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:

Sunday 14 / Pentecost 6 [July 4, 2021]
Sunday 15 [July 11, 2021]
Pentecost 7 [July 11, 2021]
Sunday 16 / Pentecost 8 [July 18, 2021]
Sunday 17 / Pentecost 9 [July 25, 2021]

Sunday 18 / Pentecost 10 [August 1, 2021]
Sunday 19 / Pentecost 11 [August 8, 2021]
Assumption of Mary [August 15, 2021]
Pentecost 12 [August 15, 2018]
Sunday 21 / Pentecost 13 [August 22, 2021]
Sunday 22 / Pentecost 14 [August 29, 2021]

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.


14th Sunday of the Year B / Sixth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 9B]

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” 
Mark 6: 1-6a

The Wright Brothers

For most us, their story begins and ends on a windy sand dune at Kitty Hawk: two bicycle-makers from Ohio put a motor on a glider and invent the airplane.  And the rest is history.

In his biography of the brothers, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough tells the fascinating story of Wilbur and Orville Wright — and what happened before and after their one-minute flight on that North Carolina beach on December 17, 1903.

The two brothers did not just invent a machine, McCullough writes: they invented the art and craft of aviation itself.  Their studies of wind currents, the countless hours they spent observing birds riding those winds without flapping their wings, their detailed drawings of the shape and structure of their wings, convinced them that human beings could fly in a heavier-than-air machine.   And once the brothers built a “flyer” that could fly on its own power, they learned how to fly: how to ride with the wind and control the wings’ angles in order to stay in the air, how to maneuver the craft in whatever direction they wanted to go.  The Wrights discovered the science of aerodynamics.

What most impressed McCullough about The Wright Brothers was their exceptional courage and dedication, their limitless curiosity, and their infinite patience.  No problem seemed insurmountable.  That they had no more than a high school education, little money, and no contacts in high places ever stopped them in their “mission” to take to the air — not even the reality that every time they took off in one of their machines, they risked being killed.

They carried on despite the perception that they were bonkers.  

But they were anything but eccentric.  They were smart, careful, cultured men, devoted to the goal of human flight.  They relied on their imaginations, inexpensive materials, bicycle-related ideas about balance and steering, and the modest sums they earned building bicycles at their Dayton, Ohio, shop.  They read everything they could about flight and wrote to anyone who might reply.  They conducted painstakingly detailed experiments in a homemade wind tunnel, regrouped after many wrong turns and wrecked models, and endured several long stints roughing it on the desolate, cold, buggy North Carolina seashore.  The two brothers built several versions of their “flyer” until they finally got it right that December day at Kitty Hawk.

The Wright Brothers weren’t into flight in order to become famous or rich — they despised the limelight and avoided it whenever possible.  They were in it to do it right.  And to that end, they devoted every dollar they had as well as their lives. 

David McCullough writes, “They had this passion, this mission; there were obsessed to succeed.”

The story of the Wright Brothers is not just that of two homespun geniuses but of two brothers dedicated to seeking wisdom and understanding regarding the possibility of flight.  They are nothing less than prophets: the Wrights possessed the single-minded determination to make the unimaginable possible and understood that the realization of that vision would not come without cost or sacrifice.  Just as Wilbur and Orville Wright carried on with singular determination despite the ridicule and risk, Jesus’ teachings on mercy and justice calling the people of his hometown beyond their own safe, insulated world, are rejected with scorn and skepticism.  Jesus calls us — dares us — to change our perspective, our belief systems, and ourselves to “give flight” to God’s kingdom of peace and compassion for all his sons and daughters.  

15th Sunday of the Year B

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.  He instructed them to take nothing for their journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
Mark 6: 7-13

Walking sticks

She begins her program with Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  Her fingers dance over the frets of her guitar with the quiet confidence of her years of practice and study.  She next plays into an Irish air, then a Bob Dylan folk song and finally a jazz improvisation of her own creation.  She plays for an audience of one: a 70-year-old woman dying of cancer.  The venue: the dying woman’s room at the local hospice.  Music is her ministry, providing a measure of peace and tranquility for those taking the last steps from this world into eternity. 

Most spring and summer nights, as soon as he gets home from the office, he heads to his small garden behind the garage.  This quarter-acre is his favorite place on earth.  He grows tomatoes, beans and corn.  He saves a few things for his own family; he shares the rest of the harvest of the good earth with needy families served by the local soup kitchen and pantry.

She suffered from bulimia as a teenager.  Thanks to her wise and caring family, she overcame this devastating disease.  Now a mother herself, she read about a support group for girls suffering from eating disorders.  Every week she is there.  She says very little; she is there to listen and to support, and when asked one-on-one by a girl who is terrified at what is happening to her, she offers the hope of her own story.

With their “walking sticks” — guitars, vegetable seeds, and their own stories and experiences — these three and so many others like them realize that Christ has sent them forth, like the Twelve in today’s Gospel, to be his prophets of peace, apostles of compassion, ministers of healing.  Aware of God’s love in our own lives, we are called to bring that love into the lives of others in a spirit of humility and gratitude.  As we make our own journey from this world to the next, may we heal the broken and help the stumbling we meet along our way in faithfulness to the God who heals us and helps us up when we stumble and fall.

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 10B]

. . . John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.  But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him.

Partying with Herod and Herodias

We have all acted, at one time or another, as Herod acts: 

We let our anger back us into a corner. 

We let our impatience get the better of us.

In an unguarded moment, we let our bravado force us into making promises we are in no position to make. 

Like Herod, we’ve all said something we later regret: an unkind remark about someone said thoughtlessly at lunch, an assessment of someone’s competency or intent we later discover was incorrect, a promise we made too quickly before we realized we could not possibly keep it.  Sometimes it’s the heat of the moment or too much to drink that leads us to say something insensitive or cruel.  Later, we realize the hurt we have caused and wish we could walk back our angry, thoughtless words.

Like Herod, we’ve been confronted by someone who saw right through us.  They didn’t threaten to expose us or embarrass us — they may have just asked a question that made it clear what we wanted to do was less than wise or ethical, or they conveyed by their silence their disapproval of the action we planned to take.  So we had their heads.  Well, maybe not their heads — but we kept our distance from them.  We avoided them from then on.  But, looking back, we realize the unsettling truth: they were right.

All very Herod-like.

Then there is something of Herodias in all of us:

We hold grudges.  We keep score.  We remember who slights us and we wait for the right moment to get back at them.  The grudges we keep seldom have the tragic consequences of Herodias, who manipulates her own daughter’s charms and her husband’s braggadocio to destroy John the Baptist — but we’ve let our anger divide our families, we’ve refused to surrender our need for vengeance for the sake of reconciliation, we’ve held on to our resentments until we got our satisfaction.

But there are, too, moments of grace in our lives, when we manage to act as John does: when we find a way to put aside our disappointments and let go of our anger (however justified) in order to make reconciliation possible, to speak God’s Word of justice, to be the means of peace in our homes and communities.

John’s martyrdom is, after Jesus’ crucifixion, the most horrifying episode in all of the Gospels.  As we hear the appalling story of John the Baptist’s execution and the events that led to it, consider the times when we have lost control of our ego, our arrogance, our self-righteousness, resulting in someone’s destruction.   May we seek the grace to stop when we are angry, to realize when we are acting selfishly, to see how our behavior is hurting others, and retreat to the peace of God’s grace. 

16th Sunday of the Year B / Eighth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 11B]

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for the vast crowd, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.
Mark 6: 30-34 (53-56)


Working at your desk one morning, you stumble upon confidential information that a small electronics firm is about to be bought up by a Fortune 500 company.  You could make a major financial score by buying up shares of the small company.  And you’d easily get away with it, even though such trading would be considered insider trading — and illegal.  And shepherd-less.

You’re meeting with a potential client to close a sale you’ve been working on for some time.  The client is pretty much on board — except one of your competitors has made a last-minute proposal that provides better follow-up service.  So you go into offense, assuring the client that you’ll provide the same service, as well.  Good.  But then you add that you feel “obligated” to mention stories you have “heard” about problems your competitor has had with its service department.  You “confide” with the client that the word on the street is that the competing company may not be around much longer.  You have no real basis for your claims.  Your deception is shepherd-less.

You’re filling out the application for your first-choice college or revising your resume for your dream job.  Obviously you want to present yourself in the best possible light — but you overstate your experience “a little,” take “a bit” more credit for achievements than you’re entitled to, “pad” your credentials “just a smidge.”  You gotta sell yourself, you rationalize.  And nobody’s going to check.  And everybody does it.  Even though you don’t see it as lying, it is lying.  And worse — it’s shepherd-less.

In too many spheres of our lives, we have accepted misconduct, cheating and lying as the norm, as the “cost of doing business.”  We are the “shepherd-less” for whom Jesus’ heart breaks.  In his Christ, God has raised up for us a shepherd to guide us in our search, not for the empty riches of consumerism, but for the priceless treasures of compassion and reconciliation; a shepherd to help us negotiate life’s rough crags and dangerous drop-offs to make our way to God’s eternal pasture of peace and fulfillment; a shepherd who journeys with us and helps us to clear the obstacles and hurdles of fear and self-interest in order to live lives centered in what is right and just.  

17th Sunday of the Year / Ninth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 12B]

. . . Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those reclining, and also as much fish as they wanted.
John 6: 1-15

The holiness of table

If a home has a center, it’s the table.  As families, we gather every day at a table, be it a beautifully crafted table in a reserved room of the house, a granite countertop on one side of an island in the kitchen, a folding table in the backyard for those summer nights when we grill.

But tables are never just about food.  At our tables we experience the goodness of creation in the bounty of the harvest blessed and shared.  At our tables we encounter a staggering history of needs felt, met or denied; of stammered confessions; of hands groping for the last crust of bread; of glasses glowing, lifted and clinked in joy and determination; of accusations and reprieves. 

Tables are the places where we learn who we are, where we are loved and welcomed no matter what.  At our family table we sit neither at the last place nor the first place but at our place — and learn over time that we are not the center of the table but make up its heart.  The holiness of new loves, of life’s milestone celebrations, of consolation at times of loss and pain is found at our tables, where God is the unseen but always present Guest.

[Suggested by Eucharist as Sacrament of Initiation by Nathan D. Mitchell.]

In the miracle of the loaves and fish, Jesus transforms a crowd of all ages, talents, abilities and backgrounds into a community of generosity.  That vision of being a Eucharistic community is re-created each time we gather at this parish table and at our own family tables.  That is the challenge of the Gospel and the mandate of the Eucharist that is foreshadowed in this miracle story: to take up the hard work of reconciliation and compassion begun by God, who dwells in our midst; to bring the peace of God’s dwelling place humbly and lovingly into our own homes; to become the body and blood of Jesus that we receive at his table where all — saints and sinners — are welcomed. 

18th Sunday of the Year B / 10th Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 13B]

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and who ever believes in me will never thirst.”
John 6: 24-35

Soup from heaven’s table

True story:  After lecturing at a Winnipeg university, a minister found himself stranded in a bus station during a surprise October snowstorm.  Cold and wet, he finally found a seat at the depot’s café counter.  A cranky, tired man in a greasy apron took his order — all they had was soup, one kind.  So the minister ordered the soup.  The gray goop was the worst thing he had ever eaten.  He wrapped his hands around the bowl — at least it kept his hands warm.

The door opened again, letting in the icy wind.  “Close the door!” somebody yelled.  In came a woman in a threadbare coat.  She took a seat not far from the minister.  The cranky man in the greasy apron took her order.  “Glass of water,” she mumbled.

He brought the water.  “Now, what do you want?”

“Just a glass of water and a chance to get warm.”

“Look, I have customers that pay — what do you think this is, a church or something?  If you’re not going to order, you’ve got to leave!” 

He got real loud about it.  So she got up to leave — and, as if rehearsed, everybody in that little café got up and started toward the door.  The minister got up and said to the man in the greasy apron, “I’m voting for something here; I don’t know what it is.” 

“All right, all right, all right,” the cranky man in the greasy apron said.  Everybody sat down again, and he brought her a bowl of soup.

The minister asked the person sitting next to him, “Who is she?”

“I never saw her in here before,” was the reply.

The place grew quiet; all that the minister heard was the sipping of that awful soup.  The minister decided to try it again and put his spoon into the bowl. 

“You know,” the minister said later, “it really wasn’t bad.  Everybody was eating the soup, and it was pretty good soup.  I have no idea what kind of soup it was.  I don’t know what was in it, but I do recall when I was eating it, it tasted a little bit like bread and wine.  Just a little like bread and wine.”

[From Craddock Stories by Fred Craddock.]

God’s compassion transforms even the vilest soup into the banquet of heaven and a group of stranded travelers into a community.  In the diners’ support of their “sister” in the bus depot, that poor soup became a sign of the “bread” that is Jesus, the “manna” that is God’s love in our midst.  This is the “bread of heaven” that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel: selfless compassion, grace and gratitude — the food that will not perish, the food that nurtures all that is good, the food that sustains us on our journey to meaning and purpose.  

19th Sunday of the Year B / 11th Sunday after Pentecost  [Proper 14B]

“Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat and not die.”
John 6: 41-51

Manna for dinner — again?

Just about every parent has heard that whine:  Something new, something different, is served for dinner.  The child is suspicious of the color, the shape, the smell.  Are Mom and Dad trying to poison me?  The child looks up at the parent and, with a voice that could curl the dining room wallpaper, cries:  What IS this?  The parents wish they had simply ordered pizza – again.

During the Exodus, the Israelites whined the same way to Moses (“murmured” is the word used in Scripture):  Why did we leave Egypt?  We were slaves there but at least there was food.  Now we’re in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat.  We’re going to die out here.  Moses’ approval numbers quickly sank.

So God provided Moses and his fellow travelers “manna” to eat.  Scripture describes manna “as a fine, white flake-like thing.”  Early each day, Israelite families would gather about two quarts of manna and grind it to bake it into cakes.  As the sun rose higher in the sky as the day wore on, the remaining manna would evaporate.

Many scientists think that these “flakes” were formed from honeydew secreted by a certain insect that fed on the sap of tamarisk trees (yum!).  In the dry desert air, most of the moisture in the honeydew quickly evaporated, leaving sticky droplets of the stuff on plants and the ground.

Since the Exodus, manna became the living symbol of God’s providence and love for the Jewish people.

By the way, the word manna comes from Hebrew.  Manna literally means What is this?

Manna is both the question and the answer:  What is this?  Manna is the manifestation of God in our midst.  Manna is generosity and kindness; manna is consolation and support; manna is the constant, unconditional love of family and friends.  Manna is food for our own journeys to God.  God sends us manna in many forms every day of our lives; the challenge of faith is to trust in God enough to look for manna, to collect it before it disappears, and to consume it and be consumed by it.  May we find the manna that God rains down lovingly each morning of our lives; may Christ, the new manna, be our bread and drink on our own exoduses to the dwelling place of God.  

Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Luke 1: 39-56


Every Monday morning for 16 weeks they leave their house before dawn for their 8 A.M. appointment at the hospital.  For the four hours that her 12-year-old daughter undergoes chemotherapy, Mom will be right there.  During their time together, they will read, play games, watch videos, talk.  Their Monday mornings are anxious times – but precious.  For this mother and daughter, the Spirit of Mary’s Child is with them.

Every Tuesday afternoon, after a full day of her own classes, Kristen, a high school senior, heads to the community center.  For two hours, she tutors kids from city grammar schools in the mysteries of math and the secrets of English grammar and vocabulary.  In her patient explanations and words of encouragement, the Spirit of God is revealed.

It is the first time the brothers have spoken in years.  They’ve been estranged over a family matter, the details of which are long forgotten but the hurt and mistrust linger.  But for the good of the family, they seek to repair their broken relationship.  In every awkward moment, in every attempt to move on, in every admission of hurt and anger between the two brothers, God is re-born.

In Mary and Elizabeth’s visit and in our own similar “visitations,” the Spirit of God is present in the healing, comfort and support we can extend to one another in such moments.  In the stirring of the infant in Elizabeth's womb, God calls to humanity in every time and place:  I am with you every step of the way.  I am with you in every storm.  I am with you when the night seems unending.  In Mary’s Child, the inexplicable love of God becomes real to us, the peace and justice of God become possible.  Mary of Nazareth, the “first disciple” of her son, is a model for all of us of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus: as she welcomed the Christ child, we are called to welcome the Christ of compassion and peace into our midst; as she journeyed to be with her cousin Elizabeth, may our own “visitations” reveal the love of God in our midst; as she traveled to be with her son to Jerusalem, we are called to journey with him and take up our crosses; as she held the broken body of her son, we are called to hold and support and heal one another despite our own brokenness and pain.  Today we celebrate the fulfillment of the Easter promise in Mary’s life.  May we take up her song of faith and hope; may we make our homes dwelling places for God’s Christ; may Mary’s persevering love and care inspire us to be mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers to one another, so that her Son’s promise of resurrection may one day be fulfilled in our lives, as well.

12th Sunday after Pentecost  [Proper 15B]

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6: 51-58

Something to talk about . . .

As two people newly in love, they talked and talked.  They talked about their childhoods, about school, about their jobs.  They talked about their favorite foods, their favorite movies, their favorite songs.  Before long, they were talking about their dreams, their fears, their happiest times, their most embarrassing moments.  They talked about the places they would like to visit and the goals they would like to realize.  And they talked about one another: what they admired about each other, what made the other such a joy to be with, how they were falling in love.

Then they talked about their wedding.  They talked about their new house.  They talked about furnishings and landscaping and cars.  They talked about money.

And they talked about kids.

Seven years into their marriage, they stopped talking.  After a day of work, of getting the kids to school and the doctor’s and their games, of putting dinner on the table, of the machinations of getting to sleep and ready for the next day, they would sit side by side in bed with their laptops.  They were not sleeping, they were not talking.  They were so close physically and yet so far apart.

They still talked, but a different kind of talk.  They talked about their children: what they wanted for lunch, who would pick them up, the plans for the weekend.  They talked about bills and laundry and meals.

They realized that they were too tired to really “talk.”

So they decided to ship the kids to the grandparents for a weekend, lock their phones in the glove compartment, and return to the kind of place where they first really talked: on a mountain in the woods.  They hiked and breathed.  They listened to the beautiful silence of nature.  They stopped to watch the birds glide through the sunset.

And before long they were talking again.  They told each other stories they had forgotten to tell each other, funny exchanges at work.  They bantered and flirted.  And they reminisced, too, about their early days, an entirely new kind of talking that comes from having known someone for a long time.

Now several times a year they leave the children for a day or weekend and go off and hike.  And talk.  And fall in love again.

[Suggested by the essay “How the ‘Dining Dead’ Got Talking Again” by Molly Pascal, The New York Times, June 24, 2016.]

This couple, like so many married couples, get so caught up with demands of parenthood and career that even simple conversation becomes a rarity.  But, when the “bread” that is Jesus’ compassion and the “wine” that is his generosity sustains us, we constantly rediscover the presence of God in our midst in the love of family and friends — love that keeps us “talking,” often in ways more powerful and affecting than mere words.  Jesus’ words about his “flesh” and blood as “real food” challenge us to consider what sustains us as human beings, as loving parents and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters, as children of God, as brothers and sisters of all with whom we share this good earth.  To possess the life of God is to be open to and make possible moments of grace: moments when we become especially aware of the great love of God in our lives.  God’s grace is manifested in so many ways: in prayer and sacrament, especially the Eucharist; in the many gifts of creation, from the food that sustains us to the light of the sun that warms us; in the kindness and love of those who are the very love of God in our lives; in acts of generosity and forgiveness, though small and unheralded, that embrace us in God’s peace.   

21st Sunday of the Year B / 14th Sunday after Pentecost  [Proper 16B]

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered Jesus, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”
John 6: 60-69

Walking the labyrinth

A group of pilgrims were visiting Chartres Cathedral and its great labyrinth: the circular walkway outlined on the church floor that pilgrims and penitents have prayerfully “walked” for centuries. 

An older man and woman stood near the entrance watching visitors slowly and walk the labyrinth.  Then the woman took off her shoes and handed them, with her purse, to her husband.  As he watched, she began to walk the intricate path.  She cried as she walked; he cried watching her.  When they pulled themselves together, they explained to a concerned onlooker that they had come to Chartres to celebrate the end of the woman’s treatment from breast cancer.  They had never heard of a labyrinth before they walked into the cathedral that day.  She could not explain why she was drawn to walk it, but when she did her husband decided to hold down the center, giving thanks for her life while she made her way out of the labyrinth.

“I began to feel at peace with my body again after being very angry that it had let me down,” the woman explained.  As she walked, she found herself remembering all the people who had walked with her through her surgery and treatment. 
“I now know why we came.”

[From An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.]

After all the fear and pain and anguish this couple experienced, they re-discover, as they walk the labyrinth, that God is the ultimate source of everything that is good and that that good will, eventually, rise up over evil and sin and death.  Despite our own doubts, fears and misgivings, we know in the depth of our hearts that, in the end, the words of Jesus will prevail.  Though God seems absent in times of pain, change and despair, we trust that we can rediscover God in acts of love, support and healing extended to us by others.  Peter’s conviction in God’s mercy and compassion resonates with all of us who have experienced, in times of crisis and catastrophe, that compassion in the love and support of family and friends.  Let Jesus’ “words of eternal life” be the light that illuminates our own daily “labyrinth” walk; may they be the wisdom that guides us on our journey — sometimes lonely and dangerous — to the dwelling place of God.  

22nd Sunday of the Year B / 14th Sunday after Pentecost  [Proper 17B]

”Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”
Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

To accept or refuse

Many years ago, a great warrior abandoned his life of war and destruction and became a monk, happily living a quiet life serving his brothers and the poor and sick of the villages around the monastery.

One day, an arrogant warrior rode through the village.  He terrorized the villagers with his threats and demands.  He soon made his way to the monastery where he recognized the monk from their adventures years before. The reckless warrior did everything he could to provoke his old adversary into a fight: the boor threw rocks, shouted insults, smashing parts of the poor monastery.  But the monk would not respond.  By dusk, the warrior finally grew tired of the game; he defiantly spat on the monastery door and rode off.

Some of the villagers who had been brutalized by the warrior, asked the monk why he did not confront the intruder.

“If someone offers you a gift and you do not accept it, to whom does the gift belong?” the old monk asked.

“He who offered it,” they replied.

“The same is true for anger, envy and ridicule,” the monk explained.  “When they are not accepted, they forever belong to the one who holds on to them.”

[Adapted from the Moral Stories website.]

In the hurts, indignities and injustices perpetrated against us, what is often worse than the act itself is what the act does to us as persons: we respond with suspicion, cynicism, self-absorption, anger, vengeance.  One of the most difficult challenges of being a disciple of Jesus is not to let those things “outside” of us diminish what we are “inside” ourselves, not to let such anger or vengeance displace the things of God in the sacred place of our hearts but to let God’s presence transform the evil that we have encountered into compassion and forgiveness.