In some cultures, placing flowers on the graves of relatives who have died is still part of ‘Memorial Day’. They remember, give thanks and bring beauty to honor them.
But for most of us, it is a custom long abandoned. Ours is a culture of striving toward the future while forgetting that the future is born out of the past.
For me this year, Memorial Day has taken on a whole new meaning. With the thousands of people killed violently and at times buried secretly, I am aware there are no markers for them as in a cemetery. No one has brought flowers to honor their life nor their death.
Yet, the earth receives them and holds them in her heart. The flowers sing of beauty as they blow in the gentle breeze remembering all the years of violence that have marked her face. They did not die unnoticed.
Memorial Day this year is an invitation to transcend our futuristic culture for just a moment. Gaze at the flowers and be reminded that no violence can destroy us ultimately. The God of all creation holds each person and embraces all in mercy.
Please join me in a moment of remembering this weekend as we celebrate Memorial Day.
Memorial Day Blessings!
When I began pondering the meaning of this month of May, I kept sensing it is about requesting: “May I…” and giving permission.
Often, after being with someone I briefly encountered and have touched at a soul level, I will ask “May I give you a hug?” “Oh yes, please” is the most frequent response I hear in return. Within each of us is a deep-seated need to feel respected and cherished. Yet, in our world today this need seems to be superseded by violence, abuse, indifference or exploitation.
Asking ‘May I’ also conveys a quality of gratitude that says: “You have touched my innermost being and I am so grateful”. This makes me recall the profound respect our First Nation peoples have in relationship to all of creation. They thank the plants and animals for their life and for being what was needed to sustain the lives of the people.
We have lost this awareness in our culture. As I watch lands devastated by over-use or by developers building more and more structures, I don’t hear ‘may I’ or ‘thank you’.
Can you imagine how different our culture would be if contractors would bow before the land and ask “may I build new homes upon you”? And can you imagine the earth’s response of “Oh yes, thank you for asking, I have longed to uphold families searching for a home”!
Imagine spending this month of May asking “may I…” to all that touches your soul and imagine being opened to seeing the earth, the people in your life respond by welcoming you into their tender, respectful and familiar embrace.
I smile as I imagine asking the birds: “may I listen to your song of love?” or the trees blowing in the wind: “may I watch you dance today?”
I think this is the way God is with each of us: asking “May I come closer?” “May I share with you the depth and breadth of my love for you”? May I share your life and be with you in all of your daily challenges”?
In this month of May, students will be preparing for graduation into a new moment in their lives. Mothers will be celebrated for all they are and forgiven for all they could not be, new life will be born, others will feel the ebb of their lives fade, and within it all may you hear a gentle voice ask: “May I be with you”?
I hope your heart will respond as mine does today: “Oh yes, you certainly may, thank you!”
One of the most difficult Christian celebrations for many people is Easter. Well, not so much Easter because we have made it a secular celebration with all the candy, Easter eggs new toys etc. But more to the point, the resurrection! It just does not make sense to so many.
I won’t pretend I fully understand it myself, but my experience of life and the lives of people who come to Eremos is that resurrection is a reality!
There is a Life, a Vitality, within each of us that moves us through the myriad of sufferings that we experience. There is a woman who was diagnosed with Cancer. With chemo and then radiation she was told the margins showed her cancer had been eradicated. She was now ‘cancer free’. In the process of months dealing with side effects, treatments and uncertainties she was changed. She looked at the world differently. She looked at people she loved with a level of love that friends and family members could feel. Through her cancer she was ‘raised up’ to a new level of consciousness.
Scripture does not say Jesus rose up from death, but rather Jesus was raised up. So it is for us. We do not have power over our lives, but we have been given a quality of Life that will always rise us up through the challenges of living. We call this ‘New Life’ but in truth, it is the Life of God that has always been there since our conception. It is the Life of Christ within us raising us to a participation in the Life that is Christ that is greater than us.
As you pause this Easter, my hope is that you will experience resurrection through reflecting on all those moments and events that will let you also proclaim: “He is Risen”. As the old Easter hymn says: “I know because Christ lives in my heart!”
Christ Life be yours this Easter!
There is a quote from Ron Rolheiser that puts these ‘high holy days’ in perspective.
Good Friday: is about the loss of life. Easter Sunday: is the reception of a new life. 40 days: are for the readjusting to the new and grieving the old. Ascension: is a letting go of the old and letting it bless you; a refusal to cling. Pentecost: is the reception of a new spirit for the new life that one is already living.
As someone said to me recently, “Our Christian spiritual life does not always follow the liturgical calendar”. How true that is! Our lives, whether Christians or of other faith traditions, are not so neatly packaged. And it is also true that the evolution of our lives is not linear. Rather, it seems we dance from one moment into the next, or perhaps stay stuck in what feels like an eternal moment. Yet as we reflect on the insight Rolheiser offers us, we can certainly proclaim an affirming ‘yes!’
These are as much dimensions of what it is to be human today as it was 2100 years ago when the message was lived out in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Liturgically we Christians are moving toward and through Good Friday. We focus on the loss of life as Jesus had lived it. His relationships with people who professed that they believed in him, the betrayal of friends who ran away in fear of being identified as a friend, and the loss of innocence through the condemnation of the political and religious authorities of his time.
As we contemplate the loss of his life, we are drawn to the realization that condemnation and betrayal continues in our world today. Even in our own country, people are being deported, sent back to their original homeland or forbidden to enter the gates of hope our country holds. They are betrayed and condemned only to face the death they came here to escape.
And these past two weeks Eremos has been touched by the death of family members, of friends and colleagues through illness. We have also heard the cries of injustice when people lose their jobs because of administrative decisions. Good Friday exists very personally for all of us.
As I gaze out my window, I see the brown grass has become green, the trees are now full of green leaves, the sun has returned with its beauty and warmth, and I remember: death is not forever! There is life when the seed breaks through the dry soil and the snowdrop blooms. There is life when strong winds blow away the old branches that can’t rejuvenate allowing new life to flow. This is the dance of the seasons. It is Spring!
We face the ‘Good Fridays’ of our lives and the life of Jesus knowing there is Life with us and within us in living and dancing through each moment. May you discover your living moment and open to the Life that sustains you, supports you and calls each of us into the dance of Love.
“So many challenges and confrontations have come at me this week” said a young pastor as she sat down in the Eremos glider. “I can’t see what I am needing to do or where I am going” said another. And “We just don’t have the funds to keep our Nonprofit going” said a member of a board of directors with tears in her eyes. And still another looked down in shame and said “the fear I have around my studies has broken my covenant with God”. So many stories this week of confusion, loss of centeredness, and of anxiety have broken my heart as I listened.
In his book entitled Confessions, St. Augustin of Hippo wrote the following:
What does love look like?
It has hands to help others.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of others.
That is what love looks like.”
A new year begins reminding us of the cycle of life – we are always beginning again.
Each new year is an invitation to be open to new possibilities, new challenges, and new experiences. Like an empty canvas, this beginning invites us to express what is deepest within us, to stand back and see where the next step in creating our work of art will lead us.
“Will you hold the darkness with me this Advent?” was the question I posed to the members of Eremos’ monthly contemplative groups. Something about that invitation struck a chord within people. And when they discovered the invitation was to join me virtually and thus eliminate the stress of driving in Austin traffic, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
Like so many people, I have been wondering how we can all heal once a new president is elected. With such a divided country, some people are going to be disappointed, frustrated, and perhaps disillusioned at a minimum. Others will be excited, hopeful, and ready to celebrate.