Sacramental Touch

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

While travelling, a Samaritan approached and, seeing the victim, was moved with compassion. After bandaging the wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, and placing the victim on his own animal, the Samaritan led them to an inn to take care of the one who had been injured. Luke 10:33-34

Seeker,
Who remains untouchable in your life?

Have you ever seen
fevered victims;
precious people plagued by merciless disease?

Have you looked
into the anguished faces
of families facing indescribable loss?

Have you noticed the quiet courage
of medical workers and body bearers
defying danger to tend carefully to diseased bodies?

To the lost Christ shows his face;
to the unloved He gives His embrace;
to those who cry in pain or disgrace,
Christ, makes, with His friends, a touching place.
John Bell

When curious children come close
to someone’s wound—a cut, a graze, a burn—
instinctively they fear that by touching it they will share the pain.

As adults, we recoil from people in distress,
afraid perhaps
we might be implicated; drawn into their suffering or shame.

And now the aberration of abuse has eroded trust
and left us fearful;
suspicious of physicality; the touching sacrament that heals.

When Jesus touched leprous skin and blinded eyes,
or took a dead child by the hand,
he opened himself to contamination; being declared unclean.

But didn’t he also
need to make love a real;
palpable and physical connection?

Could he feel
through warm fingertips
the stories carried by the skin?

Did he caress the isolation of illness?
Would he feel the indignities of infirmity?
Could he share the powerlessness of poverty?

The house of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are – or should be – challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently. Madeleine L’Engle

Suffering cries out to be shared.
There is no healing
without the risk of holding and being held.

Surely you have felt
the pulsing warmth
of another hand in yours?

Such fragile, mysterious gifts are we;
messengers of a Holy One embodied;
to feel through us the burn of love.

Every human palm,
saturated with sensate receptors,
can stretch out to hold, to feel and reach in to know and heal.

Consider your own hands
that have borne suffering
and been stung by violence.

Hands that have inflicted pain
and been calloused
by rejection or disdain.

These hands have brought consolation
and have known
the touch of tenderness.

Strong and gentle,
anointed to care and caress,
and bring the healing Realm close at hand.

God of day and darkness,
bless these holy hands for the tasks of restoration:
the holding, healing, feeding, and forgiving work of the Gospel.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring. Martin Luther King Jr.

Will you risk being touched by the suffering within the reach of your hands?

joe

Rooted in the Realm

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

The disciples asked Jesus, ‘Who is greatest in Heaven’s Realm?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Realm. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in God’s Realm. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Matthew 18:1-4

Seeker,
Why on earth would we make of this heaven such a dangerous place for God’s children?

To enter Heaven’s Domain,
we need to be out of our minds,
revive our childhood and come back down to earth.

Daily, as we commute through Eden,
heaven unfurls all around us,
unnoticed in the misty morning.

And God put the human being in the garden to till and take care of it.
Genesis 2: 15

But this is no pain-free Reign of bliss.
It offers no guaranteed relief
from life’s persistent problems.

Instead, the Domain of the Divine invites us
to revel in our natural humanness;
poised in ready reflection to savor and suffer together.

We enter this Reign always and only as children,
letting-go our self-imposed isolation,
till we fall terribly in love with life—all of it.

In such a childlike state, troubles are freely shared,
pain is yoked, and the tragic beauty of living
is made bearable and beautiful in communion.

A Permeable Life
I want to leave enough room in my heart
For the unexpected,
For the mistake that becomes knowing,
For knowing that becomes wonder,
For wonder that makes everything porous,
Allowing in and out
All available light.
Carrie Newcomer

It takes a small child, any child,
to remind us that, in the cosmic scheme,
nothing we do ultimately matters.

Yet, how we live,
and how deeply we love,
holds universal significance.

So, let us make our small selves absorbent,
so that realities and relationships,
might be drawn close enough to penetrate and saturate.

Such a permeable,
child-like heart the Holy One
will not spurn.

We are guilty of many errors and many faults,
but our worst crime is abandoning the children,
neglecting the fountain of life.
Many things can wait. Children cannot.
Right now their bones are being formed,
their blood is being made,
and their senses are being developed.
To them we cannot answer, “Tomorrow.”
Their name is today.
Gabriela Mistral

To be strong and resilient,
like the trees that make the wild wind sing,
we sink our souls deep into the humus of our humanity.

While leaves quiver,
branches shake, and trunks sway,
roots alone stay firm.

And the strength of any tree
lies unseen,
in the tangled depths of its roots.

So, may you welcome a child this day,
any and every child of the Holy One
who passes your way.

Rooted and grounded in the Realm of Relationship,
may the needs and dreams of the children of today
draw you ever closer to the ground; quieter still, smaller and slower.

joe

Sacred Heart Listening

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

You will indeed listen, but never understand, you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes… Matthew 13:14

Seeker,
When was the last time you gave life a good listening to?

Remember pressing a seashell to you ear,
to catch that ancient echo
of booming surf?

Recall when someone dear
leaned in close
to hear the heart behind your words.

And that time you were drawn
by a tone, a voice, a word
and held spellbound till all boundaries fell away.

Picture that special person,
far away or long gone,
you’d love to listen to once again?

There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing. G. K. Chesterton

Every minute so much is going on,
in, around,
through and beyond us.

And moment by moment
we choose whether and how deeply,
we are willing to connect with life.

The most potent, most intimate form
of connecting and communicating
is neither talking nor touching but listening.

Let us not confuse listening with hearing,
for they are as distinct from one another
as tourists from pilgrims.

Heart listening, attentive presence,
leads to a communion of souls.
It is the truest way to show how deeply we care.

The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present.
Joanna Macy

Our ever-present Maker
abides in silence,
all the better to listen well to everything.

Such sacred heart listening,
as a loving practice,
is God-like behavior.

Listening is the highest duty of love. Paul Tillich

The listening Christ
taught us to disarm our hearts
by opening ears once deaf to others.

He commissioned each of us
to heal by listening
to our enemies.

For how can we
be followers of the Christ
till we’ve learned how to love those who hate us?

Followers of the way of non-violence,
who bear the crossbars of suffering-love,
courageously choose to listen to the ones who would harm them.

And in times of conflict and division
sacred heart listening opens up
the risky road to reconciliation.

When we set agendas aside,
to listen and be listened to,
our desire un-taps a well of understanding.

Sacred Heart listening
is how Good News is heard,
broken open and proclaimed.

Choosing to listen
is our first step
into the Domain of the Silent One.

Listen, O Israel: The Holy One is our God, the Most Holy alone.
You shall love the Holy One with all heart, with all soul,
and with all strength.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Listen like children drinking in a story.
Listen like trees teaching the wind to sing.
Listen with your eyes, with your touch, with your insides.

May you nurture your listening heart,
open a quiet listening space,
and let the noisy world tumble in.

Is this not how healing happens to us?

joe

Touched by Earth

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

The Realm of God is like when someone scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day while they sleep and rise, the seed sprouts and grows;
how, they do not know.
Mark 4:26-27

Seeker,
What does it mean to be rooted and grounded; earth between our fingers, dirt beneath our nails?

There is no synthetic soul, no virtual holiness.
Neither by agency, nor rhetoric, nor reasoning
can we manufacture sacredness.

Holiness is free-gifted.
Sanctity presents itself;
an essential quality of each and every being.

But goodness, truth and beauty,
are graced to the gardener,
who has learned to live by earthy wisdom.

For mercy rains down from heavy heavens,
justice erupts from saturated soil,
peace blossoms in the sublime harmony of living communities.

Life is too precious to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love and, finally without hope. Václav Havel

Yet, so many of us earthlings
now find ourselves exiles
on our precious planet home.

Divorced from the cycles
of sun and moon, seas and soil,
we seem destined only to despoil.

Whether boxed in slum squalor,
where neither field, nor forest,
nor flower can grace our eyes,

or barricaded behind
artificial blinds,
where Nature becomes a screen show,

our reverence is three times removed from raw reality
by heads distracted, hearts divided,
and hands calloused only from continuous clicking.

What greater stupidity can be imagined than calling jewels, silver, and gold “precious” and earth and soil “base”? Galileo Galilei

Life herself, in proportions minute and monumental—
our one bright sanctuary in the endless dark—
is soaked with sacred mystery.

When we no longer sense this sacramental presence,
we have traded our common birthright for “urbanality”,
and lost our way back home.

How sad to separate
our souls
from the good green earth,

to desecrate the sanctity of soil
and denounce salt of the earth people
as dirty, pagan, heathen, villain!

For followers of a meek master,
once a worker of wood,
touching earth is our spiritual practice.

By calling upon us to consider the lilies,
our teacher was taught by Nature
to renew our covenant with Creation.

Reconnecting with the loam of our lives
we learn that holy is not heavenly.
It is in the humus of our humanity that we touch mercy.

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  Ephesians 3:17

And it is to the crumbled communion
of countless ancestors under our feet
that every body is commended.

Will you stoop today, be touched by sacred soil,
and sense the first silent stirrings of spring?
Nothing is more vital and urgent for us than growing deeper down.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
Psalm 65:12-13

Blessed are you, who wake up to this unfurling Realm,
to till and tend and be touched by resilient soil,
wherein we plant the seeds of possibility!

joe

From Segregation to Incarnation

Photo by Joe Grant © 2018 

Be aware, keep alert, for you know not when the time will come… Mark 13:33

Seeker,
Who is sacred to you, and who is not?

We have entered that darkening time
of watchfulness;
a season of ripening contradictions.

Festooned with jingle-jangle,
temples of commerce lure us
with sweet indulgences so very good for the economy.

All the while, in hallowed spaces,
choirs croon
over starlit, snow-globe nativities.

So familiar are those alluring songs
and fuzzy festive feelings,
it is difficult to stay awake.

For unto us and into the DNA
of this deep-divided world, Christ takes fragile flesh;
God-within, all around, among us everyone.

Blinded by brutality,
carved up by inequity,
our fractured family huddles into separateness.

While some bow to the East
and others incline to the West,
we also hark from Global North or South.

And many undertake that desperate exodus,
crossing desert, sea or mountain in search of peace:
possibility and the promise of a new beginning.

From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait… Isaiah 64:4

It is so easy to divide us—
Dives from Lazarus, darker from lighter—
the handful who own more than the billions on the bottom.

With fanatic fervor some commit heinous crimes
in the name of merciless gods.
Others give their lives over to national supremacy.

And many millions more find their souls
somewhere in the middle;
worried and wondering.

It may feel safer to stay distracted,
to tune out distant gunshot terror,
disregard protest, hunger, horror.

We might even decorate our lives
with pious pageantry.
But wishful thinking does not bring peace to birth.

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited… With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. Thomas Merton

Christ has not come
just for a few or some.
the Holy One wears the skin of everyone.

No fence or barbed-wired boundary wall,
no color, caste or class,
can contain that merciful cascade meant for all.

For Christ bides with us already,
and we will know and be known,
when, as one, we refuse to be gated or segregated.

Under the rain of mercy
all are re-consecrated,
as separations are washed away.

In that blessed-broken body of Christ
there is no room for “they”, no place for “them”
and justice means “just us” – all of us.

May you find your way today to honor the Holy One Abiding-with-us!
joe