Meditations

Morning Greeting

This, from Daniel Berrigan:

“The heavens bespeak the glory of God.
The firmament ablaze, a text of [God’s] works.
Dawn whispers to sunset
Dark to dark the word passes, glory glory

All in a great silence,
no tongue’s clamor —
yet the web of the world trembles
conscious, as of great winds passing.

The bridegroom’s tent is raised,
a cry goes up. He comes! a radiant sun
rejoicing, presiding, his wedding day.
From end to end of the universe his progress.
No creature, no least being but catches fire from him.

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: When is sunrise tomorrow where you live? (Google is your friend). Be outside or at an east-facing window while the sky is still dark. Wait “as the web of the world trembles” for the first sunlight to appear. What creature will be the first to become visible in the light? Give thanks for what you see. You might want to celebrate this creature’s existence by journaling, drawing, or dancing/moving in a way that calls to mind the way this creature moves in and through their world.

About Freedom

This July 4 weekend we’ll be hearing many things about freedom. Here’s what author and theologian Richard Rohr has to say:

“Jesus’ notion of the Kingdom is a different understanding of freedom than that of most religious and secular leaders today. We think of freedom as not having to do what we don’t want to do, but divine freedom is the capacity to be fully who we already are, to develop our inherent and true nature, as much as possible—really wanting to do what we know we have to do. Only God can create that freedom inside of us. Love can only proceed from such inner freedom. A mustard seed, yeast, and light—that all develop from within—are some of Jesus’ central metaphors for this freedom-loving Reign of God. Paul just calls it “grace.” For him grace and freedom are almost the same thing (see Ephesians 2:7-10, Galatians 5:1). And I would add to that “heaven.” Freedom, grace, and heaven are the same thing.

Secular freedom only creates individualists and private freedom, but not a society. It never gets around to the common good, which is a central principle of the Gospel and … which instead demands from you and demands for others—while ironically giving you all that you really need. Then you become who you most deeply and truly are, a member of a family, a neighborhood, a society, and a planet. If you are trying to “go to heaven” alone or on your own merits, you are preparing for a place other than heaven.”

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: How do you define freedom? In your life, how have you experienced freedom, or the lack of freedom, most intensely? What opportunities do you have right now to increase the common good?

Praying With the Earth as Garden

Summer means gardens! This suggestion for praying with the earth as a garden come from Christine Valters Paintner’s “Water, Wind, Earth and Fire”, Sorin Books, 2010.

Take a walk through your neighborhood as a journey of discovery. Watch for beautiful weeds, small hidden gardens, grass sprouting from concrete. Georgia O’Keefe says that ‘seeing takes time’. Take time to see what you might discover when you linger. Bring your camera with you to capture moments that you may not have noticed otherwise.

Could this way to pray be meant for you? Will you walk by yourself or invite others to walk with you?

Summer, a Season for LIving

This, from Maria Wiederkehr’s “Circle of Life: The Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons”:

“Under the sycamore tree, far away from my childhood summers, I am lost in reverie. It is not swimming pools and city parks that I remember. I see the creeks and forest swimming holes of long ago. These are some of the memories that speak to me of my childhood summers: bare feet in the creek bed, tadpoles and tiny fish swimming between my toes, the challenge of catching crawdads, watching for snakes, hanging from tree limbs, and jumping into refreshing pools of water. The forest and the meadow were my office. That’s where I did my best work.

Some grownups tend to be obsessed with making a living rather than making a life. They become preoccupied with having a reason for doing whatever they do. Children need no reason. Life is the reason. Thus children can live more easily from the center, from the heart. It is a purer kind of living. It is living in the moment…”

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others, these meditation prompts are also from “Circle of Life”: If you want to be attentive to the gospel of summer, ask for help from the child who lives inside you. Every age you’ve lived through still resides in your soul, thus help is never far away. Ask the child within to remember how to live by heart. If you cannot find the child within, any child will do. Ask a child for help.

Imagine the Scene

Joan Chittister is an internationally known writer and lecturer on social justice, and a Benedictine Sister in Erie, Pennsylvania. This reflection is from her most recent book, “The Time Is Now”:

“I remember a time when…the prioress used a book of meditation prompts to lead the community through a period of daily contemplation. This process of guided meditation was a clear one. First, the leader read an episode from the Gospel. Second, she intoned ‘Imagine the scene.’ Third, she read, ‘Jesus is walking around the Sea of Galilee, stopping here to cure a blind man, stopping there to raise a young girl from the dead, engaging with some of the local scribes and Pharisees on the fine points of the Law, ignoring the Sabbath to save a donkey in a ditch. The crowds are pressing in on him — pushing and prodding, hands out, eyes pleading for attention, for help. Then he looks up and sees you watching from the margins. “And you,” he says, “what will you do for these — simply stand there looking on?”

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: The meditation Sister Joan cites merges several incidents in Jesus’ life into an energetic, prophetic whole. Which episode captures your imagination most? Ponder the story that calls to you today. Imagine yourself in the scene! How would you answer Sister Joan’s question?

Spirit, Wild One! A Prayer for Pentecost

Spirit, Wild One
sweeping in, unseen, unannounced,
unexpected,uncompromising,
pressing through the door
startling those hovering in fear
shaking them out of the corners,
awakening concealed gifts.

Spirit, Wild One,
relentless loving presence,
bringing strength to the weak,courage to the fearful,
determination to the doubtful,
joy to the disheartened,
faith to the disbelieving.

Spirit, Wild One,
come whirling into my soul space,
gather what remains in disarray,
lift up what is neglected,
send forth what wants to hold back,
impassion what hesitates,
heal what remains wounded.

Spirit, Wild One,
breathe large gusts in me,
sweep through my being,
drench me with hope,
soften my resistance
wrap your love around me
until I welcome you fully. Amen.

From Joyce Rupp’s “Prayer Seeds”,Sorin Press, 2017

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: The author points to many different ways in which the Holy Spirit works in and through us. Which of these images resonates most deeply with you? Draw, journal, dance or sing your response!

A Sabbath poem by Wendell Berry

The yellow-throated warbler, the highest remotest voice
of this place, sings in the tops of the tallest sycamores,
but one day he came twice to the railing of my porch
where I sat at work above the river. He was too close
to see with binoculars. Only the naked eye could take him in,
a bird more beautiful than every picture of himself,
more beautiful than himself killed and preserved
by the most skilled taxidermist, more beautiful
than any human mind, so small and inexact,
could hope ever to remember. My mind became
beautiful by the sight of him. He had the beauty only
of himself alive in the only moment of his life.
He had upon him like a light the whole
beauty of the living world that never dies.

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: The poet alludes to several ways of seeing. Which of the ways he mentions resonates most deeply with you? Do you agree with his assessment that our minds are “so small and inexact”? Where and when have you experienced a light like “the whole beauty of the living world”? Where will you look for that kind of light today?

Let Yourself Be Useless

This, from beloved theologian Henri Nouwen:

Prayer is not a way of being busy with God instead of with people. In fact, it unmasks the illusion of busyness, usefulness, and indispensability. It is a way of being empty and useless in the presence of God and so of proclaiming our basic belief that all is grace and nothing is simply the result of hard work. Indeed, wasting time for God is an act of ministry, because it reminds us and our people that God is free to touch anyone regardless of our well-meant efforts. Prayer as an articulate way of being useless in the face of God brings a smile to all we do and creates humor in the midst of our occupations and preoccupations.

Thinking about my own prayer, I realize how easily I make it into a little seminar with God, during which I want to be useful by reading beautiful prayers, thinking profound thoughts, and saying impressive words. I am obviously still worried about the grade! It indeed is a hard discipline to be useless in God’s presence and to let him speak in the silence of my heart. But whenever I become a little useless I know that God is calling me to a new life beyond the boundaries of my usefulness.

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: How welcome are the words”all is grace and nothing is simply the result of hard work” to you? Do you ever wonder or worry about the “grade” God might be giving you?

Soil and Seeds

This reflection on Luke 8:4-15, from “Unearthing My Religion” by Mary Gray-Reeves:
“When farmers look at soil, they see a detailed future, a strategic plan, the economy, politics, immigration laws, and the cultural preferences of various groups. I know now that when they are staring at the soil, they see an entire universe and how the tiny seeds they cast will be part of it. Their persistent study and experienced practice of noticing the soil and all related factors makes the difference in the harvest. Unlike America today, most people in first-century Palestine — Jesus’s audience — were farmers. Everyone understood what happened when seed fell on rock, was not watered, or was choked by thorns. Certain conditions produced certain results. It only makes sense…The story is not about ground conditions, but carries over to the listeners’ inner life. It invites us to ask: Are the seeds God is casting on our spiritual soil taking root? What kind of seeds are they? What is the condition of your inner soil? Is there spiritual receptivity within you? Will holy seeds develop? What does harvest look like? Do you care? These were questions people might have thought about sitting and listening to Jesus then and now. They are timeless queries.”

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others, these “wondering questions”, also taken from “Unearthing My Religion”: Imagibe God casting seeds into your soul with ridiculous abandon. Where are they landing? Where are they living? Where are they dying? Where are they growing with deep roots and becoming fruitful? In other words, what parts of your spiritual life are flourishing? Which parts are struggling? Where is there more potentially good soil for future planting?

The image is by Sadao Watanabe

Angels, Archangels and all the Company of Heaven?

This, from Richard Rohr’s latest book, “The Universal Christ”:

“In his book ‘Unmasking the Powers’ theologian and biblical scholar Walter Wink makes a very convincing casr that [an] intuition about the inherent sacredness of creation is precisely what sacred texts are pointing toward when they speak of ‘angels’. An angel, Wink believed, is the inner spirit or soul of a thing. When we honor the ‘angel’ of a thing, we respect its inner spirit. And if we learn to pay attention to the soul of things — to see the ‘angels’ of elements, animals, earth, water, and skies — then we can naturally work our way back through the Great Chain of Being to the final link, whom many call God. Don’t waste your time deconstructing your primitive belief about pretty, winged creatures in flowing pastel dresses…We need to reconstruct, and not just continue to deconstruct. Then you will see angels everywhere.”

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: Go on an angel hunt — how are angels depicted in the the building where you worship, in art that speaks to you, in scripture (the Bible Gateway website is a useful search tool), or in words we hear in church on Sundays? Do Rohr’s comments intrigue you? Annoy you? Enhance your sense of wonder and mystery in creation? Or affect you in some other way?