Monday, June 22, 2015

235 Shades of Green

Adventures in Ordinary Time

The hospital chapel where I am almost the sacristan is back to green.

The transformation this humble space receives at the hands of our Director of Pastoral Care, Father John Hilferty, is mind boggling. Without his genius vision it would look like a basement chapel – lacking character and warmth.

Christmas has a giant angel overlooking the array of almost life-sized characters found in most Catholic depictions of the nativity. Subtle shades of blue illuminate the tons of cotton snow there for artistic effect, if not historical accuracy.

Then there is Easter. It's a wow, a great big beautiful wow. There is a fountain and spring flowers in unashamed abundance. Our beautiful Sacred Heart stained glass window gets covered with a dramatic circle of bright yellow and white. Jesus, in all his risen glory, takes center stage in that circle. A giant cross, with the famous white shroud dangling from the sides, is impossible to miss. The whole display is magnificent.

Advent, Lent and Pentecost aren't ignored but nothing beats the Easter glory.

But now it is back to green and I love it. It is not that I don't appreciate the beauty of the special celebrations but ordinary time allows me to concentrate on my journey, how I am, or lots of times, not, incorporating the Gospel message into my daily life.

Ordinary Time gives me the direction I need. Take this Sunday, Mark 4:35-41, when Jesus, ticked off with his apostles, gets up out of a sound sleep and gets cracking, he calms the wind, he calms the waves and then proceeds to remonstrate his followers for not waking him up in the first place, “Why are you terrified?” “Do you not yet have faith?”

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He 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?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?

I use this reading regularly for my spirituality groups in the psych units of the hospital where I work. My message is simple – most of the time you are in a storm when you arrive here. Consider inviting Jesus into that storm.

Father Hilferty's excellent homily on this very familiar reading provided me with more tools for my teaching.

Later, a dear friend reminded me I too was in the boat! Amen!

Last week's Gospel on the Kingdom of God being compared to a mustard seed, so very tiny but ending up large and sprawling gave more fodder for my groups. Many of my patients feel so very small when they are hospitalized – small, broken and insignificant. God's word can present an alternative vision!

There are so many stories in ordinary time about. “The Call.” The very beginning of ordinary time this year tells of two fishermen, Simon and Andrew, who dropped their nets and embarked on one mighty adventure, allowing themselves to be used as beautiful players in salvation history.

I love stories about women religious, priests and brothers and how they came to a life of service. They prompt me to ask myself, how my life was transformed – am I still allowing room for the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and direct me?

Another Ordinary Time story I use with my groups is Mark 12:28-34 – the Great Commandment. We discuss how we can pretty much understand what loving your God means, and loving your neighbor but what about the far-less talked about aspect, of loving “as yourself”?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

I can tell my patients it is not selfish or unholy to love ourselves, that Jesus himself commanded it.

Healing is another key element of Ordinary Time, unclean spirits, leprosy, our sweet Jesus cured it all – taking broken people and giving them hope. Two thousand years later, he still is healing -- bringing hope when there isn't any, light into the darkest pits and worth and direction in place of floundering emptiness.

I thank God for my Church and the beautiful way they have constructed the seasons of the year. Guiding, teaching and providing adventure for those willing to jump into and embrace Christian life.