Reflection for Monday, July 16, 2018: 15th Week of Ordinary Time.
College of Nursing
Psalms 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21, 23
Psalms 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21, 23
389. Year II, Ordinary Time.
389. Year II, Ordinary Time.
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CHAOS! CHAOS!! CHAOS!!!That which seems ordinary, peaceful and natural is turned up-side-down! Wait a minute…Jesus not bringing peace? Jesus who stands in the ranks of Moses, and the prophets? Jesus who is faithful to the Covenant, and…what happened to "honor your father and your mother?"What is going on here, Jesus? What are you saying? People who we love will be up and against each other? Divisions…separations…misunderstandings…angry differences of opinions about religious practices, political ideologies? Whose got it right? Questions! Hmmm, what century is this?Follow Jesus at any time and one just might find her/himself in opposition to those near and dear to them. I have spent quite some time reflecting on these passages from scripture for today. It took me back in time that is not so different from what we might be experiencing in the present moments of our human history.It is 1983, and the United States and Russia are at full speed ahead with the nuclear arms race. In a small town of Romulus, NY, near the Seneca Army Depot over 12,000 women gathered from around the world to learn of civil disobedience and non-violence training. It was The Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice. The army base was one of the largest storage sites and departure point for nuclear weapons headed for Europe. It also stored radioactive materials for the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb.At that time, I was a campus minister and a group of us, with students, traveled to spend a day at the encampment, listen to a presentation by the local Bishop and participate in this non-violent protest. As an artist, I was impressed with the women who were engaged in a variety of artistic, imaginative, and creative ways of speaking their gospel truth. e.g., quilting, painting, poetry, music, etc.…This trip, was taken not long before Thanksgiving. At Thanksgiving dinner, I was explicitly informed by my father not to breath a work about my activities at the Seneca Army Depot, as my relatives were ready to "put them all on a boat and send them back to Europe"! Yes, taking a stance for peace, or disagreeing with family positions on issues, or political and religious practices can indeed cause divisions, or at best, very passionate differing of opinions. That was a beginning of years ahead for me with totally different perspectives from members of my family!While praying with this Gospel passage, I was led to Walter Bruggeman, and his book Prophetic Imagination. Googling his name, I came across an interview by Kristen Tippett, host of On Being . Within the transcript of the interview, Walter Bruggeman spoke of the prophets' messages being characteristically allied to judgement and hope through their prophetic imagination. They use poetic and sometimes disturbing language to proclaim a world as it is and a world that might be, with behaviors to make it all happen. This can be upsetting and challenging.Reflecting on this Gospel of Matthew, I remember Jesus, who was raised in the knowledge of Moses and the poetic verse of the prophets, is himself prophet, the new Moses, the New Creation, and IS the world that might be. He is HOPE! Nonetheless, in a harsh and somewhat troubling way Jesus uses language that opens eyes to what it may take and what might happen to bring about the fullness of life, a new world, the Reign of God.Is Jesus taking up arms in saying he comes to bring not peace but the sword? I read that metaphorically. Jesus is addressing his Apostles giving them their commands as they are sent forth with what to expect. Expect chaos! Expect judgement and hope. What they preach may be distressing. Inner peace may be disquieted. Even family members may have their fervent differences of opinions.Carrying out the mission may take some force and action, but, Jesus who is PEACE, seemed in his lifetime to be open to the force of dialogue with those who disagreed, challenged and threatened his message and his life. He responds with non-violent methods. His prophetic imagination is at work. His sword, power or defense, is in the form of words, or artistic and imaginative expressions, (parables) or actions of feeding the hungry, drink to the thirsty. Those who do these things will receive a prophet's, or disciple's reward.The readings from Isaiah and Matthew are for us in our time and history. We live in a time of chaos and divisions. Divisions to be repaired and transformed through non-violent actions of openness, dialogue and discernment. Caring for the homeless, immigrants, ill, poor, etc. Practicing many works of mercy are options. Attempting to change systems that destroy rather than build up through signing petitions and voting in elections, are deeds that give voice, and particularly as advocates for the voiceless.Most probably human desires may go deeper than just supporting certain ideologies (as is mentioned in the interview.) I suspect that hoping for a better life, happiness, and love for those dear to us and for ourselves is part of that. Sometimes, letting-go of things to allow our hopes to become real is needed. "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." I have learned that letting go of ego-driven behaviors enables the discovery of the true self, of a God who intimately desires a relationship, peace, and a blessed life for all. Chaos can be a blessing when we recognize Jesus is in it. To discover what it is to live with and to practice a prophetic imagination is a gift of the Spirit, and is possible. As Isaiah proclaims, LISTEN!"Listen to the instruction of our God…" because… THERE WILL BE CHAOS, THERE WILL BE HOPE! THERE WILL BE PEACE!