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:

Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 22, 2022
The Ascension of the Lord – May 26 or May 29, 2022
Seventh Sunday of Easter – May 29, 2022

Pentecost – June 5, 2022
The Most Holy Trinity – June 12, 2022
The Body and Blood of Christ – June 19, 2022
Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 19, 2022
13th Sunday of the Year /Third Sunday after Pentecost – June 26, 2022

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.

Enjoy!  



Sixth Sunday of Easter [C]

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our dwelling with him.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
John 14: 23-29

The peace of terry cloth

The bathrobe.

There is no more comfortable and comforting garment in our closets.  When it comes to bathrobes, the bigger, the thicker, the warmer — the better.

The bathrobe keeps us gentle.  It is possible to sulk in a bathrobe, but not to rage.  Trying to be serious or authoritative in a bathrobe would be a joke, commanding neither respect nor fear — when we feel the need to right a wrong or take decisive action against some ne’er-do-well, the first thing we do is get dressed before we have at it.  Bad-tempered, suspicious people never wear bathrobes in order to stay prepared for battle.

You are most yourself in your bathrobe.  You are at your most vulnerable, you are at the mercy of others in a bathrobe.  Putting on your bathrobe means taking off your pomposity and your self-importance.  You are at your most giving and forgiving in your bathrobe.

Bathrobes are made for cuddling, not arguing.  Bathrobes embrace us in a spirit of blissful peace and unconditional love.  Presidents and prime ministers, generals and leaders, should wear bathrobes at all times.

[Adapted from an essay by Barbara Holland.]

The peace and comfort we feel in our bathrobes are the peace and comfort that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel — peace that is centered in our selfless love for others, comfort that is found in realizing God’s presence in our very midst in the love of others.  The Risen Christ calls us to embrace the attitude of our bathrobes — to put aside our own self-obsessed agendas and need to control in order to put on the Gospel that places forgiveness and reconciliation, justice and community, before all else.  


The Ascension of the Lord  [C]
  
“You are witnesses of these things.  And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you . . .”
Luke 24: 46-53

The work of trust

There are people we entrust with our lives — or a big part of our lives, anyway.

We entrust the education and care of our children to teachers and coaches.

We entrust our retirement savings and college funds to financial managers.

We entrust the structural security and efficient operation of our homes to contractors, electricians and plumbers. 

Firefighters, police, doctors and nurses — all professionals we entrust with our health and safety.

We trust these folks because they have demonstrated a sense of responsibility and competence in their fields and have proven that will act in our interests. 

And there are many people who have entrusted some part of their lives to us: our employers, our clients, our friends — and, most important of all, our families and children.
It is no small thing to be entrusted as such.

It means putting aside our own interests to seek what is best for those who have placed their confidence in us.

It begins by understanding and appreciating what they want to make of their lives and their expectations for the future.

To entrust some part of our lives to another requires letting go, respecting their expertise and competence, accepting the reality that some things will go wrong or fail, that nothing is forever.

And to accept the responsibility of taking on what someone entrusts to us requires patience, understanding – and being ready and willing to say what they may not want to hear, but have to.

Such trust, such commitment, is sacred.

Today, on the mount of the Ascension, Jesus entrusts to us his life, his Gospel of healing, compassion, reconciliation and hope.  Having given his life to reveal the love of God for all of us, he entrusts that work to you and me.  He commissions us to be his “witnesses” and to continue his work — with all its risks and despite all our doubts.  The work of building his church of reconciliation and love requires of us humility, respect, patience; it asks us to let go of our own interests and wants to open our hearts to change and a willingness to cope with that change.  In baptism, every Christian of every time and place takes on the role of witness to all that Jesus did and taught.  We are witnesses not only in our articulating the powerful words of the Gospel but in the quiet, simple, but no less powerful expressions of compassion and love that echo the same compassion and love of God — God who is Father and Son and Brother and Sister to us all.  


Seventh Sunday of Easter [C]

“Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word . . . ” 
John 17: 20-26

A prayer for busy moms, coaches, and grandparents

Remember the mom who taught your second-grade religious education class the year you received your First Communion?  Now that you’re a parent yourself, you understand and appreciate the extraordinary sacrifice of time she had made and her generosity of heart to prepare you and your classmates for your First Communion with such patience, understanding and love.  Jesus’ prayer in today’s Gospel is for her.

As you watch your own son or daughter play team sports, you see yourself at their age struggling to make contact with the ball or trying to stop an opposing player who had height and weight — and skill — over you.  But there was that one coach who took you under his or her wing, who worked you hard to show you that you could do it.  No, you didn’t make the pros or get an athletic scholarship to a first-tier school — but you left that team with a confidence and work ethic that you carry to this day.  In his Cenacle prayer the night before he died, Jesus blesses that dedicated coach.
         
Most of us have or had a favorite aunt or uncle or grandparent.  We could talk to them about anything.  Their love was unconditional, their support total — and their advice honest.  They may have taught us to do things we still cherish: tying our own dry flies, baking an old family recipe, playing guitar, painting in water colors.  Our lives have been blessed by the wisdom of their years and the lessons of their experience.  At the Last Supper, Jesus gives thanks for their blessing to us and their families.

On the night before he died, Jesus prayed for and exalted all the family members and friends and teachers and coaches and mentors in our lives who have instilled in us the values of the Gospel.   In John’s account of the Last Supper, after his final teachings to his disciples before the events of his passion begin, Jesus addresses his Father in heaven.  He begins praying for himself, that he may obediently bring to completion the work of redemption entrusted to him by the Father.  Next, he prays for his disciples gathered with him in the Cenacle, that they may faithfully proclaim the Word he has taught them.  Finally (today’s Gospel), Jesus prays for the Church of the future — those who teach, reveal, and proclaim God’s love in our midst, and those of us whose lives have been blessed and enriched by their witness.  It is that love of God that binds us together as a Church, that makes us not just an association of good people but a family of faith.  In Jesus’ “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 season.  Christ exalts those who strive to create that sense of unity and calls us to work for that connectedness with one another and with those who follow us by honoring the essential dignity that everyone possesses as a child of God.    


Pentecost  [ABC]

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim . . .
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem:  “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?  Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?”
Acts 2: 1-11

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, I send you.”  And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20: 19-23

The “flow”

You are in the “flow” — everything is working the way it’s supposed to, everything is “clicking.”

The set of bookshelves you are building are turning out beautifully.

Every tennis ball you hit manages to stay inside the lines (for a change!).

You are now sailing through that homework assignment that you struggled to understand; that research paper that took forever to pull together suddenly takes flight.

Confronting a crisis, everyone in the family rises to the occasion — what could have been a painful, divisive situation becomes an experience of love and affirmation.

Artists and athletes often speak of “flow.”  When they are deeply involved in their craft or sport, time ceases to exist.  They don’t see themselves as separate from what they are doing — they become “one” with the lathe, the brush, the clay, the bat, the puck.  They move as much by instinct as thought.  They become part of something bigger than the self.  They are “in” the flow.

The “flow” is not something you make happen.  You don’t do it.  It does you.  You don’t find the flow.  The flow finds you and carries you.  And when you find yourself in the flow, it feels like it has always been there, always available to you, but now is finally happening and you are in it.

[Suggested by An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor and a sermon by the Rev. Samuel I. Lloyd III, Washington National Cathedral, May 23, 2010.]

The Spirit of God that “blows” through the community of disciples is the ultimate “flow” of God’s compassion and peace, giving shape and direction to Jesus’ community.  From that Pentecost to our own day, the Spirit catches us in its “flow,” drawing us into communion with God, with the world, with one another.  The “flow” is the Spirit “working” through us, carrying us, inspiring us to Easter transformation.  Pentecost is a moment of profound realization and transformation for the small band of Jesus’ disciples: the Word they had heard and the wonders they had witnessed came together in a “flow” of understanding, clarity, unity and courage that compelled them to carry on the work Jesus had entrusted to them — and now, to us.  Pentecost is the “flow” of God’s love in our midst, a love that transcends words and laws and sentiments to embrace the heart and soul of each one of us.  It is the very presence of God in every act of charity and compassion, in every moment of forgiveness and peace we extend and experience, in every effort we make for justice and community.   


The Holy Trinity [C]

“The Spirit of truth will guide you too all truth . . . ”
John 16: 12-15

Once upon a time . . .

A writer has an idea for a book.  He or she nurses it along in his or her mind where it might “exist” for a long time.  After many long hours of hard work, the idea becomes a book, and the idea can now be touched, seen and heard.  As a book, the idea generates energy – an energy that affects those who read it.  The energy released by the book may even change the lives of its readers.  And while some may like the book, others may dislike it so much they will do their best to destroy it, by bad reviews, whispering campaigns, or burning it in the public square.  Despite the attempts to destroy the book, the book’s appreciative readers draw ongoing power from it, sharing its message with others.  Some will remember parts of the book; some will write down everything they learn from the book; and some will tell all who will listen the wonderful story or facts contained in the book.  The power released by the book endures long after its pages are no more.

[An idea suggested by Dorothy Sayers in The Mind of the Maker.]

God is the writer with the ‘idea’ – an idea for a world of men and women created in his image who live in his love.  The idea takes the form of a "book" – Jesus, the human “face” of that idea.  Despite the failed attempts of some to destroy the book, the energy of the book endures, the book takes on a power that “rises” above those who seek to “crucify” the idea.  Such is the Spirit of God giving life to the idea and inspiring those who embrace it.  That is the God of the Trinity.  May we embrace the God's “idea” of love and reconciliation as mirrored in the "book" of the Gospel Jesus; may that idea energize us to transform our world in that idea through the power of the ever-present Spirit.  


The Body and Blood of Christ [C]

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, Jesus said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
Luke 9: 11-17

A PBJ blessed and broken for you

While the kids are getting dressed for school, Mom is in the kitchen making their lunches.  Katie likes her sandwiches cut in quarters; Bobby prefers strawberry jam.  As she packs the sandwiches, she smiles, imagining the delighted look on their faces when they open the dessert treats she places in the bag.  What she is doing is a sacrament – not the miracle of transubstantiation, but certainly parallel to it, moving in the same direction.  If she could give her love to her children to consume again and again, like the loaves and fishes going endlessly into their mouths and stomachs, she would do it in an instant.

A few days before Christmas, the kids take over the kitchen to make Christmas cookies.  Mom is there too, more to protect her kitchen than to supervise.  Truth be told, the cookies that result are anything but spectacular – the reindeer-shaped cookies look more like fat cocker spaniels, the Santa cookies bear no ready resemblance to the jolly old elf, and the red and green sparkles are piled on rather than sprinkled.  But the kids have a ball – and are making memories that they will remember long after they celebrate this same messy sacrament with their own children.

Her heart is breaking for her friend and all that she and her family have had to endure: the diagnosis, the difficult surgery, the chemotherapy, the unknown future.  All she can do for her is pray – and make lasagna.  And so, she does.  Two or three times a week she takes her turn making some hot dish for her friend and her family.  The food that she and the other friends prepare is nothing less than sacrament – compassion and concern made real in cheese and meat sauce.

[Suggested from a story by Andre Dubus.]

A sacrament, St. Augustine said, is the visible sign of God's invisible grace.  The gifts we give to one another are sacramental when they manifest the love and mercy of God; they are Eucharistic when they transform us into a community bound by that love.  Today's feast of the Body and Blood of the Christ celebrates Christ's gift of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as his Church.  In our sharing of the body of Christ, may we become the body of Christ for one another – to make the limitless, complete love of Christ real for all.


Second Sunday after Pentecost [PROPER 7C]

Jesus casts out the unclean spirits from the possessed man Legion.
Luke 8: 26-39

The wedding dress

For Susan, it was the trip of a lifetime; for her 14-year-old daughter Marina, it was a step into adulthood — and a gift to her mom.

Susan and Marina, along with Susan’s sister Stephanie, made an appointment at Kleinfeld’s of Say Yes to the Dress fame.  Mother and daughter looked at the endless racks of beautiful gowns.  A handful of dresses were selected and Marina began to try them on.  No, this one was too formal.  This one was too ornate.  This one was too “poofy.”

The gracious Kleinfeld staff then brought out a dress with long lace sleeves, an Empire neckline, a ruched fitted waist, and a long, smooth silk skirt.  Marina disappeared into the dressing room.  When the door opened, she looked a foot taller and a decade older.  In that beautiful gown, the teenager stood straight, tall and radiant. Susan could see clearly the beautiful woman her daughter would be one day.

Susan will not see that day.  She is dying of ALS.  She has made provisions in her will to pay for her daughter’s wedding dress.  But, with the help of Kleinfeld’s, Susan was able to see that moment.

“You look beautiful,” Susan said, her tongue barely cooperating.  Stephanie took some photos:  Mom, looking as if she were about to float out of her bulky wheel chair, and her daughter, realizing what this moment meant to both of them.

The dress has been put aside until that day sometime in the future.

But the memory was made.

[From Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel.]

While accepting the reality of her illness, Susan refuses to live “in the tombs” or be “possessed” by hopelessness and despair.  Despite her devastating illness, Susan possesses a spirit of gratitude for the opportunity to still be part of her daughter’s future and the generosity of heart to make Marina’s future possible.   A wedding dress becomes a sign of God’s love in their midst, a love that transcends time and space, a love that triumphs over hopelessness and fear, a love that will always bind mother and daughter.   


13th Sunday of the Year [C] / Third Sunday after Pentecost [PROPER 8C]

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9: 51-62

The kind of player you can’t coach

A tall, gangly, self-conscious seventh-grader was on her junior high girls’ track team.  A meet scheduled for one Saturday had to be postponed to the following Saturday — when the girl’s church had planned a community service project that she had signed up for.  She went to her track coach and told him about the conflict.  He told her, “Your teammates are counting on you and you can’t let them down.  I expect you to be here for the meet.”

She went home in tears.  The next day she talked to him again; he responded, “You are either here for the meet or you turn in your uniform.”

After a sleepless, tearful night, she made her decision.

The next day she went to the coach’s office, handed him her uniform and walked away.

Her parents and the parents of her teammates were surprised and even shocked: their own teenage daughter was actually choosing God and church over her track team, even though that was the way they raised her.

The girl said simply, “This is about God.”

[From “Expect a call” by Kyle Childress, The Christian Century, January 9, 2007.]

This seventh-grader responds to the responsibility of discipleship with the clear, unhesitating, unambiguous and total commitment that Jesus asks of anyone who would be his disciple.  There can be no “but first . . . “, no “in a minute”, no “on second thought.”  Jesus’ Gospel is not a collection of pious words we commit to memory but a perspective and attitude by which we live our lives.  We cannot be disciples by being mere spectators of God’s presence; possessing a baptismal certificate alone does not mark us as disciples of the Risen One.  Authentic discipleship calls us to become involved in the hard work and courage of making the reign of God a reality — regardless of the cost, regardless of the difficulty, regardless of the sacrifice.