by Rachel Jones
by Rachel Jones
by Megan Castellan
“It seems to me that the will of God is that I should not enter the Church at present…I cannot help wondering whether in these days when so large a proportion of humanity is submerged in materialism, God does not want there to be some men and women who have given themselves to him and to Christ, and who yet remain outside the Church. In any case, when I think of the act by which I should enter the Church as something concrete…nothing gives me more pain than the idea of separating myself from the immense and unfortunate multitude of unbelievers. I have the essential need, and I think I can say the vocation, to move among men of every class and complexion, mixing with them and sharing their life and outlook, so far that is to say as conscience allows, merging into the crowd and disappearing among them, so that they show themselves as they are, putting off all disguises with me. It is because I long to know them so as to love them just as they are. For if I do not love them as they are, it will not be they whom I love, and my love will be unreal.”
–Simone Weil, Waiting for God
Simone Weil was a philosopher and activist during the 1930s and 40s in England and France. A stone-cold genius, she taught philosophy, and wrote extensively on the unrest plaguing Europe. She was an ardent activist as well, advocating for an end to poverty, unsafe working conditions and social inequity. She travelled to France during the Nazi occupation to work for the French Resistance, and then worked in a factory making munitions for the Allies. For our churchy purposes, however, it is important to note another aspect of her story–she was raised in a secular Jewish household, and converted to Catholicism as an adult.
She apparently had a profound religious experience at one point, and began to explore the intersection of her passion for social justice, and her newfound curiosity about Christianity with a Roman Catholic priest from her hometown in a series of letters. And despite his urging her to be baptized, Simone insisted on remaining as she was until she died–a devout believer, yet unbaptized–basically a modern-day Godfearer.
This attitude of hers basically confused the bejesus out of her spiritual director. If she believed in Christ (she did!) and she loved the Church (also, yes!) then why on earth wouldn’t she want to join up?
Simone, however, pointed to a sense of call she had which instructed her to remain allied with the outsiders. Her understanding of Christ was mediated through being Other–first a female Other, then the Jewish Other, and then as a non-baptized Other. She understood God first and foremost as having love for the Other.
I’m sure theologians would have a field day with whether you can truly be a Christian without having been baptized. This seems to be the sort of question that would employ several of the more theoretical sort for quite some time. Yet what Simone, orthodox Christian or not, grasped about the nature of the gospel cannot be denied. She understood that God’s grace and love never comes to us as insiders, but as outsiders. Therefore, as children of faith, we are called to accompany our fellow outsiders in the world, because that is our spiritual home. Not with the powerful, the popular, or the wealthy, but the dispossessed and the struggling. We are called to embody grace for the outsiders–just as we have received.
Today, listen to someone who is different from you–in gender, race, class, or religion. Read a blog, a Twitter TL, or an article written by someone of a different perspective than you. Don’t worry about agreeing or not agreeing–just absorb and watch for God in a new place.
-by Maria Nolletti Ross
“The fruit of the bee is the Son of the Virgin. ‘Blessed is the fruit of thy womb’ it says in Luke 1:42; and ‘His fruit was sweet to my palate’ in Canticles 2:3. This fruit is sweet in its beginning, middle, and end. It was sweet in the womb, sweet in the crib, sweet in the temple, sweet in Egypt, sweet in his Baptism, sweet in the desert, sweet in the word, sweet in miracles, sweet on the ass, sweet in the scourging, sweet on the Cross, sweet in the tomb, sweet in hell, and sweet in heaven. O sweet Jesus, what is more sweet than you are? ‘Jesu-the very thought is sweet . . . sweeter than honey far.’” — St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon, SUNDAY SERMONS
I’m a sermon connoisseur. Whether they are satisfying a particular question, serving up something completely new to me, or reviving my faith, I love sermons. For me, sermons are as much a part of a Holy Communion Service as the bread and wine because they feed my hunger for spiritual wisdom.
My favorite sermons are those that show me a new way of looking at a situation that completely changes my understanding and gives me hope for the future.
Of course, there are those Sundays in which the sermon doesn’t speak to me at all. No worries, I can usually find a good one to read on social media. Or I can go to the saints, such as my family’s patron, St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon.
Anthony (formerly Fernando Martins de Bulhoes) was raised in Lisbon, Portugal, where he studied theology and was ordained a priest. Later he became a Franciscan Friar who served quietly with deep humility in Italy.
Eventually, Anthony’s superiors, including the head of his order, St. Francis of Assisi, discovered his theological knowledge and gift for preaching. They encouraged him to speak his heart and spread the word. Overjoyed to receive this permission, Anthony became a teacher of friars preparing for priesthood and a life of preaching.
The above passage seems like an entire sermon in one paragraph – he quotes scripture, explains, suggests, and even ends by quoting a popular song of his day (Jesu Dulci Memoria). His advice is to read the gospels and remember that in all moments of His life on earth and in heaven, Jesus Christ is pure goodness.
In other words, there is no historical moment when Jesus became Christ on earth, he was the complete package his whole life. God’s gift of the baby Jesus contains the Crucifixion of Christ, and the Resurrection of Christ includes the death of the baby Jesus. Christmas and Easter are meaningless without each other. Together, they mean everything.
That’s a perspective I can get behind in much the same way that we stand, metaphorically, behind the saints as they guide us, through their examples and teachings, ever closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In what ways has your understanding of God deepened by listening to or reading someone else’s perspective? Who was your guide?
If you’d like to read more about St. Anthony and his life, click here for more from Maria.
by Miriam McKenney
But the Lord Said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:1-13)
Samuel is searching for a new king – a king that God has already provided from the sons of Jesse. Samuel goes through all of the rituals to get him to the place where he would see one of these sons and anoint him king of Israel Samuel sees one of Jesse’s sons and makes the mistake of assuming that he was the one. God then reveals that God looks at the heart of a person, unlike mortals do. Sound familiar?
So as I continue to live into the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, remaining mindful of the gift of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, I consider God’s message about seeing as mortals see; seeing from the outside instead of looking inside into people’s hearts. We must believe that we can do this. If we are children of God, and God lives in us, then we can see into each other’s heart. Even if it’s just a glimmer.
Jesus preached, taught, and lived a life of love. Samuel taught us that God has something in store for each of us that we may not understand or comprehend in ourselves, or in each other. How do we do what we can to bring out God’s gifts in ourselves, in our loved ones, or in strangers?
Let’s start by listening to God’s advice to Samuel. Be open to showing what’s in your heart, so that others can see it. Look into the hearts of those around you. What do you see? What do you want to see?
Let’s also try to live into the great commandment – love God, love my neighbor as I love myself. Not just the beautiful ones.
How can you shine a light into the hearts of others, and let them see yours? How do you keep yourself from judging a book by its cover? Or is it okay to do so? When?
by Maria Kane
Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:20-26
When my godson Cal was much younger he and I used to play a game of sorts at bedtime. With my hands a few inches apart, I’d say to him: “How much do you think Ea loves you? Do I love you this much?”
Smiling, Cal would shake his head and say, “Nooo.”
I’d then stick my hands a bit further apart and ask, “this much?”
“Noooo. More!” he’d say.
We would keep going until my arms were stretched so far apart that my back began to arch.
“Yes,” he’d laugh.
“Yep. I love you so much I can’t even stretch my arms wide enough.” I’d reply.
There was nothing terribly unique about this nighttime routine, but it was ours, and it was special.
In the midst life’s busyness, I fear it’s easy to forget that our existence is rooted in God’s adoration and longing for us. Today’s reading, however, reminds us of the breadth of Jesus’ love. I will be the first to admit, though, that what Jesus does in this moment is not terribly original or complex. In fact it’s so simple we might overlook it as the generous act of love that it is.
Y’all, Jesus prays for us.
Although it is the night before his execution, and his betrayer is at hand, Jesus does not pray for his own rescue or comfort. He prays for his friends and all who would follow. He prays for you and me. All the teaching, all the healing, all the traveling—they all point to this overarching truth: Jesus wants us to experience perfect union with God’s glory and one another. Jesus believes this is our destiny, and he prays that it will be so.
We often talk about the importance of believing in God, but did you ever stop to consider that while we are trying to shore up our faith and belief, Jesus has been believing in us since the dawn of time? He trusts that with God’s Spirit we can carry on his work. What if you claimed that truth today? No matter what you are going through, no matter what looms ahead, Jesus is with you in the meantime. He has prayed for you because he believes in you and who you are becoming.
How much does our Lord love you?
He loves you THIS much.
Share a time you experienced or encountered the love of God in a new way. If you are struggling to feel love right now, offer your weary soul to God in prayer and trust that you don’t need to say a word. Just be. Know that the Spirit is with you.
-by Mary Wright Baylor
West Rose Window, Washington National Cathedral
Today marks the secular celebration of Mother’s Day. It is also the Holy Day commemorating the mystic Dame Julian of Norwich. In addition to her well known writings about her “showings,” she is probably best known for her very popular expression, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” But on this Mother’s Day, it is most relevant that Dame Julian is one of the first to describe the feminine identity in God and spoke of God as our Mother and Father.
At the risk of thoroughly dating myself, I grew up in a progressive Episcopal church, St. Alban’s, Annandale, Virginia. Although we frequently provided housing for those involved in protests against the Vietnam War or supporting the civil rights movement, as a young girl, I was not allowed to be an acolyte, however. That movement was yet to come. Therefore, I looked on in delighted awe as one of the very active members of our parish, Alison Cheek, went on to break convention as part of the Philadelphia Eleven and became ordained as one of the first female priests in the Episcopal Church, the family of God and the Body of Christ.
Since then, the role of women as leaders in the church has slowly expanded as they have been consecrated as bishops and finally, as presiding bishop. Never able to light a service candle as a young girl, I stood utterly overwhelmed and weeping with joy at the magnificent service installing the Most Rev. Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori at the Washington National Cathedral. What resulted were some painful schisms within the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion; but slowly, healing and resurrection are taking place throughout the world and we are making progress toward understanding God as Mother and Father, feminine and masculine, and the vital role of women in ordained ministry.
Many of my best friends are women priests. Funny, creative, thoughtful, irreverent, faithful, and other-centered, I connect very easily with them. Whether or not they use the title “Mother,” my friends and other women priests may daily encounter bias or at worst, misogyny, but they rise above such prejudice and are diligent in their priestly vows.
One of my best friends, a retired Episcopal priest, visited Norwich many years ago. She brought me a beautiful calligraphy of Dame Julian’s famous expression that now hangs by my bedside. Every morning upon rising and every night as I close my eyes, no matter what personal or worldly crises are swirling, I give thanks for all the mothers before and around me who have assured each of us that All Shall Be Well. I believe this pleases God the Mother and the Father.