For several weeks the world watched the rescue of twelve members of a soccer team and their coach who had been trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. None of the possible rescue scenarios was without danger, as the death of Thailand's former Navy Seal .Saman Kunan demonstrated when after delivering oxygen tanks to the cave, his own oxygen supply ran out. By the time this blog is posted, it is expected the thirteen who were rescued will have been released from the hospital although they and their families continue to need our prayers as they cope with memories and international fame. We should also pray for Kunan’s widow who told those rescued not to blame themselves for her husband’s death. In the days leading to the rescue, the boys had become everyone’s children. The lesson and the challenge is to remember that everyone we meet is someone’s child. As disciples of Christ, we are called to act in right relation to the world and to one another. While most of our decisions will not involve life or death situations, some complicated situations might freeze us in indecision. In those times, let us turn to our mother as Mary, Untier of Knots. Depicted in a painting by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner, Mary receives the knotted ribbon of human problems, unties it and passes it on to another angel. Mary will companion [...]
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire from the Supreme Court has caused great speculation and concern about future nominees and has aroused many memories of Kennedy’s position on the court as a Republican appointed by a Republican president who often was the swing vote, siding sometimes with the liberal judges, sometimes with the conservatives. In speeches and in writing formal opinions, Kennedy often expressed the need to begin with the Constitution, consider the context of American liberties and to consider human dignity. By nature, court cases involve a winner and a loser and people of good conscience can disagree over particular judicial points, but those disagreements should be based on careful consideration of facts and concern for the common good. Even before President Trump announced his nomination, pundits and politicians were devising strategies to block or approve the nominee for political advantage. Let us ask Mary, Seat of Wisdom, to pray that our leaders make judgments that serve and unite our country. And let us follow Mary’s wise example by being gentle and strong enough to listen for and respond to God’s will.
July 4th called us to remember once again the ideals affirmed in our country's founding documents. On Thursday, June 29th, five staff members of the Capital Gazette, a local newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, were murdered, apparently targeted by a gunman who in 2012 had made an unsuccessful attempt to sue the newspaper group for defamation. In a time when journalists are increasingly under verbal and sometimes physical attack, the tributes to the slain workers – four journalists and a sales associate – remind us of the true vocation of the news media to seek and publish the truth so that the rest of us might be informed and engaged citizens in the local, state, national and global communities in which we live. May our Blessed Mother give comfort to all who mourn and to all who have suffered violence. And may we all look to Mary as one who sought and followed the truth, for when the angel announced God’s plan, Mary’s first response was an open-minded and open-hearted question: “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Assured that the power of the Holy Spirit would accomplish God’s will, Mary said yes to God with her words and her life. May we follow Mary’s example in seeking truth and following the Spirit’s promptings.
Last week while our attention focused on the heart-wrenching stories and images of crying children, the United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley explained that human rights violations in countries that hold membership in the council led to the decision. Throughout the years, reports by the media and by independent human rights organizations have confirmed Haley's allegations. Haley also noted that the United States had repeatedly raised objections and suggested changes to the Council, but often found their suggestions rejected. On an individual level, we have all had the sometimes difficult and frustrating experience of trying to make our own positions known to colleagues at work or community organizations, to neighbors; sometimes we can’t even come to an agreement with close friends, No doubt the complications of nations’ cultures, languages and histories makes any discussion more complex and often more frustrating; however, withdrawing from the process removes the possibility that a word, a suggestion, a plan voiced by our representative might resonate with members of the council and effect change for the common good. Like most women of her time, Our Blessed Mother is not known for great speeches, but she was present at key moments in Jesus’ life, such as the wedding feast where her advocacy moved Jesus to perform his first miracle, Let us pray that we and [...]
Last week’s news told of the deaths of Guatemalan townspeople, victims of a volcanic eruption. Later in the week we learned of the deaths of two celebrities, fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, both of whom died by suicide. Such news can leave us feeling overwhelmed and isolated, but Jesus has promised us that we are never alone. The familiar icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help offers us a visual reminder of this sustaining connection. Mary holds the Infant Jesus who has turned to her for comfort as he anticipates his eventual suffering and death, foreshadowed in the instruments of the Passion held by angels. Both Mary and Jesus have their faces turned toward us, reminding us that they are not strangers to our sorrow and that there is no concern we cannot share with them. As we bring our concerns to Jesus and to Mary, we know that we are all siblings. Let us pray for the dead and take notice of those we interact with each day: engaging in genuine conversation, providing a listening ear and lending support by personal interaction and referrals to professional resources for those who seem to be in danger of harming themselves.
Peace! How often Christ used that single word as gift and greeting to his followers and yet peace seems to elude us. Last week we witnessed yet another school shooting, and the highly anticipated June 12th summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was canceled, although, as of this writing, there is renewed hope that the meeting will take place. When hope of peace wavers, we can turn again to the words of scripture, for Christ noted his peace is not the peace the world gives (John 14:27). Those words signal caution and consolation, but not defeat, for Christ has also called the peacemakers blessed, “… for they will be called children of God “(Matthew 5:9). How then do we as individuals face this daunting task of peace-making? We can look to our Mother Mary for wisdom, for she recognized that the power of God empowers the lowly, those who hold little social power. And so, trusting in God’s grace, we can encourage our leaders in their efforts toward peace and non-violence and, in our own lives, we can try to make peace with those who have hurt us and with those whom we have hurt.
Ark of the New Covenant-- this title of Mary reminds us that she harbored and enfleshed Jesus, God's Promised One. How different Mary's life must have been after the Annunciation! How different our lives are because,in his great love, God sent his Son to be with us so that we might be one with each other and with God. Recently Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, met with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. While the details need to be worked out, we witnessed the leaders meeting at the demilitarized zone, shaking hands and at mutual invitation, each joining the other in crossing the long-standing border. The fate of nations is not at our hands, but we all have boundaries-- borders that keep us from being at peace with our neighbors, ourselves or God. Let us look to Mary's courageous example and respond to the voice of God that stirs within each of us.
Of the many titles of Mary, mother is the most beloved and the most privileged. It is in the mother's womb that God begins to work out the divine design for each of us. As the psalmist prays, “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.” (PS. 139: 13-14). Recently two mothers caught our national attention and united our deeply divided nation. On Tuesday, April 16th, Barbara Bush died. She was remembered for her wit and works and for celebrating her role as wife and mother. That same week Senator Tammy Duckworth made history by bringing her 10-day old infant to the Senate floor so she could participate in a vote. Facilitated by a recent rule change, the appearance of mother and child occasioned bipartisan congratulations. May the example of Mary and of other loving mothers remind us that we are all brothers and sisters and that we must end the high-stakes sibling rivalry of violence and intolerance among individuals and nations.
Mary's title as Morning Star comes in part from the Song of Songs in which the speaker marvels, “Who is this that comes forth like the dawn,... .(6:10). In the darkest night, Mary joins her prayer to ours, reminding us that her Son has promised to share our burdens. We recently watched in horror as video clips showed infants shaking uncontrollably, men and women lying in the streets, struggling to breathe, and men carrying bodies of dead children-- all victims of an apparent nerve gas attack in Syria, allegedly launched by the Syrian government. According to CNN, at least 70 people were killed in the attack, including 10 children, and many more people have been wounded. Our Blessed Mother invites us to pray for these and all our brothers and sisters who are suffering the effects of violence and to pray that our civic and religious leaders may guide the world toward a lasting peace.
During last week’s services commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, we heard his strong words of vision, hope and possibility “I've been to the mountaintop.” Like Moses looking over the promised land from Mount Nebo, Dr. King looked to a blessed future time when all people would be respected and so would live in peace. This Easter season, all Christians have been to our spiritual mountaintop, for we have seen God's promise fulfilled in the risen Christ. We recall Jesus's announcement that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. We profess our belief even as we hear news of trade wars, sex scandals and plans to deploy the National Guard to our southern borders. The kingdom is here, but we must live it into fullness, an overwhelming task unless we follow Mary’s example of pondering God’s mysterious ways and saying yes to God’s love in our daily lives.