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

Sacramental Spring

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

God’s Realm is like someone who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day while they sleep and rise, the seed sprouts and grows, how, they do not know. The earth itself produces first the stalk, then the full head of grain. Mark 4:26-28

Seeker,
How have you received and celebrated the sacrament of today?

Sacraments are not magic.
They are majestic, messy and,
at their core, mysterious portals to the eternal.

Prolific though they be,
we just don’t see what we won’t see.
In the face of resurrection’s springtime release, how blind can we be?

Pollen to irritate the eyes,
perfumes and bouquets resplendent
to overwhelm the senses.

And still the miracle fails to arrest us,
draw us out of our own heads,
teach us humility, and school us in awe.

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dry all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
John Muir

But first, we must be freed
from fractious fears,
and self-preoccupations to become self effacing.

For every day is Earth Day,
when we open wide the soul’s window,
let in the bird-song Psalms,

and intentionally practice that holy communion
of breath-receiving-and-returning—
first and final sounds we ever make.

In the face of our original inhalation,
and in the wake of our ultimate exhalation,
surely all else pales.

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.

Abraham Heschel

I went one day
for a walk in the woods,
and time lost track of me.

So, on I amble and sometimes stumble,
knowing less and less about anything,
but more and more sure about everything.

Don’t we need to lose sight to regain vision?
Knowing our blindness might cause us to reach out
and lead us into the path of another’s pain.

Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers –wiser than all alphabets— clouds that die constantly for the sake of God’s glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory in nature. It is embarrassing to live! Abraham Heschel

In all this wildly
wonderful and woeful universe,
love alone endures.

We understand this best
in the act of letting-go
what and whomsoever we have come to love

For we do not manufacture compassion.
We only welcome it,
make room to receive it, and express it with abandon.

From first breath to final,
this is our sacramental mission,
love is not attachment; it is release, outpouring, falling, letting-go.

How strange we are in the world and how presumptuous our doings!
Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder. For the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.
Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.
Abraham Heschel

joe

Christhood: Resurrection Practice

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’
Startled, they were terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.
He said to them, ‘Why so frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see…’

Luke 24:36-39

Seeker,
Where have you witnessed resurrection this new day?

Whether we care
to notice it or not,
Spring has sprung.

Whether or not we perceive it,
new life has everywhere erupted;
miraculous and blooming with pungent promise.

But what does resurrection actually bring to life,
amid the deep distresses and desolations
of our times?

How do we open a space
for healing to happen
in a heated climate of suspicion and division?

And what does new life mean for people
whose hearts are boarded-up;
who are incarcerated, burdened and broken?

So here is resurrection’s scandalous secret—
a mystery so deep that no amount of surface-scratching
will remove or reveal it:

Always, always, the Christ appears unbidden,
as the wounded one;
the perforated, broken, visibly damaged life in our midst.

Sometimes that wounded Christ is you;
yes, and sometimes also me.
But more often Christ is fleshed in those we do not care to see.

For resurrection offers no escape from trials, tears or failure.
It promises a wide-wounded embrace,
a welcome solidarity with tangible sufferings and alienations all.

i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings…      e e  cummings

In the embrace of Christhood over cult,
connection over division, and mercy over punishment, resurrection
releases us from prisons of the past; dungeons of our own design.

When we practice Christhood— being in touch with wounded-ness—
the shards of our shattered world stir and shift,
as the heart-like-kaleidoscope turns into the light of a new day.

So may resurrection continue
to interfere with your plans and color your projections.
And may peace punctuate the patterns of your day,

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

Simply Human

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

How blessed those who are poor in spirit, the Reign of God is theirs (for the sharing). Matthew 5:3

What might a simpler life look like?

Physics teaches that with speed and pressure
comes heat and friction;
stress and tension following closely behind.

The antidote to compulsive-comparative living
lies in a wholesome embrace of our natural sanctity;
the gift of being simply (and not super) human.

Knowingly imperfect, ready and willing
to forgive and be forgiven, we are all made for mercy.
Compassionate connection is our role and link in the chain of life.

Un-possessed by possessions,
those who claim their humanness
welcome their own poverty of spirit.

For only those who know
they are incomplete
can be made whole.

And living with less (by choice or circumstance),
we are more likely, in lean times,
to lean on Providence and rely on one another.

Reverencing our limitations lets us savor and share
an abundance of simpler pleasures
and taste the humbler joys of a less-complicated, uncluttered life.

Live simply that others might simply live! Attributed to Elizabeth Ann Seton

Meanwhile, a global conspiracy consumes us;
cramming our days with stuff and activities,
promising purpose and happiness to fill the sink-hole at the heart of us.

Paradoxically, true ‘holey-ness’ widens that gaping ache within,
by reducing needs, minimizing wants,
and clearing the clutter of compulsions, to making room for others.

Though a simpler life
is intentionally uncomplicated,
simple is never easy.

It exposes the emptiness of overfilled lifestyles
as it celebrates the satisfaction
of spacious fulfillment.

Simpler also presumes slower;
moving away from purpose-driven and toward presence-drawn;
from transactional into relational living.

How we synchronize our days,
sets our patterns of rest, work and wonder,
with careful attention to well-being.

Slowing allows us to live
from that deep-within-well,
and avoid running ahead of grace.

When life becomes frenetic,
it is time for sabbath slowing,
back down to the pace of God’s good time.

Slowing… to attend to those who cross your path.
Slowing… to match the gait of frailty, the pace of infirmity.
Slowing… to meet the tottering steps of old ones and infants.
Slowing… to notice the contours of life around you.
Slowing… long enough to scent the breeze or be captivated by sunset.
Slowing… to feel the road beneath your feet.
Slowing… to be redirected, detoured into byways to learn about loss and hope.

May you follow the lead of the Timeless One,
that ageless, ever-patient lover of the lost;
so slow to anger, so simply rich in radiant mercy.

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

Change-ability

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

The wind blows where it will, and you hear its sound,
but you know not from whence it came or where it’s bound.
So it is with all, of the Spirit born.
John 3:8

Seeker,
What might you do to change this world?

When the climate changes—
whether political or environmental—
as it is wont to do,

and we are powerless to affect it,
we can
sink our roots deeper;

deeper than fire and flood;
deeper than drought and despair;
deeper than fear and fury;

beyond and below the reach
of trends, tempests and
even traumas.

When the wind shifts—
whether social, cultural or religious—
as it is prone to do,

and we cannot redirect it,
we can
reset our sails.

In prayerful attention
we sink our souls deeper
to ground ourselves in the Perennial Presence.

In prophetic contemplation
we raise our sheet
into the Prevailing Power,

to harness the momentum
that inspires
the restless turn of time and tide.

So, rather than run
we can also choose
to root our souls.

And rather than attack
the blow and bluster,
we can also learn to tack into it.

Thus, do we chart a course,
aligned with
the cosmic sweep of stars,

and pattern our lives,
attuned to that radiant, perpetual pulse;
the Sacred Hub of Compassion.

But if we would write
a tomorrow
which is wider than wounds
we have worn,
we might wield words
like benedictions
and remember
blessings
within brokenness,
beginnings
within endings,
and beauty
within all things.
Bernadette Miller

In a universe in constant motion,
change is always coming;
the revolving refrain of a grand celestial dance.

Through this ceaseless movement of wind and weather
in world affairs, one question remains:
How will we receive, respond and reflect change-ability?

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
John O’ Donohue

We have already entered
the rough waters and rapids of global climate change,
with all its incumbent social upheaval.

Yet, our ancestors also endured trials;
weathering the turbulence of conquests, empires
and global wars that bred ethnocide and genocide.

Now, we face the fearful possibility of ecocide—
the mindless desolation of the one home, loaned by our Maker
for those living generations yet to come.

And perhaps never before, in history’s long arc,
has the inheritance of so many
been squandered so swiftly by the recklessness of so few.

For change is surely upon us and changes are sorely needed.
Each alone, and all together,
we must weigh the price of change with cost of inaction,

so that, rooted deeply and reaching widely,
we might remain anchored through the shifting seasons,
as we navigate the tumultuous currents of our treacherous times.

And may you, dear seeker,
care enough to bare your soul
and daringly raise a sail that will lead to a change of course.

joe