won’t hesitate to do so because we understand that judgement isn’t up to us.  We know that hospitality and service means that we risk being uncomfortable and converting to creations who are more united.  We trust each other to do what is right, because no competition shall cause us to do wrong.  With joy, we work with our hands, create art, repair what is broken, grow our own food and freely give away what we don’t need.

The Gospel good news is that many are already living in these Easter economies.  I am thrilled to know people who will, in a couple of weeks, celebrate a weekend without capitalism.   I have some friends who have a “free shelf” in their house and sponsor a regular “free market” in Chicago in order to create a space for everyone to share what they have.

When it comes to giving, loving and serving survival shouldn’t be our concern.  With Christ as our cornerstone, our needs are supplied.  Sure, we may need to live simply and love freely in order to get by, but isn’t that the Gospel Way?  If we’re not concerned about money, bills and income then we suddenly have time to grow our own food, fix things that are broken and look for food in new places. We can give of our skills and time in exchange for the things we need.  I’d be delighted to come and teach a lesson or write for you; you can feed me lunch or help me fix my bike.

This vision isn’t just idealistic or pie in the sky.  This is according to Christ’s designs. Our faith needs to be in Him, we are made to love and share.  With new alternatives, our habits shall be converted and we’ll be healing the crippled and bringing life to the dead.  We recognize that justice isn’t up to us, that’s God’s work.  We all do our part to help make things better.  We trust and believe.   We know it in our hearts and we preach it with our lives: with Christ as the cornerstone of our Easter economy, everything will really be OK.

Little Resurrections

Since Sunday, I have been trying to pay attention to the little resurrections in the world around me.  How is God at work around me? How do I say Yes to the Risen Christ?  What is happening in my heart?

I feel renewed. I have been transformed by God’s grace. Each day God is working, letting Life have the last word. Alleluia!

seven days of salvation

strangers grip palms, bond at bus stops

grins by glory, pilgrims unite

onward, hosannas and hellos true

buzz on the street: whisper, plot, might

centuries of destruction and war ring doom

age the days of tension, hoping

who can save us from our plight?

bright spring moon, free, feasting

friends wash feet; bread, wine multiply

garden ghosts stir; children play, pray

crowds of citizens chant, cheer “crucify”

believe deceive, turn Love a bloody way

nails, thorns, swords and thirst all killing

three men suspend on wood beams die

friends, followers help Love, crying

into tombs of time, sabbath, vigil, praying

God’s goodness shakes ground, surprise

into churches, candlelight, stories, singing

Jesus has come back! He Lives! Arise!

Joy of fasting: recipes for Easter-living

Guest blogger Amy Nee

Easter came in singing, and the blossoming trees around town seem to confirm its promise of new life. Lent has come and gone and, along with it, our fasting obligations. As I face Ordinary Time and ordinary ways of living (if such a phrase can ever be applied to a Catholic Worker lifestyle), I am left wondering: what did we learn?

Going for forty-plus days abiding (admittedly imperfectly) by the commitments to go without cane sugar and sugar substitutes, to not bring new plastic into the house and to refrain from using electricity and other sources of energy on Sunday was not easy. But was it worthwhile? These three fasts may seem different to outsiders, but I found a unifying result binding together my experience of each.

Our fasts disabled “auto-pilot” – the everyday in-and-out I seem to be subject to, blindly doing things without thinking – and forced me into paying attention, preparing and being patient. As the practice of mindfulness developed and the excesses of convenience were diminished, my senses were refined so that I could hear the quietly-deep desires that are normally drowned out by the white noise of daily living.

I began to discover how foods full of sugar and corn syrup are disguised as a healthy choice (sometimes quite literally bearing that phrase on the label) through clever marketing and veiled language. While my cravings for easy options and sugary satisfaction wearied of the constant “no’s,” my body began to express its gratitude. With each little “no” I was making way for a larger “yes,” an affirmation of healthier, more just and often more creative choices that helped me make the connection between the food I eat, and where that food comes from, who works for it, and how it affects the quality of life for us all.

That creativity and conscientiousness came into play when shopping as well. Not only did I prepare physically, making sure to have a cloth bag on hand, I also prepared mentally, often not being able to buy what I wanted because chances were good that a shiny plastic film was between me and that item.

While browsing the cheese section of Whole Foods (after rummaging through its dumpster, of course), I found to my dismay that there was not one scrap of that dairy delight free of plastic wrapping. An employee, noting my long-lingering lack of selection approached. “Can I help you?” “I’m afraid not. Unless you have some cheese that isn’t in plastic?” “Oh. Hm, I don’t think we do.” “I didn’t think so. I am trying to reduce the use of plastic by not buying anything packaged with it. I really want to make a pizza, but if I bring plastic-wrapped cheese in the house I’ll be ostracized by my community.” “Mhm. Well, we can’t have that.” Being the savvy salesperson that he was, this young man did not submit to defeat. He came up with an alternative, “We have bulk cheese that doesn’t get put out. I could cut some off for you and wrap it in wax paper.” Beautiful! I would be hard pressed to think of a more satisfying purchase than that soggy slab of fresh, wax-wrapped, mozzarella.

Blocks of cheese

Going without plastic wasn’t easy, but the challenge was energizing and helped direct me toward a way of living more mindfully and responsibly on this beautiful, abused planet. Perhaps the most challenging and enriching aspect of the fast was our energy-free Sundays. The first Sunday morning was an education in unconscious habits—flicking on a light as soon as I walk in a room, checking my phone for the time, checking the computer for weather/correspondence/news—and a hitherto unnoticed dependence on the stove. What about coffee? What about oatmeal? I responded by forming a new habit of making preparations on Saturday.

One Saturday afternoon, in the process of boiling eggs and frying pancakes that would be eaten cold the next morning, it occurred to me that I was keeping the Sabbath in a more genuine way than I ever had before. So much of the work we do, and so many of the distractions I have, are based in technology. By removing that, not only did I have the opportunity to rest from work, but I was able to engage in activities that I often long for but relegate to the bottom of my list of priorities. I found myself reading more, practicing guitar, writing letters, spending time talking and – best of all singing with community members and friends.

I am tempted to cling to Lent, relying on the season and the Church and community to enforce discipline upon me. I am honestly more afraid of the riotous new life of Easter than I am of Good Friday’s tomb. The grave offers a quiet end, linen-wrapped like a newborn baby. The perpetual promise of resurrection presents an eternity of new days. And with each of those days, the choice; who will I be? How will I live? Do I go out for dinner or eat the mysterious leftovers in the fridge? It’s no wonder that the way Christ taught us to pray is for the things that give life one day at a time: God’s will, daily bread, forgiveness (for us and from us), relief from temptation, now and forever. And what is forever but an eternity of todays? Let’s start with the one we have, and live it well.

Amy’s post serves as a nice follow-up to guest blogger Jerica Arents introduction to this Lenten fasting.

Photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/554400

Easter Eucharist

Chocolate Chip Cookie

frosted fresh cookie crumbs
coat the painted tile ground
icons of mysteries shatter
the ugly fear shame sorrow pain
that did eat the inside of my broken bruised beaten
heart.

Now,
in my hands
warm gooey dough
still hot baked beauty blessed

together we eat
unite
as the feast
meets my cells
and taste buds dance
eyes closed
I see
Love looking at me seeing Himself
me loving as I gaze back
and know my Love
in the Love
that set me
free.

Glory Be!

in a torture chamber, remembering love

Sure, we’re Easter people and there’s a lot to rejoice about.  Yet the Christian life is no easy street. In fact, sometimes it feels like following Christ brings me right into torture chambers.

Beloved:
If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good,
this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was insulted, he returned no insult;
when he suffered, he did not threaten;
instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,
so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.
For you had gone astray like sheep,
but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.   –1 Pt 2:20b-25

It’s nice that scripture says it’s a grace if we suffer for doing what is good.  But I can’t say that the words always comfort and strengthen me. Sometimes the hurt just seems too extreme.

No worries, I am not in serious pain or trouble.  No one is sending me hate mail or throwing me in prison.  But I can’t say that being committed to Christ and advocating for justice has made me an especially popular person throughout my life.  I have been teased, I have had things thrown at me and I have been called names.  Torture comes in many forms and it’s always ugly, painful and dark.

The inner torment is tough, too.  At times my bitterness bubbles like lava, burning the innocent surrounding me.  Needles of sadness and confusion pluck at my spiraling soul.  Other times, doubts stop my acts of love completely cold.  I easily wonder if I am really following God’s will and doing what is right.  I keep flopping on my face as I try to be faithful.

Still, I get up.  I don’t believe God ever wants us to suffer.  No parent ever wants her child to be in pain, especially our Great Parent who is Love Himself.  But God is always interested in our growth and uses all situations to love us dearly.  The paradox is that suffering is redemptive.  While we suffer, we grow and change and all sorts of great miracles are silently present to us.  It’s beautiful, really.

All over the bible verses remind me that receiving persecution is a consequence for doing what is good.  Plus, today’s ordinary saints and prophets affirm it.  I’ve been told by a wise monk that the things that seem like crosses to me are crosses precisely because I am walking with Christ. This is a gift; I can have joy!

Oh yeah, joy, the joy of Easter! Jesus has shown us that His power is greatest and love wins all wars.  Wow! I really am protected and taken care of by the man who has suffered more than I ever will. It’s such a sweet, good deal!

Even if the consequences of Christian discipleship have brought me into a type of torture chamber, I can still have great faith and joy. And I do.  This is what St. Francis refers to as perfect joy. I love the Bible stories of faithfulness: stories of Daniel’s persevering in the lions den and Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego persevering in the furnace.  Such ancient wisdom challenges and encourages me along in my own, less dramatic, situations.  I am trusting that with God’s continued graces I shall also persevere.

As I contemplate the truth, I remember Love.  I’m remembering that I can play and laugh and dream as Christ heals my wounds.  Jesus is the shepherd and guardian of my soul everywhere I am, no matter how ugly.  Plus, all of us are in this together.  Nothing is too bad for us, we are all God’s children. Alleluia!

I choose to rejoice in the struggle.  I choose to be grateful, not grumpy.  Singing the song called “Lions” by the Christian band, Lost and Found helps me remember and remain rooted in love.  I hope you’ll join in the singing as you watch this video and live your life.