Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

White Birch Trees in Snow

May we be protected from our worst selves:/ our willful ignorance,/ neediness,/ and blind loyalty./ In these weeks of liturgical green/ before Lent,/ may we grow in the ideas God has in mind for us./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday is the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the seventeen million Holocaust Victims./ Grant us the intelligence and clean-ness of heart to see each human person as a child of God./ We pray to the Lord.

Safety and political concerns thwart the Pope's desire to visit South Sudan,/ Iraq,/ Argentina,/ Cyprus,/ Lebanon,/ East Timor,/ Indonesia,/  Russia and China./ We pray for the Pope's message of peace,/ human dignity and justice to be advanced/ as God wills./ We pray to the Lord.

We are living in a time of great emergency:/ animal and plant extinction,/ global heating and pollution./ Grant that we would be wise,/ creative and enduring in taking care of our planet./ We pray to the Lord.

For the President of the Untied States and for all who are in positions of leadership and authority./ We pray for those who abuse power,/ lie or manipulate to hold onto power./ May we learn the servant way of Christ and his saints./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for our families and friends to take on the heart and mind of Christ./ May they be healed of what ails them,/ strengthened in all that is before them,/ comforted in their struggles and sorrows./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Feeling Faint of Heart in the Good Friday World?

This painting, The Three Mary's At The Tomb, was created by Hubert van Eyck in 1425. It depicts the Gospel account of Mark 16:1,2. 
When the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices with which to go and anoint him. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. 

Like these three women-friends of Jesus, we're living in a Good Friday world. A lot of people are suffering it today, feeling faint of heart, tired, depressed, negative, even cynical. We know the Good Friday story themes:

loss, grief, false accusation, suffering, burdens, pain, betrayal, hatred, curses, violence, prison abuse, treachery, brutality, bribery, libel, scheming, threats, indifference, abandonment, torture, loneliness, false imprisonment, false religion, fears, nakedness, shame, insults, blaming, cold calculating, dark politics, dark deal making, death, secret plotting, vulgarity, the money grab, pay offs, pressure...

Depressing. So what are we to do?  Go back to the Gospel. The disciples literally wrapped things up quickly after Jesus was taken down from the cross. Time was short, the Sabbath was to begin soon—even the body of dead criminal had to be out of sight before sunset. Mark leads us to wonder if there was even time to wash the body of Jesus before placing it in the tomb.

These women disciples, having seen and heard it all, then went home, likely exhausted and overwhelmed. But instead of collapsing into a bitter heap, they did the things of love, preparing the spices and whatever else they were going to need to complete the burial of Jesus at Sabbath's end early Sunday morning. And even with the last minute snag, "Who will roll away the stone for us?" they endured and continued to love. Any ideas?

Here's a zoomed in piece of the van Eyck painting, showing one of the Mary's with a particularly beautiful spice jar. Not just an ordinary clay jar, but a specially chosen, wondrously created, decorated jar of silver and lapis. The jar itself, seeming to jump out of the darkness, suggests the continuing in love. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Duccio's Cana Wedding

1 There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had likewise been invited to the celebration. 3 At a certain point the wine ran out, and Jesus' mother told him, "They have no more wine." 4 Jesus replied, "Woman, how does this concern of yours involve me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother instructed those waiting on table, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 As prescribed for Jewish ceremonial washings, there were at hand six stone  water jars, each hold holding fifteen to twenty-five gallons. 7 "Fill those jars with water," Jesus ordered, at which they filled them to the brim. 8 "Now, " he said, "draw some out and take it to the waiter in charge." They did as he instructed them. 9 The waiter in charge tasted the water made wine, without knowing where it had come from; only the waiters knew, since they had drawn the water. Then the waiter in charge called the groom over 10 and remarked to him: "People usually serve the choice wine first; then when the guests have been drinking awhile, a lesser vintage. What you have done is keep the choice wine until now." 11 Jesus performed this first of his signs at Cana in Galilee. Thus did he reveal his glory, and his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum, along with his mother and brothers (and his disciples) but they stayed there only a few days. John 2:1-12

Here is Duccio de Buoninsegna's Wedding Feast at Cana, one of the dozens of paintings from the Life of Jesus and Mary, which comprised his early 14th century Maesta Altarpiece.  Unfortunately, the Maesta was sawed up 700 years after its creation and the pieces passed around, landing in a number of museums or lost. Human beings do awful things. Anyway, how blessed we are to have the image of Jesus' first sign, as recorded in St. John's Gospel. 

Here are some thoughts, combining John's Gospel verses with Duccio's wonderful image.

Verse 1: The artist takes us inside for the wedding feast. He's not simply showing us that he's skilled at painting architectural features, but he wants us to go inside ourselves. Spiritual architecture wants us to be able to go beyond just knowing data or facts about the story, but to progress inwardly. Notice between Jesus and Mary there is an archway that takes us beyond to another room, and then a second archway that invites us to enter still further into another room. Soul work—going deeply into one's psychological soul-place is terrifying to many people. 

Verse 2:  O my goodness, look, it's only in this second verse that we're told that Jesus and his disciples were invited. But it's in the first verse (at the story's start)  that we're told, "the mother of Jesus was there." What does this mean? Lots of Catholics say exalted things about Mary, but they pay no heed to the most important gospel awareness of her: She's the first disciple. She's an image of us. So John introduces us to Mary (notice she's not called by name but referred to as mother and woman) because this story is about US! Notice too, Mary is at the very start of the story as she will be present at the end. Disciples are with Jesus from beginning to end.

Verses 3,4: Right away, like much of life there's a snag or a problem. A Jewish wedding lasted days. Running out of wine would have brought great embarrassment to a family. Mary brings the problem to Jesus' awareness. Some folks will say, "Oh, Mary brings our problems to Jesus." It's not about that. What follows immediately is what matters.

Jesus calls his mother "woman".  Mary's the new Eve—Mother of the living. Who's that? US. We're the people who, pray God, are more alive because we've been baptized into Christ. Sad to say, but a lot of Christians are living a bourgeois religion—we're like everyone else. And it's not religious do-ings that are our distinguishing feature, but love. 

Again, Jesus calls Mary, woman. We might think that sounds rude, but it's really only a formal Aramaic form of address. Then Jesus says to his mother's request: "What does your concern have to do with me?" Jesus knows that if he performs this sign (John doesn't use the word miracle) that enemies will start to form around him and the time for that contest is not here yet. That's inside information between himself and the Father.

Verse 5: There's some tension here, as there was tension when Jesus was lost and found in the Temple as a boy. Remember that somewhat contentious conversation between himself and his mother. Still, even while Jesus lets her know he lives by God's timetable and not that of family relationships, she seems to know he'll respond. She's a disciple who trusts Jesus utterly. 

Verses 6,7: Six stone jars at roughly 25 gallons each—that's a lot of water. "Fill those jars with water...they filled them to the brim." We are getting ready to witness a sign of God's great and overflowing abundance. God's gifts aren't puny, parsing out little bits of grace, blessing, mercy and forgiveness. 

Verses 8,9: The water is changed to wine in transit. Wine has great spiritual significance. Wine brings joy. It's a sign of happiness. For knowing Christ, we're supposed to be a joyful, happy people. It's the sign of our becoming spiritually mature, as grapes have to move through the maturation process - from simply grape juice, to fermentation, to mature wine. Wine symbolizes the perfected human life, which doesn't mean, no mistakes, but a whole life. I want to be a whole human being - kind of fermented in God. Some of that fermentation is struggling with sin, but by no means all of it. Evolving into a whole human person takes time, real self-awareness, honesty and a willingness to change. It's work to become a whole or full human person. 

Notice that Duccio hasn't placed the bride and groom in the scene. That's because it's not about them but about us. Wine at this wedding symbolizes that now, in Christ, we are God's bride—loved abundantly. This is why the real focal point of the Duccio painting is the conversation between Jesus and Mary, the disciple. The guests at the table at looking at that dynamic. BTW: boring table; no women apart from Mary.

Verse 10: This isn't just wine, but (choice) a super abundant and fabulous wine. 

Verses 11,12: This is the first of seven (number of completion, fullness, wholeness) signs John shares with us. Signs of what? Signs of Jesus' glory—that in Jesus Christ we have an encounter with God's own power and beauty. The disciples see it and start to believe. To believe isn't to nod one's head in agreement, but to live in trust and confident joy.  Notice Jesus doesn't hang around to have a confab about the wine and all the questions guests might pose, "Oh wow, Jesus, how'd you do that?" He leaves and moves on to Capernaum where he stays only a few days. I knew a young Franciscan Friar who (in habit) walked 111 miles from Assisi to Florence and back. Along the way he greeted everyone he met, sang a song for them, gave them a holy card or medal, prayed with them, told them a funny story, cheered them. There's something about the Christian disciple that's (like Jesus) on the road.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Intercessions ~ Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Yosemite Chapel in Snow ~ Bill Gallagher

Today begins the Eight Days of Prayer for Church Unity./ Jesus calls us to be one./ May the Christians of varying belief and practice/ learn unity through service and kindness./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Unborn Children./ We pray for a world where every child is welcomed and loved./ We pray to the Lord.

2020 has gotten off to a bad start:/ a commercial airplane has been shot out of the sky over Iran,/ a swarm of earthquakes in Puerto Rico has left thousands homeless,/ fires continue to ravage Australia./ We ask for heaven's comfort and strength./ We pray to the Lord.

At the start of the liturgical time called 'ordinary'/ may we discover the extraordinary love of God in our every day lives,/ in our joys and successes,/ but also in our struggles and challenges./ We pray to the Lord.

In an election year,/ we pray for the President of the United States/ and all who run for public office./ May the nation be protected from ugly division and violence./ We pray to the Lord.

For the safety of winter travelers,/ for those who can't pay their bills,/ who live without shelter,/ food or adequate clothing./ We ask blessings for those who help wherever there is human need./ For the healing of our families./ We pray to the Lord.