Every month, Connections offers stories, images, reflections and meditations relating to the themes of each Sunday’s readings.  Material comes from the evening news and the every day, from the stage and screen, from the music world and the marketplace – all designed to help homilists “connect” the world of Monday through Saturday with the Gospel proclaimed on Sunday.

To give you an idea of what Connections is all about, we’ve assembled the following sampling of stories, meditations and 'connecting' reflections from recent issues of Connections:

Passion (Palm) Sunday [A] – April 5, 2020

Easter – April 11-12, 2020
Second Sunday of Easter – April 19, 2020
Third Sunday of Easter – April 26, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 3, 2020
Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 10, 2020  
Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 17, 2020  
Ascension of the Lord – May 21 / 24, 2020 
Seventh Sunday of Easter – May 24, 2020
Pentecost – May 31, 2020

Please note that, in every issue of Connections, we offer TWO stories/meditations for each Sunday’s Gospel.

After reviewing this “electronic sampler,” if you’d like information on subscribing – or receiving the next complete issue of ConnectionsCLICK HERE for subscription information and an order form.


Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: Palm Sunday [A]

The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road.
Matthew 21: 1-11

And about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew  26: 14 — 27: 66

The life and death of Rosalind Franklin

In 1962, Doctors James Watson and Francis Crick accepted the Nobel Prize for medicine for their discovery of the chemical structure of DNA. 

It was one of the great injustices in the history of scientific research.

Because the real ground-breaking work that led to their discovery was done by an English researcher who had died before the prize was awarded. 

The story of Rosalind Franklin’s life and work remains one of controversy.  During her lifetime, she received little recognition for her contributions to one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.

Rosalind Franklin was born in London in 1920.  A gifted student, her teachers described her as being “alarmingly clever.”  Rosalind went on to become a chemist, specializing in mineralogy.   Her work led to the development of a more effective gas mask that saved thousands of lives during World War II. 

After the war, she starting working on DNA, the material our genes are made of.  Ignored by her male colleagues, she produced the first X-ray image that revealed the double helical structure of DNA.  Without her knowledge, the photograph was passed along to Watson and Crick who used the photograph and her data in their work.  Dr. Franklin was never credited when their findings were published; she never realized the crucial role her work played in the discovery of the chemical structure of DNA.  If she did, she never expressed any bitterness or frustration.

Three years later, Rosalind Franklin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Her small circle of friends and colleagues are convinced she contracted the disease from the radiation given off from the X-rays she worked with.  She continued working in her lab until a few weeks before her death in April 1958.  She was 37.

Rosalind Franklin’s image of the DNA molecule was key to deciphering its structure, but only Watson and Crick received the Nobel Prize.  Nobel Prize rules prohibit the awarding of the prize posthumously. 

Rosalind Franklin’ ground-breaking work, in all probability, cost her life.  She died alone, betrayed by colleagues, her work taken from her. 

But the work of her life outlives her in the advances that have been made in medicine over the past six decades.

The story of Rosalind Franklin mirrors the story of Jesus’ passion and death.  The Passion account we read today is as much a story about us as it is about Jesus: in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ condemnation, suffering and crucifixion, we confront the greed, betrayal, and cruelty we are capable of.  But in the person of Jesus, God takes on our humanity in all its sinfulness in order to move us beyond our failings, to realize his grace and compassion in our lives.  As Rosalind Franklin’s work lives on despite the injustice and suffering she endured, Christ transforms death from the final humiliation into the beginning of something much greater and sacred.  

Easter:  The Resurrection of the Lord [ABC]

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb . . .
Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid!  I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified.  He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised up from the dead, and is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him . . . ’”
Matthew 28: 1-10

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
John 20: 1-9

First light

While it is still dark, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of the Jesus who healed her, who taught her, who accorded her the respect and love she never thought herself worthy of. 

The Easter story begins in the early morning darkness.  This is always how our discovery of the risen Christ begins: in darkness.

For many, this was a week of darkness:

Earlier this week, someone received terrible news from a physician. 

Earlier this week, someone suddenly lost his job. 

Earlier this week, someone heard the words “I don’t love you anymore.” 

Earlier this week, someone’s hope was crucified. 

And the darkness is overwhelming.

No one is ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the early morning darkness where hope cannot be seen.  In such darkness, Easter is the last thing we are expecting.  And that’s why Easter terrifies us.  We dread the darkness — but we fear even more what is beyond it.  Sometimes the darkness we know is preferable to what we don’t know — we have learned at least to function and exist in the darkness; we find a distorted solace in the fact that darkness means that nothing more can disappoint or hurt us.

Easter’s first light illuminates those dark places we have become used to; it focuses our vision and attention on what we have never seen before; it dares us to imagine possibilities beyond our limited understanding of what is possible.

Easter is not about bunnies, springtime and girls in pretty dresses. 

Easter is about more hope than we can handle.

[Adapted from a sermon by M. Craig Barnes.]

Easter calls us out of the darkness that shrouds our lives and into the light of possibility, of healing, of re-creation.  In his rising from the dead, Christ enables us to bring into our own lives all that he lived and taught and gave: the love, compassion, generosity, humility and selflessness that ultimately triumphs over hatred, prejudice, despair, greed, and death.  The empty tomb is the sign of perfect hope: that in Christ all things are possible, that we can live our lives with meaning and purpose, that we can become the people God created us to be become.  May we not fear or shrink from Easter morning’s first light but embrace that light and the hope it promises in the Risen One who is forever in our midst, shattering the darkness.     

Second Sunday of Easter [A]

“Peace be with you . . .”  And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20: 19-31

Peace starts here

Christine Kingery will never forget her grandmother’s stories. She shared some of them on the NPR series This I Believe

Christine’s Russian-born grandmother was captured by the Nazis and taken to a work camp in Germany when she was 17.  They shaved off her waist-length hair and tortured her.  She never saw her parents or siblings again.   The resourceful young woman escaped the camp and worked for many months as a nurse in underground movements in Germany and Belgium until she was captured a second time by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp.  There she met Christine’s grandfather, and the two escaped.  Eventually, they and their newborn-daughter — Christine’s mother — came to America.

Christine remembers hearing these stories when she was eight years old.  She said to her grandmother, “I hate the Germans for what they did to you!  Don’t you just get so mad at them?”

Christine never forgot her grandmother’s response.  She said in her broken English, “The Germans are my friends.  When I escaped and had nowhere to go, the Germans gave me food, shelter, and clothes.  They were my friends even in the camps.  The Germans are the kindest people I know.”

Her answer shocked Christine.  It was her first introduction to the meaning of compassion.

A few years later, when Christine was in high school, she had the chance to go to Japan.  She visited Nagasaki.  The experience was overwhelming.  In every photograph, in every Japanese victim’s face in the museum’s exhibits, she saw her grandmother’s reflection.  Christine had to go outside to Peace Park on the bomb-site grounds.  Beautiful colorful origami cranes — thousands of them — were draped over statues and trees.  Christine sat on a bench and cried and cried.  An old Japanese woman saw the teenager on the bench.  She was about her grandmother’s age.  She sat next to Christine and put her wrinkled hands in Christine’s.  In broken English, the old woman said, “Peace starts right here.  Peace starts with you and me.  It starts today.”

On Easter night, the Risen Christ leaves his new Church the gift of his “peace,” peace that is so much more than the absence of conflict.  The peace of Christ transforms, re-creates and renews; it is a peace centered in wisdom, integrity and an attitude of thanksgiving.   It is peace born of gratitude and humility, peace that values the hopes and dreams and needs of another over one’s own, peace that welcomes back the lost, heals the brokenhearted, and respects the dignity of every man, woman and child as a son and daughter of God.  May we embrace the gift of such transforming peace in this Easter season and in every season.  

Third Sunday of Easter [A]

Two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.  And it happened that Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
Luke 24: 13-35

A birthday in Emmaus

A young couple receives the wonderful news: they are pregnant.

But their joy soon becomes a nightmare.  Her severe morning sickness debilitates her; her doctor discovers the child is in distress and plans for the worst.  She is confined to bed for the duration of her pregnancy.

The dad-to-be is overwhelmed by it all.  Unable to offer any meaningful help to his wife or his child, he buries himself in everything but accomplishes little.

But along the way, their parents — gently and quietly — cover many of the day-to-day details; they check in regularly with encouragement and advice, allaying many of their fears.  Co-workers at his office take as many things as they can off his desk.  And, under the radar, members of their parish organize to provide supper a few nights a week.

And they manage.  After a long, painful, terrifying few months, they welcome their little girl, healthy and whole.  And, along the way, the new parents discover again how much they love each other and the beautiful little family they have created.

And they realize, too, what their love means to those around them.

We all have our Emmaus-like experiences of fear, confusion, dread, worry.  But along the way, Christ makes himself known in our midst in the loving support of family and friends, of our community and parish.  Christ travels with us on our own road to Emmaus; Christ is present in the broken bread of compassion we offer and receive from our fellow travelers.  Easter faith is to recognize the Risen One in our midst: in our wanting to understand, in our struggle to make things right, in our brokenness.  May our Easter celebration open our hearts and spirits to recognize Christ among us in every moment of our lives, in both the bright promising mornings and the dark terrifying nights. 

Fourth Sunday of Easter [A]

“I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture . . . I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
John 14: 1-12

Play on . . .

It was the worst autumn of her life.  She had just begun teaching at Harvard — for a first-generation college student fresh out of graduate school, that was stressful enough.  But three weeks into the semester, just as she was feeling something “approximating normal,” her beloved father died.  A month after that, she and her husband were unexpectedly evicted from their apartment.  A month after that, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  And, during the spring semester, she suffered from adrenal fatigue and didn’t fully recover until well into the summer.

No one would have blamed her if she skipped church during those troubled months, but she didn’t.  She couldn’t.  Because a few weeks before that awful fall semester began, her church’s long-time pianist moved away.  She volunteered to take on the role — and, in the end, what started as an imposition turned out to be a blessing.

“The church I attend is not a wealthy one, so it is difficult to find a skilled musician who is willing to work dependably for what we can pay,” she writes.  I grew up playing the piano in church.  It’s a routine I know well; I know all the songs inside and out, and it’s a skill that comes easily to me.  It’s something I enjoy.  Thanks to my day job at Harvard, I don’t need extra cash. Still, the most stressful year of my life seems like a strange time to take on a pro bono side gig as a church musician.  And, honestly, if the position had opened up even one month later, I might never have agreed to start.

“In many ways, though, it was precisely that additional ‘job’ that saved my sanity during such a hard year.  There were so many weeks that it would have been tempting just to sleep in or to spend those hours on Sunday with Netflix, in order to simply rest. But I couldn’t, because I had to be there.  There had to be music.  And, in subtle ways that I didn’t appreciate at the time, being in that space meant being surrounded by loved ones, [but]by people . . . whose lives and struggles were also drastically different from my own.  Being in that simple sanctuary every week, under the arched ceiling, before the cross, surrounded by the hum of friendly chaos, furnished me with a broader and more robust sense of self by de-centering my own central importance.

“When I played that music, my body became a conduit through which the bonds between all of the people gathered there — old and young, poor and less poor, every shade of tan and brown — grew stronger as we sang together.  While I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time, the experience of sharing music with others turned out to be what I needed most during a time when everything else felt uncertain and shaky.”

[From “On Habit” by Michelle C. Sanchez, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Summer-Autumn 2016.]

Despite the stresses of work and the family crises she had to deal with, this young college professor managed to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and heed his call to be a source of peace and support for his “flock.”  Like Jesus the “gate,” she becomes a “conduit through which the bonds of all people gathered there . . . [grew] stronger as we sang together.  Every life is created by God for one purpose: to manifest his love for all.  That is the ultimate test of the Christian vocation, that is the Good Shepherd’s call to everyone in his flock: to live faith that takes on the Good Shepherd’s work of being a “gate” to God’s Kingdom of reconciliation and peace.  

Fifth Sunday of Easter [A]

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places . . .
“Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these . . .”
John 14: 1-12

“My Blessed, Autistic Life”

Gus Hardy is a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  Just out of college, he works at the Poverello Center, the state’s largest homeless shelter in Missoula, Montana.  He arrives every morning at 6:30.  He spends his day helping the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill and those just released from prison.  It’s a job that requires a lot of “people skills” that do not come naturally to Gus.  Gus was born with autism.

Gus has written a moving and inspiring essay about his work and life in America Magazine [March 6, 2017].

“In my work I have been called ‘cold,’ ‘impersonal’ (and far worse) about as many times as I have been told that I am doing the work of God.  No matter what people say, I look each person in the eye and try with everything I can muster to create the empathic connection that seems to come so easily to other people.  It is bitter work for me, more than for most of the world, but God has called me to it, so I have got to step up . . .

“By default, I am not a good listener.  More often than not, I have found myself on the outside of groups rather than in.  After my diagnosis, I began to work on learning simple social customs, like careful listening and making eye contact, and it felt for a long time as though I were trying to atone for the sin of who I was.”

But in college Gus discovered a different idea of God in the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Gus realized that his life could be “something more.”

“Looking back, I find it remarkable that I believed in God to begin with.  Autism is a condition that does not allow for many gray areas in one’s world view.  People like me see the world through logic more than emotion, and draw more on rationality than anything transcendent.

“I cannot tell you why God created me this way.  I cannot say what purpose autism is meant to serve, and I cannot tell you if you are meant to conform to my behavioral standards or I am to yours.  All I can say is that God pulled me out of a very dark time and gave me hope and a great gift — a sense of something beyond myself.  In doing so, I was shown that the world is full of God’s people who also cry out in their own ways, and I am called to serve them.

“Whenever I consider my possible life plans, they are always in the context of serving others . . . A life of service can be difficult, and having a disorder that biologically wires one to have a hard time being with others does not help.  But I am hoping that the fact that I’m out here, pushing myself to both serve and understand others must mean that I care all the more.”

Gus Hardy has found purpose in his life in God-centered service — it’s a struggle for him, to be sure, but he finds meaning and fulfillment — and joy — in his life “do[ing] the works that I do.”  May we embrace and be embraced in that same Spirit, enabling us to reflect the love of God in Christ for one another.  On the night before he died, Jesus asks his disciples to take up “the work that I do”: the work of humble servanthood that places the hurts and pain of others before our own, the work of charity that does not measure the cost, the work of love that transcends limits and conditions.  The simplest work of compassion and charity, done in God’s spirit of love, is to do the very work of Christ; the most hidden and unseen acts of kindness will be exalted by Christ as great in the kingdom of his Father.  

Sixth Sunday of Easter [A]

“[The Father] will give you another Advocate to be with you always . . . he remains with you and will be in you . . .
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.”
John 14: 15-21

“Amy loves Jason”

Amy Krouse Rosenthal was a prolific children’s author, essayist and NPR commentator.  She died after a long battle with ovarian cancer on March 13.  She was 51.

Just a week before she died, her final published work appeared: a column in The New York Times titled “You May Want to Marry My Husband.”  The column has drawn more than four and half million readers online since its original publication. 

Facing a “pressing deadline” as she called it. Amy wrote the piece as both a last “valentine” to Jason, her husband of 26 years, and a profile of her spouse, designed with the hope that he might find love and happiness again:

“First, the basics:  He is 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, with salt-and-pepper hair and hazel  
eyes . . . He is a sharp dresser.  Our young adult sons, Justin and Miles, often borrow his clothes.  Those who know him — or just happen to glance down at the gap between his dress slacks and dress shoes — know that he has a flair for fabulous socks.  He is fit and enjoys keeping in shape.

“If our home could speak, it would add that Jason is uncannily handy.  On the subject of food — man, can he cook. After a long day, there is no sweeter joy than seeing him walk in the door, plop a grocery bag down on the counter, and woo me with olives and some yummy cheese he has procured before he gets to work on the evening’s meal.

“Jason loves listening to live music; it’s our favorite thing to do together.  I should also add that our 19-year-old daughter, Paris, would rather go to a concert with him than anyone else . . .

“He is an absolutely wonderful father.  Ask anyone.  See that guy on the corner? Go ahead and ask him; he’ll tell you.  Jason is compassionate — and he can flip a pancake.
“Jason paints.  I love his artwork.  I would call him an artist except for the law degree that keeps him at his downtown office most days from 9 to 5.  Or at least it did before I got
sick . . .
“If you’re looking for a dreamy, let’s-go-for-it travel companion, Jason is your man.  He also has an affinity for tiny things: taster spoons, little jars, a mini-sculpture of a couple sitting on a bench, which he presented to me as a reminder of how our family began.

“Here is the kind of man Jason is:  He showed up at our first pregnancy ultrasound with flowers.  This is a man who, because he is always up early, surprises me every Sunday morning by making some kind of oddball smiley face out of items near the coffeepot: a spoon, a mug, a banana.

“This is a man who emerges from the minimart or gas station and says, ‘Give me your palm.’  And, voilà, a colorful gumball appears.  (He knows I love all the flavors but white.)

“My guess is you know enough about him now.  So let’s swipe right . . .

“I am wrapping this up on Valentine’s Day, and the most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.”

This funny yet touching tribute from a dying woman to her beloved is an extraordinary example of the complete and total love we celebrate this Easter season.  It is love that finds reason for gratitude despite the painful parting; it is love that celebrates the good of the other, in the wake of heartache.  May the Spirit of the Risen One open our hearts and minds this Easter to realize his presence in our midst in the love of those we care for and who care for us, and to give thanks for God’s embrace that we experience in the embrace of our families, our friends, our communities.  

Ascension of the Lord [A]

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1: 1-11
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Matthew 28: 16-20

Precious moments

Caroline had tears in her eyes. “Are you sure you want to move so far away?”

Her beloved great Aunt Ingrid smiled.  “Oh, Florida is not that far away.  Besides, you’ll be starting high school in a few weeks.  You're going to make so many new friends you wouldn't have time for me anyway.”

Caroline couldn’t remember when her aunt had moved in with her family those many years ago; but under Aunt Ingrid’s tutelage, Caroline had matured from a sullen only child to a vibrant young woman with many interests.

“But what am I going to do without you?” Caroline cried.

“You'll be fine.  But just in case you get bored, I left something behind for you,” Ingrid said as she gave her niece a last long hug goodbye before stepping into the cab.

When she returned to her room, Caroline found Ingrid’s package on her desk.  Inside the box was a pair of knitting needles used by five generations of women in the family; a fountain pen that had belonged to Ingrid's late husband, a writer; a coveted family cake recipe; a beautiful journal that reminded Caroline of the summer afternoon her aunt made paper in the kitchen; and a framed photograph of Ingrid and Caroline sitting at the piano after Caroline’s first lesson.  An inscription engraved on the frame read Precious moments last forever.

Caroline began to understand that, even though she felt left “out on a lonely limb of the family tree” without Ingrid, the memories of family lived on in her heart and spirit and attitude, connecting her to generations long past and still to come.

Caroline placed the picture on her nightstand.  Then, picking up the fountain pen and journal, she started to write a poem for Ingrid.

[Bits & Pieces, April 2004.  Used with permission.]

The Ascension of the Lord is not the marking of a departure but the celebration of a presence.  Matthew’s Gospel begins with the promise of Emmanuel -- God is with us; it concludes with the promise of the Risen Christ, I am with you always, even to the end of time.  While Jesus returns to the Father, he remains present to us in the Spirit of his love, his hope, his compassion.  “With a spirit of wisdom and insight to know him clearly,” we can discover Christ's presence at every turn of our lives' journeys to his final return at the end of time. 

Seventh Sunday of Easter [A]

“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ . . .
“ . . . the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.  I pray for them.”

John 17: 1-11

Final prayers

Late morning is her favorite time of the day.  The Hospice volunteers have helped her get washed and dressed.  After preparing her breakfast, they go quietly about whatever household tasks need to be done.  That gives Amelia this quiet time in her sunroom.

Amelia is at peace.  She is grateful for the days -- though numbered -- that she has left.  In this quiet time every morning, she fingers her rosary, but the photographs of her family that cover the table near her rocker are her real prayer beads.  She picks each one up gently.  She prays that her son will do well in his new job . . . that her daughter continues to conquer the challenges of her medical career . . . that her grandson will choose the right college and grow into adulthood . . . that her granddaughter will be born whole and healthy.

“Hold them all, O Lord, in your hand,” Amelia prays.  “Bless them as you have blessed my husband and me these many years.”

Today Jesus prays for the Church he leaves behind.  The same anxieties and hopes that Amelia voices in her prayers for those she loves and is about to leave behind Jesus voices in his prayers for those he loves and leaves behind.  In today’s moving scene from John’s account of the Last Supper, we see and hear Jesus commending every disciple of every time and place -- and that includes you and me -- to his Father.  In his “high priestly prayer,” we behold our connectedness to the Church of all times and places: from the Risen Christ’s greeting of peace Easter night to our own Alleluias this Easter.  As Amelia gathers her family in prayer, may we gather one another, always and everywhere, into prayer before the God to whom we all belong, who gives us all things in Christ.

Pentecost [ABC]

Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20: 19-23
The disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Acts 2: 1-11

A phone call

A true story told by writer Auburn Sandstrom at The Moth, the acclaimed organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling:

In 1992, Auburn was 29, the mother of a three-year-old son, trapped in an abusive marriage — and an addict.  One night she hit bottom.  She was curled up on a filthy carpet in a cluttered apartment, in horrible withdrawal from a drug she had been addicted to for several years.  In her hand was a little piece of paper.  For hours, she kept folding and crumbling it.  It was the phone number for a Christian counsellor her mother had given her in one of their rare moments of contact.  Finally, the desperate young mother punched the numbers on her phone.  It rang.  A man answered.

“Hi, I got this number from my mother.  Uh, do you think you could talk to me?”

Auburn heard some shuffling at the other end of the line.  A little radio in the background was snapped off and the man who answered became very present.  “Yes, yes, yes.  What’s going on?”

For the first time, Auburn poured out her story.  She told him that she wasn’t feeling good, that things had gotten pretty bad in her marriage, that she had a drug problem, that she was scared. 

The man at the other end of the line didn’t judge.  He just sat with her and listened.  Auburn was encouraged by his kindness and gentleness. 

It was two in the morning.  The man stayed up the whole night with Auburn, just talking, listening and being there until the sun rose.  By daybreak, she had calmed down.  The raw panic had passed.  She was feeling okay.

She was grateful to him.  “Hey, you know, I really appreciate you and what you’ve done for me tonight.  Aren’t you supposed to be telling me to read some Bible verses or something?  Because that’d be cool, I’ll do it, you know.  It’s all right.”

He laughed and said, “Well, I’m glad this was helpful to you.”

“No, really.  You’re very good at this.  I mean, you’ve seriously done a big thing for me.  How long have you been a Christian counselor?”

There was a long pause at the other end of the line.  “Auburn, please don’t hang up.  I’ve been trying not to bring this up.”


“You won’t hang up?”

“No, I won’t.”

“I’m so afraid to tell you this.  But the number you called . . . ”  He paused again.  “You got the wrong number.”

Auburn didn’t hang up.  They talked a little longer. 

Auburn never got his name or called him back. 

Auburn Sandstrom survived that night.  She’s now a successful writer and teacher; she raised her little boy, alone, to become a magnificent young athlete and scholar who graduated from Princeton.  She concludes her story of that night:

“ . . . the next day I felt this kind of joy, like I was shining.  I think I’ve heard them call it ‘the peace that passes understanding.’  I had gotten to see that there was this completely random love in the universe.  That it could be unconditional.  And that some of it was for me . . . In the deepest, blackest night of despair, if you can get just one pinhole of light . . . all of grace rushes in.”

A stranger called in the middle of the night by mistake becomes the means of transformation and grace for a desperate young mother.  Such compassion, such selfless caring, is the Spirit of God in our midst.  This solemnity of Pentecost celebrates the love that IS God and OF God: the love that binds the Father to the Son and now binds us to God and to one another.  It is the love that transcends words to embrace the heart and soul of each one of us; it is the love that gives voice to the things we believe but are unable to speak; it is the love that enables us to be for others “pinholes of light” through which the grace of God rushes in.