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I was a contributor to the Grace Cathedral Magazine from 2000-2002. I also write occassional reflections for St. Bart's Catholic Church in San Mateo, Ca.

Recent Relections   |   St. Bart's   |   Grace Cathedral

Recent Reflections
Tuesday April 13, 2004  -  Prayer and Accepting God's Will

(This is my Good Friday Reflection from 4/8/04. How could Jesus stand there on that balcony with Pilate and take it? The answer is found in the examples Jesus gave us in prayer. Prayer is not only about asking for God's help, it's then taking a step back, being open to His grace and accepting his help. Being open to His grace means being open to what comes next, not what we want to ( or think should) come next. I might be able to be a "cafeteria" Catholic, picking and choosing what I like in the Catholic Church but I cannot pick and choose grace. God is always sending it. Am I always listening to it? )

The First Station of the Cross: Jesus is Condemned to Death

It's hard to say those words Jesus... is ... condemned... to... death...

But it is fitting we start with them. Because this is a pivotal moment in the Passion Narrative. This station signifies the beginning of the end really. The point of no return. This was Jesus' last chance. After this, there was no turning back for Jesus.

Up to this point Jesus could have defended Himself, answered their questions, and refuted the false testimony. As he said in the gospels, he could even have raised up his followers and had them fight to free him.

However, he did not. He stood there and accepted it. Accepted the humiliation... the pain... the insults... the lies...the jeers.

Can you imagine, standing up there on that balcony looking out over a mean, angry mob that only wanted to kill you?

Think of the pictures of angry mobs we see on television even today. It is terrifying to watch that type of roiling hatred and we are in the safe confines of our living rooms and kitchens. This mob, demanding the death of Jesus, was unruly, fractious and seething with hate. They even scared Pilate into handing Him over to be crucified.

What it was like for Jesus during these hours of trial and tribulation? Being falsely accused, being falsely arrested, and being falsely found guilty through a rigged trial.

How would we react? Would we have the grace and dignity to follow God's will like Jesus? How could Jesus stand there on that balcony and let Himself be delivered into their hands? Wasn't he afraid?

Yes, he was afraid. We know that from the different gospel accounts of the Agony in the Garden. He went there specifically to fortify Himself, through prayer, for what was to come.

He went to pray to God and ask for God's help. Then after asking for God's help, He trusted God.

And this of course is key. Jesus showed us in the Passion Narrative, how to handle the trials and tribulations in our own lives. We ask for God's help and then we trust in God. WE trust that no matter what happens, IT IS God's will and God is with us.

It's the trust in God that is the hardest for us humans to accept. WE often ask for help and then go on about trying to control out lives to our specifications. We doubt God.

Jesus continues to reiterate this asking and trusting of God, every time He prayed that night.

He prays,

"Abba, Father, all things are possible with you. Take this cup away from me" and ends with "but not what I will, but what you will."

He prays a second time, saying

"My Father if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done." yet again giving it up to God.

Then yet a third time he went back and prays the same.

He was facing the ultimate Act of Service. He was going to die for our sins. He knew the terrible things in front of him. But His divineness made him trust in the Lord. No matter how afraid He was, each of His prayers ended with

"Let thy will be done."

Jesus had ultimate trust in His Father. He had Faith. He had faith that he was not to die in vain.

He overcame his human instinct to fear, asked the Lord for help and then trusted the Lord, which is why He could be obedient. Trust breeds obedience. When you trust, you have nothing to fear.

"Let thy will be done."

Living life with God. How can we be like Jesus, to have such trust in our Father? We don't have to stand in front of an angry, seething mob like Jesus to face the same problems in our everyday lives...letting others influence us unduly...going along with the gang...shirking our responsibilities to each other... choosing the easier path of no resistance.

Just this past week I read a small reflection in our little black Lenten book that really helped me understand this more clearly. Let me read you the following and hope it resonates for you as it did for me.

"...On my own, I am unable to live up to the person I was made to be. I was not made to go it alone. I was made for union with God- not just when I die but right now. God's grace is not an add-on. I was made for this. I am built this way- built to rise to a level that goes beyond human instincts. I am also free. Which means I have to open myself up freely to God's grace and it's effects."

..."I was not made to go it alone."

"I was made for this; I am built to rise to a level that goes beyond human instincts."

These are such an encouraging phrases. We CAN be better people. But we CAN'T do it alone. But we CAN do it.

Jesus opened himself up to God's grace. Because of that, HE was able to fulfill his destiny and ours. He showed us the way. Asking God for help, then trusting in God is the way. Being open to God's grace is the way.

"Not my will Lord, let your will be done."

With God's grace, anything is possible. Even His Son dying on the Cross.

May we all be blessed with the infinite grace of God's eternal love every day, in memory of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who fulfilled His destiny because He had faith.

May we ask God for His help, and then may we trust Him as we fulfill our destinies.

St. Bart's
Wednesday September 17, 2003  -  Partnership, Community and Being Enough

Third Station, Jesus Falls the First Time, Good Friday, 4/18/03

Jesus falls for the first time. Itıs the first time, but not the LAST time that Jesus falls, walking his path to Calvary ---He always picks himself up and walks onward... He always gets up. Jesus falls ...but He gets back up.

This image of Christ walking, falling down, getting up and walking on with his cross is a terrific inspiration to me. Especially in my own human, fractured, imperfect life. Whenever I think Iım not enough, Iım not perfect enough, or worthy enough--- I remember Jesus falling but getting back up. Who am I to judge whether Iım worthy enough, after Jesus carried His cross for me. But I never quite understood this inclusiveness of ALL of us being worthy. Itıs not that I donıt think all of YOU are worthy, itıs me, myself, that Iıve struggled to accept as worthy. I donıt have any problem thinking Jesus died for YOUR sins, but could He have really died for mine.

Part of this is because Iıve been stuck on this ³old school² image of having to be perfect ...but part of it is also that with accepting worth, comes responsibility... if I accept my worth in Godıs eyes, I have to accept the responsibility He entrusts to me to live out His word as best as I can, to be the best person that I can be and to follow His path. But no where in that acceptance of responsibility does it say I have to be perfect...it says I just have to TRY the best I can, knowing that God is with me every step of the way.. just as God was with Jesus every step of the way.

As we are reminded by our faith community, this is a partnership with God. The reason Jesus could fall and find the strength to get back up is because He knew God was with Him. Jesus was not carrying the cross alone...He had God as His partner.

The concept of communal partnership has been fairly abstract to me, until I joined the community of St. Bartıs several years ago. Since that time, Iıve seen many concrete examples of people in partnership with each other. Iıve found in this community that I donıt have to be perfect. Iıve found in this community everyone is enough. And by realizing everyone is enough, Iıve also found community... something that eluded me for years and years.

Iım not a cradle to grave Catholic. Iım a cradle to college, then mid-40s (menopause) to grave Catholic. I left the Church in college for a life of adventure. Ironically that adventure led me right back to the Church, albeit 25 years later. In the mid 90s, still living in San Francisco, I returned to the Church. But it was not until moving down here to San Mateo in the late 90s and attending a mass at St. Bartıs that I began to think I might have found partners in a faith community.

Of course I didnıt know what partners in a faith community meant. When I left the church, the priests had all the responsibility and we did what we were told. Basically you showed up, dropped a dollar in the collection basket and left. But Vatican II changed all that and returned the Church to the founding tenets of community. We, the people, were to be responsible for our community of faith, under the guidance of our ministers. But I had missed that whole changeover to this new emphasis.

Of all the changes I have encountered in returning to todayıs Church, this dynamic of community is the most challenging. I am not only encouraged to actively participate in Church rituals, like Mass, but I am also expected to shoulder responsibility for the health and well being of my faith community. You are my partners. We do not stand alone here.

This has been a difficult path for me, largely because it makes me confront my fears, especially the fear of not being enough. Standing up in front of the congregation lectoring, or saying hello to the stranger in the pew next to me, has been strangely intimidating.

Iıve realized that while the Church of my youth was iconoclastic and emphasized our imperfectness, this imperfectness gave me an excuse to shrug off the demands of an engaged relationship with God. I kept God up there, above me, not here, in my embrace.

This past year, my new understanding of partnership and community was illustrated to me yet again. In an attempt to become more engaged with my faith, I tentatively got involved in various Church Ministries. During Eucharist Ministry training, Father explained that Mass could not be celebrated alone. He reminded us that Jesus had said, ³where two or more are gathered, do this in memory of me. ³ I was shocked, to see that community was defined as small as you and me. That challenged my sense of anonymity. However, bit by bit, my life moved forward, as I slowly gleaned how to have an adult, active participation in my faith community.

One day last year, I went to Mass for one of the Holy Days, expecting the regular retinue of participants... But because of the day and the time of the Mass, the crowd was sparse. Father was completely alone on the altar. He had to undertake all the ritual tasks normally shared by ³us²; carrying the book of the Gospels to the altar, reading both the Old and New Testament passages, reciting the daily Psalm with itıs responsorial, reading the prayers of the faithful, bringing out the gifts, in addition to his gospel reading and homily.

Finally having gotten accustomed to group ritual, I felt he looked so lonely up there! The altar seemed so exposed and empty. I kept wondering where the other ministers- the Lectors, the Eucharist Ministers, the Gift Bearers, the Singers, the Alter Servers? This was certainly not the Community of Mass as I had finally come to know it and it disturbed me. Where was the community? Why didnıt someone go help him?

Well, like ME, the community was in the pews. And, despite my current parish activities, I still didnıt have the courage to step forward and offer my assistance. I was still holding on to my feelings of inadequacy and the resistance to participate fully. I thought to myself, --- Iıll let Father handle my faith for me and letıs face it, Iım not enough.... There are others more qualified, more holy. I might make a mistake. Iım just too small a member of the community.

Then, as is most often the case with God, a small miracle occurred. It was one of those simple but defining moments of grace.

When the time came for communion, Father looked out at us, caught my eye and called me up to the altar to help him distribute the host. Now, since IŒve been doing it longer, Iım used to this, but at that time I was terrified of being singled out.

In true human fashion, I resisted at first, asking Father if he really wanted me and looking around hoping he meant someone else. Fear was trying to have itıs way. But Father was insistent. After joining him on the altar, then standing next to him, administering the Holy Eucharist to the faithful, I was immensely grateful.

It wasnıt a big deal to anyone but me. To have felt totally unworthy, then guilty for that, only to be blessed by Godıs insistence that I take my unremarkable place in His community, was immensely gratifying. I had felt so insecure. But God helped me realized I was exactly what was needed at that time. A helping hand. So simple. It wasnıt about knowing more or being better or being holier than anyone else. It was about being enough. I realized that in Godıs eyes, I am enough, enough to participate, to help orchestrate, and to contribute to His worship. It was as simple as saying YES.

Fear paralyzes all of us into thinking we are not enough. Fear prevents us from acting because we think some one else is more qualified, smarter, better, simply MORE....We let others handle things because we underestimate our ability to step forward and contribute.

We are all on a path together. Yet along this path, each of us will be weak in our own unique ways. We will stumble and fall at different spots in the journey. At some point we will all need help, partners, and community. As we see later in the stations, Simon steps forward to help Jesus....Veronica wipes his face. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

The vast meaning of the words community and partnership continues to unfold for me. When fear threatens to stop you from asking for the bread of community, remember Jesus falling for the first time. Remember He was not alone, God was with Him. Remember God is with each and everyone one of us. Let that inspire you to say Yes.

Grace Catherdral
Wednesday September 17, 2003  -  The Best Spiritual Writing of 2002
Nadine reviews "The Best Spiritual Writing of 2002". This anthology, now in it's fifth year, is a rich, satisfying feast of literate reflections on modern spirituality...
... Read more
  • Nadine Reflects on her first hospice experience in "The Spoons". Annie Bramlett was the first person I ever saw as a hospice volunteer. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck. Would I know what to do? Would I be enough? Would I run away in horror?
    ... Read more
  • My Monastery is a Minivan Until she became a mother, Denise Roy thought serious spiritual practice was confined to the quiet solitude of monasteries. Raising four children, however, taught her more about spirituality than she learned from four years of seminary. Holding both a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Counseling and Psychology, Roy's serious meditations are balanced by a good dose of humor ... Read More
  • David Bazan's
  • alter ego, the band Pedro the Lion, demonstrates Gen-Y's fascination with the deeper issues of moral dilemmas. This is not the happy, sugary pop of Contemporary Christian Music. A quietly engaging twenty-something, Bazan writes with edgy, obsessive solemnity. The tensions he sees between classes, families, the haves, the have-nots and the sexes, get his full attention. As Bazan himself admits, "That tension is frustrating, but it also makes me feel alive" ... Read More
  • Graceful Passages: It is impossible to review Graceful Passages within the confines of any normal critique. “It transcends all the expectations one might have of what a two CD set, subtitled "A Companion For Living and Dying", could possibly be about. “Graceful Passages is a stunning musical prayer for the ages, pure and simple... Read More
  • Beatles, the Bible and Bodega Bay: I was so excited when I saw this book in the bookstore that I circled it hungrily, like someone coming in off a desert fast, parched and needing sustenance right away... Read More
  • Caring to the End: Our panelists explore their call to caregiving, and what it is that they gain from a relationship with the dying. Nadine Condon, Volunteer Caregiver, Mission Hospice, Brad Byrum, Executive Director, Zen Hospice, Bill Musick, Executive Director, Maitiri Hospice... Read More

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