Rejoice in Love, LIfe, even in Death

Conversation of a Community at Prayer
by Jim Ryan, jimryan6885@gmail.com
What a week!

We had an open discussion during shared homily time today because the presider, yours truly, was more interested in the thoughts, reactions, and prayerful reflections of our gathered community than selecting a particularly focused starting point.
The list before us was just too much for one person to launch that starting point. I’m referring to the decision by the Supreme Court that there is a constitutional right of every citizen to marry whoever that person loves. Then there is the embedding further into law, also the Court’s decision, of the understanding that health care in this country is a right and not a privilege – bringing us belatedly into the world of developed societies. Also, the murderous slaughter of 9 members of a Bible study group in their own church sinks sickeningly into our consciousness. The powerful evidence of forgiveness from family members to their loved one’s murderer belies faith as somehow weak. Would that you and I act also from such “weakness.”

This week deepened our awareness of Pope Francis’ recognition that social, cultural and ecological advancement is integrally tied to the condition of the poor and impoverished brothers and sisters among us. And, as if all that were not enough, on Saturday the Episcopal Church selected its first African-American Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry of North Carolina.

So, where to start was my invitation. Here is what we discussed.

One member spoke for so many of us – This is a time to rejoice! Praise God!! How often do we tell ourselves that hope and life appear unexpectedly and from unanticipated sources. Yet, here, in this week, at this moment of history – we have seen exactly that. Somehow the political alignments on the Supreme Court seemed to give way to the openness of the people. The number crunchers tell us that by far a majority of American citizens support marriage equality. Culture has trumped politics. Surprise brought some of us to church today.

Rejoice, that at the crawling societal level it appears that increasingly embedded into law is the fundamental conviction that human decency recoils at making people choose between a roof over their heads or paying for medical care, recoils at preventing people who have existing serious conditions from even getting health insurance in the first place. Assurance of such embeddedness brought some of us to church today.

Rejoice, that murderous acts of slaughter are met with forgiveness which comes from the love of Christ embedded deep down in the believer’s heart. We so expect revenge as the automatic reaction to such savagery. Praise to God that weakness is the strength that is God’s gift. Peace reigns in Charleston, South Carolina not because of SWAT teams but because some folks actually believe that the killing stops here, dead in its tracks. And in place of death the family members of these deceased loved ones place forgiveness in death’s way. Weakness weakness brought some of us to church today.

Today’s Gospel speaks of claiming the power of life from the jaws of death. We are too often like the people standing outside the house. We say, “Death has come to this place. We can do nothing to stop it.” And Jesus says, “Little one, arise.” Our dismissive views on the actual power of life serve only to shame us. Shame brought some of us to church today.

One of our members also reminded us that when it comes to urging others to care for the earth, too often we take the careful, apologetic road. Don’t want to alienate all those polluters and extracters and wasters, dontchya know. Well, Francis, in his encyclical “Laudato Si,” ploughs into the fray. He says we are leaving a legacy of piling up filth and devastation. And he clearly draws connections between the greed of those who concentrate and lock away their wealth with the deepening reality of poverty and destitution that passes for life for an ever growing number of the sisters and brothers of the greedy. Francis emboldens us. Francis brought some of us to church today.

Rejoice, yet stay the course! As we shared we also reminded each other that these responses cannot be for a day. The decisions and actions surrounding these events of this week require watchfulness, mindfulness, and spirited walking on the road ahead. One member spoke to us of the thought of some that we are arriving into a Trinitarian Millennium. This third millennium just might awaken and inspire us to act as if we actually believe that the Trinity – a Threeness of creative loving, sacrificial loving, and fire-in-the-belly loving – emerges from within the convictions and devoted actions which mark faithful walking. Walking in hope brought some of us to church today.

And THEY say church has no purpose.

Pope Francis wrote two prayers at the end of his letter – one for all who believe in a Creator regardless of religion and/or denomination, and the other for Christians. Here are those two prayers. Pray them reflectively and with pauses. They will sink in.

Opening Prayer from “Laudato Si” (all seated, reflectively)
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. (pause)

O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. (pause)

Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light. (pause)

We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. Amen!
Closing Prayer from “Laudato Si” (All remaining seated)                                             Holy Creator, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you! (pause)

Word of God, Jesus, through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother, you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature in your risen glory.
Praise be to you! (pause)

Holy Spirit, by your light you guide this world towards the Creator’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you! (pause)

Triune Oneness, wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe, for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is. (pause)

God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live. (pause)

The poor and the earth are crying out.
O God, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Reign of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you! Amen.

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