The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ May 8th, 2022
Good Shepherd Sunday
Have you ever thought about how shepherds handle their sheep? In many places even today they follow their shepherd, who walks in front of them. They’re not goaded like cattle. Cowboys herd cattle from behind, pushing them forward. Not so with sheep.
Muse a bit about Jesus as the Good Shepherd – Jesus walking ahead of us along the way. He shows us the way. He’s been there ahead of us. In Mark 10:32, we are told that the disciples were going up to Jerusalem “and Jesus was leading the way.” And of course, along the way, he was teaching and forming them. And that’s how it can be with you and me!
Apparently, it is the voice of the shepherd that controls the sheep. “My sheep hear my voice,”says Jesus. The sheep pick out the voice of their one only shepherd from that of others. They only follow the one whose voice they recognize.
In another place in the text, Jesus distinguishes between true and false shepherds. The false ones are hired hands that won’t go out of their way to help the sheep. The good shepherd is the one dedicated to his sheep and his care.
The concept of the Messiah as the Good Shepherd appeared frequently in the Old Testament, notably in the prophet Ezekiel. All of Chapter 34 is dedicated to the good shepherd. Ezekiel warns of the peril of following false shepherds who lead their flocks astray. He admonishes to seek the good shepherd: “The Lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal. . . . Thus shall they know that I the Lord, am their God, and they are my people.”
And, of course David was the Shepherd King of Israel, having written our beloved Psalm 23 ~ “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
The words of Ezekiel were as familiar to the Jews in the time of Jesus as they can be to us in our own difficult times: the lost, the injured, the sick, the war-torn and those who are struggling to care for them. The Jews, too, recognized the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling, who was more interested in his pay than the welfare of the flock. (And isn’t that the same in our time, with politicians who don’t seem to care.)
While we love the image of the Good Shepherd, most of us lack firsthand acquaintance with either a shepherd or with sheep. But picture this as shown to us by Professor Barclay . . .
The life of a shepherd in Palestine was very hard. He was never off duty. The sheep were bound to wander, and had to be constantly watched. On the narrow plateau the ground dipped sharply down to the craggy deserts below and the sheep were liable to stray away and get lost. The shepherd’s task was not only constant but dangerous, for he not only had to guard the flock but to protect them from wild animals and thieves and robbers. He was out there with them in all kinds of weather, day and night.
As Barclay writes, quoting Sir George Adam Smith, who travelled in Palestine, “On some high moor, at night hyenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, leaning on his staff, and looking over his scattered sheep, everyone of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judaea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why the Jews gave his name to their king, and made him the symbol of Providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.” Constant vigilance, fearless, courage, patient love for his flock, were the necessary characteristics of the shepherd.
And so listen for the Voice of your Shepherd. What greater blessing could there be than this: The shepherd knows your voice and you know his. You will have instantaneous, constant communication as you seek to become one with this Good Shepherd. The closer, the more intimate that relationship, the better you will comprehend the words of our Shepherd: “No one can take them out of my hand.”
In another place, Jesus says he is not only the shepherd, but he is the sheep-gate. The sheep go in and out of the pasture and are safe.
When the sheep came into the enclosure, the shepherd would lie down at the entrance, thus, literally becoming the Gate, or the Door!
Jesus is the Gate to the spiritual world. Because he claims us as his own, we are safe.
There’s another meaning here, too, I think. A lot of people experiment with other matters in the spiritual world that are not so safe. Like hallucinogenic drugs or seances and tarot cards or fortune-telling, or calling on the spirits. These are not protected and can be dangerous. Only through Jesus are we truly safe.
William Barclay has this to add about this passage . . . .
~ Jesus promised eternal life. If someone became a member of his flock, all the bitterness of life would be gone and they would know the splendor and magnificence of the life with God.
~ He promised a life that would know no end. Death would not be the end but the beginning; they would know the glory of the indestructible life.
~ He promised a life that was secure. Nothing could snatch them from his hand. Not that it would save them from sorrow or suffering. Even in a world crashing to disaster they would know the serenity of God.
Jesus says it was the Father who gave the sheep to him. And thus Jesus received his confidence from the Father. He was secure, not in his own power, but in God’s. And the Gospel passage ends with the words,“The Father and I are one,” which calls to mind his intense prayer at the end of the Last Supper, according to John, “Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given me that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)
But let’s look at another side of this. The Good Shepherd seems to be doing all the giving, all the caring, all the protecting. The sheep just receive.
Now isn’t that the relationship we strive for with our God? We have received everything from God; should we not give all in return? Our love, too, should be unconditional, our loyalty without compromise, our thoughts, words and deeds in accord with the will of God.
And so ask yourself this question: Am I not, in turn, a good shepherd?
If you have children or others under your care, ask yourself: Do I shepherd well those who are under my care? Do I shepherd by leading? Or by goading? How can I adapt my leadership style to Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
Then, and only then, will we be able to say, “I know my Shepherd, and my Shepherd knows me.”
Christ is Risen!
Now, before you go, here’s a version of our beloved Psalm 23, “Shepherd Me, O God,” that has the flavor of Jesuit spirituality as well. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series – revised edition / the Gospel of John: Volume 2 / The Westminster Press Philadelphia – 1975 / pp. 55-60.
“Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. “~ John 12:1-3
Yesterday we found Jesus mobbed but probably exhilarated by the crowds as he made his entry into the great holy city of Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
This day, Monday, weary from all the excitement and eager once again to be welcomed by his beloved friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus, he makes the short trip to Bethany with his disciples.
Apparently he was expected; a dinner party had been arranged and Jesus was to have quite an intimate surprise ~ right there in front of God and everybody. Martha and Mary were sisters; Martha was the practical one; she was always busy in the kitchen preparing the meals. Mary loved Jesus in a special way; she was often at his feet listening to his wonderful words.
This day, in front of the guests, she got down, washed Jesus’ dusty, tired, bare feet and massaged them–all the while, soothing them and caressing them.
Suddenly she got up, went to a nearby shelf and got a beautiful alabaster bottle filled with the finest aromatic spikenard. She broke it open! and the whole house was instantly transformed by its wonderful aroma!
She poured it liberally over the Master’s feet. (And as we know Judas objected strenuously ~ but let’s not go there for the moment.
(Permit me this Ignatian-style reflection ~ a bit R-rated.)
A sensual woman caresses a 33-year old man with perfumed oil. The oil squishes down between his toes; it soothes his weary feet. She rubs it in circular motions around the ankles.
Then Mary teases him dripping some, drop ~ drop ~ drop on his shins, watching the glistening oil slither down to his feet.
She leans back on her haunches and waits to get his reaction.
He grins, and raises his eyeballs.
Then she pounces on him and rubs his feet firmly and furiously and backs away again, then looks at him and smiles. He returns the gaze, obviously, very pleased, very delighted, very relaxed.
Then she massages his feet, rubbing the oil deep within the feet of this man who had trodden all over Judea preaching about the reign of God and healing the sick the everywhere.
Then she leans forward and begins to dry his feet with her hair!
This process takes a long time.
Oil takes a long time to come out, just being dried by hair, as lovely as Mary’s is.
Now, dear friends, you can’t get more sensuous than that!
I wonder what the Lord of the universe might have been thinking and feeling during this most intimate of male / female encounters? Would this most unusual, very creative experience be as intimate–as soul-connecting–as intercourse itself?
I wouldn’t even dare to imagine. Take a moment of silence right now and ponder those thoughts and let Jesus have his own thoughts and feelings in your own mind and heart. (That is what Ignatian imaginative Scriptural prayer is: You reflect on the Scripture in your imagination and see how the Lord speaks to you; try reading this passage again and see what turns up for you.)
The sacred text doesn’t say, but we can intimate from what we already know that Jesus is already very comfortable with Mary who used to sit gaga-eyed at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42.)
Was it sexual? No. But it sure as h- was sensual!
Did he enjoy the experience?
You bet he did!
Jesus was a whole, integrated man.
Was he embarrassed to have that happen in front of the others? Quite sure not.
He was with people he could “let his hair down” with, although Mary probably got a good talkin’ to by her sister in the bedroom later! Jesus, unlike many of us, was not afraid to be himself, in every circumstance.
That Monday of that of Holy Week two Millennia ago was a day of relaxation for our Lord. He seemed to have the ability to be able to make the present moment a sacrament as he put aside concern about the events that lie ahead.
In William Barclay’s commentary on this passage, he has a series of little character sketches.
First, Martha. She loved Jesus, but she was a practical woman and the only way she could show her love was by working with her hands by cooking and serving. She always gave what she could.
Then there’s Mary. We see three things about her love in this story. We see love’s extravagance. She took the most precious thing she possessed and spent it all on Jesus. We see love’s humility.It was a sign of honor to anoint someone’s head, but she anointed Jesus’ feet. And then we see love’s unselfconsciousness. Mary wiped his feet with her hair. In Palestine no woman would appear in public with her hair unbound. That was a sign of an immoral woman.Mary never even thought of that. Mary loved Jesus so much that it was nothing to her what the guests might have thought.
But there’s something else here. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. Many Fathers of the Church have seen a double meaning here. That the whole Church was filled with the sweet memory of Mary’s action.
Then there’s the character of Judas. We see Jesus’ trust in Judas. As early as John 6:70, John shows us Jesus was well aware that there was a traitor within the ranks. It may be that he tried to touch Judas’ heart by making him treasurer. And here, in the house of Jesus’ friends, he had just seen an action of surpassing loveliness and he called it extravagant waste. Judas was an embittered man and took the embittered view of things.
And the scene ends with the mob coming to see Lazarus and the chief priests plotting to kill Jesus.
But Barclay doesn’t end here. He tells us that there’s one great truth about life here. Some things we can do almost any time, but some things we will never do, unless we grasp the chance when it comes. We are seized with something that seems important to do, but if we put it off, we say, Oh I’ll do it tomorrow and it never gets done.
This Holy Week resolve to do something that you have put off doing for someone~ an act of kindness or forgiveness, or asking for forgiveness.
help us, too, to live in the present moment as Jesus did
~ not thinking about what comes next.
Help us to fully give ourselves to the moment we are in,
embracing it, with eyes and ears wide open to it,
putting all other concerns aside.
For that moment is where life happens;
we may not get another!
And now before you go, here’s the song “Said Judas to Mary. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings: Click here.
William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series / The Gospel of John – Volume 2 Revised Edition / Westminster Press / Philadelphia Pa 1975 / pp. 108-112.
You might like to know that the sourceof spikenard is Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas. It is a source of a type of intensely aromatic amber-colored essential oil, spikenard.
The Sorrowful Mother (The Pieta) – Michelangelo –
in the millennial year of 1500 when he was 24 years old
HOLY WEEK 2021
As we face this terrible Coronavirus crisis that has so unsettled all are lives. and has caused so many deaths in our country.
This blog is a Holy Week prayer to our lady the Sorrowful Mother. The image is the most famous in the world the masterpiece chiseled by the young Michelangelo a half a Millennia ago. Even if you’re not used to praying to the Mother of Jesus, this is a good time to do so. Her prayers are powerful indeed. We haven’t gone through anything like this since the Bubonic plague in Europe in the Fourteenth Century.
While I was on my retreat the first week of Lent 2009, one of my prayer assignments was to sit before a statue of the sorrowful mother. I have always had a devotion to Mary, the mother of the Lord, and on that balmy afternoon against the background of the cypress swamp I reflected on all the mothers I have tried to console throughout the (then) forty years of my priesthood. I record for you now the prayer which was my journal note for Father Don the next day. Several of those women mentioned in the prayer are still in my life today. I dedicate this blog as I remember them with love.
Be sure to read the commentary about the 24-year-old Michelangelo and his first sculpture which follows. He chiseled his understanding of human grief, tap by tap, for two years. It is a magnificent meditation. Ponder it yourself. And unite your own prayer to our Lady to his this Holy Week. There is also a very different image of grief below that I photographed from a book.
mother of Jesus, whose tender love
brought Love Itself into our world,
may those who have never known
the tender embrace
of their own mother’s love
receive the same tender care and love you wish for each of them. . .
for each of us . . .
as you offered the stern, yet tender love of a Jewish mother upon
Jesus, the Son of God
who was nourished at your tender breasts,
cradled in your arms,
bounced upon your knee;
whose booboo was kissed by your lovely mouth,
whose dead body you received come down from the Cross:
You were the one from whom
Jesus learned the joys of human love.
Simeon said, holding your little Child in his arms,
that a sword would pierce your soul.
Did you have any idea what he meant?
Did you follow Jesus throughout his ministry?
Where you among the women who took care of him
and the others?
If so, where did you stay?
Or did you stay at home in Nazareth?
Did you go out to visit him when you could?
To listen to him preach?
Were you in the midst of the crowds
who pressed around him?
Did you have a chance to be alone with him for a while?
Did you give him any motherly advice?
Did you wash his clothes,
fix his favorite meal when he was on the road?
Did you gain a sense of foreboding as you listened
to the murmurings of hostility beginning to grow toward him?
What did you do with that concern?
I think perhaps you knew. You could see where this was going to end,
because you kept all those foreboding things Simeon told you
in your heart.
Sorrow and sadness must have entered your heart
long before that fateful Friday.
But probably not much worry or anxiety because
I think you must have said over and over:
Be it done unto me according to Your word.
Be it done.
Thy will be done.
A mother can never be prepared to lose her son.
Fran, whose son Jimmy died at the hands of a drunk driver;
Chris who loved two children within her belly.
Dearest Lady, I think of mothers I have known
who’ve watched their children die.
My cousin, Lynda, whose beautiful child Robbie
who bore her father’s and my name
died in a fire at age three.
I don’t think his mother ever got over that sadness.
I think of Marie whose paralyzed son was in prison
who couldn’t find a priest to console her after his wrongful death.
I think, dear Lady, that you unite yourself with other mothers who suffer at the bedside of a sick child.
I think of Monica whose son Andrew died of AIDS;
Rosemarie, whose very popular high school senior John died of a brain tumor, and wrote a book to work out her grief;
Florence, the mother of my best priest-buddy Phil who died suddenly at age 47.
“What a dirty trick!” she wailed at God;
the woman whose name I have long forgot whose surfer-son drowned in a storm in my first week of priestly ministry; mothers I’ve known whose sons who couldn’t escape from addiction; Monique whose son despaired and ended his life, leaving his children.
How can any of us really know what a mother must feel
who must outlive her child?
And I think of all the mothers of the world who are condemned to watch their children die of malnutrition.
And the mothers who are being deported by the Trump administration, leaving behind their American-born children.
And terrified mothers who try to comfort their children caught in war-torn countries, especially in Syria and the Rohigya people
I have loved you since my boyhood.
I brought you flowers in springtime
to express my devotion. Still do.
Today, I contemplated the sorrowful image
a sculptor captured in white marble.
When I gazed into the eyes of that chiseled image
for just a moment, I knew what you must have felt,
what my friends must have felt.
And that moment was gift.
A gift I will always remember.
as you yourself shared in Jesus’ passion,
I ask you to be with all those whose hearts are
broken in sorrow.
all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters
on this planet,
born and unborn.
Draw us all into that one great mystery of divine/human love
which is the glory of our Christian faith:
the birth, suffering, death and resurrection
of the son of a young beautiful woman,
Son of God,
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
+ + + + + + +
From: ‘Guide to Saint Peter’s Basilica ‘
This is probably the world’s most famous sculpture of a religious subject.
Michelangelo carved it when he was 24 years old, and it is the only one he ever signed. The beauty of its lines and expression leaves a lasting impression on everyone.
With this magnificent statue Michelangelo has given us a highly spiritual and Christian view of human suffering. Artists before and after Michelangelo always depicted the Virgin with the dead Christ in her arms as grief-stricken, almost on the verge of desperation. Michelangelo, on the other hand, created a highly supernatural feeling.
As she holds Jesus’ lifeless body on her lap, the Virgin’s face emanates sweetness, serenity and a majestic acceptance of this immense sorrow, combined with her faith in the Redeemer. It seems almost as if Jesus is about to reawaken from a tranquil sleep and that after so much suffering and thorns, the rose of resurrection is about to bloom. As we contemplate the Pieta which conveys peace and tranquility, we can feel that the great sufferings of life and its pain can be mitigated.
Here, many Christians recall the price of their redemption and pray in silence. The words may be those of the “Salve Regina” or “Sub tuum presidium” or another prayer. After Peter’s Tomb, the Pieta Chapel is the most frequently visited and silent place in the entire basilica.
It is said that Michelangelo had been criticized for having portrayed the Virgin Mary as too young since she actually must have been around 45-50 years old when Jesus died. He answered that he did so deliberately because the effects of time could not mar the virginal features of this, the most blessed of women. He also said that he was thinking of his own mother’s face, he was only five when she died: the mother’s face is a symbol of eternal youth.
Before you go, here’s the Stabat Mater, the traditional mourning song to Our Lady. Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. The translation of some of the verses follows.
At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.
Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?
For the sins of His own nation,
She saw Jesus wracked with torment,
All with scourges rent:
She beheld her tender Child,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.
O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.
The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus ~ February 21, 2021
This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.
This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.
Before I get into my own thoughts on this important opening story in the life of our Lord, I’d like to share some notes from our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay.
He says that the word to tempt in Greek peirazein has a different emphasis than its English counterpart. We always think of tempting as something bad. But peirazein has a different emphasis; it means to test.
One of the great Old Testament stories makes this clear. Remember how Abraham narrowly escaped sacrificing his only son Isaac? God was testing him, not tempting him!
So, with Jesus, this whole incident was not so much a tempting as the testing of Jesus.
We have to note further where this test took place. The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine. Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, thirty-five by fifteen miles. It was called Jeshimmon, which means “the Devastation.” The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestone looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted or rather the Father was shaping him — testing his mettle — for his mission.
Then there are these other points to take note . . . .
First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism. As Mark has it, “The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12). Barclay suggests to us that we ought to be on guard when life brings us to the heights because that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.
Second, we should not regard this experience of Jesus as an outward experience. It was a struggle that went on in his own heart and mind and soul. The proof is that there is no possible mountain from which all the mountains of the earth could be seen. This was an inner struggle.
It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us. His attack can be so real that we might almost see the devil.
(Pope Francis has said that Christian life is sometimes a battle. And then he cautioned when someone said “you’re so old-fashioned; the devil doesn’t exist, “Watch out! The devil exists. We must learn how to battle him in the 21st Century and must not be naïve. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle him.”)
Third, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.
Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release. Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.
Fourth, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them. We are always tempted through our gifts. We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others.
Fifth, the source must have been Jesus himself. He was alone in the wilderness. No one was with him in his struggle, so he must have told his men about it.
We must always approach this story with a unique and utmost reverence, for it is laying bare his inmost heart and soul. And that is what I’ve always done in the following presentation written many years ago . . .
THIS IS A STORY about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a Father-God who loves us with an everlasting love.
This is a story of confrontation and testing.
Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.
There, he would shape his mission. He was searching for the answer of the question: What kind of spiritual leader would he be?
There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.
First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him. Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bread.
To interpret this, the first temptation presents physical attraction as the ultimate good, Jesus teaches us to seek bread from heaven. We continue to pray for and live by this daily bread.
Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up. He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders. Things would be easier that way. People would easily follow a clever magician. But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.
The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the true order of the Father’s kingdom.
Jesus realized his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all. Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.
Again, as an interpretation, the second temptation is about fame and admiration—making a name for ourselves. In fact, Christ will throw himself down—in free and obedient conformity to the Father. Jesus will endure mockery instead of admiration. Christ did not cast himself down from this pinnacle of the temple . . . He did not tempt God, but he did descend into the abyss of death . . .and the desolation of the defenseless.
A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world. You can be king of this world.
And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form. They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.
The third temptation is for earthly power and rule. But the only crown that Jesus will wear will be made of thorns, his kingdom is “not of this world” (john 18:36).
As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal. In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment. And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.
In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine. Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him. We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.
In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?
The answer was:
To surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful. God could have intervened on behalf of his own Son. But that was out of the question.
The world could not accept God as a gentle Father. They found his message of love much too demanding. And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.
He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father, not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.
Jesus had to suffer and die because, because tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard ~ and preached.
The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.
This is a powerful lesson for those among us who would COERCE others into being good – as we see the proliferation of dictators across the globe today.
The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted ~the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.
The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.
And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This . . . . is the Jesus I know and love.
And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father. Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.
And now, before you go, here’s a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ On Eales’ Wings. Click here. It’s the text of Psalm 91 that says, “For He will give His angels charge over you, To guard you in all your ways.” Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 1 revised edition Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975 / pp. 62 -66.
Ash Wednesday 2021
Ash Wednesday is upon us once again. Easter ~ Sunday April 4th.
So, you may ask ~ what are ashes all about?
We Catholics like symbols. (So does Harry Potter.)
What can they tell us about life? And death? And reality?
When the priest smears ashes on the penitent’s forehead he says one of two poignant phrases:
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST AND UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN,
or REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.
(However, if you are going to church to receive ashes this year, be aware of this change about how you will receive them. Yesterday, I noted because of the pandemic, the parades in New Orleans an Rio were cancelled, now you will have a different way of receiving ashes. You will not be touched in anyway on the forehead. The ashes will simply be sprinkled on your head as the priest or other minister say: “Remember that you are dust . . . “
So, it’s a sign of humility, a sign that we are part of the earth, that we are dust.
Are we to reflect and ask ~ Are we just dust?
Have we made an ash-heap of our life?
Are we sitting in an ash-heap?
Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?
If so, do we despair?
Or can ~ do we dream of re-building?
Whether or not, the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it is important to humble ourselves before our God.
They could very well be true at any moment of our life.
I certainly can say ~ There but for the grace of God go I.
Now, I’m going to tell you a story from my own life to help explain what Lent is all about.
Some time ago, I was slicing some tomatoes and I put a tiny hole in the very end of my right index finger. It started to bleed a bit so I somehow managed to get a bandaid on it at that peculiar spot.
The next day I put some peroxide on it to see if it was infected and sure enough it was. So, I had to nurse my poor little finger for over a week till it got better! But then It didn’t and I had to do nurse it another few days.
Now, how does this relate to Lent?
Our souls can get hurt too.We hurt ourselves, as I did; we hurt others and we hurt God.
We can easily get an infection in our soul as well. We call that sin. The word sin comes from a Greek word in archery hamartia that means “to miss the mark”. What mark? Our best selves! The other thing about my poor little index finger is that it has a permanent scar—right at the end where I type. (I just checked the poor lil’ finger out a year later and, yes, the scar is still there.) Sin does that too. It leaves its mark on us somehow, someway, even the small ones; they chip away at us.
I’ll tell you something else about me, a little more personal. I have been prone to yell at people. When I was a kid, I grew up in a home where I got yelled at a lot. I’m of Austrian heritage and that doesn’t help either. We Germanic folk are very abrupt people. The yelling shows up when I get frustrated with clerks on the phone who give me the run-around, I need to realize that other person has feelings and should be treated as a human being. I have also been known to yell at people in the sacristy when I was under pressure. That is a sinful condition too.
It took me some growing and challenging to be able to change.
And that is what Lent is about. Growing and changing. Listening to Jesus in the Scriptures. Then putting into action what we’ve heard.
Another part of Lent is asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness from God and forgiveness from those we’ve hurt. The Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) is a powerful place to receive the grace for healing and strength we need for that growth and change.
Lent, then, is a season of hope that ends in new Life, in risen Life.
It’s a time to TURN AROUND ~ to make a U-turn ~ when or if we realize our life has gone in the wrong direction.
That’s what the word con-version means. To simply do a U-turn.
Turn around and head in a different direction.
To get going again.
To CHANGE, so you don’t keep on doing the same old thing and expect different results.
It doesn’t do a Catholic much good who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes without the intention of doing what they symbolize: CHANGE what needs changing. That’s it!
And so, dear friend, don’t just give up something for Lent. Get at the root of your life where you need to look at the real stuff.
I invite you to go deeper into the practice of your faith.
Make the sign of receiving ashes Mean Something!
Let it transform you from inside out.
The question is: Do we ~ you and I ~ have the COURAGE TO CHANGE?
So, let’s do Lent well ~ together.
During Lent, be ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.
Find out who this Jesus is ~ for you.
And what wisdom he has to offer us that will help us to change and enrich our lives for the better.
Whether you are Catholic or not, perhaps you will find some wisdom, some meaning for your life in these pages. Join us as we walk the journey together as Jesus did ~ through suffering to death to new and risen life these six weeks of Lent 2021.
God of pardon and of love,
We come to you this holy Lenten season,
begging for your Mercy and Love once again.
Please allow us the grace to open our ears to hear your Word,
to see you in the faces of one another ~ in family and in stranger,
and give us the grace to see what we need to change,
the courage to act upon it,
and to follow you on the way to Jerusalem.
Now, before you go, here’s a song about Ashes. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. And if you are going to church to receive ashes this year, be aware of this change about how you will receive them. Yesterday, I noted because of the pandemic, the parades in New Orleans an Rio were cancelled, now you will have a different way of receiving ashes. You will not be touched in anyway on the forehead. The ashes will simply be sprinkled on your head as the priest or other minister say: “Remember that you are dust . . . “. The pandemic has a way of influencing everything we do, it seems. Wear your mask; practice social distancing and get vaccinated and pray for those suffering from covid and those who care for them that Jesus will raise us all up!
And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Thursday~ The Jesus I know and Love
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYONE!
We’ve been reflecting on St. Paul’s eloquent words about love from I Corinthians 13. And this is my final post on the subject.
Love is not pompous,
it is not inflated,
it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, \
it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
Romantic love wears off in a few months. True love requires fidelity and is long-lasting. I often remember people I met briefly twenty or thirty years ago and there is still a place in my heart for them, even those who had rejected or hurt me. And when I think of them I believe my prayer is able to touch them even now, either living or dead.
We think we know all about love. Yet Love is an Art and a Discipline that is only learned and acquired by trial and error. Thus, we have to learn how to love. Or perhaps unlearn what we have learned in abusive homes or families and find people who can teach us well. I am profoundly grateful for the people who allowed my soul to unfold and blossom because of their love and in their love.
As I mentioned last time, I taught high school seniors (51 years ago!) that I had them read two books, Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Both books still should be required reading by anyone who wants to become a whole and healed human person.
Many of us keep focusing on finding the right object of our love. Fromm — and Jesus — tell us that being a person who is capable of loving the stranger in the checkout line at the 7-11 or your sibling whose guts you can’t stand is the way we will learn to love.
Love is being free to love the one you’re with so you can be with the one you love.
It is just not possible to love some and hate others. St. John says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (1 John 3:15)
And yet, in today’s America, I wonder what kind of leadership and example we are setting for our children when some follow our political and business leaders who have sought to take revenge on their opponents instead of striving to be true noble patriots as was shown in the riots on our sacred Capitol on January 6th.
Love is being able to see and respond to the loving energy of the universe and spread it around instead of trying to possess it for oneself.
Love is faithfully loving whomever God puts in our life at every turn of our life’s journey. A hard task sometimes. I know.
How often we fail. But that’s what growth in love and Christian spirituality is all about. Sometimes it requires a heroic effort and sacrificial love ~ the love of Jesus, the Love of God for us.
So, what is LOVE?
There’s all kinds of love. There’s romance that is the kind that pervades the soaps, the news stand magazines, the ones at the grocery store checkout counter. There’s erotic love. There’s brotherly (or sisterly) love, the love of friends, neighborly love. And then there’s sacrificial love. There’s conditional and unconditional love. There’s love that isn’t love at all.
But here’s a practical suggestion for you to make your own meaning.
At day’s end, reflect on the positive things — even the tiny little things in a chaotic, insane day. Seek out where the LOVE was. Where was the LIFE?
Take a moment. Reflect on your day. Pick two incidents, however fleeting, however small that you might have missed at the time. Savor them for a moment as you get ready for bed. Those are the moments where love and God has touched you. Be ready to receive into your life and your heart the little moments of LIFE and LOVE that do happen even in the midst of the most terrible day and let them change your life.
It is not the destination that’s important; life and love happen along the way!
And so here’s my final prayer for this Valentine’s Day . . . .
Good and gracious God,
We live in a world that gives us so few models of faithful love.
Help us to learn the art and discipline of loving.
Help us to understand that we cannot love one person — even ourselves — unless we let love — rather than hate — flow from our heart to touch and heal and nourish those around us.
Heal us, Lord.
Let us trust in You, for you are the Source of all Love,
Your Love is flowing like a river giving life to everything and every one along the way,
a river from our own hearts to everyone we meet this day.
I also ask your blessing on all married couples and those engaged to be married.
It’s not easy to be faithful in this world today.
Pour out your abundant blessing upon them in all their struggles.
Renew their love and their joy this day and all the days of their lives.
And please be with all those struggling with this corona virus and all those who protect them.
We give You thanks and praise this day.
And now before you go, wouldn’t you like to hear a romantic melody for your beloved? Well, here’s a very unique one: Cold Play’s True Love Click here.
And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13) Savor each line and see how you measure up. . . .
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous,
Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13
mesa verde national park of southern colorado / march 2008 / bob traupman.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Our society finds it quite acceptable for people to hop into one relationship after another or just satisfy one’s needs by”hooking up”, maybe — and hopefully not so much during this pandemic!
How many times have young people thought that this was the person of their dreams and been dumped by a rude text message ~ or done the dumping themselves?
I wonder how many marriages have ended when one spouse showed up in the kitchen and announced, “I want a divorce!” No discussion. No attempt to work out problems. No mercy. No forgiveness. Over. Done, after calling a divorce lawyer.
And what happens is that some may add one unsuccessful relationship on top of another. As a result, our heart can become more and more wounded. And less and less trusting, less and less capable of loving . . . unless somehow ~ someone (Someone? helps us find a way to believe again, to hope again.
So, let’s take a deeper look at the truth and the transforming power of St. Paul’s words in I Cor. 13 we’re reflecting on in this series “What is Love?”
LOVE . . .
. . . it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
it bears all things.
believes all things,
hopes all things.
endures all things.
Love never fails.
We just have to learn to love anyway.
At least, that’s what St. Paul is getting at “Love does not brood over injuries.”
In the Art of Loving, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s classic book written in 1956,
consider his statement that will blow most of us out of the water:
“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person: it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love. If a person loves only one person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment or an enlarged egotism . . . If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world; I love life. If I can say to somebody else, “I love you,” I must be able to say”I love in you everybody. I love through you the world, I love in you also myself”~ p. 39.)
This is, of course, is the heart of Jesus’ message, but many, if not most of us who say we’re his followers still don’t get it.
As tech opportunities for “communication” proliferate the less we truly communicate. We communicate more and more on a superficial level. You can’t really know someone through texting or on Facebook or in an email. A person can present a false persona. The only real way to communicate with someone is to be in their presence using all our senses.
We need to learn, once again how to come to true intimacy ~ the coming together of two or more persons who have the courage to open themselves to the transformative power of love.
If you are one who seeks that, I’m with you. That’s what my writing is about. In fact, the high school seniors whom I had in my religion classes fifty years ago were required to read that book along the Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
Good and gracious God,
May we see in our brokenness when we reject Your love.
We may feel we cannot take the risk to open our hearts once more.
Give us the courage and strength to stop destructive patterns that lead only to more pain.
Give us hope, Lord.
Instead of seeking to find our true love,
let us simply become persons who love —
. . . whomever we’re with,
. . . to grow in our capacity to love
so that we can reach out to the whole world
as You do at every moment,
in every time and place.
To You, God of our understanding,
we give You praise, now and forever.
Now I suggest you take a second look at that tree weathering the mountaintop at 8000 feet. It has been jilted by the weather. But it still stands nobly and proudly — broken, gnarled and twisted; it’s a fine lesson for us of the meaning of life.
And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13) once again. Savor each phrase and see how you measure up. . . .
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous. Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, does not brood over injury,it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. So faith, hope love remain, these, but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13
Now before you go, here’s a music video for you by Brandon Flowers “Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts.” Click Here.
We continue our series on Racism in America with four short articles this time. I hope you had a chance to dig into Bishop Mark Sykes’ courageous pastoral on racism and white supremacy that I published in Tuesday. If not, you can find it on the right side of my site at the top of the archive column.
The first one today is from Archbishop Wilton Gregory, of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.,who is black. The middle two are the New York Times 1619 Project, a large research project on slavery and its effects on America life and our economy since its the first slave ship came to our shores. And the last one is from the Sierra Club about how the Trump administration has made our air pollution worse especially on our black communities.
(The images on this page are taken from the Peace and Justice Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama to commemorate the lives of lynched and murdered black folk.) Hundreds of there names are memorialized on huge upside down bronze blocks and some of their ashes are there as well.
First, we hear from Archbishop Wilton Gregory . . . .
Our nation is in pain and in crisis, with angry, peaceful protesters demanding justice; with some lawless attacks on places and people; and with leaders who are failing us. At the same time, a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that touches all of us has exposed pervasive injustices which leave people and communities of color far more likely to suffer and die, lose work and wages, and risk their health and lives in essential jobs.
For Catholics and all believers, racism is more than a moral and national failure; it is a sin and a test of faith. Racism is America’s original sin, enduring legacy, and current crisis. Racist attitudes and actions, along with white supremacy and privilege, destroy the lives and diminish the dignity of African-Americans and so many other Americans. Racism also threatens the humanity of all of us and the common good. Racism divides us, reveals our lack of moral integrity, limits our capacity to act together, denies the talents and contributions of so many, and convicts us of violating the religious principles and the national values we proclaim.
~ Archbishop Wilton Gregory ~ Racism in our Streets and Structures.
The next two articles are from the New York Times 1692 Project.
The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.
A story of one black soldier coming back from war . . .
The day of days for America and her allies. Crowds before the White House await the announcement.
I have received this afternoon a message from the Japanese government which specifies the unconditional surrender of Japan.
Reporters rush out to relay the news to an anxious world and touch off celebrations throughout the country. Joy is unconfined.
It’s February of 1946, and a young black man is sitting on a bus watching the Georgia pines fly past the windows. He’s on his way to see his wife, and he’s probably very excited, because he’s been away at war, and he hasn’t seen her in a very long time. He’d been fighting for this country in World War II, and just that day, he’d been honorably discharged for his service. But he is a black man who is returning to the Jim Crow South.
“You can never whip these birds if you don’t keep you and them separate..
“But to tell me that I don’t even have the right to fight to protect the white race —
“We are going to maintain segregated schools down in Dixie.
“Well, I think their aim is mixed marriages and becoming equal with the whites.
“You’ve got to keep your white and the black separate.”
What happened on that day is a story that will be told across the country.
Good morning. This is Orson Welles speaking. I’d like to read to you an affidavit.
It was a story that would actually change the course of history.
I, Isaac Woodard Jr., being duly sworn to depose and state as follows, that I am 27 years old and a veteran of the United States Army, having served 15 months in the South Pacific and earned one battle star. I was honorably discharged on February 12, 1942.
He’s riding the bus through Georgia.
At one hour out of Atlanta, the bus driver stopped at a small drugstore.
He wants to get off and use the restroom.
He stopped. I asked him if he had time to wait for me until I had a chance to go the restroom. He cursed and said no. When he cursed me, I cursed him back. When the bus got to —
The bus driver gets upset with him. They have a little bit of an argument. Woodard doesn’t think much of it. He goes to the bathroom, runs back to the bus, and the bus keeps going. But then, a few miles down the road, the bus stops, and the bus driver gets off the bus, and then calls and tells Woodard that he needs to get off the bus as well. So Woodard gets off the bus, and before he can even utter a word —
When the bus got to Aiken, he got off and went and got the police. They didn’t give me a chance to explain. The policeman struck me with a billy across my head and told me to shut up.
He’s struck in the head by a police officer.
— by my left arm and twisted it behind my back. I figured he was trying to make me resist. I did not resist against him. He asked me, was I discharged, and I told him yes. When I said yes, that is when he started beating me with a billy, hitting me across the top of the head. After that, I grabbed his billy and wrung it out of his hand. Another policeman came up and threw his gun on me and told me to drop the billy or he’d drop me, so I dropped the billy. After I dropped the billy, the second policeman held his gun on me while the other one was beating me.
And the blows keep coming, and they keep coming, to the point that Woodard loses consciousness.
Woodard is still wearing his crisp Army uniform. He’s been discharged just a few hours earlier. When he comes to, he’s in a jail.
I woke up next morning and could not see.
So Woodard’s beating was not at all unusual. World War II had done exactly what many white people had feared, that once black people were allowed to fight in the military, and when they traveled abroad and they experienced what it was like not to live under a system of racial apartheid, that it would be much harder to control them when they came back. Black men in their uniforms were seen as being unduly proud.
So these men who had served their country, who had come home proudly wearing the uniform to show their service for their country, would find that this actually made them a target of some of the most severe violence.
But what was unusual was what happened after. Woodard’s case was picked up by the N.A.A.C.P., and they take him on a bit of a tour. They take photographs of him. Those photographs are sent out to newspapers and to fundraising efforts, where they’re saying, look what happened to this man who served his country. It’s that spark that finally determines among millions of black people that enough is enough.
And that’s largely seen as one of the sparks of the modern civil rights movement.
We have people coming in from all over the country. I suspect that we will have — (garbled and unfinished sentence.)
The second sustained movement of black people trying to secure equal rights before the law and an equal place in this democracy.
During the early weeks of February 1960, the demonstrations that came to be called the sit-in movement exploded across the South.
Negro youngsters paraded with placards, handed out literature, and tried to sit in at lunch counters.
I think, honestly, many of us didn’t realize just how important our movement would grow to be.
Official reaction was both swift and severe.
Don’t blame a cracker in Georgia for your injustices. The government is responsible for the injustices. The government can bring these injustices to halt.
How long? Not long. Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Hallelujah!
And in 1968, 350 years after the introduction of the first enslaved Africans into the colonies.
This Civil Rights Act is a challenge to all of us.
— Congress passes the last of the great civil rights legislation.
— to go work in our communities and our states, in our homes and in our hearts —
It ends legal discrimination on the basis of race from all aspects of American life.
— to eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in our beloved country.
We often think of the civil rights movement as being about black rights, but the civil rights movement was never just about the rights of black people. It was about making the ideals of the Constitution whole. And so when you look at the laws born out of black resistance, these laws are guaranteeing rights for all Americans.
This experience, which black Americans were having, did not go unnoticed by the rest of America.
I mean, basically every other rights struggle that we have seen . . .
Now we fought the public accommodations fight 10 years ago with the blacks. Are we going to have to start all over again with women?
Disability rights, gay rights, women’s rights —
That people with disabilities were still victims of segregation and discrimination.
— all come from the efforts of the black civil rights struggles.
Equal rights. Equals rights to have a job, to have respect, to not be viewed as a piece of meat.
No Americans will ever again be deprived of their basic guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Celebrations erupted on the steps of the Supreme Court.
One of its most momentous civil rights decisions. The Supreme Court found gay and lesbian Americans have a constitutional right to marry. The majority found its justification in the 14th Amendment, written after the Civil War to extend equal protection under law to freed slaves.
So we are raised to think about 1776 as the beginning of our democracy, but when that ship arrives on the horizon at Point Comfort in 1619, that decision made by the colonists to purchase that group of 20 to 30 human beings, that was a beginning too. And it would actually be those very people who were denied citizenship in their own country, who were denied the protections of our founding documents, who would fight the hardest and most successfully to make those ideals real, not just for themselves but for all Americans. It is black people who have been the perfectors of this democracy.
When I was a kid — it must have been in fifth or sixth grade. Our teacher gave us an assignment. It was a social studies class, and we were learning about different places that people came from, and this was her way of kind of telling the story of the great American melting pot. So she told us all to research our ancestral land and to write a small report about it, and then to draw a flag. I remember kind of looking up and making eye contact with the other black girl who was in the class, because we didn’t really have an ancestral land that we knew of. Slavery had made it so that we didn’t know where we came from in Africa. We didn’t have a specific country. And we could say that we were from the whole continent, but even so, there’s no such thing as an African flag. And so I remember going to the globe by my teacher’s desk — it was on the windowpane along the left side of the classroom — and spinning it to the continent of Africa and just picking a random African country.
So I went back to my desk, and I drew that random African country’s flag, and I wrote a report about it. And I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed, one, because I was lying, but I also felt ashamed because I felt like I should have some other country, and that all the other kids could trace their roots elsewhere, and I could only trace my roots to the country that had enslaved us.
I wish now that I could go back and talk to my younger self and tell her that she should not be ashamed, that this is her ancestral home, that she should be as proud to be an American as her dad was, and that she should boldly and proudly draw those stars and stripes and claim this country as her own.
0 ~ Unattributed
What does a traffic jam in Atlanta have to do with segregation? Quite a lot.
By Kevin M. Kruse / August 14, 2019
Atlanta has some of the worst traffic in the United States. Drivers there average two hours each week mired in gridlock, hung up at countless spots, from the constantly clogged Georgia 400 to a complicated cluster of overpasses at Tom Moreland Interchange, better known as “Spaghetti Junction.” The Downtown Connector — a 12-to-14-lane mega-highway that in theory connects the city’s north to its south — regularly has three-mile-long traffic jams that last four hours or more. Commuters might assume they’re stuck there because some city planner made a mistake, but the heavy congestion actually stems from a great success.
In Atlanta, as in dozens of cities across America, daily congestion is a direct consequence of a century-long effort to segregate the races.
For much of the nation’s history, the campaign to keep African-Americans “in their place” socially and politically manifested itself in an effort to keep them quite literally in one place or another. Before the Civil War, white masters kept enslaved African-Americans close at hand to coerce their labor and guard against revolts. But with the abolition of slavery, the spatial relationship was reversed. Once they had no need to keep constant watch over African-Americans, whites wanted them out of sight. Civic planners pushed them into ghettos, and the segregation we know today became the rule.
At first the rule was overt, as Southern cities like Baltimore and Louisville enacted laws that mandated residential racial segregation. Such laws were eventually invalidated by the Supreme Court, but later measures achieved the same effect by more subtle means. During the New Deal, federal agencies like the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration encouraged redlining practices that explicitly marked minority neighborhoods as risky investments and therefore discouraged bank loans, mortgages and insurance there. (President Trump just today was subtly encourage this again to his base.)Other policies simply targeted black communities for isolation and demolition. The postwar programs for urban renewal, for instance, destroyed black neighborhoods and displaced their residents with such regularity that African-Americans came to believe, in James Baldwin’s memorable phrase, that “urban renewal means Negro removal.”
This intertwined history of infrastructure and racial inequality extended into the 1950s and 1960s with the creation of the Interstate highway system.. The federal government shouldered nine-tenths of the cost of the new Interstate highways, but local officials often had a say in selecting the path. As in most American cities in the decades after the Second World War, the new highways in Atlanta — local expressways at first, then Interstates — were steered along routes that bulldozed “blighted” neighborhoods that housed its poorest residents, almost always racial minorities.
This was a common practice not just in Southern cities like Jacksonville, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, Richmond and Tampa, but in countless metropolises across the country, including Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Syracuse and Washington.
While Interstates were regularly used to destroy black neighborhoods, they were also used to keep black and white neighborhoods apart. Today, major roads and highways serve as stark dividing lines between black and white sections in cities like Buffalo, Hartford, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. In Atlanta, the intent to segregate was crystal clear. Interstate 20, the east-west corridor that connects with I-75 and I-85 in Atlanta’s center, was deliberately plotted along a winding route in the late 1950s to serve, in the words of Mayor Bill Hartsfield, as “the boundary between the white and Negro communities” on the west side of town. Black neighborhoods, he hoped, would be hemmed in on one side of the new expressway, while white neighborhoods on the other side of it would be protected. Racial residential patterns have long since changed, of course, but the awkward path of I-20 remains in place.
By razing impoverished areas downtown and segregating the races in the western section, Atlanta’s leaders hoped to keep downtown and its surroundings a desirable locale for middle-class whites. Articulating a civic vision of racial peace and economic progress, Hartsfield bragged that Atlanta was the “City Too Busy to Hate.” But the so-called urban renewal and the new Interstates only helped speed white flight from Atlanta.
Over the 1960s, roughly 60,000 whites left the city, with many of them relocating in the suburbs along the northern rim. When another 100,000 whites left the city in the 1970s, it became a local joke that Atlanta had become “The City Too Busy Moving to Hate.”
As the new suburbs ballooned in size, traffic along the poorly placed highways became worse and worse. The obvious solution was mass transit — buses, light rail and trains that would more efficiently link the suburbs and the city — but that, too, faced opposition, largely for racial reasons. The white suburbanites had purposefully left the problems of the central city behind and worried that mass transit would bring them back.
Accordingly, suburbanites waged a sustained campaign against the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) from its inception. Residents of the nearly all-white Cobb County resoundingly rejected the system in a 1965 vote. In 1971, Gwinnett and Clayton Counties, which were then also overwhelmingly white, followed suit, voting down a proposal to join MARTA by nearly 4-1 margins, and keeping MARTA out became the default position of many local politicians. (Emmett Burton, a Cobb County commissioner, won praise for promising to “stock the Chattahoochee with piranha” if that were needed to keep MARTA away.) David Chesnut, the white chairman of MARTA, insisted in 1987 that suburban opposition to mass transit had been “90 percent a racial issue.” Because of that resistance, MARTA became a city-only service that did little to relieve commuter traffic. By the mid-1980s, white racists were joking that MARTA, with its heavily black ridership, stood for “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.”
Even as the suburbs became more racially diverse, they remained opposed to MARTA. After Gwinnett voted the system down again in 1990, a former Republican legislator later marveled at the arguments given by opponents. “They will come up with 12 different ways of saying they are not racist in public,” he told a reporter. “But you get them alone, behind a closed door, and you see this old blatant racism that we have had here for quite some time.”
African-American and white passengers on an Atlanta Transit Company trolley on April 23, 1956, shortly after the outlawing of segregation on all public buses. Horace Cort, via Associated Press.
Earlier this year, Gwinnett County voted MARTA down for a third time. Proponents had hoped that changes in the county’s racial composition, which was becoming less white, might make a difference. But the March initiative still failed by an eight-point margin. Officials discovered that some nonwhite suburbanites shared the isolationist instincts of earlier white suburbanites. One white property manager in her late 50s told a reporter that she voted against mass transit because it was used by poorer residents and immigrants, whom she called “illegals.” “Why should we pay for it?” she asked. “Why subsidize people who can’t manage their money and save up a dime to buy a car?”
In the end, Atlanta’s traffic is at a standstill because its attitude about transit is at a standstill, too. Fifty years after its Interstates were set down with an eye to segregation and its rapid-transit system was stunted by white flight, the city is still stalled in the past.
Kevin M. Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton University and the author of “White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism.
“I Can’t Breathe”
What air pollution and police violence have in common
By Kendra Pierre Louis | July 15 2020
Published in Sierra the online magazine of the Sierra Club
Even in nonpandemic times, air pollution is deadly.
Each year, it kills more than 100,000 people in the United States and 5 million worldwide. Most deadly are the tiny particles that are byproducts of the fuels we burn to power our cars, generate electricity, and create the panoply of chemicals that make up modern life. Like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, they lodge deep in a person’s lungs, triggering a deadly cascade of health problems.
But mortality from air pollution is not evenly distributed: “Communities of color, and in particular poor communities of color, are more likely to live in places with poor air quality than their white, wealthier counterparts,” said Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. A pair of studies from the University of Michigan and the University of Montana published in 2015 in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that the high concentration of polluting industries in Black and Latino communities was the deliberate consequence of racist policies.
These same communities struggling to breathe are disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the research and analysis group APM Research Lab, Black Americans are especially susceptible to the disease, with a mortality rate that as of June 23 was 2.3 times higher than the rate for white Americans. Based on the race and ethnicity data of 93 percent of the 120,000 people who had died of COVID-19 in the United States, the researchers found that “if they had died of COVID-19 at the same rate as white Americans, at least 16,000 Black Americans, 2,200 Latino Americans, and 400 Indigenous Americans would still be alive.”
Some of these deaths can be attributed to broader social inequities. Black and Latino people, for example, are more likely to hold jobs—including many in health care—that have been declared essential services, putting them at greater risk of exposure to the disease. And because of systemic racism within health care, they’re less likely to be given adequate treatment when they become sick. Rana Zoe Mungin, a Black public school teacher in Brooklyn, was twice denied a COVID-19 test at a local hospital despite exhibiting symptoms. At one point, according to her family, she was told that she was merely having a panic attack. Mungin eventually died of COVID-19.
A growing body of research suggests that air pollution itself is an important factor in these deaths.
“We looked at whether counties that historically have higher levels of air pollution have a higher mortality rate for COVID-19,” said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at Harvard University. “We found a statistically significant association.” Dominici was the senior author on a study on the subject that is currently out for peer review. Similar studies are being conducted in Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK, she said, “looking at the relationship between exposure to particulate matter and COVID mortality.” That the association seems to exist across different populations strengthens the likelihood that pollution is a factor.
To understand why, it helps to understand what air pollution does to the body—especially the fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5, which is created from burning oil, coal, and fracked gas. Over the long term, breathing in these particles can permanently damage the lungs, making it harder to breathe. COVID-19 also damages the lungs. Air pollution can damage the heart. COVID-19 also damages the heart. Breathing polluted air makes you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a disease that makes you more likely to die from COVID-19.
“You have almost these kinds of feedback loops where the health outcomes that are associated with poor air quality are also the same outcomes that can make populations susceptible to more severe symptoms and mortality risks from COVID-19,” Morello-Frosch said.
If air pollution is the bullet, systemic racism loaded the gun. Research by Morello-Frosch and others shows that while communities of color suffer higher overall levels of air pollution compared with predominantly white communities, it also matters where those communities are located. Segregated cities, such as Memphis and Chicago, have higher levels of air pollution overall than more integrated ones.
In the face of evidence that air pollution is harmful and air pollution during a pandemic is especially so, the Trump administration is making it easier for companies to pollute. Even as the number of COVID-19 deaths was beginning to rise, Trump’s EPA rejected recommendations to raise the national air quality standard for particulate matter and told polluters that it wouldn’t expect routine pollution monitoring and compliance because of the pandemic. Given what we know about how air pollution affects the lungs, Dominici said, “it’s not really the time to relax air pollution regulation and give license to pollute the air.”
The movement that was sparked by George Floyd’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” is now addressing air pollution as well as police violence. In Louisville, Kentucky, which has one of the highest asthma rates in the country, demands for environmental justice merged with demands for racial justice in the upstart senatorial campaign of state representative Charles Booker. Jamell Henderson, a professor at Brooklyn College and an activist with New York Communities for Change, said in a late-June press briefing, “It’s not just about police reform. It’s about educational reform, mental health reform, social service reform. It’s about health care reform and environmental justice reform.”
Now before you go, here’s a song from the black churches Click here.
The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christ)
Sunday, June 14. 2020
Today is our Roman Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi in which pause to appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.
I’d like to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe about this wonderful sacrament.
In my 50 years as a priest I must have celebrated hundreds, maybe thousands of Masses over that time. But I’d like to offer some wonderful comments from Father Richard Rohr, an author I have always appreciated for his wisdom and insight. These are from a recent book “The Universal Christ.” Father Rohr realized that Jesus did not say, “This is my spirit given for you”, or ‘These are my thoughts.” Instead he said very daringly, “This is my body,” which seemed for a spiritual teacher, a God-man to speak. And John reports many left him because of it (John 6:66).
Rohr says he has come to realize that in offering his body, Jesus is precisely giving us his full bodily humanity more than his spiritualized divinity! Eat me,” he shockingly says.
Many of the ancient religions portrayed their god as eating or sacrificing humans or animals, which were offered on altars, but Jesus is inviting us that God would give himself as food for us.
On helpful piece of the Catholic ritual is our orthodox belief in ‘Real Presence.” By that we mean that Jesus is somehow physically present in the sacramental bread. This, Father Rohr says, sets the stage for what he likes to call “carnal knowledge” of God, who is normally assumed to be Spirit. It seemed that mere mind-knowing is not enough because it does not engage the heart or the soul. Presence is a unique capacity that includes body, heart, mind and whatever we mean by soul.. Only real presence can know Real Presence.
When Jesus speaks the words “This is my Body,” Father Rohr believes he was speaking not just about the bread right in front of him, but about the whole universe, about everything that is physical, material, and yet is spirit-filled. (The name of his book , again, is “The Universal Christ”). When we speak these sacred words at the altar, we are speaking them to both the bread and the congregation—so we can carry it “To all creation” (Mark 16:16). As St. Augustine said, we must feed the body of Christ to the people of God until they know they are what they eat! And they know what they drink!
Jesus pushes it further into even scarier directions by adding the symbolism of intoxicating wine as we lift the chalice and speak over all of suffering humanity. “This is my blood.’ Jesus then directs us Drink me, all of you!’
In drinking the Blood of Christ at this Holy Meal you are consciously uniting yourself with all unjust suffering in the world from the beginning of time till its end.
The bread and wine together are stand-ins for the very elements of the universe, which also enjoy and communicate the incarnate presence.
A true believer is eating what he or she is afraid to see and afraid to accept; The universe is the Body of God, both in its essence and its suffering.
As Pope Francis insists, the Eucharistic bread and wine are not a prize for the perfect or a reward for good behavior. Rather, they are food for the human journey and medicine for the sick.
For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness and also profound joy and at times, and a deep affection for my Jesus.
When I receive our Lord in holy communion I pray:
Lord Jesus, You became — You are still — bread-broken
and blood-poured out for the sake of the world.
As I receive the precious gift of the Eucharist
may I become Your body
and Your body become mine.
May Your blood course through my own blood stream.
I want to be transformed by my communion with you, Lord.
Transformed from my self-centered lusts and angers and petty jealousies
Let me become Your Body-broken
and Your Blood-poured-out
into a world that needs You
now more than ever.
To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise
this day and forever!
So be it! Amen!
And now. before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro Te Devote sung in procession. On this day throughout the world, it is the custom to have public processions in Catholic countrie with the Blessed Sacrament such as the one in this video. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings with the Ancient “Sequence” or Eucharistic poem included before the gospel. Click here
Richard Rohr The Universal Christ / Ch. 11 pp. 129-138 Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge /2019 / 36 Causton Street / London SWIP 4ST / Copyright Center for Action and Contemplation 2019