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Apr 26 19

Like a diamond in the sky

by davesandel

Like a diamond in the sky

Friday in the Octave of Easter, April 26, 2019

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

– From John 21

Simon could have gone anywhere, but he chose to visit his mom. Jesus had not been seen in over two weeks. The stories and even his own experiences, of Jesus’ reappearing after being buried, after being crucified, after being beaten and trapped by the Sanhedrin, after Peter’s own betrayal … those resurrection stories were wearing thin.

Simon felt like a little boy again. He walked in his old front door, saw his mother fixing dinner, and went straight to her and hugged her. She hugged him. They wept together. “Can’t you stay the night?” she said. Simon nodded yes.

She tucked him in, even though he was a very big man. He cried again and then again. “I need a Kleenex, Mama.”

“They haven’t been invented yet,” she said, and handed him a clean cloth. “Here, wipe your nose.”

She sang him a little song. “I’ll love you forever,” she said. “I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” She closed the curtain on his old bedroom. Simon’s stuffed animals were in bed with him, and his ragged blankee covered them up. Foxy and Bunny, and good old Furball, all sat there in silence while he talked to them. And finally, feeling a tiny bit better, Simon Peter fell asleep.

Something woke him happy in the morning. His dreams were not vivid and vicious like they had been. He helped his mom make bread. He washed some clothes, even some of hers. He rested in the afternoon, and with his mood still bright said goodbye. As night approached he found six of his friends.

“I am going fishing,” he told them. They worried about him; he had kept so much to himself. “We’ll come too,” they said. “Let’s go catch some fish.”

I think Jesus visited Simon in his sleepy boy dreams. He visited him when his mother prayed for her son. He visited him, and Simon caught his breath, smiled a little, and trusted God again. He was like his old self. Enthusiastic about everything, he jumped in the boat and said, “Come on!”

There’s a lot more to this story, you know. Those seven fishermen caught exactly zero fish that night. But as the sun rose they saw someone waving from the shore, asking about their catch.

“Try the other side of the boat!” the stranger shouted.

“Oh, sure,” they said, but cast the net out anyway. And immediately it filled with fish. Then Simon Peter jumped out of the boat and soaked himself leaping and laughing, swimming to Jesus, who was just getting a fire started. Together those eight friends cooked and ate a few of the marvelous, miraculous, Jesus-touched fish, and then Jesus and Peter had the Talk.

So much love in this story, right? Simon’s mom loves him, and he loves Jesus, and Jesus loves them both. Jesus loves all those friends, all night fishing in the boat. He loves us too. Sometimes he’ll help us catch fish, and eat them with us on the shore, fire burning, stars still shining in the sky, just before dawn.

This is your world, Lord Jesus, and to my listening ear, all nature sings and around me rings the music of the spheres. We are your children, no less than the birds and fishes, and whether or not it is clear to us, no doubt your universe is unfolding as it should. So I choose to be at peace with you, and thank you once again today for this beautiful world.

“Enthusiastic,” from the Greek “En-theos,” inspired or possessed by a God



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Apr 25 19

Forty five days

by davesandel

Forty five days

Thursday in the Octave of Easter, April 25, 2019

The crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John.

– From Acts 3

How thankful can a person be!

At the beginning of Lent our pastor preached about gratitude. He likened our experience in the human family to members of a 12 step group, and suggested that we can choose right now to be grateful every day.

So as of now, I’m forty-five days grateful! And the man crippled from birth and healed, I hope his days of gratitude never stopped.

Other than a few days after Jesus was arrested, Peter always had something to say. He spoke now, as the crowd gathered in amazement to celebrate with their friend, walking for the first time in his life. Peter really laid into them:

You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked that a murderer be released to you! The author of life, you put to death.

But God raised him from the dead.

There are many ways to look at this miracle. In the pre-Easter Austin Chronicle, I found a light-hearted take on Easter food events:

Whether you’re celebrating a certain someone’s reincarnation or just looking to get a little sloppy on a Sunday morning, we have a handful of Easter brunch offerings. Hit the carving station, sip a mimosa, and maybe lift your glasses to Jesus, if that’s your thing.

Then there’s G. K. Chesterton, quite often light-hearted but not about this:

(This is) the most monstrous, the most material, and therefore the most miraculous of miracles.  It is specially connected with the most startling sort of dogma, which the Modernist can least accept; the Resurrection of the Body.

But my favorite comes from John Updike, and his Easter morning poem written early in his writing life for a local Lutheran church festival (it won first prize):

Make no mistake: if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall …


Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the

faded credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

Right now in Austin the rain is coming down in sheets. A few minutes ago lightning struck so close, it exploded. Thunder broke down the doors (so to speak); I was sitting outside and jumped up and ran indoors. I love storms. This one scared me for just a second, and then I remembered how grateful I am for this thunder and lightning that I can see.

And grateful that what I CAN see and hear and feel and almost taste … sends me back to feel the screams of fear on Golgotha as dark-sky thunder marked the moment Jesus passed. And to the path the Marys took at dawn, to the unheard sound as the stone was rolled away, to the sight of beings, bright and not quite human sitting by the cave, to the gentle footfall of the gardener.

No, that is not the gardener. This is Jesus. Magnetic, miraculous, marvelous Jesus, risen from the dead.

Every day I’m grateful. Every day we’re invited to walk with him through the door.

Lord God how thankful can a person be? Make me more and more and more. I want to be fruitful, and multiply and be a good steward of all that you have for me.

Austin Chronicle, April 19, 2019, p. 37

G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas, The Dumb Ox, Chapter 1, “On Two Friars,” p. 12, 1933

John Updike, “Seven Stanzas on Easter,” 1960

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Apr 24 19

Intimate events

by davesandel

Intimate events

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter, April 24, 2019

On the road to Emmaus while he was with them at table, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished from their sight.

– From Luke 24

A man crippled from birth was carried to the gate of temple each day to beg for alms. When he saw Peter and John, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” He paid attention to them.

– From Acts 3

So what did Peter do? “Silver and gold have I none,” he said. “But such as I have, I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk!”

The man’s muscles had been atrophied and worthless, but they suddenly became strong. He had never learned how to walk, but now, within minutes he was “leaping and laughing and praising God.” Jesus Christ reappeared in power. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

For a day or two in California, I was homeless. I slept in a shelter and worried someone would steal my stuff. I guess everyone worries someone will steal their stuff. We saw several people today, at intersections of the endless Austin highway, holding signs, asking for help.

One of my best friends, an excellent musician, preferred playing on the street for tips to playing anywhere else. He always brought toy instruments to play for the kids, and for the kids to play. He had a long beard and a strange cap, and he had so much fun. When he did play the blues in bars, he wrote new verses about Jesus, which he sang in his gravelly voice to anyone who listened.

Roy Weece, campus minister at the University of Missouri, used to say that we’re all beggars, sharing our crusts of bread. Some of us have discovered Jesus, been touched, like poet John Blase, by “this defiant publisher of love, loosed upon our world.” For we who have been touched, like Peter and John, “such as we have, we give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ …”

Like the rest of us, my crippling disease from birth has been sin, perhaps less visible than wasted muscles, but far more vicious, tenacious, ugly. But this disease is daily healed, as I know Jesus and remember how to pray, trusting God with all my days.

This is the joy of my life and all this Easter week I celebrate. I rejoice with all the folks in those Bible stories, along with Henri Nouwen, who wrote once on a day just like today:

I heard you call Mary Magdalene by her name and heard how you called from the shore of the lake to your friends to throw out their nets. I also saw you entering the closed room where your disciples were gathered in fear. I saw you appearing on the mountain and at the outskirts of the village.

 How intimate these events really are. They are like special favors to dear friends. They were not done to impress or overwhelm anyone, but simply to show that your love is stronger than death.

 And as our friend Henri went on to pray,

O Lord, I know now that it is in silence, in a quiet moment, in a forgotten corner that you will meet me, call me by name and speak to me a word of peace. It is in my stillest hour that you become the risen Lord to me.

John, April 14, 2019

Henri Nouwen, written on Easter Sunday, April 15, 1979. Excerpt from A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, 1981

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Apr 23 19

Do not bury hope

by davesandel

Do not bury hope

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter, April 23, 2019

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the womb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

– From John 20

After awhile, I just can’t answer that question. What else is there to do? Tears just don’t stop. I don’t even remember quite why I’m crying. I’m just exhausted.

But Mary’s morning was about to be filled with joy. Her “tomb mentality,” as Pope Francis called it, was shattered by a single sound from the stranger, perhaps the gardener? He said, “Mary.”

Jesus cared for her. He smiled, called her by name, told her what was happening to him, and asked her to go and tell the others. Do something, Mary. You no longer need to weep.

The Easter season is longer than Lent. Suffering and death give way to the relentless joy of the risen Jesus. At Saturday’s Vigil, Pope Francis reminded all of us, himself included, that “Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside.”

See what wondrous love the Father has for us. Look up at the angels, look up at Jesus.

But there are many mirrors in my life. I look forward and I look back, and always there I am. As I see myself, I look again, and finally there is no one else to see. Whether in days of happiness or listless indifference, I’m alone.

This is not the way of God, not the way of Jesus.

“Do not bury hope!” the pope cried out. Emily Dickinson wrote, “We never know how high we are, till we are called to rise.” Francis continued:

The Lord calls us to get up, to rise at his word, to look up and to realize that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not for the depths of death. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

 Do not fear, then. The Lord loves your life! Let us raise our eyes to the risen Jesus. His gaze fills us with hope, for it tells us we are loved unfailingly, and that however much we make a mess of things, his love remains unchanged.

 I’ve walked many labyrinths. Some are large and some are small. On some I must take mincing steps to stay on the trail. Others invite me to step out and stretch my legs. They might be made of stone, or green grass, or gravel. A labyrinth invites me to relax and reflect on my current “mess of things.”

As I reach the center, there is God’s love waiting for me unchanged, unchanging. I track my way back out to the “real world,” and God’s love goes with me, on my shoulders, in my hair. Jesus steps along in front, sometimes looking back to smile.

How I love his eyes.

In these days of presence, Jesus, I want to be with you all the way, to see myself as you see me, and trust you to see me true. I’ll throw away my cracked and ancient pocket mirror, and jump for joy.

Gerard O’Connell, “Do Not Bury Hope,” from America Magazine, April 20, 2019

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Apr 22 19

Lessons learning

by davesandel

Lessons learning

Monday in the Octave of Easter, April 22, 2019

I saw the Lord before me. You have made known to me the paths of life.

– From Psalm 16 (referenced in Acts 2)

In the forty days till Jesus’ ascension he has much to teach his newly strengthened brothers. His disciples will soon be making disciples of their own. The healing of Jesus will be multiplied by 12 and 12 again. As yet they have no idea, but he did prepare them: “They will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

I watch Miles learning, for better or for worse, from whatever we do and say. And I think how I learned, too, and still do:

One. There is a vast difference between controlling someone and caring for them. I err on the control side every day, but sometimes I catch myself and remember what it means to care. Then I remember what to do. Then I do it. Mostly, that means letting my friend or family show me how, instead of getting ahead of them.

Two. Margaret says, “Look at me.” That way I’m more likely to be listening. And she says, “Use your words.” Actually, she says that to little kids, but I’m really not so old myself. My thoughts fill up my mind, need space, and I need to share them. Listen well, and speak clearly.

Three. Eat everything on your plate. I was a little boy then, and I learned about the starving children. I couldn’t see those other kids, but at least I could appreciate the food I’d been given. A much better lesson comes from Michael Pollan, himself a dad and foodie: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His definition of “food” is rigorous, at least to most of us. I’m still working on NOT always eating everything on my plate.

Four. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” begins: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …” In panic moments I am learning to create some space. Breathe, take in the oxygen. Be still (and know that God is God) and be quiet. Let the spike of adrenalin close my mouth while it opens my eyes, ears, hands, and lungs. But don’t take too long with this. Something still needs to be done.

Five. Go to church every single Sunday. The folks at church are just like me, and Jesus loves them all. I’ve learned to say hello, and ask, “What’s brought you joy this week?” And then I get to ask myself. Also, when I’m there, sing the songs. Sing a little louder. This “worship breathing” brings joy into my soul.

Six. Sure, save the best for last. Start the day with simple words. “Lord, thank you for this day.” End the day, just the same. Every prayer during the day? Start with “Thank you.” My gratitude grows with this expression.

God’s grace and wisdom covers all my moments, all my thoughts, every decision right or wrong, and especially every time I look into another’s eyes. God’s peace transcends my wisdom, my knowledge, my mistakes, my sins, my creativity, my achievements and my failures.

How can I not be thankful?

My heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope. You have made known to me the paths of life, and you will fill me with joy in your presence. You have risen, Lord. You have risen indeed.

Michael Pollan, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, 2009

Rudyard Kipling, “If,” written in 1895 and published in Rewards and Fairies, 1910

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Apr 21 19

Rising sun

by davesandel

Rising sun

Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

They put Jesus to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name … Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

– From Acts 10 and Colossians 3

Pre-dawn. The crickets rumble. Humid fog obscures the path to Jesus’ tomb.

If only they will open the grave. At the break of morning light, we can care for Jesus, care for his body, care for the man we love.

Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.

Distant stars still bright caress the women’s cheeks. Unexpected breeze spins by them, as the dark begins to brighten, as the light begins to shine. Olive trees in nighttime silhouette begin their morning –  birds sing and fly from branch to branch. The Holy Spirit rises in their midst.

Now the women see a man. “Can’t you tell us where they’ve taken him?” They cry, they weep, they wonder, because the open grave is empty. There’s no one lying in the darkness, no one lying in the shroud.

They don’t get it. Why is that man laughing? Why does that man smile with such joy? Does he not see our tears? For three days we’ve not eaten, not with Jesus dead, Jesus killed, Jesus crucified. Our Lord is gone. Why is that man laughing?

But the gardener’s gentle words surprise them. “Mary!” he exclaims.

Does he really know my name? Can it be?

The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.


His name sings and heaven rings and Mary falls close by the ground. “Look up,” he says, “look up and laugh with me. I have risen from the grave and I’m alive. Mother of God, rise up and see your son.”

Memories flood her mind. Wedding wine, children healed, such wise stories. The lame walk, the blind see, and Jesus washes all their feet. My son, carried into Jerusalem with joy, just a few days later laboring under the heavy cross. Then nailed to it, then pierced and buried. But now?

How can it be? But it is. This is Jesus.


“Go to my brothers,” he tells her. “Tell them I am going to my Father. Tell them I will see my God and your God.”

He’s alive, this man who loves everyone like God loves them. Last night we read the story of Zacchaeus to Miles from his Jesus Storybook Bible. His neighbors hated Zacchaeus, but Jesus didn’t. Zacchaeus was very short, and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Jesus went to his house for dinner. No one ever came to see Zacchaeus. But Jesus did.

“Jesus was Zacchaeus’ friend, even when no one else was. Jesus was showing people what God’s love was like: his wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”

Jesus, Mary prayed for you and now you pray for her and all of us. Now and at the hour of our death. You shine in our lives like a circle round the sun. In the pouring on us of your love, we are happy and blessed and forever full of joy.

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Apr 20 19

Twinkle, twinkle, little star

by davesandel

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Easter Vigil, Saturday,April 20, 2019

From the heavens, the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats.

– From Isaiah 55

Send forth your light and your fidelity; they shall lead me on. And bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling-place. Then will I go in to the altar of God, the God of my gladness and joy; then will I give you thanks upon the harp, O God, my God!

– From Psalm 42

I sat up straight in the rocking chair beside Miles’ bed. It was 7:40, and his cool night light turned red and played a bedtime lullaby. What was it? Mary had a little lamb? No. Rock a bye baby? No. But the rhythm and the melody sent me back to my own crib.

At last I had it. “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.” This recovery seemed like a great feat to me, but I didn’t ask Miles to help me celebrate. His nose has been stuffed up, and he was breathing quite regularly through his mouth. I knew he was asleep, but I still sat there with him, alone in the chair, back straight, breathing slowly, letting that old song sing to me.

“Up above the sky so high, like a diamond in the sky.”

Slowly the sky grew dark, the night fell in on us. Jesus is somewhere else today, but still, I felt the Spirit of God hovering in the room. Far off on the other side of the house, rubber wheels on pavement, passing traffic, heading home? Long day’s work is over. Soon it’s time to sleep.

Andi and Aki sleep, on a plane headed to the Netherlands. The aircraft cabin is dark, the tulips are blooming and it’s nearly their tenth anniversary. Their good friends wait to welcome them. The jet speeds through the darkness, headed toward the other side of the world. Outside their windows at 33,000 feet, the silent stars go by.

My Transforming Community buddy David took us for a boat ride on Lake Austin this afternoon. Together we’ve completed six retreats. We passed the lake houses of several famous people. I thanked God we were not famous, and that our families are full of love. David’s daughter laughed and said that he was 6/9ths Transformed. We have three retreats to go.

Miles fell asleep in the car on the way home, after a supper of cheese and crackers, tangerine slices and dried seaweed. (That sounds pretty good to me.) Last night he gorged himself on sweet potato, rice and salmon. He was quiet when we lifted him out of the car. Tomorrow Miles will miss his mommy and his daddy. He loves them so. They made a video for him to listen to before they left, and a chain of lovenotes, one per day, for the ten days till they return.

I have always cherished the Easter Vigil passage from Isaiah 55. The earth turns, the rains fall, the sun shines, and the crops bring us life. God’s word never fails.

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder where you are.”

 *           *           *

Whatever work we do, Lord, it’s always in and on the world you made for us. So, Lord, as we live our lives, establish the work of our hands. Yes, establish the work of our hands.

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Apr 19 19


by davesandel


The Triduum, Good Friday, April 19, 2019

He was harshly treated, but he submitted, and opened not his mouth. The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity. He gives his life as an offering for sin.

– From Isaiah 53

Nine a.m. on Friday, Jesus finishes his talks with Pilate. “I find no fault in this man.”

But no matter. “Crucify him!” the priests and people cry. “Give us Barrabbas!” Pilate washes his hands, sighs deeply, and hands Jesus over to the soldiers. The Benedictine monks call this hour “Terce,” and pray.

Noon on Friday. Jesus is at last nailed to the wooden cross. His hands are torn, his feet are ripped apart by the old spikes. His head is crowned with thorns, and a crude sign is nailed above him: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” Soldiers hoist his cross up into the sun. Jesus looks out on all of us, and we look up at him. The monks call this time “Sext,” and they pray.

Three on Friday. Jesus dies. The sky grows black, the temple curtain is torn in two. Jesus’ head hangs on his chest, and the soldiers come and pierce him through, just to assure his death. Joseph and Nicodemus receive permission to bury him in their tomb, and awkwardly remove his body from the cross. The monks call this time “None.”

During the reading of the Passion story, church instructions often read: “Here all kneel and pause for a short time.” And we do. Jesus is no longer with us. “It is finished,” he said as he bowed his head and died.

The days to celebrate the wedding feast are gone. Now is the time to weep; these are the days of death and loss. We have lost what matters most, and God has left us all alone. There’s a final service in some churches to mark this moment. It’s called “Tenebrae.”

We are in Austin to stay with our grandson Miles for awhile. A nearby Catholic church, St. Thomas More, will hold this service at 8 pm tonight. It’s a first for them, and this is what they say:

Tenebrae, Latin for darkness, is a service with a long history in the Catholic Church, especially in the Monastic tradition.  It is a service of readings, psalms and music done in candlelight, with candles being extinguished one by one as the service proceeds.  At the end of the service, the last candle, called the “Christ Candle” is moved behind the altar. The Choir sings Psalm 51, Miserere, or “Have Mercy,” and then a noise is made called the “Strepitus” which symbolizes the earthquake and tearing of the curtain of the temple at the death of Jesus.  The service concludes with the Christ Candle being brought back to the Altar, and all leave in silence. It is a very dramatic service that allows us to walk with Christ in his passion.

 Should I go? Let the darkness get under my skin? To hear the cries of Jesus, walk the stations of the cross and finally watch in silence as one candle and then another are extinguished … these rituals are hard for me. The there’s tomorrow’s vigil … the days of Triduum go on and on.

My friend Anne reminded me that if Jesus was really killed on Wednesday, the day before Passover, his disciples waited far longer than we do for Jesus’ grave to be open, emptied. And they had no idea what was coming. They were in agony. But just this week, I learned something new about that word. Originally, “agony” meant “the mental struggle toward victory.”

There’s no hurry, but Sunday’s coming.

Jesus, where are you right now? I miss you and wish I had spent more time listening, following, sitting at your feet, watching all the ways you did what your Father was doing. I want to spend this day with my memories of you. Jesus, With all I have, and all that I am, I honor you.

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Apr 18 19

The steeple falls

by davesandel

The steeple falls

The Triduum, Holy Thursday, April 18, 2019

Every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. Eat with sandals on your feet and staff in hand, eat like those who are in flight. Each year, forever, share this feast and celebrate with pilgrimage. It is the Passover of the Lord.

– From Exodus 12

     Where can we go for pilgrimage? Why, to Notre Dame of course. Cathedral of the Blessed Lady, filled with treasures. We’ll sing everlasting praise to God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

But now the steeple’s fallen! All the oak has burned. A thousand trees cut six hundred years ago, then shaped to beams, now burnt to cinders, burnt to ashes, burnt to death.

Like the Hebrews shared a lamb, we shared this space. The fire began during the last mass on Monday, last of countless masses, hundreds of years of masses. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

Could the people at the mass, ready to flee the fire with girded loins and sandals on their feet, could they feel how close God was? How rich this bread and wine, this Holy Week, this Passover of the Lord.

Fire destroys, and fire also purifies. Always it has been so.

On this first day of Triduum, we must find another place to share the body and the blood. Can we share in Jesus’ sufferings, on Passover, on this day in dark Gethsemane?

Night cloaks all. Sleep calls its siren song. We sit, and lean against the tree, and wait. Jesus prays just beyond the light. We can hear his keening, crying, out to God. I feel so much pain right here, right now. My whole soul hurts and … I close my eyes.

Am I the only one who sleeps? Mary Oliver noticed what did not:

The grass never sleeps.

Or the roses.

Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning …

      Jesus wants me just to wait with him. But I could not. What about the rest of God’s creation?

Maybe the stars did, maybe

the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move,


the lake far away, where once he walked as on a

   blue pavement,

lay still and waited, wild awake.

      I hail Jesus now, but I also know I fail him. My body, mind and spirit fail him, and I fall asleep. The fire rages among our cut-down trees, those best intentions turned to ash. “What I want to do, I do not do, and what I do not want to do, I do! What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?”(Romans 7:15-24)

Thanks be to God, because you deliver me through Jesus Christ, O Lord. Paul’s words ring through the garden, ring over the smoking debris of our cathedral, ring through the caverns of my heart. You are Lord, and you will reign forever. I just look up at you.

Mary Oliver, “Gethsemane,” from Thirst, p. 45, 2007

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Apr 17 19

The day before the day before

by davesandel

The day before the day before

Wednesday of Holy Week, April 17, 2019

For your sake I bear insult, and shame covers my face. I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my mother’s sons, because zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.

– From Psalm 69

Judas said to the priests, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”

– From Matthew 26

Over the years I’ve imagined myself into this story any number of ways: as Judas, as one of the other disciples, as the chief priest, as the people sleepwalking while all this takes place, as Jesus. The story’s rich and at the center of the center of our lives.

All this week, no matter who we are, we wait.

But I never thought about God waiting to see just what we’ll do. Henri Nouwen opened up that door for me on Palm Sunday, and it’s been open ever since. The Trinity waits. Father, Spirit, Jesus wait for us to make a move. Will I still shout Hosanna even when the chips are down? Or will I turn my coat around and choose the killing, label Jesus scapegoat, and throw him out of town? This is the play within the play, the Great Drama. Will we dance with Jesus or betray him?

How painful this must be for God. Nouwen writes:

In a way, the agony of Jesus is not simply the agony of approaching death. It is also the agony of being out of control and of having to wait. It is the agony of a God who depends on us to decide how to live out the divine presence among us. It is the agony of the God who, in a very mysterious way, allows us to decide how God will be God. Here we glimpse the mystery of God’s incarnation. God became human not only to act among us but also to be the recipient of our responses.

God receiving my response! Accepting it, no matter what – accepting ME, no matter what? Always holding open the invitation, knowing the dance will never end. Will God’s love outlast my excuses, temporizing and rejection? When he calls to me and I stammer, “Uh, well, maybe later, not right now” … will he call again?

The YES of God outlasts anything and everything I can do. Nothing’s gonna stop it. Nouwen understands that “precisely in that waiting the intensity of Jesus’ love and God’s is revealed to us.” Even in my most selfish life God’s love prevails.

So today, the day before the day before the cross, I sit, learning patience, in God’s waiting room. My wooden cross, polished with the oil on my hands, sits waiting with me in my pocket. I cross my legs, and watch each person as they wait, and then walk in. What is God doing with them in there?

Richard Rohr’s been there awhile, long enough to describe himself at least, and I think, me: there will be no more attempts to save the self by behavior, technique or devotion. “All you can do,” he says, “is wait and ask and trust. Here is where you learn faith and discover that darkness is the much better teacher.

“God is about to become real.”

The reality you call me into, Lord, is more than I imagine. But when I watch the birds sing and fly and shine in the sun, I want to join them. Maybe that’s just a little bit of what it’s like, joining you. As I walk in, and know even in the darkness how real you are, your joy abounds in me.

Henri Nouwen, “The Path of Waiting,” an excerpt from Finding My Way Home, 2001

Richard Rohr, The Naked Now, Appendix 1: Levels of Development, p. 165, 2009.

For great waiting room experiences, read “Revelation” by Flannery O’Connor, and two books by Taylor Caldwell: The Listener and No One Hears But Him.

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