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

Love Withstanding



Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

When he knew that all was now finished, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty’.
John 19:28

Seeker,
Have you ever been beside yourself, embraced by pain too big to hold?

In outward expression,
Universe appears as roiling chaos,
but at its core, it is swirling hunger and thirst for connection.

Unfolding into the void
with expansive energy,
reality radiates its longing for communion.

Such explosive outpouring
echoes an elemental ache;
the cosmic overflow of a sundered Heart.

This universal mirror,
visible to us only in darkness,
illustrates a paradox: in being broken-open we are brought together.

Mercy is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world.
A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just.
We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful (God) who is so patient.
Pope Francis

In complete contrast to control,
compassion is the release of love;
liberation that comes with loss and letting-go.

Thus, it becomes both a compass
and pathway into tenderheartedness—
misericordia that ripens consciousness from human into divine.

Behold then our Mysterious Maker,
who comes so close,
but does not condescend;

at-one with us,
electing to suffer, not because of us,
but beside us, inside us, and un-sided among us.

This love-so-wide
perforates every boundary,
leaving us open-mouthed—agape!

Screens of separation dissolve
before the solidarity of suffering-shared,
unleashing merciful lamentation that will not be stemmed.

God weeps at love withheld, at strength misused, at children’s innocence abused, and, till we change the way we love, God weeps.
God cries at hungry mouths, at running sores, at creatures dying without a cause, and, till we change the way we care, God cries.
God waits for stones to melt, for peace to seed, for hearts to hold each other’s need, and, till we understand the Christ, God waits.

Shirley Erena Murray

Nothing is below this God-most-low.
so deeply in love with all Creation
that every bit is destined not for desolation.

Embodiment of aching love,
Christ showed the way to deeper care,
through the cruciform door of suffering we share.

We lose our ‘self’ in the well of another’s pain
to become part of rather than apart from
God’s children and everything else under the sun.

And only those who have required and received mercy,
reclaiming their original likeness,
can savor and freely share it.

To a Creator bent
on the restoration of the rest of life,
it all matters:

boy and girl and undefined lives;
rich and poor and in-between lives;
me and you and every other life;

African, Asian and European lives too;
all animals, every vegetable and mineral.
Even humble matter matters.

Such sacred solidarity, in love withstanding,
sharing the one pain,
offers us the promise of full-heartedness.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
The Talmud

May we make a choice today
for love over condemnation, forgiveness over blame,
healing over hatred.

And with forbearance,
may you bear the burden of bearing witness,
standing with love at the foot of every cross and intersection.

joe

Die to Indifference

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

I tell you truly, unless a wheat grain falls into earth and dies, it remains just a grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

Seeker,
What keeps you awake and wondering?

Scolded by a blue jay,
brashly inserting himself into the grey morning,
I am chided out of numb amnesia.

Arrested at the crossroads by a brave soul,
I breathlessly pause to watch
her navigate puddles in an electric wheelchair.

Accosted by a rasping skein of geese,
low on the wing over the urban desert,
I look up at life that insistently breaks into my brooding.

Then, a surgical slice of sunlight
dissects the day and, without my consent,
totally and silently transfigures reality.

How many interventions does it take
to unfetter us from automatic living,
and liberate us to breathe, see, connect and care with deliberation?

Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness?
Pope Francis

In this world of divisions and subdivisions;
carved up by taxonomies of race, class, culture;
we are tempted to reinforce our stockades of self-protection.

As terror’s hot hatreds scald societies—
outside the window, over the wall, across the tracks—
anxiously we watch, worry, hope, and pray they won’t come here.

Seeking security, however tenuous,
can calcify our hearts, turning people into problems
and pains into issues always too big to handle.

Playing on our fears,
cold indifference seeps into living rooms, work places
and most especially into churches.

A heart broken and remorseful, O Holy One, you shall not spurn.
Psalm 51:17

What might it mean
for folk like you and me
to wake, walk, wonder and live each golden day differently?

Much is said about ‘making a difference’,
but when motivations and manners remain the same,
nothing really seems to change.

Perhaps the invitation
of spring’s explosion
is to be made different, from the inside out.

Take away the quietness
of a clear conscience.
Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus
that other peace is made.
Helder Camara

This is as much about dying
as it is about rediscovering and responding to resilient life,
in places and people once considered beyond repair.

We need to be both discomforted and inspired,
to wakefully welcome
each blessed and broken-open day.

As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. Thomas Merton (March 18th, 1958)

Would you dare to dispel indifference
by living lightly, as you shoulder the yoke
of this day’s wonders and woes with rinsed eyes?

joe

Re-Inhabit Life

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

…every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. Matthew 7:17

Seeker,
How do pattern your day with habits to clothe the passing moments of life?

Renouncing the appetites of the marketplace,
the earliest monks
pursued the soul of Christianity into wild and rocky places.

In the desert they re-patterned life,
marking hours in prayerful rhythm,
into a daily office to transfigure routine into ritual.

Ironically, these ritual hours of office,
first formed in ancient cloister,
now shape the routine of office-workers worldwide.

With due attention and wakeful wonder—
practicing soul-stretching habits—
mundane becomes mystical and work an act of worship.

The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. Mary Oliver

How do we re-inhabit our days,
to wear us wider,
and stretch the span of our short sojourn?

Can we invest our brief time
in the sacred art
of becoming fully human?

What might shake us free from self-obsession
and bring us to our knees,
as we negotiate the stumbling blocks of ideology?

And, if suffering-love is more lasting
than faith and hope,
what are we prepared to do, for love’s sake?

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

The trust-filled gaze of an infant
implores us to do our utmost
to make a safer world.

Tender shoots, boldly up-reaching,
beckon us to stoop and tend to beauty,
green with hope’s fullness.

Timeworn, aged hands,
shakily extended,
beg us to slow our pace and inhabit each fleeting moment.

Silent, hungry cries
of kin clad in different skin
fire the desire to simply live together as better beings.

This visible, earthly world is still God’s creation: one should not condemn it as a valley of tears; it is really the miracle work of God. And this earthly life is the life that God gives us, which it is our task to develop. Emil Brunner

Try these soul-stretching habits,
re-solutions for re-inhabiting 
this budding new year:

enter the dark quiet,
and listen for the signal
beneath the static;

seek sole time,
and turn off to tune in
to rhythms deeper;

extend loving attention
and cultivate concern for livelihood,
beyond the immediacy of you and yours;

practice Christhood,
by letting everyone you meet today
know they are Christ-companions, not competitors in your way.

Whenever I groan within myself and think how hard it is to keep writing about love in these times of tension and strife which may, at any moment, become for us all a time of terror, I think to myself: What else is the world interested in? What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships? Dorothy Day

May you resolve
to shape a world
where it is easier for us all to love.

joe