Friday, May 8, 2020

Boreta Singleton Has Something To Say Sunday May 10th, 2020

As the season of Easter continues, we, like the early disciples, are in lockdown.  They were afraid of death by the hands of the Romans and those who opposed Jesus, and we are afraid of death by Covid 19. Yet our readings this Sunday bring us hope and encourage us to use the gifts we have been given to trust in our gracious God. And it’s Mother’s Day!  Blessings to all the women in our lives who nurture us.

First, our readings have much to say about tasks often assigned to women (mothers!) In the Acts of the Apostles, we see the men being tasked to serve at table.  Some Scripture scholars say that this probably refers to the men keeping an account of the daily distribution of food, not actually serving. Remember that women in first century Palestine were the property of their fathers, and when they married, that fact transferred to their husbands. They were not permitted to work, so if they were widowed, they depended on the local religious community to care for them. How similar is this to today, when so many depend not only on our own parish and so many faith- based communities for food, but also nourishment for their children and extended families. Like the widows in the reading, many of today’s mothers and fathers are unable to work and are struggling to provide even the basic necessities for their children.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled; he is preparing a place for us; have faith.  This Gospel is often proclaimed at funerals, but for us today, since we believe that the word of God is present to us in our hearing, I want to think of it as God speaking to us today. It is challenging in these moments of hearing of illness and death to not let our hearts be troubled, but in fact, Jesus asks us to have faith. Faith is a gift that we are invited to put into action. So often, that gift of faith is nurtured by our parents, and often by women who have been like mothers to us.  Upon hearing of the death of two women due to Covid 19 in Philadelphia this week, I recalled how both had nurtured my own faith in God, and in turn, faith in my own gifts.  One woman was a grandmother of two children I taught. She helped her daughter get the children to school in the morning as their parents left for work early.  Her granddaughter had multiple physical challenges, and I frequently worried if I should adapt some lessons even more than I did due to her granddaughter’s challenges.   Grandmom would always say to me when she brought her to the schoolyard, “Don’t let her get away with anything… she can do more than she thinks she can.”  Tough love by Grandmom! But she knew her granddaughter well. She would frequently stop in church on her way home from the schoolyard. When she returned in the afternoon to pick up her grandchildren, she would often say to me, “God bless you dear; I’m praying for you!” And I needed it-- I had 47 students in one room!

The other woman, a Sister who was one of my college professors, was the first person who observed my teaching. When I met with her after the lesson, Sister pointed out several things I could have done differently. When she finished speaking I burst into tears because I thought all was fine.  Sister came around from her desk, sat next to me and said, “It’s OK.  You are going to be a great teacher.  We all have to start somewhere. You know that God is right there with you in the classroom.  Just remember that when you are teaching, you are the sage on the stage!”  I started to laugh…me-- the sage on the stage?? That scene has stuck with me throughout my decades in education!    Both women, deeply prayerful and very practical, showed me God’s presence and also showed their faith in my ability to do my best.  I know that God has prepared beautiful  places for them  in heaven.

Finally, Peter’s letter also encourages us to put our faith into action. “You are a chosen race, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own so that you may announce the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.”   We are anointed at Baptism in imitation of Jesus who was anointed priest, prophet and king. How might you announce God’s marvelous light to others?  Maybe it is by  acknowledging and nurturing  the light--the gifts-- that we have been given by God.  Here is a brief story of a mother and daughter who acknowledge the light and gifts  they see  in one another.

Boreta Singleton has been  a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Parish since 2003 and  is a member of the choir, serves as a Spiritual Director in  the ISEL program and as a liturgical minister.  She is currently at St. Peter's Prep High School in Jersey City and ministers as the Director of Faculty Formation. Boreta lives in the Bronx, and sings with The Ignatian Schola and the chorus of Choral Chameleon.   

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