Sunday, September 20, 2020

Holding Hands Across the Chasm in Times of Crisis by Regina Madonna Oliver from A Promise of Presence by Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina Madonna Oliver

God's voice is powerful,

God's voice is full of majesty. ...

The voice of Our God strikes with bolts oflightning;

the voice of Our God shakes the wilderness ...

and in God's Temple all cry, "Glory!"

Psalm 29:4, 7-9 (IP)

Unsplash: Fred Moon

Most of us feel confident about the way we "see" things. We are convinced that we have a clear vision  of things  and,  if people will just pay attention, we could show them how the circum­stances are totally off-kilter. We could even offer them some valuable advice. So sure that we have the answers, we fret because no one wants or

heeds our advice or because we're powerless to
alter the situation.

Well, we probably do see clearly-but we see only one piece of a panoramic picture, of which God sees the whole. Just maybe the bigger view would let us see how seemingly contradictory approaches both have validity.

I didn't understand this until I went through an inner struggle

trying to fathom two contradictory modes of leadership that were affecting the future of thousands of sisters in religious congrega­tions. Mother M. Claudia, I.H.M., was a primary advocate of the conservative position and was determinedly leading her congrega­tion to hold on to the tried-and-true  ways of the past. Mother Claudia was also a dear and personal friend of mine. I had lived and taught with her and knew her intimately as a woman of intense prayer. It was Mother Claudia who had helped me get ready to enter the convent. Before anyone in the church was saying much about the Holy Spirit, Claudia was sharing the power of the Spirit in her prayer life. Those of us who knew her well had looked on her as our hope for the future. Now, however, as mother general and the primary guiding force in the congregation, she was ultra-conserva­tive.

"I must steer a steady keel," she told me one day. "I don't say that others who disagree with me are wrong. I just know that I

must hold this ship steady."

Yet I had seen the tremendous need for reform. The suffering of fellow sisters who endured  psychological damage and narrow lives because of a lack of regard for individual needs and the heavy emphasis on the "communal good" was a reality. This was aug­ mented by entrenched customs that enshrined unhealthy leader­ ship on the local level, where day-to-day life in the convent was most affected. As a result, people were being hurt and scarred. I knew change had to take place; I also knew it was possible. I had seen other congregations, whose leaders were also women of prayer, courageously call for immediate and essential reform.

While some of my friends wrote off Mother Claudia as

"power-happy" and "unenlightened,"  I knew this was not true. Yet here she was, holding fast to the institution-as-it-is. On the other hand, there were those sincere women who were leading their communities into much-needed renewal. How could two opposing approaches to the future be inspired  by the Holy Spirit? And both claimed to be. That was my quandary.

I went to God in my perplexity and pain. "God," I implored, "how can your Holy Spirit be guiding these two opposing  views? And if these leaders are really listening to you in sincerity, how can they be hearing opposite things? I just don't understand!" This prayer was frequent, because the unresolved question was a nagging ache.

One day, unexpectedly, God answered. "In this time of transition, when old models are fading and new archetypes are in the process of forming," God asked, "is it easier for me to help one individual to make a gentle transition in life or to help an entire people move from the present to the future without trauma?" It was clear that God was concerned with "gentling" people through a transition.

"Well, God," I answered, "I think it's easier for you to help one person, because you dwell so intimately with and within us."

"That is right," I heard God say, "and at this point in history, my prophets need to do two things. Some of them must cling to the last mountain  top while others grasp the next mountain top. But if my people are to pass unscarred from the past to the future, the prophets must hold hands across the chasm! And that is where you fail!"

Now bear in mind that this was not a vision; rather it was a dialogue with my God using the inner ear of prayer. Nonetheless, I had the sense of being lifted up above the present situation, of being able to see the panoramic  view through God's eyes. I could see that both the conservative perspective and the progressive perspective made sense.

DAY  1

Be with God as you and God review together some of your most adamant opinions. Bring to mind one of your firmly entrenched convictions, where you are at variance with someone else, and ask God if there is a more panoramic view that shows there is, indeed, room for both. Talk with God about the difference between stub­ bornness and true righteousness.


As your prayer today, tell God that you want to listen as truth resonates within you. Tell God that you really want more than a limited, myopic view of things. Ask God for the ability to see more graciously, as God sees.


Sit with God quietly today and tell God that you wish to give up any selfishness or pride that may be affecting you. Admit to yourself

and to God how difficult it is to yield your views to the views of another. Think about how almost sacred you consider your views to be. Ask God to help you see the difference between personal pride and true conviction, between what is essential and what is

peripheral. Trust the Spirit to give you a way to see with God's eyes.


In your prayer today, ask God for the ability to see yourself more objectively and with detachment. Ask God to help you deal gently with yourself, knowing that God is in the process ofloving you into perfection.


Listen for God's voice in your prayer today, knowing that the voice of God comes to you in many ways. Ask God to speak to you. Tell God that you want to be open, that you want to hear, that you will respect divine inspiration and not discredit it as mere coincidence.


Renew your own baptism today. Recall that in the Rite of Baptism oflnfants the priest signs the ears of the child with a cross and says the prayer, "Ephphatha! May your ears be opened to hear the word of God." Claim from God today the "Ephphatha  grace"-the baptismal gift of ears that are opened to hear God. Make this your prayer today:

Let me respond to you, dear God, with the spontaneity of the little child who instinctively  recognizes love and runs to it.


Think about some of your most cherished opinions. Set them before God in prayer and imagine how those cherished opinions might look different if you could see them with God's eyes. Ask God for that vision, the vision that is at the core of peaceful living.


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