That famous question, “Who do you say that I am?” occurs in this Sunday’s Gospel. It can be a very important discernment question because how we answer it affects everything. If you say Jesus was a good man who set a good example, that may be nice, but it doesn’t necessarily call a person to any radical change. If you say Jesus is the one who will judge us in the end, then it might just make you anxious and act out of guilt. If you say Jesus is the creator of the universe manifesting in human form to teach us how to live and love, you might feel more drawn to respond with your life.
At a very personal level, we probably answer this question differently from others, and even for ourselves at different points in our lives. Because Jesus is also a ‘person,’ we are in a relationship, and relationships change over time. Jesus may not change, but our understanding of him and way of relating to him will. Some of the different answers I have had to this question: Jesus you are… my partner… my hope… a caress… a challenger… the one I take time with each night and morning… the core relationship in my life.
Discernment involves other people. But the strongest voice in becoming who I am, and discerning what I am called to do, is the voice of Jesus.
Who do you say Jesus is?
By Sister Patty Harvat, OP
Pentecost is a Jewish feast that comes 50 days after the celebration of Passover, the holiday season in which Jesus was crucified. On the feast of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus were gathered together in a room sometimes known as the “upper room.”
Doors were locked for fear of the Jews, and hearts were locked in grief.
“There are some griefs so loud
They could bring down the sky
And there are griefs so still
None knows how deep they lie...” - May Sarton
What are the emotions filling this room?
In the midst of this Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.”
What is this upper room? Your upper room?
Is our upper room being in solidarity with people who lost everything through fire, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, who say, “This is all we have known our whole life. What do we do now?” Or sitting quietly in front of the TV, watching the slow death of our Earth as climate change stills the heartbeat of Mother Earth’s life?
Think about your upper room, whatever is going on … it impacts me … because we are community … we are together in that locked room.
And it’s in that locked room that Jesus appears and says, “Peace,” breathes on us, and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit comes to us in a small flame. Whatever gift we receive is what we need to take with us as we leave our upper room. What gift of the Spirit, what Pentecost Fire, did you pray for?
Alleluia! It’s True!
(Inspired by the Easter Gospel readings)
Could it be?
Dare I trust?
Dare we risk?
We had hoped for so long
Have felt betrayed and
done our share of betraying
it could be true
They say they saw him
And they are glowing
They are different somehow
not cowering like the rest of us
They don’t just believe
I can see it
They know in their bones
He is alive
Angels spoke to them
She saw him at the tomb
and he sent her to us
They actually broke bread with him
Could it be?
It is all coming together
Everything he said that sounded so crazy
now is falling into place
And, wait, who is that coming into our room?
How did he get in here –
the door is closed
He looks so familiar
and yet I cannot place him
Those terrible, awful nail marks
It is him
He is eating, drinking
smiling at us
He is alive as they said
O God of our ancestors
You have raised him
It is true
Now I know
And now that I know
I have to leave this safe room
No, I want to leave this safe, closed room
I want to share this news
The nails didn’t do it
The shameful crucifixion didn’t destroy him
And all that is death dealing
in our world
cannot destroy us
We are on the side of
the one who was raised from the dead
And he has called us to go forth
And has given us a Word of life to preach
to a hurting world
Death does not have the final power
Hope and life remain
I know it now
Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP
I look upon you with such love. You are so hard on yourself. You feel guilty for all you do not do, and for some of the things you do. I see it. I know you. You can’t hide anything from me and you don’t need to. You are safe with me. I don’t condemn you. I want to cheer you on. I want you to be all that I made you to be. I see the goodness inside you even when you don’t see it yourself. I do call you to be more, but out of love, out of knowing the goodness that is within you.
Sometimes it is hard to look at the pain in yourself, in those around you, in the world. I know. It is overwhelming at times. When I walked the Earth it pained my heart that I could not cure all. It caused me such sadness that my message about God’s reign was twisted and used against me and my followers. It angered me that the poor suffered so much due to the greed of those in power.
It’s not easy being a human being and trying to follow me is it? Sometimes it means you will have to suffer. There are times you will feel like you are being put on a cross.
Maybe you will be judged falsely by those around you.
Maybe a relationship will be ruptured that will not be repaired in this life.
Maybe you have experienced a loss you weren’t sure you could bear.
I know. Look at me up here. I know all your hurt and all your pain and I embrace it. And transform it. An empty tomb is actually a sign of new life.
Pay attention – there is hope in places you might not expect. Look for the signs of new life, within you and around you. I did not stay up on this cross. Yes, it was a shameful, excruciating death. But it passed over. God raised me and God will raise you. Once you accept and know the cross, you do not need to stay there.
Honor what has been, in my witness and in your own life, kiss it, venerate it, bow before it.
And then get ready, because resurrection is on its way!
Composed by Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP
By Sister Corinne Sanders, OP
The Gospels portray Jesus as a great teacher. He teaches and suddenly things happen. Jesus not only carries authority in his teaching but he carries power to heal and bring freedom. His presence, his authority, and power will continue to amaze and astonish as he speaks of the presence of God among us. His teaching will also frighten some and threaten others.
We know the world is longing for hearts and souls whose voices carry authority; strong voices that cause us to sit up, to take notice and to respond. My life has been shaped by these voices as I have heard those who speak of the rights of nature and I find myself taking delight in listening to Earth with a new heart.
I have been shaped and inspired by those who speak with passion and urgency on behalf of immigrants. And I have been freed over the years by women who teach and speak from a feminist perspective releasing my spirit to new ways of knowing and expressing faith in my God.
I am sure you can name those who have taught with authority and have shaped your lives, calling you deeper and deeper into mystery. As disciples, each of us has this responsibility to step out in whatever ways we can and to speak of God’s presence among us. In what ways are you being called to spread God’s truth in our world? How do you teach with your life?
I said “yes” – Dije “si” – that is what Sister Xiomara put on her Facebook post after her final profession, and say “yes” she did! She was filled with joy and reverence and grace as she gave her whole life to God through the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
We live in a culture that discourages long commitments. We get the message that commitments take away our freedom, but the opposite is really true. In fully committing to something we are able to give our whole selves and be who God calls us to be.
“I want to keep all my options open,” some say. But for how long? While it’s true that we do not want to rush into poor decisions and make drastic life choices at a young age, we can sometimes wait so long that we lose the chance to do that which would give us life. For someone called to marriage, it would be a shame to turn eighty and still be waiting for someone better to come along!
At this time of year, we celebrate Mary’s “yes” that brought forth Jesus – God among us. Imagine if Mary had said to Gabriel, “Well, I don’t know. This isn’t the best time and I’d like some alone time with Joseph before we start on a family. Can you come back in a few years?”
Sometimes we take that leap and say “yes” even when everything is not sure – because it never is. We cannot know the future, but we can be sure that Emmanuel – God with us – is always there on this journey of life.
Christmas blessings to all!
Yes, the Risen Jesus appeared to his followers in a unique way two thousand years ago. Yet the resurrection of Jesus is also a present-day event happening in our daily lives bringing new energies for life and love in our world today. Listen to one of our novices, Sister Katherine Frazier, share her reflection on John’s Gospel account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the Disciples on the sea of Tiberias.
Having trouble viewing the video? Click here to view it on YouTube.
Lent is an opportunity to respond to God’s call. “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2: 12). The forty days of Lent echo Jesus’ own forty days in the desert -praying and fasting, listening to God and wrestling with temptations. He grew stronger and came out ready to unite his heart with the heart of God in his mission for others. Like Jesus, we renew our dedication to the love of God and to the love of neighbor as self through prayer, fasting, and generous service to others, especially to people who are poor and vulnerable.
Jesuit priest Father Mark Thibodeaux gives one example of how he renews his life in God through what he calls “the most amazing prayer you’ve never heard of.” This amazing prayer is St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercise, called the Examen. Father Mark explains why he loves this way of praying:
What I long for is to have Christ join me in all the adventures and tedium of my active day. I love Christ so much that I want to share every minute of it with him….I want to feel his presence always! …. I want to share with him even the smallest details of my life: the irritating email…the pleasant smile of the women at the post office; the dread in my heart for the difficult meeting…Sure, I want to share with Christ the really big things…but the closer I grow to Christ, the more I want to share with him the seemingly insignificant things as well. I know he’s there, in the midst of it all.
Mark Thibodeaux, Reimagining the Ignatian Examen (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2015), vii-viii).
The Examen is a short prayer where for fifteen minutes every day you review your day. In five easy steps you: (1) Give thanks for all the things that went well in your day and the many gifts in your life; (2) Ask the Holy Spirit to review with you your whole day; (3) Recognize where you failed to love God, yourself or others today in big ways and small; (4) With self-compassion, feel the negative feelings that may surface and, if you have sinned, ask for forgiveness; (5) Look ahead with God to tomorrow and resolve to live it well.
This is only one way to rededicate your life to God. How much do you want to share your life with Jesus? As you reflect on your plans for Lent, how will you give God more of a role in your life?
Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP
By Sister Kathy Nolan, OP
Recently the Oxford Dictionaries announced that their 2016 word of the year is “Post-Truth”. Oxford defines post-truth as “an adjective relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” As one writer suggests, the key here is “post” as it refers to a “time in which the specified concept has become unimportant and irrelevant.” Perhaps another way of saying this is that post-truth describes a condition in which truth is no longer really important at all.
I find this quite alarming and frightening. The recent presidential election campaign was, in fact, a vivid example of how truth has lost and ‘fake news’ and distortion of truth has won the day. George Orwell described such a time as we live in in the following way: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is revolutionary.”
As a Christian and a Dominican, seeking truth is a life-long pursuit. It is impossible to think that as an individual or as a society we would abandon truth telling and embrace deceit and obfuscation as the norm. For Christians, Gospel values provide us with the norms for living and the Gospel is revolutionary. Jesus says of himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Following Jesus requires a wholehearted pursuit of truth in our personal and public lives.
Take some time and reflect on the place of truth in your life: Does personal or group bias cloud your vision causing you to see only your own advantage in a situation while blinding you to the needs of others who are different from you? Do you avoid truth through denial, suppression of painful emotions, busyness, and overconsumption? Or are you emotionally honest and willing to acknowledge the truth of a situation, even when it is painful? Are you willing to act on the truth and live with integrity? As Jesus states, “the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).
"Act of Faith Hope Love Collage" by Art4TheGlryOfGod is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
When we look at the horrific sufferings in the world caused by war, poverty, various forms of oppression and ecological devastation we may ask, “What will it take to bring world suffering to an end?”
The Sufi tell a story:
Past the seeker, as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them the holy one went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”
And out of the long silence, God said, “I did do something about them. I made you.”*
As we begin the New Year, this is exactly what we need to hear. We are the ones to bring God’s love to this world here and now. This is what the Incarnation is all about. God becoming flesh refers not only to the full humanity of Jesus but to the whole of humanity embraced by God. As the great patristic theologians declared, God became human so that humanity could become like God. Saint Paul loved to refer to the first Christian community as the “Body of Christ,” called to continue the mission of Christ in the world. As “other Christs” we are to use our gifts and talents to bring God’s love, justice, and peace to the human community and the entire earth. How are you being called to make a small contribution on a daily basis to bring the world’s suffering to an end?
*Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning (New York: Bantam Books, 1993, Kindle edition), Kindle location 1549.
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Get out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes, because DISCO is here!
Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a new video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!