Discovering again the fragility of who we are or what we are about is humbling and exhilirating at once.  Age brings the awareness that what has been is a broader swath than what lies ahead;  it sculpts the notion that time is precious and not to be squanadered on the meaningless or the empty, the cruel or the inhumane.  Age, too, brings the inevitable consciousness of imperfection and the fun house mirror of images to light.  There is a deep sense about what does not matter, and a deeper one about what does matter.  And there is an element of understanding about the limits of personal self-control, that certain adventures belong to the decades of youth and young adulthood and, really, the adventures to come are anchored to the realities of physical space and socioloical structures which shape life.

There is a draining there, a space for emptying and catharsis.  But there is also a beginning, an opportunity to re-make, re-do and celebrate what it means to be alive, to be learning and even to believe.   There is a sense of independence and interdependence.  The second is underscored by  goodness and kindness proferred at the most unexpected moments.  In a world that so definitely celebrates the uniquesness of individuals and preserving the rights of each person, there is a certain gratitude for recognition, for gentle kindness.

The real empowerment of the Easter season comes alive in this season of the Church.  And it speaks differently at each phase of human life; at each step, it merits re-visiting.      This year, in a world bursting with brokenness, in an era of  social and political era of angry and defamation. the promise comes again.   Jesus’ final message to the disciples rests in the idea that He may not always be with them, but He will never leave them.  He introduces the idea of the Spirit as a companion on the journey, a viable support in the moments of journeying through every stage.  That very promise is the acknowledgement that  personal failure is inevitable and to be learned from, that feelings are complicated and actions are choices, and mistakes will occur.  The ability to realign, to search out options and to keep trying to love one another as God has loved us, that is the gift of the Spirit: the strength to leep focusing on the effort, to make purposeful and intentional decisions about how to live, work, play and love.

The vitality of belief may not be understood or even recognized.  But it is what sustains through the most challenging of circumstances and the most confusing of moments.  Belief makes us own that step backwards to breath deeply and acknowledge truthfully who we are and how we can become better people.  The Spirit can source and nurture that possibility when the greatest of challenges prevail.  Celebrating the reality that we can be better, that there are reasons to be better and knowing that others are striving for the same linked the disciples one to another through trials and then generations.  Encountering  fragility enables us to know courage and strength.



Last Words

The homilist compared Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture to the readings at the close of the Easter season: leaving a message that matters, a bit of wisdom about living, fragments of memories to fill the awful void of absence.  The last words to remember:  “Love one another.”

There is a tenderness in the phrasing, a cultural milieu to be recalled.  But there is also a deep and powerful question.  What exactly does “love one another” mean?  What does it entail? Excuse? Encourage?  Empower? Is it about engagement with each other?  Is it about attachment?  Bonding?  Building up or breaking down?  Believing?  Discovering the best of what is in each other and challenging the worst that is in each of us?  Is it active or theoretical?  Passive or prominent?  Individualized or institutional?

In those heady days after the Resurrection and before the Ascension, Jesus’ visibility, his attentiveness to the Apostles and to the moments of mystery, open a gateway to exploring the phrase.  His was a tender embrace of the doubtful Thomas, a comfort to the mourning Magdalene, and an encouragement to the fearful Peter.  But there was also the dramatic appeal to the crusading Saul followed by the license given to choose to believe or not.  There is the gentleness of conversation in the Emmaus story, and a reveal that really mattered in the breaking of the bread.  Each and every instance is a revelation about what it might actually mean to “love one another”, about ways to make love happen.

Love is a dynamic choice, something wildly powerful in the wilderness of human life.  Love demands something of self; it is a gift to other.  Love is an acknowledgement of both the reality of human limitiations and of the spiritual dimension which transcends and transforms that humanity.  Love is sourced in the divine, and it is exchanged and nurtured in human relationships.   Love accepts refusal, but it does not give up.  It does not descend into bitterness or hate speech, labelling or vandalism.  Love walks tall in the smallest of circumstances; love is the divine birthed in human moments and exchanges.  It merits nurturing and care, time and deliberate purpose.  And in every instance of appearance after the Resurrection, Jesus’ story manifests all of this.

The story itself, spelled out in the lines of the New Testament, can be confined to the realm of the theological or the ancient or the irrelevant.  And yet, it is steadily and consistently repeated over and over in each generation.  It finds echoes in ordinary lives and in myserious masterpieces, in symphonies and great novels, in the fates of superheroes and the endless battle between good and evil.   And so the Gospel lays out the pattern JK Rowling brought to life in the classic Harry Potter stories, and countless others have captured in scintillating plot lines.

Ultimately, the story matters;  Last Words matter.  They linger with the hearers, touch the viewers and readers.  If the words are ours, if they fall to us, it is ours too to begin to grasp the significance and the challenge, to spend the time wondering and wanting clarity and winning some understanding.  “Love one another” are words worth thinking about.








Grace of Movement

She was trembling and tentative, clinging to the wet hood of her car for support in the mayhem of te parking lot.  The younger woman, less wrinkled and somehow more secure in her footing offered an arm.  A moment of kindness. The movement of the Spirit in the grace of movement.

Movement, individual and corporate, is the kind of thing only noticed when it is compromised, lost, or stolen by time.  And yet, it is inextricably linked to the best in ourselves:  the pause in the supermarket line to let another go first; thank you for the “invisible” service people behind the counter; lifting bags of mulch for a fellow gardener.

Those things represent the active practice of what Christians sometimes term “acts fo charity”.   The tiniest of movements can bellow the deepest of messages:  “I see you.  I can recognize a need, and I can have a purpose beyond my own concerns or vision.”  There are thousands of such moments every day that happen; for us, celebrating the good, the possible, often take a backset to headlines and memes that are neither accurate representations of the goodness of humanity nor movements that add to the collective understnding of self.  The temptation to believe that the victim hood each suffers outweighs the experiences of another has narrowed our own capacity to find an accurate refelction of the movements that occur within and among us.

The United States is far more than the images touted on FaceBook or manipulated in social media.  It is a deeply engrained identity, and it is more than the arrogant and irresponsible images curretnly attached to who we are.  As we struggle to re-define ourselves in a 21st century glowing with innovation and urbanization, there is a chance that we can begin to look into a mirror that readily acknowledges flaws but also celebrates what is most dear to each succeeeding generation.  That, too, could be the grace of movement within and among us.


Strength and Forgiveness

There is a quiet promise in Spring’s beginnings, in the newness of green intertwined with gnarled branches, in the steady gray rain and the bright colored raingear, in raucous thunder storms and the whisper of bird songs at dawn.  And the season of Easter continues to entice and challenge.  There is a quiet strength in that as well.

The Gospels in these weeks after Easter are alive with the incomprehensible moments of Jesus’ rising and then the appearances.  The Liturgy unwinds reality with a cool certainty.  There are the words  to Peter about the agency of youth and then the shift in age, being lead where he would rather not go.   Traditionally, the words are understood as references to Peter’s crucifixion, his life and death in service to Christ.  Wrapping it in the human story means recognizing the challenges of commitment and aging, the very process that living beings confront daily.  It is a whisper of wisdom, of learning and loss, a hint of the reality that humbles and hurts. 

It is the Gospel message that humanity is shared and the processes of life and death are universal.   The very explanation of the human journey frames more than Peter’s life; it provides a pathway for tender compassion threading generations together, a clear statement about remembering to learn about what is happening at each stage of human life.  That awareness enables a strength that transcends the incredible suffering that Life demands of persons; it pops open the chance for meaningful conversation among persons, for learning and discovery of all that is created.  

There is the moment where, three times, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?”  For Peter, the pattern echoes  both his denial of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and the birth of his redemption  in Jesus’ forgiveness.   To hear the words with the human heart means  learning  that there are moments, decisions, choices, we make that will need the comfort of redemption.  Setting and characters may vary, but the theme of the story is not confined to a century or culture.  It is tied to all humanity.    

The  stories of the Liturgy  fully encapsulate the Christian message:  fault and flaw can be redeemed.  Forgiveness is a real possibility, and it is multi-faceted.  Forgiveness from others is but one dimension; forgiveness of self is a second.   Forgiveness, and acknowledgment of it, is about words and action.  Peter empitomizes that, but the figure he cuts promises that the same is true for other living beings centuries later.  

Believing that forgiveness is essential on the life journey is a profound embrace of what it means to be human and what it means to be Christian.  Accepting that and moving forward, as Peter does, offers a quiet and invigorating strength.  Like the sweet fresh greens of spring, forgiveness promises new life to the most broken of  branches.  In the weeks of celebrating Easter,  new life is there as a promise for all.  It is, after all, about the engagement of each person in a narrative greater than self and the willingness to explore the fundamential dichotomies that exist within each of us.  Christianity is about living in the roar of thunder and knowing the whisper of the birds.   It is bursting with possibilities.