Time is a commodity, something traded, bought and sold.  It is valued; when we are young, it offers possibility.  When we are old, it  promises a conclusion to the story lived and told.  Time entices us with experiences wedged within its parameters, seduces us with hope.  And then it flees, somehow disappearing in the very way it is spent and sometimes squandered.  It escapes, becomes a memory and finds a harbor in its having been.  But still, it continues.

As a Catholic, I mark time by holidays and seasons, celebrations and memorials.  I find home in the memory bank of the ages and I find hope in the next steps Time promises. The Feast of Corpus Christi bears a particular significance.  It is tied to the real human presence of Jesus, and to the sharing, the connections, among Jesus and his disciples.  It is part of His legacy and threads each of the holidays, seasons, celebrations and memorials together into one tapestry.  It is anchored in the past, lived in the present and is the promise for the future.

At a time when stereotypes are so stigmatizing and the very concept of religion or faith is suspect, Corpus Christi is a reminder that there is a table where we all can gather, where we can all share.  Gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, Jesus used a beloved ritual to offer a new promise.  At that table, there was no judgement, just persons gathered together.  The breaking of bread together, sharing the good the earth offers and nurturing one another is an opening in time, a portal to the past, an achowledgment of the present and a doorway to the future.  That table, such as it is, is acutally a  clear invitation to be who you are and to trust with confidence in friends.

Of course, Judas shared that meal.  That reality is a compelling reminder that we are indeed all welcome: the broken and stubborn, the leaders and the followers, the flawed and the fearless.  The emphasis is on the sharing itself, on the idea of really participating in the life and teachings of Christ and doing that anchored in a different millennium and a world of dramatic and unremitting change.

It is easy to believe that lives in centuries past were somehow less than our own, somehow less significant or less accomplished.  Less busy, less conscious, less aware of right and wrong, less attuned to justice and injustice.  To believe that is to ignore those gathered around the table.  Each is anchored to a moment of time; each possesses and lives a story.  No one is less or more than the other:  Jesus, after all, embraced  all in the invitation to share, to participate in the sharing of His Body and Blood.

Corpus Christi is our moment.  It is our reminder that a place at the table belongs to each of us.  It is ours to welcome the moment, to share the experience, to know the gift.  There are thousands of reasons not to; excuses abound.  Legitimately, the church’s embroilment in scandal has discredited its message; understandably, there is an intellectual rebellion against policies and theological constructs.  Corpus Christi is the reminder that we all belong at the table together.  We are anchored in this historical context, this moment in time, together.  This is our time, and it is up to us to choose how to spend it.





Trinity and Time

Homes are found in spaces of shared values and ideals, common activities and purpose.  For some, book clubs and soccer teams or a regular seat at Starbucks can satisfy that; for others, it is about a place within Catholicism, a group, a parish, a service opportunity.  Each one requires the commitment of time.  Time is the tool we use to define who and what matters to us on a daily basis, and that use of time is the way we communicate our identity and our sense of self to others.

As the glow of Pentecost fades, the Church celebrates the Trinity.  There is something heady about the Spirit, about the gifts and strength and its reassurance that survival in the human landscape is so very possible.  And there is something stable and sustaining about the concept of the Trinity and its mysterious anchors in time.  After all, there is the sense of the infinity of time given in the Spirit, and the source of life and lives in the Father and then the finiteness of humanity in the Son.  Perhaps there is a lesson lingering in all this, asking to be seen, acknowledged, understood.

First, mystery pervades human life. The inexplicable, the unjust, the incomprehensible are literally part of daily experience.  Embracing that idea means there is only so much each can control: many life forces are at work.  Circumstances like economic structures and social norms impact each life seemongly without a tangible or visible presence.  There is a sense in which the most powerful among us are also powerless.  In some way, the concept or thinking about the Trinity defines that mystery: a God pervasively present in nature, in persons and systems and yet subject to misinterpretation and misunderstanding, confined by human definiton and expression.

Then there is the anchor in the cycle of life and death in the possibility of birth, becoming, being and departing.  There is the idea of a Father Creator communicated in the Trinity, a source of life.  Essentially, that is a tender admission that each of us starts somewhere, and so are anchored in a culture, a historical context, a place and a time.  It is about a common source for human life, a shared starting point and heritage.  The Father is a reminder of how connected people actually are, what is held in common among human beings.  That concept transcends the very boundaries that divide and distinguish.

And then there is the Son, caught in the Mystery, linked to the Father, and rooted in time. His existence speaks of the complexities of the human journey through each documented experience.   The Gospels are records of relationship, rituals and ultimately, the relinquishing of life and power.  Every detail captured over time was also captured within time, within a particular  context and moment.  And so it is with the life we know and dare to own.  We define in the time we live in with the choices we make about time, how we spend it and what we are willing to do, to learn and to be.

In the 21st century, ordinary lives are textured through social media, defined by technology access and use, confined to the dominant influences of a wider culture.  And still, there is the celebration of the Trinity and an eerie sense that within a rapidly changing culture, there is a real place for mystery, connections and finiteness.  Perhaps time, the traditions of  the past speak with quiet eloquence to the future.








Pentecost and Pain

Sharp-edged pangs.  Dull sore bones.  Daily chronic pain: impelling reality of physical and emotional dimensions, diluting attentiveness,  diminishing joy and daring the sufferer to chose survival.  Pain of any sort drags attentiveness from the world to the self, demands a response, hopes for a relief.   And yet it is deeply personal, highly individualized, hard to imagine until it is your own.

Somehow, that makes the current opioid crisis understandable.  It explains what science has demonstrated: addiction  has a root in the brain, in the processing of life experience. Short term pain enables us to discover strength within; chronic pain instead asks for courage and coping.  There are so many ways to cope, but so few to fully articulate the pain itself, and even fewer ways to listen, to hear and be helpful.  But in the bright end of the Easter season there is the celebration of the arrival of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost.

Pentecost brings  the gifts of the Spirit.  And the gifts offer the possibility of reconciling the pain and rigors of living.    Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry, describes the gifts:

“Wisdom helps us recognize the importance of others and the importance of keeping God central in our lives.

Understanding is the ability to comprehend the meaning of God’s message.

Knowledge is the ability to think about and explore God’s revelation, and also to recognize there are mysteries of faith beyond us.

Counsel is the ability to see the best way to follow God’s plan when we have choices that relate to him.

Fortitude is the courage to do what one knows is right.

Piety helps us pray to God in true devotion.

Fear of the Lord is the feeling of amazement before God, who is all-present, and whose friendship we do not want to lose.”

The gifts intimate that there is more going on in daily human experience than we realize, that there are moments of deep need that might not even be recognized as that. In the midst of the suffering of life, there is that measure of the breath of the Spirit, that moment of divine spark, that grappling with something so powerful from the depth of weakness.   And more importantly, the gifts impart what is healing and provide tools for navigating the mysteries of life and suffering.  The breath of the Spirit makes that possible.  It invites belief in what is intangible, begs for the leap that sight may not hold all the answers.

Impossible pain, physical and emotional, are part of life’s ebb and flow.  Some are momentary, fleeting. Others are relentless and searing.  But always, there are the gifts of the Spirit, waiting to be called on for the ride, like tools for the journey.  There is always the breath of the Spirit when breathing itself seems a burden.  In so many ways, Penetecost is the answer to the pain of being human.




Stand Up

He was barely 4 with a thatch of jet black hair and just enough of a lisp to be endearing.  His grandmother was 74, tiny and white-haired. “Kelly,” she said.  “What does ‘old’ look like?”  He paused, adjusted his footie pajamas and said, “Stand up.”  When she did, he said, “Turn around.”  When she did, he said, “Look in the mirror.”  Satisfied, with nothing left to say, he returned to play.   She marveled at the reality of what they both saw, what they both understood, the way he chose to answer her query.

The truth is that what is perceived as reality is not always so clear, so visible to both parties, so quickly grasped.  And yet, as humans, that common ground is essential to continuing to be able to live together in one community and space.

In relentless media cycles and Twitter rants, in spotlight scrutiny, we have systematically dismantled the standards of earlier generations and institutional structures.  There is no forgiving historical context, no excuse for the past not meeting current standards.  There is a clear rejection of the chance that collective wisdom may offer a hand on the individual’s journey.   A vibrant personal strength and identity empowers rejecting a norm.   Too often, those who maintain the norm become an enemy, are percieved  as somehow ignorant or worse.

Every choice made has consequences.   Decisions and choices define self as surely as they display our understandings and perceptions about the world we live in.  Having the courage to own both the ever-fledgling self as well as the role within an ever-evolving community means embracing deep and broad perspectives.  

It demands being able to articulate the complexity of self clearly and purposefully.  That just might mean disposing of self-centered narratives that focus on victimization and suffering.  It means realizing that life is hard for everyone; individual stories carry triumph and tragedy.  Individuals find clarity and possibility in sharing those narratives.
Communities find a home for those persons and those stories.  Centuries ago, that happened among the apostles and their followers. The phenomenon was not confined to Christianity; it transcended ethnicity, religion, politics and kingdoms.

Courage empowers meaningful communication founded  on  mutual respect and appreciation.  Courage allows listening and understanding without defensiveness and perceived threats.  In its purest sense, courage enables individuals to listen, to speak, to share, and to choose.  All of  that is part of the gift of Easter and Pentecost as well as the promise of Catholicism. 

There is no doubt that standing up for beliefs, making choices, has consequences.  To risk articulating belief or faith in a society and social context skeptical if not overtly hostile requires a new infusion of courage.  It requires the sense that each person’s journey is uniquely sacred, and the choices are theirs.  And it is undergird by the belief that somehow, God is present in all of it, acknowledged or not.  Standing up, looking in the mirror, reveals more than we realize.