"Your Tripod" reflects the personal Fourth Day journeys of its authors and editors. We are happy to have companions like you share in this project. Our prayer is that these reflections will invite and inspire your Fourth Day journey of Piety, Study and Action as much as writing or editing them inspires our journey and brings us all close moments with Jesus and our neighbors.
|Easter Vigil, 2006, St. Mary of Sorrows|
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common…There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Acts 4:32, 34-35
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:7b-8
Nicodemus is back…well, sort of. We last encountered Nicodemus on Good Friday at the foot of the cross. Now, we get a flashback to when he first approached Jesus like the phantom of the temple-night, curious about who this carpenter-preacher was and by what authority he taught.
This second week of Easter officially starts with Divine Mercy Sunday. Thus far, we have had stories of three men who all needed divine mercy to overcome their doubts (Thomas), the new voice crying out in the post-Resurrection wilderness (Mark), and now this Pharisee-turning-disciple.
Maybe they are perfect examples for us, to remember our flaws and our need for the perfection of God’s love.
Did the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus change anything? I think so. Including this three-question interrogation, Nicodemus appears a total of three times in John’s Gospel.
Later, Nicodemus defended Jesus in the temple when the plot was being hatched by the Pharisees to arrest him. Then he returned with Joseph of Arimathea to bury the body of Jesus after the Lord dies on the cross. When others had left him, Nicodemus was there performing the spiritual works of mercy.
The conversation led to conversion. It is an interesting relationship that comes back to the roots of both words.
Just as Nicodemus emerges from the darkness, our easter call is to come out of the darkness that is conquered by the Paschal Candle.
Come toward the light. Come toward the light. Come toward the light.
Where is the wind blowing you?
Second Sunday of Easter
Thus, they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured. Acts 5:15-16
I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus. I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s Day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said, “Write on a scroll what you see.” Revelation 1:9-11a
You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me, says the Lord; blessed are those who have not seen me, but still, believe! John 20:29
Lamentations 3:19 says “His mercies begin afresh each day.” God gives you a fresh start each day.
Mercy—God’s gift-of-self within the Trinity to his gift-of-self to us.
Mercy is a gift given and to be shared.
A man named Charles was lying in a hospital bed near death. Anyone who knew Charles would tell you he was not a nice man. He drank too much; he was verbally abusive to his wife and children. However, he did ask for a Chaplain. So, the nursing staff was a little surprised when Charles asked to speak to a Chaplain. Charles asked the chaplain to pray for him. “What do you want to say to God?" the Chaplain asked. "Tell God that I am sorry for the way my life has turned out,” Charles said. “Tell him that I am sorry for the way I treated my wife and kids and that I've always loved them." "Sure, I can do that,” the chaplain said.
“Is there anything else?"
“Yes,” Charles said, “Tell God that I know I have no right to ask this -- but, I would like to be able to live with him. "
The source of mercy are the wounds of Christ.
We can even look at the world through these wounds.
Saint Teresa of Avila said once about a suicide, “between the bridge and the river there was time and space enough for the mercy of God.”
Receiving mercy helps us to give up things that are not good for us.
Mystical hope is our ability to consciously abide in “the Mercy” of God. Hope fills us with the strength to stay present, to abide in the flow of the Mercy no matter what outer storms assail us.
It is entered always and only through surrender; that is, through the willingness to let go of everything we are presently clinging to.
And yet when we enter it, it enters us and fills us with its own life—a quiet strength beyond anything we have ever known.
Receiving mercy means having the image of Divine Mercy with you and in your homes
St. Faustina burned the first version of her diary however, she was ordered to write it again, however, her spiritual director was able to remember some of the messages that were lost.
“When chastisements for sins come upon the world and your own country will experience utter degradation, the only refuge will be trust in My mercy. I will protect the cities and homes in which the Divine Mercy Image is found; I will protect the persons who will venerate this Image. The only refuge will be trust in My Mercy. . .
Let everyone procure for their home this Image because there will yet come trials. And those homes, and entire families, and every one individual who will hold this image of mercy in deep reverence, I will preserve from every sort of misfortune. The time will come when all those who do so will give witness to the miraculous efficacy and the special protection of mercy flowing from this image.”
We can look at the world through the wounds—
So, we can show mercy to others and even to places--
Look at the Volcán San Miguel y Cerro Mico Peinado through the wounds of Christ; look at Nicaragua through the wounds of Christ.
Hear your husband’s or wife’s voice through the wounds of Christ; Respond to some broken, bleeding part of the world through the wounds of Christ and pay attention to how the experience of touching wounds changes you.
Frances Caryll Houselander was a Catholic mystic in the 1940s. She was riding in a London subway and she saw Christ “in everyone one of them.
Christ was living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them—and rising in them. She said: I came out into the street and walked for a long time in the crowds. It was the same here, on every side, in every passer-by, everywhere—Christ.
Jesus did not just tell people about the forgiveness of sins, he told them in a performative utterance, “Your sins are forgiven” and in John 20:23, Jesus gives that power to just his apostles.
Absolution brings peace. This offering of peace “be with you” is strangely powerful for several reasons. The world around them is not peaceful. Enemies want them dead. Christ’s mysterious peace evokes something beyond the normal sense of that word.
That’s Divine Mercy, Amen
“You who are children of Israel, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death because it was impossible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:22-24)
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”(Matthew 28:8-10)
"Easter" by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Break the box and shed the nard;
Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.
Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine—
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not 'tis Easter morn?
Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter's robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.
Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.
Seek God's house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls alway
Make each morn an Easter Day.
When we are young(er/), our introduction to religion is through rules and rote.
You know the rules. Go to Mass on Sunday. Go to confession once a year. Don’t eat meat on Fridays.
You probably still remember the rote. After the Our Father and Hail Mary, who among those born in the 1950s cannot recite the answer to one or more questions in the infamous Baltimore Catechism? Like this one: Why did God make us? To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world. (Sondes like the seeds for Piety Study and Action were planted in Charm City, no?)
The sense I get in today’s readings is that we don’t do these acts or believe these tenets because of any requirement. They are part of our nature. May was already heading away from the tomb to announce the news to the disciples. She did not need Jesus to tell her what to do. It was impossible after all she had seen not to go tell it on the mountain. Jesus did not need God to break the chains of death. He couldn't be held by those chains.
Hopkins reminds us that Flowers do not need to be taught to grow.
Where will you bring the Good News this Easter Week? How will you “make each morn an Easter Day”?
Easter Sunday the Resurrection of the Lord
…Now burn, new born to the world,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-numbered he in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fíre hard-hurled.
Dame, at our door
Drowned, and among our shoals,
Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the Reward:
Our Kíng back, Oh, upon énglish sóuls!
Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east,
More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls,
Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high-priest,
Our hearts' charity's hearth's fire, our thoughts' chivalry's throng's Lord.
The great Jesuit-Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote the line, “Let him easter in us.”
Easter is something that happens to us. It’s a verb, from the darkness into light.
Mary Magdalen has been “eastered” (freed by Jesus).
Simon Peter has been eastered (the wisdom and joy of a person forgiven!)
Saint Paul has been eastered (a complete turnaround!)
They have been eastered – God can and does take the worst thing in the world and turn it into the best thing.
We have been eastered in receiving Holy Communion in grace.
The people who have not been eastered explain why even though evil and hatred and suffering have been overpowered, they still hang around by the free will of people.
Being eastered means having interior “movements” of the soul that gives us Easter joy and strength.
It means that I allow myself to feel what I am feeling, bringing them to prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to use these emotions to move me forward in some way. Being eastered by hope to stay present, to abide in the flow of Mercy through yielding to it.
Christ eastering within us means we have a new center and core from which we live. We now live Christ’s life.
Saint Paul said,
It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:19-20)
The two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning said, “He has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee.”
Galilee is where he told them that he would die and be raised up. Go there to that place of prophecy where you begin anew. This is where the Christian mission resumes. Pope Francis says we must find a Galilee; a returning to our first love, the origin of our journey with Jesus.
Where is Jesus telling you to go to begin anew?
How will your life be different with Christ eastering in you?
[i] Hopkins dedicated his poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland” to the happy memory of five Franciscan Nuns, exiles by the Falk Laws, who drowned between midnight and the morning of Dec. 7th, 1875. Italics added.
Photo from Main Street Baptist Church, Bath, Maine.
I am heeding you By Beth DeCristofaro
Abraham prostrated himself and laughed as he said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Or can Sarah give birth at ninety?” Then Abraham said to God, “Let but Ishmael live on by your favor!” God replied: “Nevertheless, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. I will maintain my covenant with him as an everlasting pact, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I am heeding you: I hereby bless him. I will make him fertile and will multiply him exceedingly. (Genesis 17:17-20)
And then a leper approached, did (Jesus) homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” (Matthew 8:2-3)
Jesus, my friend, prepare my heart to receive your surprising gifts. And soften my heart to share them among all your friends.
The readings today amplify God’s generous work in the world. Both Abraham and the leper are given new lives and new community, surprise gifts. I am touched by their approach to the divine – gentle skepticism? Push back? Yet hope and yearning. Divinity assures each that they are heard.
In other Scripture passages, people respond with what appears to be skepticism, and God’s answer is not acceptance and generosity. King Ahaz famously answers God’s offer to “ask for a sign” by saying I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test (Isaiah 7:12). The Pharisees and Sadducees devise questions to trap Jesus, who rightly points out their duplicity. God sees into our hearts and responds to Truth, not to words. And God wants our hearts to be one with Jesus, one with the Word.
In his Angelus address June 20, Pope Francis said, “Faith begins from believing that we are not enough for ourselves, from feeling in need of God. When we overcome the temptation to close ourselves off, when we overcome the false religiosity that does not want to disturb God, when we cry out to him, he can work wonders in us. It is the gentle and extraordinary power of prayer, which works miracles.[i]”
In believing that we are not enough for ourselves but that we first and foremost need God, our hearts become open to God’s surprising gifts. And also, our hearts become primed to expect surprising gifts for all those God loves. We no longer need to categorize or judge ourselves or others.
What does my heart hold as Jesus approaches me? Do I cling to narrow definitions of myself and others? How can I better invite and accept Jesus’ cleansing? God is heeding me.
[i] “Journey with the Pope”, Missio, June 24, 2021
“The Narrow Gate” by Colleen O’Sullivan
The land could not support (Abram and Lot) if they stayed together; their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. So, Abram said to Lot: “Please separate from me. Lot looked about him and saw how well watered the whole Jordan Plain was as far as Zoar like the Lord’s own garden or Egypt. This was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, therefore, chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain and set out eastward. Abram stayed in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain, pitching his tents near Sodom. Now the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked in the sins they committed against the Lord. (Genesis 13:6, 9b, 10-11a, 12-13)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets... Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:12-14)
Lord, help me look at myself honestly, seek forgiveness where it is needed, and ask for your help in living a more Christ-like life in what I think, say, and do.
Our Gospel reading today is still part of the Sermon on the Mount, which, in its entirety, is more likely a collection of Jesus’ sayings over time on the qualities found in a true disciple than a one-time actual sermon. In today’s verses, Jesus talks about the Golden Rule, treating others as we would like to be treated, as well as the narrow gate that leads to eternal life.
Getting through this narrow gate requires being intentionally Christ-like in our actions and direction in life. That, in turn, means we need to be mindful of all we say and do. However, many of us don’t examine ourselves that closely – our thoughts, our intentions, or our actual actions. Consequently, we float obliviously through the wide gate much of the time on any given day.
I thought about those wide and narrow gates as I read the story of Abram and Lot. Abram is a generous uncle to his nephew Lot. Both of them have large households, and extensive livestock holdings, more than one parcel of land could support. They need two separate holdings. They stand together, surveying the land as far as the eye can see. Abram gives Lot the first choice as to where he, his family, and flocks will go. Lot seems rather self-centered. He looks to the horizon, and he selects the more beautiful-looking portion of the land (at least at a distance). In his eagerness to get the better piece of land, he forgets that this choice will put him just down the road from Sodom and Gomorrah, two places infamous for their sinful ways.
According to Genesis, life goes on for years, and then, one day, God can’t put up with the iniquity pervasive in Sodom or Gomorrah any longer. God destroys the cities but not before having two angels visit Lot to warn him, so he and his family can escape. Eventually, all that gorgeous, fertile pasture land dries up, and a long time later, the Dead Sea appears. Lot ends up being spared, but his dreams go up in smoke. All that is left are the ashes.
When I was young, I found the image of the narrow gate frightening. What would a person have to do to slip through it?
God doesn’t usually seem to punish us as much as allows us to reap the consequences of our sinful decisions and actions. Lot didn’t seem that caring about his uncle. He didn’t seem appreciative of the hugely generous gesture on his uncle’s part, allowing him first say. All Lot could see was a bountiful expanse of pastureland in the distance, which he wanted for himself. He let his greed blind him to the downside, the sin, and temptation present in the town nearest his intended home.
Maybe Lot had never heard the saying: Don’t go looking for trouble. Trouble will find you soon enough. He didn’t use caution in terms of the people in whose neighborhood he chose to live. He lost his wife while they were fleeing, his fertile land, and presumably his livestock.
When I was much younger, I was much too busy with work and outside activities. I remember thinking one day that I had my schedule totally in hand. I got up every morning and went through my day as though I were the God in control of things. God expects us to take care of ourselves, and I went off track. I was brought up short when I landed in the hospital for a couple of weeks and then had to spend a long time recovering after that. I was reminded that even Jesus went off to quiet places and rested from time to time. I tell myself today that the first step toward the narrow gate is acknowledging first thing every morning that God is in control.
When you think about the narrow gate, is there anything you would like to improve upon or change in your life? When you are praying today, ask Jesus to help you. Jesus desires to welcome each of us on the other side of that narrow opening.
“Be Still” by Rev. Paul Berghout
The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands? (Job 38:1, 8-9)
(Jesus) woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” (Mark 4:39-40)
The boat was 26.5 feet long, 7.5 wide and 4.5 feet high, the fore and aft sections were decked.
Jesus had gone to the back of the boat to catch a nap, and then a storm hits.
“Why doesn’t he intervene?” “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
Glen Scrivener says that a few years ago he prayed to God that he would get to know God better. Within a week of that prayer, Glenn’s employers transferred him from England to Australia, his longtime girlfriend broke up with him, and parents announced they were divorcing. In the midst of all these painful events, Glen had a revelation: God was using these storms to answer Glenn’s prayer. He realized that Jesus often leads to challenging pathways, into a storm because we can’t understand the power and the peace of God UNLESS we encounter it a storm. The best way to know is to be caught in a storm with Him.[i]
That is a lesson the disciples had to learn, and they could not learn it any other way. --“Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
All of us will encounter storms.
The question is whether we have faith for the storms.
A few years ago, a woman named Chastity Patterson lost her father. After his death, Chastity continued to send daily text messages to his old phone number. She just wanted to feel like he was still there, still sharing the ups and downs of her daily life. It was her way of dealing with a storm of grief. For four years, she sent daily text updates to her father’s old phone number. And then one day, she got a reply. [ii]
Just before the fourth anniversary of Chastity's father’s death, she received this text from his old number: “My name is Brad and I lost my daughter in a car wreck August 2014 and your messages have kept me alive. When you text me, I know it’s a message from God.”
Chastity posted their text exchange on social media to show her friends and family “that there is a God it might take 4 years, but he shows up right on time!”
In the Bible two other people were also asleep in a boat during a storm: Jonah and a drunk person in Proverbs 23:34. But only Jesus got up and said “Be Still” (it was actually more like Shut Up) because linguistically there is a linkage between exorcism and rebuking the sea.
The waves are akin to persecution whose source is Satan’s implacable hostility to Jesus’ mission.
Jesus is overcoming the demonic element it was his purpose to destroy, because that element is at enmity with God, and therefore with God's creature, man.
"The breakers of death engulfed me." or “The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.” (2 Samuel 22:5)
“He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemies." (2 Sam 22:17-18).
One writer suggests that “maybe he was inviting the disciples to reflect on what it means to be alive on the other side of a situation they thought would kill them. For us, that situation might be a divorce, an illness, the death of a parent or even a child, the loss of a job, depression, or middle school. It can feel as if it’s going to kill us.
Maybe, if we survive the situation, we are being encouraged to ask questions. Where was my faith? Where was God? What did I fear?”[iii]
There are several Old Testament verses in which sleeping peacefully is a sign of trust in God’s provident care (Psalms 3:5, 4:8, Proverbs 3:24).
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?
Faulty thinking, that God does care instead of believing in God’s Provident care.
Be still, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. The Lord is master even of those things.
St. Therese says that Jesus was sleeping as usual in her little boat, saying, “Ah, I see very well how rarely souls allow Him to sleep peacefully within them.”
Divorce is no real solution for many stormy marriage problems. Hang in there and make it through the storm.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain” (Anonymous).
“Greater is He that is in you” than any force trying to overwhelm you.” (1 John 4:4)
[i] Dynamic Preaching]
[ii] Dynamic Preaching]
[iii] Ordinary #12B (Mark 4:35-41) by Nadia Bolz-Weber June 12, 2012