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God’s comforting presence with us
As a liturgical musician, I cannot recall a single funeral Mass that did not include the beloved Michael Joncas classic, “On Eagles’ Wings.” Perhaps it’s the song’s wide range…its striking imagery…its emotional breadth…or simply people’s familiarity with it. Something about Joncas’ hymn, based in part on today’s passage from Exodus, soothes people’s grieving souls.
As we celebrate Pentecost, we are reminded of this earlier scene from God’s love story with God’s people. Calling the people to covenantal relationship, God tells them who they are and who they are called to be: born on eagles’ wings and brought to Godself, treasured, priestly, and holy. Amid this pandemic, many of us have ached for such assurance of God’s protection and ongoing presence with us.
Though likely not in lighting, clouds, and trumpet blasts, where, when, and with whom have I felt God’s comforting embrace? How can I invite God into my grief?
Come to God as you are
As I write this reflection, Mother’s Day has just passed. While there’s much to appreciate about my mom, I believe that what she and my late dad did best as my sister and I grew up was to delight in their children. They reveled in us being us—gifted and flawed—and we knew it.
At first glance, the essence of today’s Gospel seems to be contained in the first sentence; ask God, in Jesus’ name, for whatever you need, and you will receive it. While the clarity and generosity of this truth offer comfort, I am drawn instead to the second half of Jesus’ declaration. Go to God directly, as you are, he clarifies. God our Creator, the one Jesus calls Father, already loves us…already knows us…already delights in us.
What do I need from God today? What prevents me from going to God and asking for what I need?
Living fully alive
A few years ago, I got my second tattoo. Two words: fully alive. On the inside of my left wrist, the words facing me, my ink offers a consistent, oft needed reminder of St. Irenaeus’ words, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.”
In his preaching and teaching, healing and companioning, suffering and dying, Jesus embodied the abundant life. Today’s Gospel reminds us that a full life like Jesus’ is not an easy life, but it’s the life we are called to live as disciples. Being fully alive requires us to love with our whole hearts, even in the face of uncertainty and risk. Pain is always possible. Only through such vulnerability can we cultivate true joy and connection.
What gets in the way of my living fully? If I get scared to love today, can I remember Jesus beside me, knowing what it’s like to be scared?
Trust that we are enough
“The opposite of scarcity is not abundance; … [it] is simply enough” (Brene Brown). The fear of scarcity has permeated our news and perhaps our own anxieties, from “Will there be enough toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or ventilators?” to “Am I doing enough?” for my family, for work, for the sick, for front line workers.
A common pitfall for us Jesuit-educated folks in the face of scarcity—certainly for me— is misguided magis (the more). We mask our fears of not having, doing, or being enough with our quest for excellence. Perhaps this was a struggle for the scribes, who depended on visible markers of success, or the rich, who gave publicly of their excess.
How can we respond to the poor widow’s alternative invitation: to acknowledge our poverties, to trust that what we have to offer is enough, and from that place, to give all we have for the greater glory of God?
God of Abundance,
Help me to trust
That in Your eyes
I am enough.
A companion in Jesus
At Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, today’s Gospel is the framing Scripture passage for the morning prayer on Day 2 of our Kairos retreat. To begin to address the question “Who is Jesus?” we invite students into an Ignatian contemplation, to use their senses to imagine themselves as “onlooker-participants” in the scene. We consider the humanity of Jesus—his growth and learning, his feelings, and his relationships—and ponder what they might mean for us as disciples.
Today, as we navigate both the ongoing pandemic and our Gospel call to end racism and white supremacy, perhaps an encounter with Jesus’ humanity is precisely what we need. In Jesus, I find a companion on the way, one who knew what it was like to grow and learn over time, to feel deeply, and to be in meaningful relationship with others.
Might I be open to practicing Ignatian contemplation with Jesus today?
You move in and through our imaginations.
Help us to enter into the story of Jesus,
Who shows us what it means to be fully human,
So that we may see more clearly
God’s face in ourselves and each other.
Let your “yes” mean “yes”
As Americans reckon once again with the crushing sin of racism, both systemic and individual, Jesus’ command at the end of today’s Gospel challenges us.
If you’re like me, then our beloved Jesuit lexicon can feel like a blessing and a curse at times. While at their best, our various mottos and catchphrases beautifully capture our vision and promote true community, at their worst, they can become vague buzzwords that help us avoid the uncomfortable and complex.
Jesus calls us to clarity, integrity, and action. If “yes” means “yes” and “no” means “no”, there is no “maybe,” no “neutral,” in the face of injustice. Author and historian Ibram X. Kendi explains, “There’s no in between racial hierarchy or racial equality…injustice or justice…racist or anti-racist. There’s no ‘not racist’ sort of category.”
How can I say “no” to racism and “yes” to anti-racism today?