Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Give Me your feet"

If there's one Gospel story that anyone can envision being part of, it's the Foot Washing scene from the thirteenth chapter of John.

Like so much else in John's Gospel, the foot-washing is an enigmatic story.  I've been pondering it for years. 

So let me set the scene.  The disciples are all gathered in an upper room.  Around the time of Passover - the saving event in the life of Israel - celebrated at a festive dinner with one's friends and relatives.

Now in three of the gospels, Jesus is recalled as initiating a sacred action during the meal, where he identifies himself with the sharing of bread and wine - a gift to be remembered and repeated for all time. 

But in John's Gospel, a different gift is offered.  As remembrance of divine action and presence.   

The Foot Washing.

As I said initially, anyone can imagine being part of it:

So here we are, having supper with a revered teacher.  Someone whose words and deeds set our hearts aflame (like the burning bush).  Someone who so completely identifies himself with Holy Mystery - that if we see him, he tells us, we also see his Father. 

And now our host at the banquet takes off his good clothes, wraps a towel around him (something only a slave or a servant would wear), fills a bowl with water, and slowly approaches each of us.  To wash our feet.

The command is implicit:  Remain seated.  Take off your shoes.  (We are suddenly on holy ground, before the Burning Bush.) 

"Give me your feet," the ritual asks of us.  Give me your vulnerability.  Entrust yourself completely to my care.   One cannot stand on one's feet and allow them to be washed - at the same time.  So we must give ourselves over.  One and all.  Even Judas.  And who among us can say we have never been a betrayer?  

"If you want to be part of the Mystery, you must permit this," Jesus tells Peter.  This complete reversal of societal expectations, of religious rituals.  To become as vulnerable as a child - being bathed, or fed, by its mother.  The center of divine attention.

But pride and self-sufficiency are hard to part with.  It was for Peter.  That, it seems to me, is what we are ultimately asked to give up.  And in so doing, to place ourselves in the hands of Ultimate Mystery. 

In the face of an unknown future, the mystery invites us to let go of our self-importance.  In blind trust, it would seem.  For a time of trial is upon us.  (And when in life is there never a trial upon us?)

I am reminded of words spoken by God to Joshua after the death of Moses.   In moment of great tension, suddenly left to lead a people (hard to govern) in a momentous task (to cross the Jordon - into an unknown future), Joshua is told not to fear.  To be strong and courageous, for "Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you...  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you."  

In the Holy Ground of our lives, we are not alone.  One thing is asked of us, as of Joshua:  To remember the Teachings - the gift already given.  To meditate on them day and night.  (Which links up nicely with Psalm 1, a wisdom psalm - where the Just One - likened to a tree planted by streams of water- drinks with "delight ... the law of the Lord, / and on his law ... meditates day and night.")

Sunday, March 16, 2014

This and That

I used to have trouble reading Matthew's Gospel, just like I used to have trouble with Paul.  I see now that my experience was always a true encounter - with Holy Presence, the Word, speaking directly to me.  And, like Adam and Eve after the Fall, I wanted to hide in the bushes, when Holy Mystery came calling.

But I'm coming to appreciate Matthew, more and more.  Coming to see the love and compassion behind what I formerly took as impossible standards laid out, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount.

I've been reading an interesting book of Sister Wendy's spiritual letters. Very enlightening.  From her (advice to others) I've learned to view my former problem with Matthew as true encounter - with a God who is both awesomely terrible and passionately seeking each of us.   Not that Sister Wendy knows anything about my specific problem, but she's helped me to see how problems are always a blessing.  How even as we look back and assess our lives, we must do so with great gratitude - putting everything into perspective in terms of a plan - mysterious and awesome - whose footprints are perhaps more visible in retrospect.  And an invitation to see this in everything now.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

So. Much. Love!

Here at the retirement community, it truly is a community.  No pressure really - to make community.  But a very open system.  A place of welcome.  Lots of smiles and cheerful greetings; you can't pass a person without one or the other or both.  Lots of small opportunities for friendly conversation.  Lots of humor.  And LOVE.  So much love!

I've come to the conclusion that two things are necessary in old age.  Love and a sense of humor.  They are here in abundance.

I can't speak for all retirement communities.  But here we've pretty quickly come to know a lot of people.  Quite a number in their 90's.  People who've led interesting lives.  Who read a lot.  Stay in touch with what's going on in the world.  Respect privacy:  Honestly nobody comes to your door or in any way disturbs your privacy when you're at home.  But outside the door...  totally different!

It is an understatement to say "we are happy here."  Joy!  Lots of joy.  It's been a good move.  A blessing!  Far more than we ever expected.

I read recently that Joy is an infallible sign of God's Presence. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Marx backs up Pope Francis

In a wonderful article, Beyond Capitalism, which I highly recommend, Reinhard Cardinal Marx, dives deeply into troubled waters, which have arisen in the wake of Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, which deserves even more careful reading, rereading, and reflection.

Cardinal Marx is one of the eight advisers, chosen by Francis, to assist him in charting course through what promise to be "interesting times" in the RCC (and beyond).  And what a grasp of the pitfalls of modern finance as an ideology embracing praise of greed!  What a  a tour de force attack on the idolatry of finance, where workers are viewed as mere instruments to capitalism, when capitalism (politics, etc.) should instead be subservient to a philosophy entailing the dignity of human persons.

What's most interesting to me about this article by Cardinal Marx is the window this affords into the way the Pope's apostolic exhortation is organized and the scope of his insistence that a new evangelism is needed.  It reminds me of John's Gospel, where after calling some disciples and changing water into wine, Jesus immediately proceeds to cleanse the Temple.  Francis, likewise, has called his committee of 8; and in substance and style he continues to give the world new wine, better wine, in place of no wine, moldy wine.  And now it's clear that Francis is not just aiming to cleanse the Temple of the Vatican and the Curia, to rid it of clerical opulence, greed, and bullying, but that he intends an evangelism that confronts society at large, castigating in particular oppressive social institutions and ideologies, such as the worldwide imperialism of economics - greed as an end in itself - via preaching the Good News in order to once again elevate the needs and worth of human persons, the obligation to care about your neighbor as a Temple and Image of your God.

I love this Pope! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Taking a break here.    
In case you hadn't noticed.    
May your holidays be peaceful and fruitful.
Treasure the every day.   

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Side by Side

Pope Francis:  In Assisi.  On the Feast of St. Francis.

The Washington Post:  As flagged by Atrios (from cepr).

What is it going to be?  Concern for the poor and disabled, the refugee, the trafficked?  Or, if we neglect them, is it simply a cost-saving adjustment?

More than once, here and elsewhere, I've expressed my anguish, the heart's deep suffering.  I mean the Heart of the Universe.  And our hearts.   The anguish Francis points to.  And I've pointed to.  The anguish exposed every day - even if not pointed to - in newspapers, on TV, in every part of the globe.  Sung and unsung.

I used to write political blogs.  But that (anguish) drove me to reading the psalms, to simply dwelling with the pain that is brushed aside by all too many - who focus on money and power and tit for tat.

But miracles can happen.  And the election of Pope Francis, together with the powerful messages he is sending - in word and deed - these sit alongside ... the horrors.  They sit as a commentary. 

Side by side.  Face to face.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Love and Death

A wonderful meditation on Love.  This is what I read first this morning.  It was so moving that I wanted to flag it - or flog it - take your pick.  All the emotions that love evokes in us.  Even the cynics among us, as the writer calls himself.

A tragic exposé on Children and Guns.  I read this next.  Also moving - but in a different way.  In the best tradition of why we need a free press.  Why we need accurate research.  Courageous legislators.  And good legislation.

I beg you:  Please read these two articles.  Then put them together.

(I don't have time now to do that for you.)