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Reflections

Reflections

In the Storm Still

Exploring "engaged presence" in the midst of the turbulence of our times.

 - reflections excerpted or carefully crafted to accompany you in your practice of 'engaged presence,' as you draw the world of crying need and awesome complexity into your heart and center.
 
In the Storm Still comes in regular installments as reflections, resources and reminders for engaging spirituality in times like these. Created by Joe Grant, Louisville, Kentucky. Reproduced with permission.

Sacramental Touch

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

While travelling, a Samaritan approached and, seeing the victim, was moved with compassion. After bandaging the wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, and placing the victim on his own animal, the Samaritan led them to an inn to take care of the one who had been injured. Luke 10:33-34

Seeker,
Who remains untouchable in your life?

Have you ever seen
fevered victims;
precious people plagued by merciless disease?

Have you looked
into the anguished faces
of families facing indescribable loss?

Have you noticed the quiet courage
of medical workers and body bearers
defying danger to tend carefully to diseased bodies?

To the lost Christ shows his face;
to the unloved He gives His embrace;
to those who cry in pain or disgrace,
Christ, makes, with His friends, a touching place.
John Bell

When curious children come close
to someone’s wound—a cut, a graze, a burn—
instinctively they fear that by touching it they will share the pain.

As adults, we recoil from people in distress,
afraid perhaps
we might be implicated; drawn into their suffering or shame.

And now the aberration of abuse has eroded trust
and left us fearful;
suspicious of physicality; the touching sacrament that heals.

When Jesus touched leprous skin and blinded eyes,
or took a dead child by the hand,
he opened himself to contamination; being declared unclean.

But didn’t he also
need to make love a real;
palpable and physical connection?

Could he feel
through warm fingertips
the stories carried by the skin?

Did he caress the isolation of illness?
Would he feel the indignities of infirmity?
Could he share the powerlessness of poverty?

The house of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are – or should be – challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently. Madeleine L’Engle

Suffering cries out to be shared.
There is no healing
without the risk of holding and being held.

Surely you have felt
the pulsing warmth
of another hand in yours?

Such fragile, mysterious gifts are we;
messengers of a Holy One embodied;
to feel through us the burn of love.

Every human palm,
saturated with sensate receptors,
can stretch out to hold, to feel and reach in to know and heal.

Consider your own hands
that have borne suffering
and been stung by violence.

Hands that have inflicted pain
and been calloused
by rejection or disdain.

These hands have brought consolation
and have known
the touch of tenderness.

Strong and gentle,
anointed to care and caress,
and bring the healing Realm close at hand.

God of day and darkness,
bless these holy hands for the tasks of restoration:
the holding, healing, feeding, and forgiving work of the Gospel.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring. Martin Luther King Jr.

Will you risk being touched by the suffering within the reach of your hands?

joe

Sacramental Spring

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

God’s Realm is like someone who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day while they sleep and rise, the seed sprouts and grows, how, they do not know. The earth itself produces first the stalk, then the full head of grain. Mark 4:26-28

Seeker,
How have you received and celebrated the sacrament of today?

Sacraments are not magic.
They are majestic, messy and,
at their core, mysterious portals to the eternal.

Prolific though they be,
we just don’t see what we won’t see.
In the face of resurrection’s springtime release, how blind can we be?

Pollen to irritate the eyes,
perfumes and bouquets resplendent
to overwhelm the senses.

And still the miracle fails to arrest us,
draw us out of our own heads,
teach us humility, and school us in awe.

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dry all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
John Muir

But first, we must be freed
from fractious fears,
and self-preoccupations to become self effacing.

For every day is Earth Day,
when we open wide the soul’s window,
let in the bird-song Psalms,

and intentionally practice that holy communion
of breath-receiving-and-returning—
first and final sounds we ever make.

In the face of our original inhalation,
and in the wake of our ultimate exhalation,
surely all else pales.

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.

Abraham Heschel

I went one day
for a walk in the woods,
and time lost track of me.

So, on I amble and sometimes stumble,
knowing less and less about anything,
but more and more sure about everything.

Don’t we need to lose sight to regain vision?
Knowing our blindness might cause us to reach out
and lead us into the path of another’s pain.

Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers –wiser than all alphabets— clouds that die constantly for the sake of God’s glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory in nature. It is embarrassing to live! Abraham Heschel

In all this wildly
wonderful and woeful universe,
love alone endures.

We understand this best
in the act of letting-go
what and whomsoever we have come to love

For we do not manufacture compassion.
We only welcome it,
make room to receive it, and express it with abandon.

From first breath to final,
this is our sacramental mission,
love is not attachment; it is release, outpouring, falling, letting-go.

How strange we are in the world and how presumptuous our doings!
Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder. For the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.
Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.
Abraham Heschel

joe

Christhood: Resurrection Practice

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’
Startled, they were terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.
He said to them, ‘Why so frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see…’

Luke 24:36-39

Seeker,
Where have you witnessed resurrection this new day?

Whether we care
to notice it or not,
Spring has sprung.

Whether or not we perceive it,
new life has everywhere erupted;
miraculous and blooming with pungent promise.

But what does resurrection actually bring to life,
amid the deep distresses and desolations
of our times?

How do we open a space
for healing to happen
in a heated climate of suspicion and division?

And what does new life mean for people
whose hearts are boarded-up;
who are incarcerated, burdened and broken?

So here is resurrection’s scandalous secret—
a mystery so deep that no amount of surface-scratching
will remove or reveal it:

Always, always, the Christ appears unbidden,
as the wounded one;
the perforated, broken, visibly damaged life in our midst.

Sometimes that wounded Christ is you;
yes, and sometimes also me.
But more often Christ is fleshed in those we do not care to see.

For resurrection offers no escape from trials, tears or failure.
It promises a wide-wounded embrace,
a welcome solidarity with tangible sufferings and alienations all.

i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings…      e e  cummings

In the embrace of Christhood over cult,
connection over division, and mercy over punishment, resurrection
releases us from prisons of the past; dungeons of our own design.

When we practice Christhood— being in touch with wounded-ness—
the shards of our shattered world stir and shift,
as the heart-like-kaleidoscope turns into the light of a new day.

So may resurrection continue
to interfere with your plans and color your projections.
And may peace punctuate the patterns of your day,

joe