I Have Something to Say: an Initiative of the Women Who Stayed
Each of us has something to say, something to share. Each week, a reflection will be posted that focuses on the Scriptures of the upcoming Sunday. We hope these reflections will be a meaningful way to help us prepare to receive the Word of God at Mass each weekend, and to engage with the Word more fully in our lives.
Mary Magdalene Service Wednesday, July 19th 2017 St. Francis Xavier Main Church
When I come to this church on Sunday, I sit in about the
same spot every week.Eight or nine pews
up from the back on the left side – careful to avoid the row that’s missing a
kneeler – in the middle so that I have a pretty good view of the readers and
the priest.That leaves ten to twelve
pews, some empty space, three stairs, and a few more steps between me and the
altar.But the church tells me that’s
where Jesus is.On that altar.Up there.Somewhere.Distant.And sure, during communion they give me a
chance to get a little closer – to walk up and receive Jesus in my hands – but
He has to be brought down to me, mediated always
through another person.I want to run to
Him.Instead, I am told to wait.A man can call to God and turn bread into
divine mystery, but I am told to watch from the pew.There is distance always between me and my God, or so they would have me believe.
But this Mary of ours had him right in front of her, she
could hold his face in her hands, collapse into him in despair, celebrate with
him in her triumphs, viscerally and physically feel his presence, speak with
him, hear her name called.
We’ve given this Mary a lot of names tonight, reclaiming
who she was and who she is in the process of invoking so many new ways of
viewing this woman. Ways of viewing her
that we hope and believe are true to who she is. Names unlike the ones falsely given to her by
men who did not know what to do with her strength, her leadership, her
importance. Fearing for their own power,
they lacked eyes to see the grace of all she had to offer. So as we heard, she became a prostitute,
demonically possessed, a liability to the authority of early male disciples. Distance was created between her and her God.
We as a culture know the harmful power of naming
someone. Slut. Crazy. Bossy.
Sure, these are really labels, but we use them as names. Those that employ them know what they are
doing when throwing them at someone.
They are weapons, and we do not have to think very hard to find women
sabotaged by these very tools. Really we
need look no further than the 13th station, now underlined by the
names of those who have stood up when being shouted down. And we see with Mary Magdalene that this is
not a new phenomenon. Certainly, we see
the power of these weapons. And
yet. And yet we witness their weakness
in the sheer fact that we are gathered here tonight to honor her.
With this systematic defamation, it’s ironic almost that
we wouldn’t have an early church without Mary’s name. Perhaps along with the stories of
prostitution and mental illness, the most well-known story of Mary Magdalene
that we have yet to mention tonight is that of her at the tomb when she meets
the resurrected Christ. Not recognizing
him, she begs through tears to know where they have moved his body, and he,
knowing her, loving her, just gently says, “Mary,” and instantly she knows him
too. He has called her by name. And she, she
is the one to tell the apostles what has happened. The apostle of all apostles. A fortress.
I reach for courage like that which she possessed.
I must admit that I envy Mary Magdalene a bit. I envy her strength to carry the early
church. I envy that Jesus came back just
to call her by name. I envy that she
could grasp him in her hands. And I know
better than to believe what history tells me about her. I know better than to believe that there is a
distance between her and her God. I know
better than to believe there is a distance between me and mine.
When I journal before bed and spend a page or two
complaining or lamenting and this gentle voice creeps into my writing to say,
“You are doing just fine, my darling girl.
Keep your head up. Keep
breathing. All will be well.” That’s God’s voice to me. “My darling girl.” That’s how God calls me.
So yes, I envy Mary Magdalene. But I also connect with her, admire her, find
myself within her. She sought more than
anything deep connection with Jesus. She
yearned for it. It was the fiber of the
desire within her. And those fibers
weren’t torn by his crucifixion, weren’t frayed by the challenges of the early
I imagine so easily her sitting with him as he spoke –
nodding along or rolling her eyes or silently fuming at the things being left
unspoken – all responses I share in during the Sunday homilies. I imagine her tear stained face at the tomb,
cheeks swollen – the genuine grief of one who has lost something deeply felt,
deeply held, deeply loved. I imagine her
sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently pushing the early church to do
better, to be better, to live more fully what Jesus called it to – the very
reason I stick with this church now despite its many flaws. I imagine her disbelief at the contortions we
as a church have forced the Good News to do over the centuries of this
institution, disbelief I share in. And
above all I imagine her hope – a hope that lies in the power of those gathered
She may have been lost, her image mangled, and it is
certainly true that we will never really know who she was in the fullness of
her humanity. We may never wholly find
her. But when we ask here tonight where
they have moved her, what they have done with her, we do not have to be weeping
by her tomb to hear her calling us by name, to give her back her voice. Tonight, we lift her up, and so too she is
calling us to rise.
Claire is coming
up on my one year anniversary with Xavier after moving to New York City right
out of college (2016). She came to the Jesuits by way of Loyola
University Chicago, her alma mater, where she majored in English and
Theology. She has spent the year with Mercy Volunteer Corps, a service
program that places candidates in a full time position in social services,
education, or health related fields. She’s been working at Mercy Center
in the South Bronx and, after finishing her current program, will begin a one
year program working at Cristo Rey NY in East Harlem this fall.
Reflection for the Unveiling, Blessing, and Dedication of
“Saint Mary of Magdala Proclaims the Resurrection”
Church of the Ascension, April 22, 2017
In 1637 Puritan churches
in the Massachusetts Bay Colony put Anne Hutchinson on trial, telling her, “You
have stept out of your place.” She had dared teaching not only groups of women
but also men. In the eyes of her judges, what she had done was neither
“tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor fitting for your sex.”
In 1967 another
woman stepped out of her place. Kathrine V. Switzer, who had registered as K.V.
Switzer to run the Boston Marathon, joined the race. The director of the
marathon, outraged that a woman had dared to run, darted onto the course and literally
tried to shove her out of the race. Her boyfriend, however, threw him a body
block, and Kathrine managed to get away from her attacker to become the first
woman to finish the Boston Marathon (though her finish was disqualified and she
was expelled from the Amateur Athletic Union). Last Monday on the 50th
anniversary of her first Boston run, the 70-year-old Switzer returned to finish
the Boston Marathon.
In the case of
Mary Magdalene, whom we celebrate this evening, church officials figuratively
pushed her off the scene John depicts in the twentieth chapter of his gospel and
resituated her in the story of an unnamed sinful women in Luke 7. Her place in
Christianity, it seemed, was not as a disciple of the crucified and risen
Jesus, sent to bear witness to the resurrection, but as a repentant prostitute.
Over the ages, many legends and myths made the Magdalene a larger than life
figure. Often imaged as a voluptuous woman, she evoked the dangers of female
sexuality. The many variations of her mistaken identity as the penitent
prostitute have so shaped the imagination that too few people regard her by her
first title: apostle to the apostles. Tragically, the mistaken identity
repressed women’s leadership in the early communities of Jesus’ Movement.
To restore Mary of
Magdala to her rightful place, we need to begin with what the gospels say of
her. Two texts are particularly important. The first is Luke 8:1-3 (cf. Mark
Soon afterwards he went on
through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the
kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2as
well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary,
called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who
provided for them* out of their resources.
text requires us to place ourselves into the context of the world of antiquity,
understanding that demons or, as Jesus often spoke of them, “unclean spirits,”
were simply a given of that era. This was language that sought to put words
around the inexplicable, to find a way to talk about conditions that ravaged
people’s lives. The evangelists depict
Jesus as a healer to whom people “possessed” by unclean spirits were drawn.
was it that “possessed” Mary Magdalene? The gospels don’t tell us, but Luke’s
detail about seven demons suggests a disturbance not easily dislodged, perhaps something
like severe depression. We might imagine that the Magdalene’s healing happened
not in an instant but over time, maybe over months as Jesus worked with her,
drawing from her whatever had kept her from living into her full humanity. I
can’t help but wonder what they might have talked about as Jesus offered the
Spirit’s healing power. Her home town of
Magdala, a small fishing village, wasn’t far from Capernaum, a place central to
Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Ultimately, Mary seemed to experience an “inner
seismic shift” (see Bruce Chilton, Mary
Magdalene: A Biography) that freed her to journey among Jesus’ disciples—likely
becoming one who in turn healed others of unclean spirits. Hers was the
discipleship of a wounded healer.
second key text is from the Gospel of John (20:1-18), although the Easter
Sunday lectionary strangely omits the encounter of Mary of Magdala with the
Early on the first day of the
week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the
stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other
disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord
out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ ….
But Mary stood weeping outside
the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look* into the tomb; 12and she saw
two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the
head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said
to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid
him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus
standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to
her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to
be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me
where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus said to
her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,*‘Rabbouni!’
(which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have
not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am
ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ 18Mary Magdalene
went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them
that he had said these things to her.
This wonderfully layered text offers many possibilities for
reflection, so I will limit myself to just four.
gospel accounts all place Mary of Magdala at the crucifixion and resurrection.
Fourth Gospel depicts a mystical encounter between the Risen Nazarene and the Magdalene. She realizes he is not the gardener when he says her name.
however, is not to cling to this encounter; Jesus has transcended the human
Risen Jesus sends her to bear witness to the other disciples. He makes her an
We need to reclaim the Mary
Magdala of these two powerful texts. We need to let her step into her rightful
place as the “Apostle to the Apostles,” as a leader in the early community of
Jesus’ followers, as a wounded healer who bore witness to the power of the
Spirit and was the first to proclaim the resurrection.
Why was it the church failed
to pass on this Mary Magdalene? Why
instead did it tell of a repentant prostitute and repress her role as apostle?
To answer this question fully would take us far afield, but there is one text
from the late second or third century that provides a fascinating hint, The Gospel of Mary. (This is among
numerous gospels of the early church not included in the biblical canon.) In one scene, the author portrays the
disciples as distressed by the departure of Jesus. Mary Magdalene offers
consoling words, to which Peter responds by asking her to tell them “the words
of the Savior that you remember.” She does this—but Peter takes umbrage. Would
the “Savior have spoken with a woman in private without our knowing about it?
Are we to turn around and listen to her? Did he choose her over us?”
“Did he choose her over us?”
Let us not romanticize the early church as we bemoan the challenges of our
I read the Gospel of Mary as mirroring controversies
over leadership and authority in the early church. Given the patriarchal grip
on cultures of antiquity, it is not surprising some (many? most?) men in the
early church resisted women’s leadership. Jesus may have chosen the apostle
Mary of Magdala to play a vital role in his community, but later generations
found this too radical, too counter-cultural. So Mary of Magdala, Apostle to
the Apostles, had to be put in her place, lest women be seen as equals in
making known the Gospel. Refashioning Mary as a repentant prostitute kept women
from stepping out of their place.
This evening we remember and
reclaim Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles. We celebrate her as wounded
healer, evangelist, and witness to the Risen One. And yet, sorrow tinges our
remembrance, as the Magdalene’s mistaken identity calls us to lament all that
the church has lost over the ages by its repression of women’s leadership—a
repression that even today constricts the church and betrays the ministry of
Tonight, however, is not a
time to dwell on the misogyny that so afflicts our church. Just as we can’t
imagine a Boston or New York Marathon without women, so too may the day come
that we can’t imagine the church’s apostles without women alongside men—or
think of “apostolic succession” without including Mary Magdalene (and Junia as
well; see Romans 16:7).
As you gaze at this sculpted
relief now gracing the Ascension community, I invite you to receive the
proclamation of St. Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles: God has raised
Jesus of Nazareth from the dead! God’s Spirit brings new life, now as well as
Mary C. Boys, SNJM
Union Theological Seminary
Mary C. Boys is the Dean of Academic Affairs and the
Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology at Union Theological
Seminary in the City of New York; from 1978-1994 she was a professor at Boston
College. For much of the past 30 years, she has been deeply involved in
Jewish-Christian dialogue at the national and international levels. Her last
five books as author, co-author, or editor reflect that involvement. She
received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University in a joint
program with Union Theological Seminary. She has also done advanced study at
the Ecumenical Institute for Theological Research in Jerusalem, Israel.
A Roman Catholic, she is a member of a women's religious
community, the Sisters of the Holy Names. While living in the Northeast for the
past 40 years, her roots lie in the Pacific Northwest as a native of Seattle.
This week’s gospel echoes a line we have heard time and time
again, “For what will it profit them
to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” St Ignatius used to tease St
Francis Xavier with this puzzling phrase while in university together in
France. Memories are funny
things, no? Some memories you treasure.
Some you would rather forget, myself included. I’ll share one such experience, a sort of
coming out story if you will. I was
about 12 years old, and I was finally seeing an Endocrinologist for my short
stature. I was naturally resistant and
hated going to the doctor. When all the
tests were completed, the Doctor directly told us that I had variant Turner’s
syndrome and that I would not be able to have children. At 12 years old, I
could barely hold on the gravity that that news had on my life. I do remember, Mom and Dad’s reaction, well
maybe her sister could help her? So that
was my first experience with having bad news delivered. I did understand what the doctor said about
having children, my Dad long made sure I knew about the birds and the bees
after he said I kept asking him when I was 6- 7 years old. So he bought a
pop-up book to teach me. If you can
imagine that, then you know I never forgot.
Subsequently, it felt like a huge chunk of my normal adolescence was
denied. The natural changes that come with puberty even the monthly ritual
women experience all induced by medical treatments with hormones. I felt left out, and not privy to chats young
adolescent girls shared among each other. But it is what it is, and it forever
shaped me. I since struggled to find my
voice, being deeply introverted, but my Quiet Revolution would come and have me
march to the beat of my own drum.
Flash forward some years later, I have since become a
physician myself. As painful as it was,
I remembered that experience when we were taught about ‘breaking bad news’ at
Trinity College Dublin, where I received my medical degree. It’s always with me any time I have to deliver
difficult news, remembering my own humanity and how each person may need some
time to process. It was then, something started to ‘click’ and a lightbulb went
on in my head and then I truly began to appreciate the awesome privilege of the
profession. I will admit when I first
entered medical school, I was enthralled by the glory and power that came with
it. It sparked my own humble journey to
discover myself, just when I thought I knew all I needed to know about myself,
there was more and I plunged deeper and deeper into an existential abyss. I
ended up taking a year off books from Trinity, finding myself at Lough Derg (St
Patrick’s Purgatory), Croagh Patrick, walking the Camino de Santiago de
Compostela, and truly discovering St Ignatius of Loyola with the Irish Jesuits. Saint Ignatius had his conversion experience
through illness, and that struck a chord with me right away. As I got to begin to know myself better, I
rediscovered the old wounds were just scabbed over but still present. My heart is still with women and families who
struggle with infertility. With a lot of
help, hours of counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy and the spiritual
exercises, I lost myself but gained the world and I found God in the process.
Believe it or not, I graduated on December 3rd, the Feast of St Francis Xavier,
and have been on a mission ever since. Who would have thought such an
experience would change something inside and help mold how I approach people I
work with and all other relationships.
I have been blessed to have been in relationships that helped
further transform me, each teaching me something I needed to learn. Stay brave
and courageous and allow our experiences to enlighten us, as painful as some
may be; each fertile ground for growth and healing. ‘The wound is where the
light enters You. Honor your experiences, the good and bad, the
light and dark. Our memories make us who
we are, for better or worse, and in sickness and health. God is with us through the smiles and the
tears, Christ rises with us, and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, she is there
with all the tools and reassurances we need. Take a chance a dare to live
authentically. As for me, I stay
hopeful, and know that everything in life falls into place in the right time.
And so we’ll end with a little poem from the heart about experiencing life and
its ups and downs.
MyHeartisPierced MyHeartisPierced All the tears engulfed Flow freely like a river Like a dam unleashed Gushing, Gushing forth
Mylife inside out, outside in The old glassheart, once shattered Replaced by something mechanical A cuckoo clockheart Overworked, chimes unstrung, The hourly melody gone
And now, this living beatingheartof mine Knew love, it’s song, it’s fragrance, it’s touch The sparkling joy brought by you A new vision I love you. You love me.
Butmyheartispierced Myheartispierced To hold onto a beautiful dream for a moment longer Emotions unshed with the longing ache Like a dam unleashed Gushing, Gushing forth
What was never meant to be What is now This bitterweet song sung from the stars This new heaven Transformed by love As roses cry their petals for us
A new way A new life A winding path in this strange world We follow blindly Everything is changed And yet everything is the same
Myheartispierced Myheartispierced This wound of love Happy surprise that made me love you Mybloodstainedheartstill
Mystory,mylife Forever entwined with yours Fragments ofmybrokenheart, I put in
your embrace Cracks, which swallow the light This cup of pleasure and pain
It is real. It is real To be alive Pieces fallen to the ground Everything is changed And yet everything is the same This love it flows, flows freely
Christine Santisteban is native of Queens has been a
parishioner since 2014. She helps co-lead the Xavier Young Adults group, and
dabbled in the many wonderful ministries at Xavier including the shelter,
Xavier Bible Study, It was the women Who Stayed. She is a passionate physician,
a lover of all things furry, a clarinetist, honorary Irish woman, pilgrim, and
aspiring writer and poet.
This Sunday during Mass, as Matthew 10:26-33 sinks in, look
to your right. Quietly count four women who share your pew. Now turn to your
left. Again count four women who are sitting nearby. They could be family
members, close friends, passing acquaintances, or complete strangers. One in
One in four women in the United States has been the victim of severe physical
violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. There is a good chance that
this Sunday you are sitting shoulder to shoulder with a woman who has been
slapped, choked, kicked in the stomach, punched, pushed down stairs, thrown
against walls and furniture, and dragged across the floor from room to room,
like a defenseless sparrow—with wings too broken to fight back or fly away to
Before leaving my abusive marriage, I was one of those four.
Now I am one of you. Many of you recognize my face and voice, and some of you
know my name. Some of you have even become my good friends. In 2015, after
seven years of hopelessness, blooming bruises, and soul-strangling despair, I
found safety, hope, and this community of faith. I imagine it is shocking and upsetting to
become aware of pain so tangible, so personal, so nearby, so taboo. Yet in today’s Gospel, Jesus urges his
disciples to “tell in the light,” to “proclaim from the housetops” what they
have learned about His all-healing, all-embracing, all-restoring love.
So here I am, Jesus, writing, telling, proclaiming—finally a
witness. In the past, I had been too terrified—and too ashamed of my own
self-perceived weakness—to give witness in court, to call the police, or to
even tell my own parents and friends how dire and dangerous my living situation
had become. To this day I am somewhat scared—but no longer terrified—of my
ex-husband’s retaliating for my uncovering truths he would rather cover up and
for making known things he would rather keep secret. So I am sure, Jesus, that
you would understand why I chose to publish this reflection under a pseudonym,
even though You say to us, your disciples, to “have no fear of them.”
* * *
Jesus, do you remember? I got to know You intimately on a
late night in February, after falling to the ground, even though You had known
me my whole life, since the moment your Father—our Father—had begun knitting me together in my mother’s
womb—gently, loving, with infinite tenderness.
In fact, it wasn’t the ground, Jesus, was it? It was a cold tiled
bathroom floor. I was curled up in a fetal position; naked; shivering; crying
so much that at times it felt like I would choke on the sheer amount of tears;
covered in dark red bruises (which would turn dark purple the next morning and
acquire yellow “halos” later in the week). I had turned off the light in the bathroom
because I could not bear the sight of my own cruelly patterned shoulders, arms,
You chose that horrific moment to turn on the Light. The
wholeness of my body—destroyed. My sense of dignity—killed. The trust I had
placed in this man, my husband—destroyed. My self-respect—killed. I had just
enough strength to argue with You, “Most people wouldn't
treat their cat or dog like this, Jesus. Am I worth less than a cat, a dog, two
measly sparrows?” Lord, in your great love, You answered me without words.
You were right there with me and, for the first time in my
life, I became aware of your tangible presence. Before I knew anything about
imaginative prayer, I saw You sitting next to me on that wretched bathroom
floor, and I placed my head in Your lap. We must have sat there for 10, 20, 40
minutes? For an eternity? I whimpering softly. You counting the hairs of my
head, the bruises on my body; every single tear. And in between my why-me-s,
it-hurts-s, how-come-s, I looked up and saw You crying over me, with me, about
all of the pain, the violence and the cruelty, about all of the inhumanity, the
degradation and the brutality in this hurting world. Broken though I was in
that moment, I knew that You loved me (more than I could ever grasp), that I loved
You (imperfectly but passionately), and that nothing—and no one—could terrify
that Love out of my soul. Your touch said to me, “Do not fear those who kill
the body but cannot kill the soul …”
* * *
Falling in love with
Jesus restored my freedom and my hope, and emboldened me to leave.
I divorced this man. I moved on with my life. A few months later, on a
July afternoon during a storm, I stumbled upon this church. Now I am one of
you—not one of four. So I urge you: look to your right, look to your left.
Become open to recognizing a woman, a man, or a child who might be surviving
domestic violence on a daily basis. Become aware,
tender, sensitive to the hidden pain and cruelty that might be lurking in your
pew, on your block, at your office. Be shocked by the ugliness and brutality of
domestic violence, but not so shocked that you become paralyzed and look the
other way in disgust; not so scandalized that you become unable to support its
victims with concrete acts of love and help. Instead of asking, "Why don't
you leave?" ask, "What do you need in order to leave?" Abandon
your stereotypes about what a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence
looks like: I was a successful young professional (so was my ex-husband); I had
a college degree from a highly-ranked university (so did my ex-husband); I was
comfortably middle-class (so was my ex-husband); I was a Christian (so was my
One in four. When a
husband turns against his wife, a step-father against his step-son, a partner
against his partner, help those in pain—the victims and the
perpetrators—carry their crosses. Help Jesus pick up broken human beings off
cold bathroom floors.
Data provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, http://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistic
26 “So do not be afraid of them,
for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will
not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the
daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do
not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be
afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are
not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
outside your Father’s care.[a]30 And
even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t
be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me
before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But
whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
June 18th, 2017
believe in a Creator of infinite goodness, who made the earth and all living
things, and saw “that it was good.” A Maker who gazes on us lovingly; and seeks
a return of that love. Yet even as the Spirit within prompts us to love in
accord with this light, we can become caught in the undertow of darkness of
God’s beautiful world fractured by violence and suffering, greed and self-centeredness,
and hampered by our own brokenness and complicity -- all that separates us from
the Living God.
the Book of Deuteronomy (8:2-3, 14B-16A) as the people assemble at the Jordan
River after forty years of journeying, Moses invites them to take a look back,
and see how far they have come. The Promised Land in sight, this far- from-perfect
community, has traveled a long and hard journey, replete with a hunger and
thirst that, at times, has had them even wishing for the old days of a quiet
life under their oppressors! And the Prophet tells them that by looking back
they may not only see themselves as flawed as they really are, but better
realize how their Creator has loved and sustained them through all the risk and
distrust, all the pain and squabbling. In spite of it all, God fed them with
manna, a new kind of food, that has restored their hungry bodies, and taught
them how to trust.
Second Reading (Corinthians 10: 16-17) has Paul emphasizing this same teaching
to the community in Corinth, and now to us: Our participation in the Body and Blood
of Christ liberates us and makes us one.
gospel (John 6: 51-58) in placing on the lips of Jesus “I am the living bread
that came down from heaven,” reveals the full meaning of a new kind of food to
sustain us, fulfilled in the revelation of Christ, the Word of God. Jesus, the
Second Moses, gives us food in His own person not in a moment of temporary
contact with God, but as a resource, as close as the hearts within our bodies,
and an ongoing Sign of life and growth in the Body of Christ. This is who we
are, women and men who can afford to look back, even when we, like our
ancestors before us, become a people disillusioned with our own failings and sufferings,
the fears that threaten to overwhelm us and our world, and the hungers that
make us wonder at times “Oh God, how can we all be fed?”.
our mothers and fathers in faith, we believe, yet know long seasons of sorrow
that may lead some of us at times to wish for the “good old days,” before we
knew ourselves and our kind better. The seemingly endless global conflicts, the
full extent of racism, sexual abuse, the assault of climate change, and our own
complicity in some or all of these sins. And, we fret, too, don’t we over
political talk of reductions to healthcare, exorbitant living costs, poor
conditions at work or no work, the bullying of youngsters, and the scourge of
alcoholism and drug abuse? Then, there’s having to explain to friends why you
stay Catholic as a woman in the Church, or wondering where do you fit in it anyway?
Yes, we believe in the Giver of Life, who has spoken through the prophets, and
we place our hope in Christ Jesus, but the ongoing work of liberation is hard,
a challenge marked by literal survival for some, and for all a sometimes, precarious
these same scars are what make us spiritually hungry, and more aware of our
utter dependence on the loving mercy and sustenance of God who yearns only for
the best for us and for our world. We need to taste the actual presence, together
at the table of the Eucharist, sustained anew, and relieved of our separateness
and fear, all the places of our fracture. We live in a world of beauty created
by a God who has plans for our future. Each of us, a mixture of gifts and
defects, and grace and possibility, need the Bread of Heaven to lay claim to
the transforming Body of Christ, rising out of brokenness and death to new life
at every moment. The Corpus Christi, the Sign of God among us, and the reality of our belonging to God and to one
parishioner at Xavier for the past 35 years, Eileen is a freelance writer, and
spiritual and retreat director. She
completed the long form of the Spiritual Exercises, and trained in
advance spiritual direction ministry at the Jesuit Center in Guelph,
Ontari, and as a permanent part time retreat director Loyola House, Morristown,
NJ, for religious and lay retreatant. Currently a member of the ISEL Team and a
Lector at Xavier, Eileen has, over the years, participated in ministry through
the Pastoral Council, Soup Kitchen, Family Faith, and Lay Spirits, as well as
giving Advent, Lent and other seasonal presentations at Xavier and elsewhere.
Married to Gary Gatza, Eileen has two adult children and six
Theme: Mystery—a dance in the darkness—a call to
Relational Living with God and one another.
For many relating to the Mystery
of the Holy Trinity is about comprehensible as relating to the Triune God.
Many relate to God as One God and One
Person; Karl Rahner, one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, wrote
of the Holy Spirit as the “forgotten God” since most of our personal prayer
and Liturgical prayer is addressed to the Creator and/or the Redeemer—while the
Spirit, sent to be with us always, is an
afterthought; put in prayers at the tail end like our own Gloria in the Liturgy
and the Apostles’ Creed which are perfect examples; the Spirit is given a cameo
appearance. So, whether we are Laity or
Cleric, the Blessed Trinity is a conundrum for most of us!
But the mystery we
encounter today in Holy Trinity Sunday is not something to be understood,
figured out, or just “believed in”. We
are called, almost entreated to allow ourselves to experience this Lord who is
merciful, gracious, concerned, kind, forgiving, compassionate, life-giving
[first reading]. We are invited into
mystery every waking day—Creation wakes us with Sunrise, the sweet song of
cardinal, and all our winged brethren inviting us to continue our journey through
The birth of a child
which engenders in us such tenderness, such love that we find
ourselves lost in its intermittent
coo’s and smiles;
--the untimely death of one who is dearly
loved leaving us feeling gutted, empty, feeling raw,
confused, and lost;
--hearing the words “I love you” coming from
the lips of the one asking to share a
lifetime with you,
--a friend who can be
trusted with your hopes and dreams and anxieties, seeing you
through failings, allowing you
to “do overs”, and loving you for just you.
mysteries to be kept and pondered in our hearts. What are you saying to me, O God, what are
telling me, what lesson am I to learn, speak, Lord, here I am waiting for you.
Religious song-writer, Carey
Landry reminds us that in life we are called to ‘dance in the darkness, slow
be the pace; surrender to the rhythm of redeeming grace’. We
cannot run through Mystery; it refuses to give up its treasures to ‘the rat
race’ or heartless inquiry because Mystery becomes just one more thing on the
list of do’s. Although we sometimes
receive insights and “aha!” moments during our busy day, they are but enticing whispers
of the Divine luring us to take more time and be still. Sit…………. Breathe...……….. open yourself and allow
Mystery to reveal itself slowly and in its own time—as in the pattern of love. When we
intentionally open ourselves to the Mystery of God we will moved into the darkness
and depths; we will not stumble or fall, as we surrender to the rhythm of
relationship, of redeeming grace, of growing deeper in trustful living.
“These things I do for
them: I will lead the blind on their journey;
by paths unknown I will
lead them; I will turn darkness into light
When I worked with children in a parish I needed to find a way to explain the wonder of Pentecost to them during the children's liturgy of the word. After a few false starts I settled on using the idea of the Spirit as wind. Great, but then I was stuck again since I didn't know how to capture the wind. From the back of my mind I could almost pull forth a picture of something light and colorful that moved with wind - aha, a pinwheel! So, the children and I made pretty pinwheels. When they returned to the church after their liturgy each child carried a pinwheel back to her or his seat.
I encouraged them to hold up their creations and as they did so the pinwheels began to turn! Wind inside the church? No one had blown on the pinwheels. It turns out that we did not need to do anything. The Spirit blows where it will, we only need to go with it wherever we are led. We sometimes need to stand still and experience the movement around us. The Spirit of God invites us into a fuller, more intimate relationship.
Someone needs to be very close to us in order for us to feel their breath. Can we be that close to God? Can we grow in our intimate relationship? Sometimes wind frightens us - think of storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, or being on a sailboat when the wind "kicks up". Eventually we learn that we only have to hang on until the Spirit shows us the way.
Most of us have a relationship with God, the creator who cares for us and orders all life. We have an image of this God even if it is of an old, wise man. We surely know Jesus from scripture and prayer. We certainly have a picture of Jesus in our mind, often one from art or tradition. Jesus was completely human, a young, Jewish man. We can relate to him in his humanity. It is easier to love and understand someone whom we see as more like us. But the Spirit? The Spirit is intangible and yet resides within us and around us. We cannot see or touch this person of God. The Spirit is often portrayed as a dove, or tongues of fire or wind. How can we possibly relate to these images?
So, how does the Spirit help us grow in our relationship with God? Why was the Spirit sent to us? I always get the fruits and the gifts of the Spirit all mixed up. But I do believe that when we allow the Spirit to come to us, when we are Spirit-filled, we can do what God wants of us and for us. How does this relationship work? It is actually rather simple. God breathes the Spirit into us and we exhale that breath into the world. We manifest the Spirit by the way we live, never just receiving those gifts or fruits, but always using them for others, showing forth the Spirit in our everyday lives.
The Spirit empowers us. We, as people filled with the Spirit are called upon to show forth that Spirit, to make our families, our church and our world places where the fire of the Spirit brings light, the wind of the Spirit brings love and care for all people and the dove becomes a reminder of the need to work for peace. Our pin-wheels respond to the presence of the Spirit. Can we do likewise?
Kathy Duffy was a parishioner at Xavier from 1982 until 2012 when she retired and moved to Connecticut. She was a pastoral associate from 1991 to 1997. Kathy worked in nursing and for the last 12 years was a hospital chaplain and director of pastoral care at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.