discern this

We are an Easter People, and even at the grave, Alleluia is our song.

6th Sunday of Easter A May 25, 2014 May 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 5:45 pm

I have a favorite person in the Trinity. Maybe I’m not supposed to, but I do. I’ve always felt especially drawn to the Holy Spirit. I think often when I’m praying, I am half subconsciously directing my prayers towards the Holy Spirit. I may use the name God, but it’s the Holy Spirit that I’m picturing. It isn’t that I don’t pray to or value or love the Creator and Jesus; I think it’s because that is the person in the Trinity whom I can most closely feel in my life.

As we prepare for Communion every Mass, a critical part is sharing peace with each other, remembering that we are called to share in the peace of Christ and share it with each other. But as we do so, we recall Jesus coming to the terrified disciples and offering each of them peace, and doing so through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christ Jesus said, “Peace, Peace be with you” and the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit.

I love that image so much. Sometimes, as I mediate, I can feel the Presence flowing over and around me and through me, and I imagine it’s what the apostles felt when they were hidden away in that locked room. I may not emerge speaking tongues or curing illnesses or forgiving sins, but I am certainly filled with the Spirit. That Spirit brings hope, brings love, brings joy, brings the umph that I need to go through life.

I was confirmed on Pentecost Sunday; that year the bishop of the church I attended back then gave permission for priests to confirm students on Pentecost throughout the diocese, to underscore the meaning of receiving the Holy Spirit. As Catholics, we confirm and ordain through the laying on of hands, the passing of the Holy Spirit from one to another, as was done in the earliest days of the church.

We carry that tradition with us two thousand years later, recognizing the gift Jesus gave to us in the calling down of the Holy Spirit, whom we hear Jesus today call the Advocate. The Holy Spirit works in our world today through each of us, through our actions and interactions.

In Peter’s letter, we are urged to recognize the Holy Spirit in our lives, to have ready an answer for when people ask why we do what we do, why we are Christ-followers. The journey is not always easy; indeed, it sometimes feels impossible. But we have the ever-present Holy Spirit, constantly with us, working “magic” in the world around us, lighting the way, easing the way, comforting and supporting us on the journey.

This is the gift of the Holy Spirit: that even though Jesus ascended to Heaven, which we remember in a special Mass this coming Thursday, we were not left alone here on this earth, to fumble around for a lifetime. No, the Holy Spirit came into our lives then and remains with us constantly.

As the disciples said to one another after meeting Jesus on the Road to Emmaus: Were not our hearts burning within us? Were not our hearts burning inside?

We can say to each other now and always: Are not our hearts burning within us? Are not our hearts burning inside?


The Walk to Emmaus: Third Sunday of Easter May 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 2:44 pm

The Walk to Emmaus


The Tomb is empty! Is empty! Come and see!

Sing a few lines. Oh, what a joyful song! How wonderful! We proclaim it on Easter morn and throughout the Easter Season. We sing delightedly at the shared memory of women in mourning, going to the tomb after the Sabbath to keep their Jewish traditions around death but finding it empty. We sing, inviting everyone to come and see what we see! The tomb is empty! Sing Alleluia!

The disciples were not singing.

Now, two our disciples are walking to a town called Emmaus. They may have even been running away, escaping from all that was happening in Jerusalem. It was The Easter Sunday, though we know this with 2000+ years of hindsight. The disciples are mourning, terrified, overwhelmed with grief, astounded at the news from some women that hung out with them that THE TOMB IS EMPTY. This is not a thing that should be happening. They were not singing; they were crying.

A man walking the same way joins them and asks what they were talking about. Our friends are taken aback that the man had no idea, and they tell him about their friend, their prophet Jesus, whom they thought was their savior and their everything and who was going to fix all that is wrong with the world…but turns out now he isn’t even in the tomb where they buried him, and WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN ANYWAY?!

Now we know that this man is Jesus, and Jesus knows what’s going on, of course. As he approached the disciples, Jesus had clouded their eyes so they wouldn’t recognize him. This gives Jesus a chance to see what the disciples thought of everything that has happened and talk to them about it.

Disguised Jesus begins to explain the scriptures, drawing the parallels between the Scripture and what happened with the disciples’ friend Jesus. He chides them for not recognizing it on their own, and he answers their questions and amazes the disciples with his knowledge of a man they lived with for three years but did not understand.

When Disguised Jesus acts like he is going to continue on, the disciples realize how much they like this stranger, and they want to spend more time with him. They ask him to stay and have dinner with them and rest the night before continuing on in the morning.

They sit down to dinner. Disguised Jesus picks up bread. He says a blessing. Disguised Jesus breaks the bread, and he is no longer disguised. The disciples recognize their friend instantly, and then Jesus is gone.

This is what I had a hard time understanding for a long time. Why Disguised Jesus? Why would Jesus wait so long to allow them to recognize him? Why wouldn’t he just appear as himself and explain to the disciples what was happening?

The disciples wouldn’t have been able to handle it. They weren’t ready. It took that long walk to another town, time to share what happened with a ‘stranger’, time to hear what the scripture meant, time to rekindle that longing for more—to learn more, to know more, to hear more, to see more, to feel more—to prepare them to find out who Jesus was. The disciples had more immediate needs that had to be met before they would be ready for all they were to hear. Disguising himself gives Jesus a chance to see what the disciples thought of everything that has happened and talk to them about it.

When they are ready, they recognize Jesus through broken bread. They see their friend for who he truly is, not just the prophet they’ve followed for years, but the Messiah. They say, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us? Were not our hearts burning inside? How did we not recognize him? How did we not know what we were seeing, to whom we were talking?’

Each of us is on the journey to Emmaus. Every day, we struggle to understand what is happening and why. We want to know why it can’t all be fixed, why everyone can’t just get along. We do not understand. Our sisters and brothers in this world are on a similar journey. The trauma and pain they are working through is not the same as ours, but it is similar.

When things are going poorly, we often say things like, I just want it better. I just want my hip fixed…yesterday. I just want to be finished with school and be able to move on to the next part of my life. I just want to it to be the weekend. I just want my kid not to be in the Terrible Twos (or Threes or Thirteens). We know it’s going to take a lot of work to get there, and we don’t want to have to go through it. We just want the Good Parts Version, without all the mucking about in hyperspace suffering or hard work to get there.

But so much comes from the journey that without it, we wouldn’t be ready. Or we would miss out on so much that happens in the meantime that we wouldn’t be the same person on the other side. One thing I remind myself of pretty regularly is that I wouldn’t be who I am and doing what I do if I hadn’t gone through the things I have. My walk to Emmaus has brought me from place to place, life event to life event, job to job, stressor to comfort, depression to joy, fear to contentment. Each step prepares us for the next, and when we are ready, the cloudiness over our eyes and over our understanding lifts and allows us to see what we have been waiting for.

Our challenge today as Christians in this crazy-scary world is to join with others as we Walk to Emmaus. We meet people where they are, from where we are. We are challenged to take the time to look at our neighbors and remember their journey is full of uneven ground and potholes and detours and sometimes even collapsing retaining walls. We are called to recognize the stranger among us as a friend, as a person whom we need and who needs us. We are called to recognize that burning inside us as our souls recognizing the divine in the soul of another, the Divine in me recognizing the Divine in you, seeking the Christ in one another. We walk together on the Road to Emmaus, waiting in anticipation for what is to come.


5th Sunday of (Extra)Ordinary Time February 9, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 2:40 pm

As I listened to the readings to prepare for this, all I could think was this is why I am who I am. This is why I do what I do. This is what it means to be Christian, to be Catholic.

Care for the poor. Care for the ones who have little, the ones who have noting. Do it without judgment or reservation or complaining. This is what we are here for. We are meant to be proclaimers of the Word, examples for the Lord.

Jesus tells us we are salt for the earth. What does that mean?

Every one of us here has salt in the kitchen. We use it when we prepare meals, when we bake, when settle in to eat. It seasons, it preserves, it flavors, it enhances. It’s a dietary necessity, a requirement for our bodies to function.

When salt cannot be used for flavor, it gets used for manufacturing and other industrial functions. This winter, we’ve seen a whole lot of it on our streets. In ancient times, soldiers poured salt into the fields and tramped it into the soil, ruining the land for use in growing crops.

We are salt for the earth. We are a requirement for the earth to function, and when we do not fulfill our role as enhancer and preserver, we are no longer being useful.

There is a book series I read years ago about a man named Joshua. They center around a man who lives very simply, who comes one day to a town and quietly begins to transform the people within it. He is revolutionary, but not in a 6 o’clock news way. In one of the books, his carpentry skills are commissioned by two separate churches, each requesting a statue for their sanctuaries. He agrees, carves the pieces completely by hand, and delivers them to the pastors. Each pastor is shocked—the piece is not what they expected. The Pentecostal church’s statue is of Peter in a strong authoritative role, gesturing, leading. The priest’s statue is of Peter caring for a dying man. The two pastors agree they are more comfortable with the other church’s piece, so they decide to exchange them. Problem solved.

But within a few days, one pastor called the other. This statue, I know the message and I like it. but it doesn’t speak to me the way the other did. Would you consider trading back? The other pastor feels the same way.

Each realizes the message that Joshua carved into that piece was designed for his church. They had part of the message Jesus intended, but they were missing some of it—the uncomfortable part. And yet, when they tried to avoid the discomfort, they found something lacking.

After calling us salt of the earth, Jesus calls us light for the world. Instead of hiding our gifts, we must share them.

Oftentimes, I am a lot more comfortable doing the good things and not talking about them. I don’t do them for the attention or the glory; I just do it because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s easier for me to do this, to just be who I am and try to make a difference in my own small ways. It’s harder for me to stand up here and talk about it. It’s harder for me to put into words the way I feel and the way I believe. It’s easier for me to be salt than to be a light on the lampstand, drawing people in and getting others to be salty too. I’m shy. I’m an introvert. Talking up what I’m doing, even when it means that others can benefit from my knowledge and experience and belief, is a struggle for me.

Other people find it easier to talk. They enjoy standing up and talking about God and are comfortable posting about it on Facebook and knocking on doors and inviting everyone they meet into the conversation.

Salt for the earth means that we are full of the potential for good works, and light for the world means that our lives can enlighten others.

Next month, we will have our parish council meeting to make some decisions about how we will move forward as a community.

Both are important. Both are necessary as we work to bring justice into the world. Together, they will guide us to our Next Right Thing.