Preaching


The OP after our names stands for “Order of Preachers,” the formal name of the religious order founded in 1216 by St. Dominic. As Dominicans, we preach with our lives—in both word and deed—guided by a search for truth (veritas) and a commitment to contemplate and share the fruits of our contemplation (contemplate et aliis tradere). 

Our Dominican lives are shaped by the interconnecting movements of study, prayer, communal life, and ministry. 

Dominic so firmly believed in the importance of study to the preaching mission that he provided a rule of “dispensation” from other responsibilities in the event they interfered with study. We are women committed to study. Through prayer and contemplation we interiorize our learnings and enter into communion with the Source of all truth. Our communal life orients us to the common good of the whole Earth community. And in ministry, our preaching takes effect.

As women of the Gospel, our preaching is also expressed in word. Read reflections on the Word of God posted by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates on the Praedicare Blog below.

 


Adrian Dominican Sisters General Chapter 2022, Day 5
Preaching by Sister Cheryl Liske, OP

Friday, July 1, 2022 - St. Junipero Serra
Amos 8:4-6, 9-12
Psalm 119: 2, 10, 20, 30, 40, 131
Matthew 9:9-13

Sister Cheryl Liske, OP

Good Moring, I am Cheryl Liske and I usually describe myself as a community organizer – but honestly the community organizer in this place is Xiomara Méndez-Hernández. Think about it, how many of you here were recruited into something this week by Xiomara? See, there you have it, Xiomara is the organizer. Organizers recruit people into things they have no business doing and then introduce a little tension into the job just to make it more interesting.

So just before Chapter started, I got a text or an email or something from Xiomara, asking if I would do that part in the Opening – you know the acknowledgement of the land and the native peoples the part that was personal – the part where my own great, great, grand-parents homesteaded on land stolen via broken treaties from the Odawa tribe. Remember that?

And of course, she had already asked me to do this homily – to which I rather glibly said yes, then ignored the task until the very last minute. Then I opened my missalette and – boom, it hits me – on Sunday I would confess my family’s complicity in the theft of the land from the native peoples and then – on Friday I get the honor of preaching on the feast day of St. Junipero Serra – a person who couldn’t be more controversial in regards to his treatment of the indigenousness people. Really Xiomara? Sara Fairbanks gets Saints Peter and Paul and I get St. Junipero Serra? Talk about tension.

I spent the last six months of my life on a team writing an enactment expressing outrage at the evil of racism and white supremacy which is the very underpinning of colonialism – and I get St. Junipero Serra?

I would rather have had Amos of our first reading as the "holy hero" of the day. Now there’s a guy I can relate to. As he is being thrown out of the kingdom, he turns back, fist raised and proclaims – "Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!"

Ha ha – listen up you colonialists!

Amos is railing against the "extraction society" of the Northern Kingdom who seem to have conveniently forgotten God’s word that protects the widow and the orphan and calls for just relationships with one another and Earth community. The laws of God are ignored and in this "extraction society" the rich get richer and the poor get poorer – by design. Not only is the sabbath violated by endless commerce but the scales are fixed and there are rocks in the measuring containers. Even the waste on the threshing floor is sold to the poor for a profit.

Amos has got some good old outrage going – and why not – he’s got the big guy on this side as his avenging angel. Our first reading goes on:

On that day, says the Lord GOD,
I will make the sun set at midday
and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning
and all your songs into lamentations.

Ok – now I am feeling better – here is someone that matches my rage with all the "extraction societies" of the world – and he isn’t done yet – there are consequence in the offing:

Then shall they wander from sea to sea
and rove from the north to the east
In search of the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it..

But they shall not find it.

Seekers not finding. Is there anything more tragic than seekers not finding?

What would Jesus do?

Eneida and Carol Gross reminded us in Tuesday’s homily that the 8th Chapter of Matthew has many surprises.

And darn it, just as I was working up to a good outrage with some good consequences, along comes Jesus and one of the many surprises. And here it is right in the beginning of our Gospel reading:

As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."

Matthew sounds so innocent, doesn’t he – "sitting at the customs post." Like he’s just sitting there taking in the afternoon sun watching the world go by. Not a chance. Matthew is an important cog in the "extraction society" of Jesus' own day. Matthew is a tax collector and whether he has weighted scales or fraudulent books his job is to assure the rich get richer and the poor keep paying through the nose – until death.

Does Rabbi Jesus call him out? Does Rabbi Jesus express some righteous indignation, like my holy hero Amos might like to do? Like the Pharisees want him to do? Like I would have him do, like maybe many of us might want him to do?

No. Surprise, surprise. Rabbi Jesus, our teacher, addresses Matthew directly and invites Matthew to follow him.

Our Keynote speaker, Valerie Kaur in her book See No Stranger and in her message to us, gave us that compass for revolutionary love that moves through various stages of seeing no stranger in ourselves, in the other, and in our opponents. (She refuses to use the term "enemy" but I’m not there yet.) The stages of development in the "opponent" wedge of the graph begins with rage, moves through listening and reimagining and finally to "tend the wound." Tend the wound.

And what does Jesus say when the Pharisees follow him to Matthew’s house and are over-heard grumbling about the company Jesus is keeping?

Matthew, our Gospel writer, relates that Rabbi Jesus, our master of surprises, tells them, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do." In other words – tend the wound.

Tend the wound.

It turns out there might be something more tragic than "seekers not finding?" it just might be when preachers and holy heroes are so in love with outrage, they forget that the goal is revolutionary love, of inviting everyone into the Word of God which is love.

Tend the wound.

What am I to do with Junipero Serra now? Deny the controversy? I think not. Serra was wounded and caused many wounds that reverberate to this day.

In community organizing and Catholic thought there are three stages to tending to the wound.

  1. Confession – look squarely at the real world, name the evil and the good.
  2. Repent – apologize, face to face – as our Prioress Pat Siemen did with Ojibwa Elder Jody Roy at the beginning of our time together.
  3. Make reparations – this implies a cost. A cost perhaps in loss of venerated statues or elevated status.

From the example of Rabbi Jesus, I think we need to add a fourth step:  Never cease to invite people, all people, to follow Rabbi Jesus; never cease to invite people, all people, into the Word of life; never cease to invite people, all people, into revolutionary love.

Tend the wound.

 


Adrian Dominican Sisters General Chapter 2022, Day 4
Preaching by Sister M. Ruby Lumanlan, OP

Thursday, June 30, 2022
Matthew 9:1-8

Sister M. Ruby Lumanlan, OP

Every day we hope to announce the Good News, the good news of grace and faith that works in us because of Jehovah Rapha – the Lord who heals.

Just to make a “throwback,” two years ago COVID-19 had been declared as global pandemic and up until now had taken control our lives and hopes. The crisis was urgent and we felt worried and powerless.

As a Congregation we were not spared. We became vulnerable but open to the promptings of the Spirit. Our prayers, relationships, and the technology within our midst were the first point of actions – our refuge.

To the entire General Chapter Planning Committee, congratulations for your leadership, which brings us to this critical time in the Congregation’s Chapters of Affairs and Elections. With their planning and preparation, we are called to take the transformative change that will lead us into the future.

We know that the General Chapter was postponed but not totally hindered, because we turn our obstacles into opportunities and our problems into possibilities. We assemble in gratitude, we the 125 delegates. Everything happened for a reason: we wait on God and trust in Him in setting our Congregational direction and leadership.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gradually reveals His authority over everything. He is a merciful God who has the power to forgive and a great healer who is willing to make us well again in all our situations.

We see the glory of Christ’s forgiving grace clearly when we understand what is it that sin does to us, and what it is to have it taken away and be forgiven. The paralyzed man and his friends are hopeful, they anticipate, they expect, they look forward to something; Jesus has plans for them and even gave them goals to fulfill, to have a sense of confidence and assurance.

We are like the Christ candle: When the spiral is burned out and the center wick is lighted, we get to the core that will take us into the future – we are transformed. The paralytic represents the universal need for God’s forgiveness. We need to allow divine forgiveness to flow through us.

In the Awakening Circles, we centered our hearts and made contemplative conversation. We learned to become good stewards to take care of Earth, our common home. We learned to be more sensitive, to deepen our relationships to all creation and to be risk takers when challenges abound.

When Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take heart, stand up, go home!” He allowed forgiveness to heal us, to allow contact with Him, to restore our sanity, and to know that everywhere on the Earth is our home because He is an omnipotent God. He frees us from what binds us, He gives us wholeness and puts us back into a right relationship with Him and with humanity.

During sessions, I was glad whenever Facilitator Donna Fyffe asked us to confirm our vote by raising our right hand and using one of the three cue cards: green (yes), red (no), and yellow (abstain) whenever we made changes, reviewed and affirmed our Constitution and Statutes, and approved our Election Plan and Enactments. After critical and impassioned deliberations, we came up with a successful result. As a majority voted, we interpreted that it passed the quality test. When we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God of deliverance is able to save and rescue us.

Jesus rewards every single effort that we make to come to His presence. Remember, He is inclusive and just.

The Gospel gives great coverage to the characters: The Paralytic, who was the sick person carried by his friends from the housetop down to Jesus, just to be healed. The Friends of the Paralytic who became the point of contact for the Paralytic to be healed. The Spiritual Leaders who do not believe in Him, who even said that He is blaspheming when He declared forgiveness to the Paralytic. They are those who do not have faith in Him, who always preferred reasoning rather than believing. The Crowd who glorified Him when they witnessed His healing power.

At this time, do you consider your faith as evidence that you believe? As you imagine being in the crowd, are you a believer or are you there to test Jesus? Do you believe? Do you really believe in Him?

In this Gospel there are no throw-away miracles, nor throw-away cultures. If we believe in His work He always has a key teaching for us to learn and be renewed.

Jesus’ authority is full of mercy and compassion. His judgments are true. Indeed, His messages and words are loaded with awakening, healing, and openness to finding ways to right direction.

As we elect our Congregational leaders, we encounter the question, "Do the type of leaders we will choose carry the leadership of Christ?"

Jesus is the most effective leader of all time because He led His team to become servant leaders. He unifies, He envisions, He inspires, He empowers, He thinks creatively, and He strives for perfection.

As we continue to thread the path of our Dominican Life into the future, we continue to shift our awareness and consciousness by experiencing all that is holy, and by experiencing all as one.

On this awakening journey, it doesn’t matter how many times we fall down to reach our dreams. What matters is how many times we get up for the greater glory of God, always choosing to be faithful to our calling.


Adrian Dominican Sisters General Chapter 2022, Day 3
Preaching by Sara Fairbanks, OP

Wednesday, June 29, 2022 - Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP

Helen Keller once said, “The bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn.” As we have been deliberating over our enactments, we are well aware of the many challenges facing our Church and world. In recent years, many Church leaders have pushed back against Vatican II and the spirit of reform that held out hope for the ordination of women and married men in a discipleship of equals. Clerical abuse of power has runs rampant, Church membership is in steep decline, and the future of vowed Dominican life is uncertain. Likewise, our world seems to be careening down a road toward a calamitous end, accelerated by greed and economic inequality, racial, ethnic, and sexist injustices at every turn, attacks on democracy, gun violence, war, and ecological disaster leading to mass suffering and extinction. Is this a bend in the road or the end of the road? How will we ever make the turn in the road that leads to new life where the love of God and the love of neighbor as self is our deepest identity and our purpose in mission?

On this feast day of St. Peter and St. Paul, we as Church celebrate two saintly figures, who themselves lived in a perilous world under the military dictatorship of Imperial Rome, whose ruthless exploitation squelched their nation’s livelihood. Working to keeping hope alive in the Risen Christ, Peter and Paul exemplify a faith response guided by the Holy Spirit that, although long past, touches our present and gives direction and meaning to our future as we attempt to navigate successfully the turn in the road toward a Church and world made new by the radical love of the living God.

While Peter and Paul have different stories to tell, both proclaimed the Risen Christ and his way of life. They spoke boldly of his imminent return when he would restore and renew Israel for the inbreaking of God’s reign of love, justice and peace. In the company of many missionary co-workers, both women and men, Peter and Paul encountered an unexpected and treacherous bend in the road, when the majority of Israel refused to believe their preaching, but instead met them with violent persecution, floggings, imprisonment, and even death.

Through prayer, perseverance, and community they embraced the dark night of their struggle, and in those depths discovered that the Living Christ was doing something new. The Holy Spirit, was enkindling a new fire of faith among the Gentiles, turning their hearts to Christ and his message of God’s unconditional love for all people. The Spirit of Christ was giving birth to the Church. Peter and Paul simply let go and let God! They obediently followed the Spirit’s guide to expand the circle of who belongs as valued members of the body of Christ.

Likewise, Paul refuses to set up a road block to the Gentiles by forcing them to conform to Jewish laws and traditions in order to follow Christ. He reminds the Galatians that the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. He goes on to explain that in Christ Jesus we "see no stranger." Paul writes, "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3: 27-28).

Peter and Paul well exemplify the all-inclusive, revolutionary love that we heard Sikh American activist Valerie Kaur describe. She says, "Revolutionary love is demanding labor, but it is also creative, transformative and joyful labor—immeasurably complex and messy, tumultuous and revelatory, marked by wonder, and worth it. Revolutionary love is how we last." Through our enactments we set our agenda to do the work of revolutionary love that seeks collaboration with an ever-expanding circle of partners in mission (including the worms!) that excludes no one from our circle of care. The bend in the road is not the end of the road, if together hand in hand, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we recommit ourselves to "seek truth; make peace; reverence life."


Adrian Dominican Sisters General Chapter 2022, Day 2
Homily Written by Carol Gross, OP,
Preached by Eneida Santiago, OP

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Matthew 8:23-27

Sister Carol Gross, OP Sister Maria Eneida Santiago, OP
Sister Carol Gross, OP Sister Eneida Santiago, OP

Did you notice that the Gospel today just happens to center on “awakening”? We have been praying for this very thing for more than a year as we prepared for chapter. The disciples frightened by the storm cried out to Jesus to awaken. When He did, the first thing Jesus attended to was their fear of death. “Why are you terrified, o you of little faith?” Then He tended to the storm.

What did the disciples think Jesus was going to do to save them? Did they want Him to help them bail water or reset their course? Jesus was in danger too so did they want Him to save Himself or just share their fear? Obviously, they did not expect something so dramatic as the immediate calming of the wind and sea. This example of climate change was a little too much for them. They were incredulous. Chapter 8 of Matthew’s Gospel is full of surprises as Jesus reveals himself.

Who is this Jesus? The historical Jesus of the Scriptures manifests how God works in our lives. We don´t know how God will act when we pray as we face change or death. Probably not the way we expected. When we want to go around, we are called to go through. When we want God to stop the pain, we are given the strength to persevere. When we want peace and tranquility, we are given acceptance of the storm and shown how to be at peace in the midst of it. So we pray with faith and are often amazed at what God does, as together and awake, we face the winds and seas of our lives.

As a spiritual director I often am a little bit amused – and a little bit concerned – when faithful, holy people come to an eight-day retreat and tell me that they want to grow in confidence in God. Most often they struggle through at least five days with aridity, difficulty praying and unexpected temptations. What they thought was going to be a peaceful, blessed time basking in God´s presence has turned into a struggle to be faithful. On the last or second to last day, they come to the realization that they have grown in confidence in God through their struggles. They are sure God was there sustaining them through it all. How else can a human being know what God knows except through being awakened through testing.

We are here in General Chapter amid so many storms that seem to swamp the boat of our congregation, our church, and our world, not to mention our personal struggles. We try to shake God awake with our prayers, study and sharing. And when we do awake God´s magnificent power, what will God do? Or what will we discover that God has already done? Let us be prepared to be amazed at how our prayers are answered.

We continue to celebrate in this Mass the all-loving and all-powerful God who rules the wind and seas, the sun and the rain, and best of all who can transform human hearts. We pray together now as we have through our months of preparation for chapter, “awaken us to love.”

 


Adrian Dominican Sisters General Chapter 2022, Day 1
Preaching by Xiomara Méndez Hernández OP

Monday, June 27, 2022 - Mass of the Holy Spirit
Acts 2:1-11
Luke 4:14-21

Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP

We finally made it here! Are we awakened yet?

We came by bus, by plane, by car, by train, and many join in spirit. We are the survivors of a very long COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first General Chapter which the planning committee has never met in person until now. We all have conducted most of our encuentros by Zoom. And now, we are the 125 who made it here. We are the chosen ones.

As a Congregation, we have been preparing for the last two years for this day. And our sisters have trusted that our collective wisdom will set the tone on how we will live and move into the next six years.

Our theme song reminds us: “We are searching for a new beginning” … where we are call together to be awakened for transformation to happen. Are we ready? Are we awakened yet? Are we ready to give birth to our vision? Do we really want to be transformed?

In the first reading, we heard that when the time of Pentecost was fulfilled, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

On that day everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit and their hearts were afire!

Pentecost is known as the birth of the first Christian community, a community based on Jesus’ teaching who urged them to love one another and to care for each other. Thus Pentecost was also the birth of the first beloved community.

In this room, on this Holy ground, we too are living our own Pentecost, here and now: We are “all gathered in one place” as a community; we are already “speaking in different tongues,” and we can understand one another simultaneously, thanks to our interpreters. Pentecost is fulfilled.

The Holy Spirit – Sophia – is upon us and within us. And I hope and pray that during this General Chapter our hearts are set afire!

This preaching has a communal dimension as I invited a diverse group of sisters to unite our voices for a common message that carries our hopes and dreams.

A Filipino sister offered the following: “The Spirit of God gathers us here, this is a time for us to be renewed, re-awakened and re-connected after two years of the Pandemic. There is so much to be grateful for, as we face significant changes and challenges as well.”

A sister in Adrian reminded us that we will get through this together.

Another sister reflected: “We have to continually strive to strengthen God’s spirit in our religious life, in our support for each other, and in our service to the people entrusted to our care.”

The group of the Dominican Republic shared: Start small again.

How it will be? It depends again on us.

Let us remember those four women in the Port of New York: an example of lots of faith, and a lot of Hope.

Let's keep the vision, we will be less, and the impulse will come from here as we are called to have courage to start over.

The opening paragraph of our constitution reads:

“Throughout human history
       God has given love unconditionally to all people, 
       love that is made manifest
       in different ways and at different times.
God’s love is expressed fully
       in the person the person of Jesus Christ,
       who is the incarnation of that universal love
       for all people.”

I would like to share my dream for us. And my dream is that before we leave this room, this Holy Ground, before we go out to preach, and announce and denounce, we form a strong beloved community for the sake of our Adrian Dominican legacy and the Mission. I dream that in every conversation we have here, every voice is heard, honored and respected. I dream that no one feels invisible, excluded, or dismissed. That we re-commit to one another by creating a place at the table for everyone. I dream that each one of us will be humble enough to recognize our own implicit biases, so that we don’t impose our truth over the other Sister.

For this I pray to the Holy Spirit – Sophia – who is upon us and within us.

I believe that the spirits of our Sisters who have gone before us are also here with us. Praying in communion with us. May they be our midwives at this time. Reminding us to keep breathing and pushing. So we can give birth to what is next for us all.

I also hope that we claim the Gospel promise like Jesus did by saying: 

“El Espíritu de Dios está sobre nosotras,
       y nos ha ungido
       para anunciar buenas nuevas a los pobres,
nos ha enviado a proclamar libertad a los cautivos,
       dar vista a los ciegos,
a poner en libertad a los oprimidos”

“Sumasaakin ang Espiritu ng Panginoon,
       sapagkat hinirang niya ako upang ipangaral ang mabuting balita sa mga dukha.
Isinugo niya ako upang ipahayag sa mga bihag ang paglaya
       at sa mga bulag na sila'y makakita
upang bigyang-laya ang mga inaapi,
       at ipahayag ang pinapagpalang taon ng Panginoon.”

“The Spirit of the God is upon us,
       because she has anointed us
       to proclaim good news to the poor.
She has sent us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners,
       recovery of sight for the blind,
and to set the oppressed free.”

As I close my reflection, I want to share the Dominican blessing in light of our awakening

May God give us eyes to see no strangers
Ears to hear and listen deeply
And hands to do the work of God
Feet to walk our talk
And a mouth to preach while seeking truth, making peace and reverencing every form of life. 

Are we AWAKENING to love?
 


Pentecost Sunday with Reaffirmation of Vows for Elisabeth Nguyen, OP
Preaching by Sister Patricia Harvat, OP

June 5, 2022

Sister Patty Harvat, OP

The Gospel narratives were written upon the historical memory of the times. Luke in particular would weave into the evangelical story the reality of what was happening historically at the time, whether it was the story of the Incarnation or the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. So today for our reflection I would like to frame it around the historical memory of St. Dominic and Elisabeth and the reality of reaffirming one’s religious vows.

 It was on Pentecost Sunday, May 14, 1217, when St. Dominic convened a Chapter at the Church of St. Romain in Toulouse and announced, small as they were in number, he was sending the friars out into the world. Make no mistake, Dominic was imbued with the fire of the Holy Spirit to send the friars out to praise, to bless and to preach the Word that embodied the Holy Spirit. Just as the disciples were gathered in the upper room the Dominican friars were gathered in the upper room in Toulouse and Dominic unlocked the doors for the Holy Spirit to lead them into new adventures.

For Elisabeth the call from her upper room in Vietnam to America happened in 1967. Catholic Chaplain Angelo Charles Liteky, stationed at the army base in Long Binh, contacted his elementary teacher Sister Matthew Ann living in Adrian to ask if there were four scholarships available for four Vietnamese Dominicans to study. Elisabeth was one of those sisters. As the Holy Spirit led Elisabeth from her upper room she wrote, “I had never been out of the country before and to go abroad for school, that sounded so foreign to me.”

August 28, 1968 the four sisters departed for Adrian, Michigan. Sister Rosemary Ferguson and her Council and the sisters welcomed the Vietnamese Dominicans with much joy and enthusiasm. They joined the junior professed sisters living at Weber under the supervision of Shirley Cushing. They lived, prayed and studied with the Mary Mother of Faith Crowd, of which Sister Pat Siemen was a member, and interfaced with the Mary Mother of Hope Crowd, which was my crowd while the sisters studied at Siena.

April 30 of 1975 the South Vietnamese government collapsed and 135,000 refugees were brought to the U.S. Elisabeth’s family was part of that group. This is when Elisabeth’s work of resettling the Vietnamese and other refugees from all over the world brought her to this upper room for many years. The Spirit moved in Elisabeth’s heart to become an Associate and her life continued to be lived beside us.

How appropriate that at our Encuentro gathering of three years ago, Shirley Cushing led Elisabeth over to greet Pat Siemen and Pat asked Elisabeth, “When are you going to come home?” The Holy Spirit took hold of Elisabeth in this upper room of nearly 50 years unlocking the doors for her to reaffirm her vows with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

The words of the song Gift of Love that Elisabeth chose for our mass today expresses the significance of the vows Elisabeth will profess:  “Where the ancient days, you had chosen me as your torch of light and love throughout the world. What return could I make with my life O God, may I love as you have loved.”

Thank you, Elisabeth, for “coming home” and for unlocking the doors of our upper room, where we gather, huddled together with all of our emotions in these troubled times, waiting for the Advocate. 

Thank you for reminding us of our own love story and to fall in love again with the God of light, fire and warmth, our Comforter who alone is our inheritance and joy and to enable us to believe in the amazing things that await us beyond these locked doors!

 


Easter Sunday 2022
Preaching by Sister Carol Johannes, OP

April 17, 2022
Acts 10:34a,37-43
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-9

Sister Carol Johannes, OP

Together we celebrate this day which has changed everything, for Jesus and for us! As for Jesus, the resurrection is the complete fulfillment of his humanity. The Jesus of history has truly become the Christ of faith, the Cosmic Christ, who includes the whole sweep of creation and history joined with him, and us too.

As for us, we have learned that we are members both of the Body of Christ and the Cosmic Christ. Contemporary theologians remind us that all of us take part in the evolving, universe-spanning Christ Mystery. In preparing for Chapter, we’ve been asking God for months to “awaken us to love,” as we strive to do our part to co-create the future; to make our contribution to a universe in evolution, always birthing love into greater unity, in the manner of Jesus of Nazareth.

When we describe the mystery in these terms, we can easily be tempted to think of the resurrection experience of the followers of Jesus as a time of wild exaltation and triumph. Yet today’s gospel describes it as a staggering challenge that confronted the disciples upon their discovery of the empty tomb. Imagine Mary Magdalene approaching the tomb. We’re not told for sure, but she may have been intent upon ever so gently and tenderly anointing the body of Jesus, only to find it gone! What must have been her very visceral experience of this? I’m sure her heart began to race and her body tremble with confusion and terror, as she set out running breathlessly to inform Peter and “the other disciple’ whom we assume is John. Must she not have felt robbed of the opportunity to show her love one more time? Must she not have asked herself, why this last horror? Wasn’t it enough that the Romans executed her Master with consummate cruelty? And now this?

When Peter and John receive her message, they too set out running. This passage is filled with small details that bring it to life for us, from John‘s deference to Peter, waiting for him to enter first, to the description of the burial cloths, rolled up in one instance and folded carefully in the other. Have you ever wondered who did this? Might it have been the angels? Or did Jesus do it himself? Not that it matters; it’s just a little homely detail.

Finally we have the assertion that both the disciples entered the tomb, but the beloved disciple ‘saw and believed.’ What an incredible moment this must have been for him, and how his faith has nurtured ours for centuries.

We all know the old maxim, “Seeing is believing.” But we also know that it isn’t necessarily true. Jesus knew this well, since throughout his public life, his preaching, his healing miracles, and even his raising the dead to life bore witness that he was truly the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Yet his opponents dismissed all of this and were without faith. This must have been not only sad, but incomprehensible to Jesus, as today it’s sad and incomprehensible to us, as we observe so many people confronted with proven facts who simply refuse to accept them as true.

But the beloved disciple “saw and believed,” and through his belief and that of the earliest disciples of Jesus, the faith has been transmitted to us, so that we, without seeing, believe. Next we’re told, in a very flat, unadorned statement, “Then the disciples returned home.“ It can feel a little anti-climactic.

But the story goes on, and we know of one person who did not return home. She remained in the garden weeping. As she wept, Mary Magdalen met a stranger, and when called by name, she recognized him in what may have been a record of the most ecstatic moment in salvation history. She probably would have loved to stay at the feet of Jesus pouring out her love for him forever, as any of us would have, and it may have been a little disconcerting to her to be charged with a mission and sent away immediately. However, Jesus entrusted her with the best news that appears on any of the pages of Scripture, or anywhere else, for that matter: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead; life has triumphed over death, good over evil, joy over sorrow, and God’s new creation has begun!

This is what we believe. But sadly, it’s not what we experience right now. We need not enumerate all the terrible choices made, all the horrendous violence and injustice drenching the world in pain, to realize that we identify more with Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem than his rising in triumph from the grave. We sing “Alleluias” yet may feel more at home with laments.

Yet we cling to hope. Our deepest conviction is that the resurrection is real; God’s reign has begun, and some day it will be fully realized because Jesus is risen and alive among us in his Holy Spirit. This is what we hold to be true; this is the truth we are called to preach, in season and out of season.

Poet Irene Zimmerman describes Easter hope ever so briefly this way:

Death, that
old snake
skin, lies
discarded at
the garden-gate.*

And so it does. Years ago, in my studies at Weston, we took a wonderful class in Christology from a German Jesuit named Joseph Sudbrack. Because his first language was German, his attempts at English were often amusing and sometimes really dear. And he would often assert, “We will always, always have hope, because Jesus stood up from the dead!”

Perhaps to engender and sustain our hope, we might do well today to listen to the message of one of our minor prophets of hope, the prophet Habakkuk. In Chapter two, God speaks:

Write down the vision …
For it is a witness for the appointed time,
a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint.
If it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come,
it will not be late.

(Habakkuk 2:2b-3)

Some verses later, the prophet describes hope in agrarian terms, but it’s our hope, hope that is to endure, no matter what:

For though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit appears on the vine,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the terraces produce no nourishment,
Though the flocks disappear from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord
and exult in my saving God.
God, my Lord, is my strength;
God makes my feet swift as those of deer
and enables me to tread upon the heights.

(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Indeed, “We will always, always have hope, because Jesus stood up from the dead!”

 


*“Resurrection” from Incarnation: New and Selected Poems for Spiritual Reflection by Irene Zimmerman (Cowley Publications, 2007).


Holy Saturday 2022
Preaching by Sister Patricia Harvat, OP

April 16, 2022

Sister Patty Harvat, OP

Holy Saturday is the in-between time of our lives. Similar to burying a loved one, there’s the reality of death and the truth of the Resurrection and the silence in between those two realities – the days, weeks, months and years.

The Gospel of Luke reveals the women disciples living like us in that time of silence where one’s life continues – goes on – never in the same way, but it goes on. After hearing the message of the angel, “they hurried away from the tomb, confused and half fearful” until, as we will hear in the next Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus stood before them and said “peace.” The silence is ended.

This narrative memory lives on in us. But we stand in a different place this day than any other time as we hear this story. The land we stand on in front of the empty tomb is dry, cracked, clay-like. It is as hard as racism, violence, a pandemic, and the destruction of war. It is a parched, thirsty land that has no voice. Martin Carter, a poet of the Caribbean best known for his poems of protest, resistance and revolution, expresses well our narrative memory of the resurrection today when he wrote:

I bent down
listening to the land
and all I heard was tongueless whispering
as if some buried slave wanted to speak again.*

This Holy Saturday Christ’s wounds are imprinted in us with each step we take toward the tomb. These are not romantic stories we step upon. Our steps are upon the heart-breaking memories that cry out in lament of the broken body of Christ.

We stand with Anastasha Shevchenko outside of her shell of an apartment building listening to her say, “I hear the bombs. I hear the windows breaking. What is left for me to do?”

We stand with Leticia, an African American high school student preacher who paraphrases the words of Martin Luther King and says to us, “In the end I will remember not the words of my enemies, but the silence of my friends.”

We stand with Katherine Beebe from Texas who writes, “My mother passed away in June 2021. My family endured furloughs, and contracting Covid. I didn’t think I would enter my senior year of high school motherless. I’ll miss not being able to tell her about my first date, her helping me pick out a dress for prom or waving goodbye as I leave for college. How will I know how to get stubborn stains out of my clothes? I’m scared. How will I get through the rest of my life without her?”

This is the tomb we peer into with the women of Galilee and it is our faith that takes us beyond the finality of a cold, lifeless tomb. Our faith reassures us we can go on – that from that dry clump of clay and dirt, blocks of stone, new life has appeared – in the smallness of flowers of compassion, understanding, love, wisdom and friendship.

Like those women, we too will retrace our steps back to our brothers and sisters in our world …the Anastashas, the Leticias and the Katherines who wait for us in hope of a different life because we have seen and believe in Jesus resurrected, awakening us to love, transforming us for the good.

 


*From "Listening to the Land," in Poems of Succession, 1977 New Beacon Books.


Good Friday 2022
Preaching by Sister Joan Delaplane, OP

April 15, 2022

Sister Joan Delaplane, OP

We have just listened once again to the Greatest Love Story ever told, with an “ending” that is a beginning and is on-going. “The Scriptures do not give us words to explain away pain and death,” says Thomas Reese, “rather, they give us the Son of God who is willing to descend into the trenches and suffer and die with us.”

We recall in Luke’s account of the temptations of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” Calvary must have seemed that “opportune time” as those around the cross cried out: “If you are the Son of God, save yourself!” Once again, Jesus remained steadfast in LOVE. As Richard Rohr put it: “The cross is not the price that Jesus had to pay to convince God to love us. It was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with the pain of the world.”

And it is that pain of the world, seen on our TVs each evening. that we witness the Body of Christ being Crucified. As rarely before in the lifetime of most of us, have we had to face such depth of pain and agony, trauma really, in our personal lives, our family, congregation, nation, and, yes, Ukraine, and the world. Pain on so many different levels.

No matter what we suffer or with whom we suffer, Jesus the Christ is in solidarity not only for us but with us. I have found that when I am in pain or suffering, I am inclined to get very self-preoccupied, self-absorbed. Jesus, however, in his incomprehensible suffering, continued to be loving and caring about others. He cries out: “Abba, forgive them. They know not what they do.” He shows concern for his mother. He assures a thief that he doesn’t have to steal heaven; he’s already assured a place in the Kingdom.

And Jesus can finally say of his mission: “It is finished! He bows his head and hands over his spirit.” He has fulfilled his mission of witnessing through his life and death God’s Infinite Love, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion for all creatures and creation. Nothing – not the deepest suffering of a heart wound by the betrayal of a dear friend, injustice, false accusations even by religious leaders, physical torture, or seeming abandonment by his God – nothing could overpower his trust and steadfast love for his Abba and all Abba loves, including you and me.

A few years ago, Ireland sponsored a contest for the best thirty-word short story. This won first place:

“Welcome home, Son.”
“Hello, Father.”
“It is good to see you.”
“It was hard. Hard as nails. Hard as wood.”
“I know. What was the hardest?”
“The kiss, Father, the kiss.” (long pause)
“Yes. Come in and let me hold you.”

(quoted by Megan McKenna in Lent: The Daily Readings)

Thank you, Incarnate Word of Love. Grant us each the grace to endure in love and in trust, no matter what, until “it is finished” in each of our lives. Amen.

 


Holy Thursday 2022
Preaching by Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP

April 14, 2022

Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP

This evening as we celebrate Holy Thursday, we recall the final meal that Jesus had with his friends before his crucifixion. This is implied rather than explicitly mentioned. There is no actual breaking of bread and pouring of wine in John’s gospel. What we do have is Jesus washing the feet of his closest friends.

I would like to reflect on this intimate gesture from two perspectives: First, from the perspective of receiving love and being served; second, from the perspective of giving love and serving others.

Receiving Love and Being Served

As we heard in Tuesday’s gospel reading from John 13, Jesus knows Judas will betray him and that in the coming hours each one of his closest friends will fail him. And so, Jesus is not surprised when Peter first refuses to have his feet washed. Peter is bewildered, unprepared to receive this generous act of love.

He may have been out of his comfort zone to accept such a powerful expression of Jesus’ love for him. Like Peter, the disciples feel unworthy of Jesus’ unconditional love, but it is not theirs to deserve. Despite their shortfalls and inadequacies, Jesus freely gives them the gift of his love.

The only time we usually let someone else wash our feet is when we can’t do it ourselves: we’re too young, too old, or too sick. To wash another person’s feet is a very intimate act. In her poem “God in an Apron,” Macrina Wiederkehr describes Jesus’ actions with these words:

…He touched my feet
He held them in his strong brown hands
He washed them.

I can still feel the water
I can still feel the touch of his hands
I can still see the look in his eyes.

Many people are not comfortable with this degree of intimacy with another person, or do not feel “good enough” to have others show them this much love. We often are accustomed to seeing the face of Jesus in others that we serve, but it is difficult sometimes to see Jesus’s face in those who wish to serve us. We need to be open to receive Jesus’ love through the hands, and feet, and hearts of others. They have been called by Jesus to be servant, to be Jesus for us.

Giving Love and Serving Others

Holy Thursday has deep roots in selflessness, a call to service and putting the interest of others first. As scripture often does, John’s words invite us to go deeper into the spiritual quest that is ours.

In her poem Macrina continues her reflection of Jesus’s actions with these words:

…He then handed me the towel and said,
“As I have done so you must do.”

Let your tenderness encircle everyone you meet.
Wash their feet
Not because you have to,
Because you want to.

As people of the Eucharist, you and I are called to be people of the basin and towel. Jesus hands us the apron, the towel and water basin. We are invited to emulate this Jesus through lives of loving service to others. We wash feet when we make a phone call to a friend. We wash feet when we smile at someone and wish him or her a bright “Good Morning.” We wash feet when we write to our Congressperson to support a proposed bill to enhance human welfare.

Bread and Wine, basin and towel. These symbols are at the very center of our identity as followers of Jesus. They are countercultural because they challenge the “Me First” thinking that often prevails in our society. They signify an approach to life different from the one that tells us to look after the needs of others only after we have taken care of our own needs.

Jesus asks us to love each other as he loves us. Love is not simply an emotion or feeling; it is a decision. Our love for each other calls to be seen and experienced practically and expressed through the quality and actions of our daily lives. When we love and serve each other, we do it in memory of Jesus.

On this first day of the Triduum, we recognize God’s unfailing gift of undeserved, unconditional, and unifying love for us. Let us ask for the grace to respond to God’s call to love and serve one another and to let others love and serve us. Let us do this in memory of Jesus.

 



 

LINKS

word.op.org - International Dominican Preaching Page

Catholic Women Preach - Featuring deep spirituality and insights from women

Preach With Your Life - Video series by Adrian Dominican Sisters

 


 

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