Friday, 18 March 2016

The Gospel according to St. Joseph

Images from Google
I've never been able to see Joseph as an old man - rather a young, vigorous man with a huge heart
So, here I am again sorting what it means to have been professed at SSM - and the meaning of St. Joseph's Day. Tomorrow it will be 45 years since I was professed. How can that be? How do we get so soon old? Hopefully wise as well.

We had the clergy retreat earlier this week and we did something during the closing eucharist that was so meaningful. Never done it before - and it wasn't part of our ordination - we anointed each other's hands with holy oil. Each one anointed the hands of the deacon or priest next to him or her. Unhurried. Silence until Neil, our in-house musician, played "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me (or us)" and we sang softly.

Makes me think- We also talked of ministry being baptismal ministry - we're all living out something that began with our baptisms ... to which we are all called each according to the gifts we have received ... 

In one sense, having a breakdown/breakthrough and leaving community wasn't a failure (though that teeny voice still squeaks sometimes).  My time at SSM was, and is, part of the ongoing gift in my ministry - prayer, community, Haiti, love of the eucharist, wrestling with relationships and meanings ... so much ... all of it ... We're on a continuum? Not finished working this out ... still alive.

St. Joseph's Day 1971. Sister Christina Faith gave me a gift for my Profession - an old leather bound, dark green, lined notebook 4" x 6.5". Written in black ink in the frontispiece: The Gospel according to St. Joseph. Opening it, I find it is blank. We have no record of Joseph's speech - only of his actions.  A dreamer... harkening back to Joseph, the dreamer, in the Hebrew Scriptures ...  God speaks to Joseph in dreams ... tells him what to do ... he does as he's told ... in order to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet. !!

Joseph is silent. He simply does. Reminds me of St. Francis - "Go out and preach the Gospel. If necessary, speak."

Waking up again and still. No pun intended - from dreams - in dreams of a heart and a world with more compassion and mercy...

Thank you, Joseph. Thank you to my Sisters.


And lovely, too

In case you're interested in my sacred playing with Joseph in Matthew's Gospel, I'll leave the passages below.

Matthew 1. 18 - 25 The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Matthew 2:13-15  The Escape to Egypt
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
Matthew 2:19-23  The Return from Egypt
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ 21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’






Where Was the Prodigal Son's Mother?

Last year I 'discovered' Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son when reading Henri Nouwen's book. I printed out a copy and often simply hold it on my lap, gazing at the images of the different characters and run my fingers lightly over it. There is a large  copy of the painting standing at the base of the lectern of Eglise St-Antoine de Padoue in Longueuil and so I see it most afternoons at the 4:30 Mass. And, of course, this is the Year of Mercy in the RC Church.

Mercy. My watchword these days. Mercy towards others. Mercy towards myself. God's mercy. As I swim lengths at the pool three times a week in the early morning,  I breathe in mercy and exhale mercy.

At the clergy retreat earlier this week, I again held the image - and was aware in new ways that each character is part of me - of each of us really - but I'm speaking for myself.

The one who returns. The one who welcomes in love and mercy. The un-merciful older brother who is resentful of the fuss  - who doesn't understand that all that belongs to the wayward one has always belonged to him as well. Can I accept love and mercy? Do I have to judge myself so harshly for being human and having messed up here and there and ... well, you get it ...

BUT! A new thought came. isn't it awesome how insights crash in or sneak in or - well whatever... because as my fingers passed lightly over each figure, I noticed the person in the shadows of the centre, behind the father - leaning on the wall looking on with gentleness and curiosity. Who is this person? And I suddenly wondered where the mother of the prodigal had been through this entire story. Not only that, but in a clearer, better lit version than the one I was holding, there is another figure in the shadows - back left - even more hidden.

Either or both of these figures could be female. One of them might be his mother. Ohhhh...

Where was she when he came to his father and asked for his share of the wealth and took off for parts unknown? Was he her favourite - as the younger son - sort of like Jacob and Esau? Did she cry when he left? (Duhhh...)  Did she pray ceaselessly through the years, not knowing where he was - alive or dead? Did she hope  against hope that one day he would return? Was it her prayers that, unbeknownst to him, helped him turn around and come back, begging mercy?

Even though one of the Father's hands has a smaller, feminine aspect while the other is larger, stronger, tougher, male - that's not enough to bring in the feminine aspect of God ... Where was his mother?

And is it she standing in the shadows - longing for her chance when Dad's finished, to clutch him to her breast, crying with relief and joy? Was she remembering him as a baby and a toddler learning to walk and talk and become independent? Was he a rascal? Was she remembering him asking about the stars and galaxies, the wonders of the world around them?  Did he excitedly show her the scorpion's hiding place and the nest of a dove? Did she see him in her mind's eye preparing for his bar mitzvah and becoming a young man? Did he ask her about the world beyond their home - and did he not need to go off to explore and know? 

Ahhh... something was missing. Rembrandt didn't leave out his mother, I'm thinking. She's there hidden - loving - longing - merciful ...