Blessed are the Peacemakers

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I was out this weekend for some breakfast and holiday shopping, and I saw a man wearing a dark hoodie with an American flag on it, although it was black and white with a blue stripe for the middle stripe. I recognize this as a call out in support of law enforcement. I don’t disagree with supporting law enforcement when it’s called for, however there is a lot to be done to improve their strategies, especially when it comes to working with people of color and the mentally ill and people not necessarily mentally ill but in crisis in the moment they meet up with LEOs.

I am certainly not going to solve this problem in one blog post.

On the back of this hoodie, above and below the black, white, and blue flag was the phrase:

Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they will be called the children of G-d.

Matthew 5:9

I was drawn to it in a negative way. It bothered me. It bothered me enough to start writing about it here. Part of that is some of the study I’ve been doing this Advent season through readings and a couple of faith enrichment and scripture classes throughout the month of December.

I recognized that phrase as from Scripture, although my initial thoughts were incorrect in assigning it to Isaiah (his readings are quite prominent during Advent) rather than where it actually comes from: Matthew 5:9; the Beatitudes.

The entirety of the Beatitudes is contained in Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

I won’t relay them here. You can google or open any Bible and read all of them. There is also an addition that Pope Francis expressed on an Ecumenical trip to Sweden in 2016 that can be read here.

Reading through this part of Chapter 5 of Matthew and getting to verse 9, it is clear to me that this Scripture is entirely misinterpreted by the people who created (and wear) that hoodie. The implication that law enforcement and military are the peacemakers is inconsistent and contradictory.

I also found it ironic that I saw this on the hoodie during Advent when we are reading the Book of Isaiah who prophesizes an unlikely peace among foes: the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, calf and lion, cow and bear, children and snakes (reversing Adam and Eve’s punishment in the Garden of Eden). (Isaiah 11:6-8)

When I see these types of scriptures on hoodies that promote law enforcement and military soldiers as peacemakers it just fills me with exasperation and even a touch of anger. The misinterpretation that soldiers are peacemakers and not warriors first is simply wishful thinking. This isn’t to say that all soldiers are bad; I don’t believe that, and I understand the need for a military. I understand that when the UN sends its soldiers they are called peacekeepers, and I get that too. Peace is the goal. The UN tries to be neutral despite arguments of its futility and the presence of its flaws. I think that neutral isn’t the objective though as much as fairness and the desired overall good of society.

Are the peacemakers the ones with guns? Or are they the ones with food? With books? With pens and clothes and shelter? The pen is mightier than the sword is it not? That aphorism (as wella s many others) credited to author Edward Bulwer-Lytton has been known similarly as far back as before Biblical sources including an Assyrian sage in 7th century BCE and Greek playwright Euripides using different words in place of pen: word, tongue. Talmudic and Islamic sources also reference words, both oral and written, a means of knowledge and peace as being stronger than the strength of the sword, a means of war. The implication being that with the pen/word being mightier, peace is also mightier than war.

It’s important that we call out these misuses of words and reclaim our Scriptures that have been corrupted and used in opposition to what they actually say.

War is sometimes necessary, but it shouldn’t be considered inevitable, nor should it be considered the path to the kingdom of heaven and to the discipleship of G-d.

Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart; those who are persecuted; those who are reviled and persecuted falsely on the account of Jesus.

And blessed are the peacemakers; those who make peace. They don’t force something they call peace on others; they create a lasting peace, an eternal peace.

Those are the peacemakers; they are the children of G-d.

January: New Year, New Beginnings: Quotation

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Let me listen to me and not to them.

– Gertrude Stein


Let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.

– Hillary Clinton [11/11/16]


Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap.

– also from that speech by H. Clinton, drawn from Galatians 6:9

29/52 – Penance

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​Penance is a funny thing. Well, not funny, but you know what I mean. It’s not the stereotypical say one Our Father, and three Hail Marys. It can be that, but it’s not always that. In the times that I’ve gone to reconciliation and received a penance to do it is usually related to what it is that I feel I needed to confess at that moment.

It’s almost never a punishment. Punishment is not the point of giving a penance. Whatever I’m reconciling has taken me further away from G-d, and the penance is supposed to bring me back; set me back on the right path.

After missing a couple of masses, I wasn’t surprised that I was asked to attend one of the daily masses this week. Sure. I wanted to get back to them, but then I realized that this week’s masses are all scheduled for 7am instead of 9. Oh boy. I can do it. I put Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in my cell phone’s alarm, and figured I could make at least one of those.

Who would have thought that Monday morning would have me up so early?

My alarm went off, and I was immediately like who set an alarm for 6:30? Oh yeah.

No snooze. Got up, got dressed, grabbed my purse, silenced my phone, and stepped out of the house. The screen door closed behind me. [I call it a screen door – there is no screen, but for some reason that’s what it’s called to me.] I closed it quietly; everyone in the house was asleep.

I was immediately struck by the cool air on my face. It stopped me, and I stood for a moment, listening to the early morning sounds.

There were none.

The air smelled fresh, the animals were still, the sky was bluish, and I was filled with gratitude that my morning was going to start with mass.

I arrived at church, and this week’s mass has been moved to one of the parish center rooms. Vacation Bible School is taking place in the church. The room is a more intimate setting. There were no missals; it’s hard to remember everything that needs to move over for the mass – the hosts, the wine, water, the priest’s vestments, the Bible, and whatever else is hidden right in front of us during the daily service.

I looked around the room, seeing the usual people who come to the daily mass, but everyone was sitting closer to each other. The front two rows were still empty. You know, you come lat, you sit in the front.

We opened with a song that everyone knew. Everyone sang.

The first reading spoke to me. It was a little depressing, but I was hoping it was coupled with a more uplifting Gospel. Numbers 11:4b-15 was Moses complaining to G-d about the people he was having to deal with. Who of us hasn’t been there? Why me, Lord? What did I do to deserve this? Why are you punishing me? Why am I responsible for these people?

Boy, can I relate! This week is already too much, and it’s only Monday. I have gishwhes. The kids have VBS, which for me is a lot of driving back and forth. I have this website (which I love, and I love to do, but it is most definitely work and a responsibility. We’re planning our trip, and getting everything ready for it, tying up some loose ends. For all the wonderful things happening, there is a stress that is a constant, bubbling under the surface. Every little whine or moan from someone around me grates like nails on a chalkboard, but it also picks at my patience. I really feel Moses’ pain.

The Gospel, however (Matthew 14:13-21), while representing Jesus’ pain of the loss of John the Baptist and his wanting to be alone, he is still there for his followers. He nurtures them as a parent does, putting Himself second to His people. He feeds them. And I have no doubt that as night fell, and the cold air surrounded them, he made sure they were warm. He knows what they need before they ask, and he takes care of it.

He needs his own time, but he puts that aside for the benefit of others.

I’m not that selfless.

But when mass was over, I slowly walked to my car, knowing I would have to turn around and come back in an hour to bring the kids back, and it was good.

It was exactly what I needed.

Galatians 3:28

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I’ve been mute on the Orlando shooting because what can I say. 49 lives taken for no reason other than their orientation. I thought of drawing something like I had done for Prince and Muhammad Ali, but nothing came to me apart from ribbons that I can’t draw and didn’t want to copy.

This is the twenty-first century. Forget six degrees, we are all one or two degrees of separation from someone in the LGBT+ community so maybe instead of six degrees of separation we should change it to six degrees of connection.

At mass this morning, this line in Galatians screamed out at me and this came out. It is not necessarily limited to remembering the victims of Orlando or any other victims of hate, but it can be a bringing together.

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Among Women

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[Note: This is a repost of yesterday’s. I decided to divide it into two posts – one the actual reflection on the readings and the second to come later this week on the art project and what each item means to me and to the overall design.]

Today was the second of four weeks spent reflecting on women in the Gospel and the Gospel Women in our midst. We begin each week with a prayer, and are given a glimpse of the two women we will be reading about and reflecting on as the week goes by. We think about last week’s two women and then create art as reflection of them. Or, as I hash-tagged it on Instagram, #artastheology.

I often talk about how I use writing in many ways, including as therapy, and as theology, reflection, meditation. I would claim myself not to be an artist, but in the few retreats that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of led by artist, Brother Mickey McGrath, I’ve discovered a calmness from the act of coloring, and that has led to simple drawings, tracings, and copying. You can see some of my work on the pages of my website. I’ve tried to stop demeaning my art as an example to my son, who has the potential to be a true artist. He has the talent for it.

We’re supposed to reflect on them through the week, but it wasn’t until this morning that I connected to the Bent Over Woman and the Syrophoenician Woman. I sometimes have trouble connecting to parables and the abstract as well as picturing myself in ancient Jerusalem. I can also see things a little too literally. I’m not bent over, so what do I have in common with her? We don’t really know anything else about her.

But I recognized myself in her quiet; her being there, but not there for anyone else, unnoticeable, unimportant. Jesus doesn’t wait until he’s called upon; he takes the initiative, he heals her, and that’s all. It’s done.

With the Syrophoenician woman, she is there for her daughter. Jesus tells her no. She’s not one of his people, and he’s not going to help her. She talks back to him. She tells him, no, you will listen to me. She stays polite, she makes her point, and he rethinks his position. Maybe he admires her persistence, her love for her child; maybe even her impertinence.

This shows me once again that we have the ability to see ourselves in these women. We hear their stories but do we really hear them? How long does it take for us to listen?

There are women throughout the Gospel. Jesus surrounded himself with women; they were his disciples. Mary Magdalene was the first person to report the Good News. Most of the women in the Gospels aren’t named; only a handful of them, and each of them, named and unnamed,  have something to teach us, to show, to tell.

These four weeks are opening our group up to us as Gospel women and reminding us of the women in our midst who embody the Gospel, Jesus’ words, His Word, and his example.

When we were “dismissed” to begin our art project, we were introduced to the items we could choose from. How will our art reflect the two readings (The Bent-Over Woman and The Syrophoenician Woman) and how are we reflected in them and with the art items?

Piles of letters, feathers, fabric, words, magazines. All things that look like nothing until we choose what appeals to us, and make it into something of our very own. No formal direction, no preconceptions, just letting the spirit work.

One of the items I chose were puzzle pieces; they were there to represent that everything fits together,  it is all connected and interconnected, and after I decided on them, I remembered my words on my prayer bead: Connect, Interconnect.

It really is all connected.

[NOTES: The Bent-Over Woman (Luke 13:10-17), The Syrophoenician Woman (Mark 7:24-30)]

All Souls Day

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Wisdom 3:1-9

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.

But they are in peace.

For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.

As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.

In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever.

Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.

Monday’s Good for the Soul – Back to School

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“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:13

“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.”

Deuteronomy 32:2

Monday’s Good for the Soul – GishWhes and G-d

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“Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

With gishwhes week coming to a close for 2015, this was today’s reading at Mass. It is from Corinthians 9.

It is a good reminder that G-d is everywhere as are good people. Random acts can occur all year long beginning today.

Live gishwhes everyday. Love your neighbors and your friends. Pray for your enemies or those who mistreat you.

Do good.

Be well.

Reminders

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Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father; you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Today’s Gospel acclamation reminded me of something that often strikes me as funny. As someone who did not grow up with the New Testament, on occasion I will hear something in the church readings and I will remember it from the secular world.

Lambs to the slaughter is one of those phrases.

Another one is when Mary Magdalene asks where Jesus has gone after his burial in the tomb. Her words are: They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him (within John 20: 1-9).

The way this was intoned the first time I heard this, it came out in a rhythm, and reminded me of Little Bo Peep: Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them.

There are many times I wonder how many fables, how many familiar sayings come from the stories of Jesus, original reminders for the less than literate as his Death and Resurrection are repeated and told as more and more believers each find Him in their own time.

Kind of like me.