Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Intercessions ~ Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


Monday is National Butterfly and Hummingbird Day./ May we love our planet/ with care for the smallest of God's creatures,/ all of which play a part in sustaining life and wellbeing./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi,/ who (perhaps shockingly) said to his religious brothers,/ "Better for you to go out into the street and kiss donkey dung than to even touch money."/ May we be a rightly prioritized people/ who try to live in the simplicity of the gospel,/ keeping far from power and money-love./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Jewish Feast of Yom Kippur,/ the Day of Atonement./ We join the Jewish people in asking for the forgiveness of the world's sins:/ the atrocities of war,/ the distribution of increasingly destructive and easily gotten weapons,/ the exploitation of the world's resources,/ the leaving behind of so much of the world in poverty,/ the myriad ways in which we fail the world's children./ We pray to the Lord.

At the start of October we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries,/ and other days of remembrance./ We ask good health for our relatives and friends/ and strength in the challenges,/ changes and difficulties they contend with./ We pray to the Lord.

Sunday Mass (Eucharist) is an answer to the alienation and polarization we experience these days./ Not only do we believe in/and receive the life of Christ hidden under forms of bread and wine,/ but we do so together./ Mass is the Sacrament of Unity./ May we know,/ experience and value this./ We pray to the Lord.

We make a mistake when we reduce Christianity to being simply a way of believing,/ when it is all the more a way of the heart,/ an inner path of becoming alive and whole./ May we experience a kind of heart-dilation,/ a waking up in awareness,/ listening and seeing deeply and truly,/ friendship/ and even the possibilities for growth through the suffering we experience./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the many who suffer through the destructive hurricane this week over Florida and other states:/ evacuees,/ the displaced,/ and those whose property is destroyed./ For helpers and rescuers./ For the healing of the ruined environment./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Matthew 23:37 ~ Jesus in the Wildernesss ~ the Hen


In the Winter of 1938/39 the English artist, Stanley Spencer (1892-1959) set out to paint forty pictures of Jesus in the wilderness. He knew well the scriptures that tell us Jesus went there for forty days and nights and that at the end he was tempted. But the gospels are silent about what Jesus did the other days. Spencer fills that out for us in his creative, spiritual imagination. Of the forty paintings he intended, only eight were completed. Here is Jesus with the hen and her chicks. 

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You murder the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would never have it! Matthew 23:37.

The image is vivid. Jesus is on the ground with the hen. Young roosters are in the background. His body forms a kind of protective wall around the vulnerable bird and her chicks. He sits with his head in his hand looking down tenderly on the scene. The hen has three chicks. One is pecking the ground. One  peeks out from under its mother's wing and a third looks out from under Jesus' tunic. Notice the sleeves of Jesus are billowed open — forming a kind of tunnel or point of entry.

But what strikes me most is that there is a fourth bird — a little sparrow or wren flying into the scene. There is a circle of soft light around it. Maybe these other verses come to your mind at once:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's knowing it. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear, you are more valuable than sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

But there's more, isn't there? The little sparrow is zooming in and Jesus is not brushing it away. He will welcome it, glad for its presence. There's no in and out with Jesus. No inclusion and exclusion. No shut doors.

Something very crude and exclusive has found a fresh way into our nation. Something very ugly has been unleashed recently. We think of ourselves as the great melting pot. Really? We are indeed a nation of immigrants, but every group that comes here is at first hated and then, after having found their way in (often through great suffering) they become the new haters. 

Before Pope John Paul II asked for every parish to enshrine the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I had a lovely space in my church where I placed a framed copy of the Guadalupe tilma and a fine hand printed copy of her litany. You could light a candle there. A beautifully carved box received petitions. When I visited an elderly parishioner I said, "Have you seen the new image of Our Lady of Guadalupe we've put up in church?" She answered with a dismissive waving of her hand, "O I don't even go back there; she's for the Mexicans." What a pity. You'd think she'd have known better, having supposedly heard the gospel for many years and her own people having long ago been immigrants to this country. 

There's not a little of this kind of thinking, much of it having taken nasty, menacing and even deadly turns. Hate crimes are on the increase across the land. Politicians portend violence if things don't go their way. Christian Nationalists thinks white people were the first ones here. They, and others who think as they do, show up at rallies with bibles in hand and loaded guns strapped to their hips.

Anyway, in this painting here Stanley Spencer (who was a field orderly during the most horrific fighting in the First World War) has given us a gift to contemplate for the expansion of our hearts. Contemplation is not nuns and monks flying around the chapel in ecstasy. Contemplation is seeing the sacred quality in the most unexpected places. "Otherism" is not allowed. Jesus-God has made a circle of protective and comfortable welcoming love around all of us — as has the mother hen with her chicks and the inclusion-seeking sparrow coming in for a landing. How can a Christian not understand these things?

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Time to Start Living

A friend recently passed on this little video (just shy of ten minutes): an older retired man reflecting on his life. But we don't need to retire before thinking about what really matters. I'd suggest there are messages in the man's reflections from which any person of any age might benefit. Would Christians have additional insights?

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Intercessions ~ Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Wherever Ukraine is able to take back villages and towns,/ mass graves are discovered,/ some containing many hundreds of people,/ including children and those who appear to have been tortured and executed./ We pray for our poor, tormented world,/ where the most awful things happen./ We pray to the Lord.

Poor Puerto Rico is again destroyed by another hurricane/ five years after hurricane Maria./ It is said that the island was only half way back from that storm which leveled everything and left thousands dead./ Again,/ there is no electricity,/ no clean water./ We pray for those who suffer there and for those who help./ We pray to the Lord.

It is the fall season of Jewish Holidays./ May these days bring peace/ and the lessening of hatred and violence./  We pray to the Lord.

We hold in our minds and hearts the members of our families who are struggling and who ask for help or healing./ For the ones addicted/ divorcing/ whose relationships are broken or stressed,/ who have money problems,/ who are in mourning,/ where things seem to be falling apart./ We pray to the Lord.

Autumn has begun,/ the season of leaf-fall./ But behind each fallen leaf there is already next spring's leaf-bud./ And so we ask not to lose hope these days/ when even at the highest levels,/ lies,/ ugliness,/ dishonesty,/ corruption,/ theft,/ threats of violence,/ obfuscation and disintegration,/ seem to win./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for Pope Francis,/ his health,/ strength and endurance./ May he be effective in leading the Church in a stressed world./ May his enemies not prevail./ We pray to the Lord.