Thursday, November 6, 2014

Seeing Like St. Julian Homily November 1,2~2014 Psalm 23 Rev. Mary Sue Barnett ARCWP

St Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic, said these words about one of her visions:
"In this vision God showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and it was round as a ball.
I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought "What may this be?"
And it was generally answered thus: "It is all that is made."
I marveled how it might last, for it seemed it might suddenly have sunk into nothing because of its littleness. And I was answered in my understanding:
"It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it."
In this little thing I saw three properties.
The first is that God made it.
The second that God loves it.
And the third, that God keeps it."

 St. Julian, in her vision, is inspired by the Holy Spirit to "see."
Her consciousness is illumined, her soul is inspired, her heart is awakened.
She becomes extraordinarily aware of something that is small and ordinary. A hazelnut, which grows on a tree and is small enough to be held in the palm of one's hand.
Through her "eye of understanding" St. Julian beholds the hazelnut from the perspective of God.
She herself, a creation of God, is able to see creation from the perspective of God Who is the Divine watchful Shepherd.
For St Julian, the vastness of creation appears small, even fleeting, when one's vision is fixed on Eternal Love.  The enormity of humanity, of earth and of cosmos can be momentarily imagined as contained in a tiny hazelnut because Divine Love is all-embracing.
As St Julian says, "God made it. God loves it. God keeps it."

On this All Saints Day/All Souls Day weekend with blankets of leaves spreading across the city, cool air chilling our skin and radiant sunshine illuminating the neighborhoods, we have a beautiful opportunity to be touched with the gift of "seeing" like St Julian.

God illumines our consciousness, inspires our souls and awakens our hearts.
What does our "eye of understanding" see today?
For this, let us place into the palm of our hand Psalm 23.

The Psalm is the voice of a single human being.
The Psalm has been read and prayed and sung for centuries.
You and I know it.
These words from a single soul have universal significance.
This person has been to the darkest of places of suffering and yet is assured of God's serene presence.
When the waters of life become tumultuous, God stills them.
When there is doubt and lack of direction, God opens a path.
When there is struggle with evil and injustice, God pours out abundant oils of courage.

Today, the words of Psalm 23 are the words of our mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, student, child, grandchild, friend, colleague and stranger.
These are the words of one saint and of all saints;
the saints gathered here today and the saints throughout time.
In life's struggles and triumphs we have all said to God,
"You restore my soul;
in the dark valley you are with me;
you prepare a table for me;
you anoint my head;
my cup overflows;
I shall dwell with You always."
Holding this one Psalm in the palm of one's hand is to hold a universe of hearts echoing prayers to God in the thick of life experience.
The Divine Shepherd holds this Communion of Saints together blowing upon them the breath of holy encouragement.
God made it, God loves it and God keeps it.
With our vision fixed on Eternal love we see that God connects us over time and space into a single household of compassion that dwells forever.
Seeing through the "eye of understanding" is a watchfulness into our own selves as persons of truth and love created in God's image. Seeing through the "eye of understanding" is having acute awareness that we are made for holiness and that as unique individuals we are mysteriously connected with one another in our paths of holiness.
One person's love is contagious.
One person's courage has an impact.
One person's compassion heals.
One person's lament condemns.
One person's knowledge inspires.
One person's hope transforms.

Like St Julian, as human beings made of flesh and blood, our "eye of understanding" is deepened through our physical connection with creation. It is good to literally hold in the palm of one's hand beauties from creation whether it is a hazelnut, a seed, a leaf, a blade of grass, a flower or a rock ----so as to feel the softness, the rough edges, observe the colors and to breathe in the fragrance.  In  lavish touch we can reverently reflect on the flesh and blood saints we have known and loved, saints who have prayed to God for comfort, who have courageously responded to Christ's call to love and heal and who know they are kept eternally safe in the hand of God. They belong to us and we belong to them and together we dwell in the house of God forever.

Catholic theologian Sr Elizabeth Johnson says that All Saints Day "is a feast of greatest solidarity, a fundamentally joyous day that takes note of historical suffering within the overarching theme that the last word belongs to divine love."

This Divine love rings through the cosmos in Holy Sophia's words,
"Whoever finds me, finds life."

Divine love echoes from ancient Israel in Jesus' words,
"Rejoice with me, for I found my sheep that was lost."

And Divine love is shared by the saints gathered here today inspired by the Holy Spirit to see with the eye of understanding.
From human and divine perspective both, the Communion of Saints on earth and all souls departed are divine gift and will dwell together in the house of God forever. 

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