my brother my brother

oh my brother

my brother

a pope lies silent before the altar in saint peter’s today

an athlete lies unmoving in the middle of a field of movement tonight

you lie beyond my reach, silent and far away

from now on

until death do us join.

my soul feels, severed by pain

the eyes of your children spill heartache

the word of your going-forth shocks and paralyzes

my smile is an echo

my tears are proclamation

I cannot surrender to this enemy

nor to his crime

scripture, tradition, the voice of God repeat:

the final enemy is death, is death, an enemy

to be opposed until beyond the end.

i will not reconcile, i will not come to terms,

i will not accommodate with this breaker of the

covenant of life, with this lie who claims to

speak the final undeniable truth.

my brother, o my brother

i will not accept death’s word, which

denies the Word of God, rather I

will rail against it today tomorrow and

the third day, even after my voice is stilled and

i will call out your name

into the raging wind of dark night until

the morning dawns and you speak again

and speak those words that Christ gives to all

his sisters and brothers, the words that are

the everlasting truth; after i have wept alone

and with your dear ones, until i’ve no

more tears to offer, i will listen to the light

at the eastern edge of all that is holy

and i will clearly hear the word of Christ in

your words:

“I live.”

oh my brother, my brother,

my poor brother, away too soon,

in your memory i will walk deliberately

i will speak by syllable

i will slow the pace of my breath

so that all is awareness

all is measured thought and godly healing

weighed meditation

listening intently for the echo:

I live

we live.


Worshiping with Jesus

We have a 5:00 pm vigil Eucharist on Saturday evening. It has been, in my experience, a small group since we began gathering in person again. Maybe 6, 8 tops; sometimes 4. At the heart of that number has been a group of 3 whose situations have just changed so that they cannot come anymore (as far as I know). Nowadays, in churches the size of ours, little changes like that have out-sized repercussions.

At 4:50 today there was only me. By 4:55 I was joined by one person and by a second at 4:58 or so. Each of those present were persons whom the parish has been helping as we can. By any point of comparison they have very little, and one of them has recently been homeless for the first time ever. As we were about to begin they said more than once something like, “It’s a shame that no one is here,” and I would respond that, “You are here and that is enough.” But I must confess, to my own shame, that inwardly I was wondering things entirely too much like: What are we doing here? Is this worth doing? and the like.

They weren’t very responsive on the prayers. One could speculate why, but that would not be either fair nor immediately helpful. But as we proceeded, through the readings and the (changed on the spot) homily, heading toward the Prayers of the People, something began to happen. Spontaneously, first one and then the other, one from her seat and the other moving around the Chapel, began telling the stories of real people who need God’s help right now. With great energy. A man on hospice, sent home to die. His helper who is worried about being without work and a place to stay after his coming death. A girl hit by a car up the street the other night. And more. They did not ask for anything on their own behalf. They asked for others, on behalf of others. And we prayed for them.

By the time the bread and wine were on the Table and I was praying the Lord’s words from the Last Supper, I kept thinking: “I am saying Jesus’ words here in the presence of Jesus. In the presence of Jesus.” These two children of God themselves have needs that we have never been able to fill completely. Of course not. And so, at times I tell you honestly, they have driven me to distraction, to the point of not knowing how to respond.

I was reminded of Mother Teresa’s words, the like spoken more than many times during her life and work:

Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.

And He can be quite distressing in the disguise of the poor. But He is also blazingly unmistakably present.

In the homily I spoke about recognizing God’s presence and action in life even when life is hard, as it had to be for the 10 lepers Jesus met and talked to and saved in the 17th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. And then I looked in front of me, and I saw.

And I knew why we were doing what we were doing, and how absolutely vital it is.


Dear God

How often do

My actions

My own words

Move me to remind you that I am unworthy of your time

Of the smallest fragment iota nuclear particle of your time

And you

Calmly respond

With tenderness unmatched

That I am worth your eternity,

Made for the time that is beyond all time and not time at all, unmeasurable,

And bright with love.

And if I move to resist argue remonstrate you begin to sing

The tune is amazing grace but the words

Are new

Not me singing of my emptiness and acclaiming your faithful filling

But rather you singing the gift of you into all the ones like me who

Inhabit this land, and need to know (so much)

The wonder of you.

Image: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Weeping for Joy: what’s still possible

There were two good people of genuine faith present at the 5pm Eucharist this afternoon. Our chapel only holds about a dozen worshippers. Often we have 6 to 8 on Saturday afternoon. Here at midsummer it’s a bit different.

After they had left I cleaned up and straightened things out. I was in the breezeway heading for the door when without warning something hit me. Tears flowed down my face. Sent there by sorrow. But it’s more complex than that.

What burst heart to mind in that moment was something like this, though it was beyond words:

God loves us so very much. So very personally. So absolutely uniquely. And we need so much, all of us, to know that we are loved.

How is it then that this place is not over-filled with people? How is it that there are not dozens, hundreds knocking on the doors when the church building is closed up? How can we not respond from the heart to that Heart?

Some will tell me that when they stop to listen for the voice of God, they hear nothing. Only perfect silence. And who, they ask, can afford to stop and wait before nothing and silence in an age when there is so much to do and such pressure to get it done?

Of course I know that nothing when I stop to listen for God. That sheer silence is the voice of the perfect One who is already listening for the beat of my heart, and yours.

Precisely in the silence is the Presence. The silence is the Presence.

But very few come. It seems few pause and just try to listen. So Love goes on loving into the void we allow our lives to appear to be. Even though our lives are so very much more.

And so, my tears.

But those tears made me happy. Those tears brought me joy. That genuine newborn emotion was just like that I felt so often as I began seminary decades ago, as I recognized and moved to answer the call. It was an echo of first fervor. And it is a thing of beauty.

To feel God so near. To desire so completely to find the words (are there such?) to share the joy of that nearness; to rejoice, to revel in it with sisters and brothers.

Today the power brought me tears. They were so real that their sorrow shines brighter than joy. I can see that church of ours – and all of them, all the houses of worship of all the faiths – filled with human faces, with human hearts looking for the depth that tells our story. They need be filled not because I’m there or you or anyone else, but because God is there, still burning in the bush that never burns away. And will not.

Clare of Assisi, born on this date in the year 1193, put it this way reflecting on the call she and her sisters received, which is in some way also yours and mine:

“There are some who do not pray nor make sacrifices; there are many who live solely for the idolatry of their senses. There should be compensation. There should be someone who prays and makes sacrifices for those who do not do so. If this spiritual balance is not established, earth would be destroyed by the evil one.”

Help keep the balance, loved ones. With tears. With laughter. With all the tools our humanity affords us.


Saint Clare