Monday, November 23, 2020

Why Must We Lament

Psalms of Lament make up 1/3 (or even more, depending on whom you ask) of the Book of Psalms. We read Psalm 42, for example, and we see that the psalmist is remembering the past:

These things will I remember
as I pour out my soul:
How I would lead the rejoicing crowd
into the house of God,
amid cries of gladness and thanksgiving,
the throng wild with joy. (Ps 42:4)

But things seem to have changed for him. 

He remembers the past, and now laments—lamenting even in a way that sounds at times like complaining. 

We notice how the psalmist can move from praise right to lament: 

…by night I will sing to the LORD,
praise the God of my life.

then in the next verse:

I will say to God, my rock,
“Why have you forgotten me? (42:9, 10)

and then back again: 

Why are you cast down, my soul… ?
Hope in God; I will praise yet again,
my savior and my God” (42:12).

 

Why must the psalmist lament? And why may we also need to lament what is lost?  


1. First, we lament because we love. “Grief,” says N.T. Wright, “after all, is part of love. Not to grieve, not to lament, is to slam the door on the same place in the innermost heart from which love itself comes” (God and the Pandemic, Zondervan, 2020).

We grieve because we love and because we value what is past and what now seems to be lost. “When we lose the ability to lament, we lose an opportunity to share with our God the things of this world that are breaking our hearts…” (Ryane Williamson, "The Lost Art of Lament").


2. And, second, we lament because, without honoring the grief within us, it is likely that we would be hindered in fulfilling our call to move into the future. We may be unable to see beyond the dried winter leaf on the ground. We may remain stuck in unclaimed grief – or in a sterile and perhaps even unrecognized grief – unfruitful, as opposed to the loving lament that helps carry us forward in love. So we need to name our grief, for what one person grieves may not be the same as what another one of us grieves, even in a similar situation. 

We need to name for ourselves what it is that we grieve, and lament what we have loved and seems now to be lost. And in so doing we are helped to allow the new to be born. Lamenting helps make it possible for us to move into the future, even as the blessing of what we lament and will never forget remains in our hearts and nurtures the future, so that we can say, with the psalmist in Psalm 27:

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living. (27:13)


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Psalm quotations are from The Psalms: The Grail Translation Inclusive Language Version
(London: HarperCollins, 2004).

 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

That You May Lay Hold of Me

 

 

My God,
that at every moment you may find me
as you desire me,
and there where you are waiting for me;
that is, so that you may take hold of me fully —
both by the within and the without of myself —
grant that I may never break this double thread of my life.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu

 __________


Mon Dieu, pour que, à toute minute, vous me trouviez tel que vous me désirez, là où vous m'attendez, c'est-à-dire pour que vous me saisissiez pleinement, - par le dedans et le dehors de moi-même, - faites que je ne rompe jamais ce double fil de ma vie.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Le Milieu divin

 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Beauty in a Time of Sorrow

 

Where do we find the beauty and goodness of God during a time of so much suffering? Pandemic, storms, terrible fires do not tend to make us think about beauty or express gratitude for the goodness of creation. 

Where is the beauty that we find it easy to relish in calmer times?

According to Father Stephen:

"The great mystery of Beauty is that its most profound statement in all of human history is the crucified Christ. The human experience of that Beauty is well described by Isaiah:

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. … But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed (53:1-5).

Christ had “no beauty that we should desire him.” How is it possible that the King of Glory should have no beauty? This is itself the mystery of Beauty: it lies hidden beneath the sufferings of God

Father Stephen, “The Mystery of Beauty,” Glory to God for All Things 

In the beauty of the crucified and risen Christ, we see that pain doesn't have the last word; Covid-19 doesn’t have the last word; terrible fires do not have the last word; destructive storms do not have the last word. Fear and pain do not have the last word. No, the beauty of self-giving love does. 

It has been said that we become what we contemplate. Let us gaze on the beauty of Christ crucified; let us behold the beauty of Christ risen, even as we weep and grieve the losses of this painful time in which we are living.



Saturday, April 11, 2020

No Retribution


The resurrection of Jesus is a victory both of life over death and of forgiveness over the power of sin and retribution. It is a victory of love. And in this victory is a call to union in the life and the mercy proclaimed through the risen Christ.

On a very practical note, without the resurrection the disciples of Jesus would not have fully grasped their own forgiveness. With the resurrection, however, the despondent and probably guilt-ridden friends of Jesus begin to learn something new: they learn that the forgiveness Jesus has been preaching is an energy that changes lives, including their own. ...

Retribution would be a natural human response to being unjustly arrested, abandoned by friends, tortured, and executed, once one had returned in a body freed from earthly limitations. Instead the friends of Jesus experience that there is no vindictiveness in him, which means that there is none in God. In spite of any appearances to the contrary, love and goodness have triumphed. God is in control of the universe, and they themselves are forgiven.

[For more, see That God May Be All in All: Christian Life and Sacred Paradox, Chapter IV.] 

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The photograph for today has little obvious relation to the reflection above, but I took it early last evening (Holy Saturday), and it delighted me. We don't ordinarily see rabbits in our courtyard, but here was one (an Easter bunny?) nestled in the grass, seemingly unafraid of the two of us who were there. He (or she) just wiggled its nose at us, followed us with eyes and a gentle shift of the head, but made no move to run off.  This morning she was gone.



Thursday, February 20, 2020



That God May Be All in All


That God May Be All in All: Christian Life and Sacred Paradox is the title of my new book, recently published.

But what does it mean for God to be all in all? Is this mysterious promise only for the end of time, or does it contain a call to us now?

How are we to let ourselves be transformed in the God who is Unknown, yet at the same time is our most intimate Knowing? And what about the wondrous mystery that the God who is supremely Other longs for us to share the divine life in Christ?

I invite you to take a look on Amazon.com, which will let you view samples of the book.  Just click on the picture of the cover, and you will be taken there.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Small Gifts

[Used with permission from "Caught Up in God."]

If you are like me, there are some days when, without intending to, you move through the day in a whirl, or in a stupor, or dragging in sadness, or simply preoccupied. On those days we may miss the small but precious gifts we are given.

One afternoon, distracted and a bit discouraged, I went outside and walked around the courtyard behind our house. As I walked I saw, floating through the air, a small seed surrounded by tendrils. I don’t know what kind of seed it was, but it was beautiful, and I reached out my hand toward it.

What amazed me was that it stayed with me. Perhaps there was a very fine tendril clinging to my finger.



 But it even changed hands at one point.


Taking photos was not easy. I had my cell phone with me, but getting a picture meant holding the phone in only one hand, tapping, adjusting, and snapping the camera with the same hand,  all the while not disturbing the beautiful seed hovering at my other hand.

After a while I blew on it gently and off it flew, only to settle gently toward the ground behind the nearby bushes.

The presence of the seed felt like a gift, just when I needed one. I wonder sometimes if it has sprouted.



Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Prayer of Jesus


What we call the "Lord's Prayer" is the prayer Jesus taught to his disciples.
If we can't pray it sincerely ourselves, we can ask Jesus to pray the prayer in us.