Spiritual Reflections by IHM Sisters and Friends

 

Evening of Prayer Reconciliation Service

Mary Hanley, IHM Associate
IHM Center, Scranton, PA
March 03, 2010

Evening of Prayer Reconciliation Service 

We gather this evening in gratitude to celebrate God's reconciling healing love. Each of our personal journeys is joined with the mystery of God's unconditional love. We hear reconciliation expressed in Hebrew Scripture as Micah describes our right relationship with God and neighbor. In the Apostle Paul's letter we hear that it was God who reconciled us to Godself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In the Gospel we hear how forgiveness leading to reconciliation was central to Jesus teaching, thus as people who are striving to follow Christ we seek to be agents of justice and nonviolence, ready to forgive as we are forgiven.

For me working for justice and peace has been a humbling and challenging experience. Learning to listen with an open mind and to direct anger toward injustice not individuals was a continual challenge. However, working with a community deeply committed to justice and peace supported and energized me.

In that spirit I will share my efforts to proclaim the good news of God's unconditional love for all. For the past thirty years I have been a member of The Fellowship of Reconciliation or FOR as it is commonly called. FOR is an international interfaith movement. Members recognize the essential unity of all creation and have joined together to explore the power of love and truth for resolving human conflict. While it has always been opposed to war, FOR insists that this effort must be based on a commitment to achieve a just and peaceful world community.

In Chapter Two of The Guests of God, Monica Hellwig writes about the difficulty of establishing such a community. She writes, “The realization of personal happiness in the pursuit of the common good is such a profound challenge in human life that Jesus made it very clear that it is inseparable from our relationship to God our Creator. The greatest commandment, and therefore the greatest secret of happiness, is to direct the totality of one's heart and mind, affectivity and resources to God. And inseparable from it is the need to embrace others in a community of destiny with oneself. Any quest for personal happiness that is not a quest for the common good has no hope for ultimate success. We live in a world where this is hard to see, to believe, to trust and to act upon in practical ways. But the logic of our faith in God as creator points relentlessly to this conclusion.” [End of quote]

Global Communities such as Network and Bread for the World, which stretch me beyond my geographical world, enable me to act in practical ways. I believe that we are fortunate to live in a country where if we work as a community we can effectively lobby to enact policies that promote the welfare and dignity of all our sisters and brothers. A few days ago, I was behind a man whose order was bagged and in the cart. He was paying with a voucher, but there was about eight dollars left on the voucher. The clerk offered to set his cart aside so he could go back and use the eight dollars. However, he said, "I have all I need. Send it back so they can help someone else.” He knew how much was enough? I asked," Do I?"

In the fall of 2002 in an effort to prevent the Iraq war FOR was a presence at the Lackawanna County Courthouse every Friday from noon until one. We prayed for peace using prayers from various denominations. However, when Sister Alphonsa Concilio, introduced prayers for George Bush and Sadaam Hussein. I was grateful and humbled. Prayer for those we consider misled or our enemies is the beginning of reconciliation.

When, despite our best efforts we are unable to stop or slow the destruction of war, I reread Thomas Merton's letter to Jim Forest. Jim was discouraged by the continuing destruction in Vietnam, despite the efforts of the peace movement. I will share a few brief excerpts from the letter as written in Jim Forest's book, Making Friends of Enemies

Thomas Merton wrote:
"The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on personal satisfaction which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.The real hope, then, is not something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do his will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand." [End of quote]

In the spring of 2006, to demonstrate the cost of war, FOR hosted Eyes Wide Open. This program, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, was a display of the empty boots of fallen soldiers donated by the families and the shoes of innocent Iraqi women, children and men. The Friends Service Committee provided us with boots donated by the families of fallen soldiers from NEPA. Each boot had letters, notes or mementos placed there by family and friends. During the time I spent with the display I had the opportunity to read many of these. One note, a poem that helped to inspire our prayer on the closing night, I will share with you, this evening.

It was written by Cynthia Waters of Greensburg, PA and placed in the boot of PFC Nils George Thompson, age 19, from Confluence, PA

Gifts

Post holes, open vessels of earth, 
Gift for family and farm

Gospel, open vessel of love, 
Gift beyond war, death and harm

Boots, open vessels of grief, 
Gift to help us find a path to peace

And so we prayed that night "0 God we lift up our hearts in gratitude to you for this gathering, for the gifts of these days: the tears, the prayers, the stories, the listening, the sharing.

And the journey continues as I embrace the charism of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In the passionate spirit of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, we joyfully participate in the redeeming love of Jesus which impels us to proclaim the Good News of God's unconditional love for all.

We embrace Mary, the first disciple, as our model of a life rooted in God.

Tonight as I named people whose stories call us to accountability, I am reminded of the call of the profit to speak truth to the dominant power. Only when we are a forgiving people can we be prophets for our time, and so I end tonight with this confession from the annual meeting of the United Methodist Women's Caucus.


CONFESSION

You asked for my hands
that you could use them for your purpose.
I gave them for a moment
and then withdrew for the work was hard.

You asked for my mouth
to speak against injustice.
I gave you a whisper
that I might not be accused.

You asked for my eyes
to see the pain of poverty.
I closed them
for I did not want to know.

You asked for my life
that you might work through me.
I gave you a fractional part
that I might not get involved.

God, forgive me for calculated efforts to serve you only
when it is convenient to do so, 
only in places where it is safe to do so.

Creator God, forgive me, renew me,
and send me out as a usable instrument,
that I may take seriously the meaning of Your Cross


From the annual meeting of the United Methodist Women's Caucus, 1976